The Western Bulldogs celebrate a goal during their practice match against Hawthorn on March 2, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

WESTERN Bulldogs leaders Marcus Bontempelli and Tom Liberatore have tuned up for the season proper with starring roles in a comfortable 57-point win over Hawthorn in the AAMI Community Series.

After a second-quarter blip, the Bulldogs ran over the top of the undermanned Hawks, piling on 15 goals to three after half-time in the 17.17 (119) to 9.8 (62) victory at UTAS Stadium on Saturday.

HAWKS v BULLDOGS Full match coverage and stats

Skipper Bontempelli (32 disposals, six clearances), deputy Liberatore (30, 13) and Adam Treloar (28, seven) were influential figures in the engine room as the Dogs controlled three of the four quarters.

Key forwards Aaron Naughton and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan were dangerous partners in attack with four goals each, and Rhylee West chipped in with three majors.

Bontempelli and Treloar kicked one each.

No.6 draft pick Ryley Sanders (30 disposals, four clearances, 10 score involvements) raised his hand for a round one debut and 10-game backman Buku Khamis showed promising signs in defence.


"It was very impressive ... the second half especially he got going a bit," Bulldogs assistant coach Matt Spangher said of Sanders. "He's an incredibly talented young man who's had a fantastic immediate impact for us.

"He's certainly one of the more composed young players that I've seen, and he certainly knows how to make the right decision with ball in hand. After tonight's showing I'd say he's a pretty strong chance of playing (in round one). He's done everything right to give himself the best chance. His attitude is first-rate, and if it happens, he certainly deserves his chance."

Only poor goalkicking by the inaccurate Bulldogs prevented a greater margin.

Hawthorn's rising midfield star Jai Newcombe (37 disposals, seven clearances) was prominent and high-profile recruit Jack Ginnivan (two goals) worked hard.

Mitch Lewis and Connor Macdonald added two goals each, while Karl Amon (28 touches) and Jarman Impey (22) found plenty of the ball.

The dominant yet wayward Bulldogs held a narrow 2.6 to 2.1 lead at quarter-time, with Ugle-Hagan's wheel-and-go goal from outside 50m an early highlight as the inside 50 count ballooned to 17-9.


Coach Sam Mitchell gave his Hawks a rev-up and Ginnivan cashed in on their renewed vigour, snapping two nice goals to put them in front midway through the second term.

Hawthorn looked a different side to the one that started the game and built a 17-point advantage by the main break.

But the Bulldogs took back control in the middle – winning centre clearances 8-3 for the third quarter – as they turned the tables once again.


The Dogs slammed on three goals in four minutes to snatch back the lead and kicked seven in a row, outscoring their opponents eight goals to two for the term.

The scoreboard got ugly in the last quarter as the Bulldogs kept their foot on the pedal.

Hawthorn has two weeks to prepare for its round one meeting with Essendon at the MCG on March 16, while the Bulldogs open their season against Melbourne at the same venue the following day.

New faces
provided a spark, kicking 2.2 to go with his 12 disposals. Fellow Hawks small forward Nick Watson was lively, but finished with 0.3 from his 10 disposals. Signed during the pre-season supplemental selection period (SSP), Ethan Phillips was kept busy by the gun Dogs forwards, while Massimo D'Ambrosio had 18 touches on a wing. A pair of new Dogs in Sanders and James Harmes (17 disposals and a goal) are on track to play in round one.


Round one chance
As expected, the Dogs' No.6 draft pick Sanders impressed as he continued to push his case for a round one debut. While he initially spent less time in the middle than in the match simulation last week, Sanders still made his mark with a standout performance. Second-year Hawk Henry Hustwaite (17 disposals) enjoyed plenty of time in the middle, standing out with his silk and poise as he looks to add to the two games he played in 2023. Phillips, signed by the Hawks during the pre-season supplemental selection period (SSP), also looked solid.

Medical room
Fortunately for both teams, there were no fresh injury concerns. The Hawks have endured a miserable pre-season on the injury front, with Will Day (foot), Changkuoth Jiath (hamstring), James Blanck (knee), Chad Wingard (Achilles) and Denver Grainger-Barras (toe) among those missing the start of the season. Dylan Moore (glandular fever) is on track for round one, while Jack Gunston, Josh Weddle and Harry Morrison were all managed for the meeting with the Dogs. Bailey Smith (knee) is set to miss the season for the Bulldogs, while Jack Macrae made his return from a hamstring injury in the VFL. James O'Donnell (ankle) and Bailey Dale (hamstring tightness) also missed.

Fantasy watch
If you hadn't already, you can lock Sanders (MID, $285,000) into your starting midfield. The No.6 draft pick gathered 30 disposals and 92 points in an impressive performance. Bontempelli (MID, $1,056,000) and Tim English (RUC, $1,071,000) picked up where they left off with 127 and 111 points respectively. Hawks gun Newcombe (MID, $842,000) was the game's equal top scorer with 127. Amon (MID, $783,000) was busy across half-back for the Hawks with 94 points. Macdonald (FWD, $638,000) could tempt coaches after his 81 points, Harmes (MID/FWD, $637,000) finished on 77 and Cam Mackenzie (FWD, $439,000) with 76. Popular defensive option Nick Coffield (DEF, $358,000) battled to a 59-point haul.

HAWTHORN                          2.1      6.5        8.7          9.8 (62) 
WESTERN BULLDOGS          2.6     2.12     10.14       17.17 (119) 

Macdonald 2, Lewis 2, Ginnivan 2, Mackenzie, Breust, Chol
Western Bulldogs:
Naughton 4, Ugle-Hagan 4, West 3, Williams, Weightman, Treloar, Lobb, Harmes, Bontempelli

Newcombe, Amon, Ginnivan, Macdonald, Mackenzie, Hustwaite
Western Bulldogs:
Bontempelli, Liberatore, Naughton, Treloar, Ugle-Hagan, Sanders

Western Bulldogs:

Reports: Nil