Rocky Cranston is chaired off the ground after playing her final game in the Western Bulldogs' loss to North Melbourne in round 10, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

WEEKLY blood tests and long drives to and from Geelong were the theme of Rocky Cranston's final AFLW season.

With Cranston battling kidney disease, Western Bulldogs head coach Nathan Burke admits keeping her around this season was "a little bit selfish" as the inaugural Demon pushed her body.

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"Right up until two days before round one, we didn't know whether Rocky would be allowed to play, whether the medical staff would let her play," Burke said after the Bulldogs' 46-point loss to North Melbourne on Saturday.

"If she's honest she'd probably say, driving down from Geelong, this is too hard, this is too much. But we spoke and we said, 'What if you could get out there for one more?' and that's what it was, getting out there for one more.

"And she got out there for one more."


The lengths that Cranston had to go to this year to get "one more", which ultimately turned into five more, was a lesson Burke wanted to teach the rest of his list.

"I don't think I've ever seen a player, men's or women's, go through the adversity that she went through, and the uncertainty that she went through this year, to get out and play," Burke said.

"Her legacy as a footballer will live on, her legacy as a player who wrung every single ounce out of herself, is better than anyone I've ever seen."


In what was a tough year not only for Cranston, but for the Bulldogs, Burke has also admitted that while he hasn't lost his passion, it hasn't been easy.

"I put up my hand, it was tough in the middle of it. We were sort of four (losses) and zero, five and zero and it was tough. But you can't help being swept up by their enthusiasm," Burke said.

"I owe it to them not to lose my passion. I owe it to them to give my all surrounded by a bunch of great assistant coaches."


Despite the club's 1-9 record in the 2023 season, Burke remains proud that his players didn't drop their heads, but also conscious of the fact that change must come.

Hard work with purpose, a focus on skill development and increased footy IQ is on the cards for the Bulldogs in the coming months.