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Continuity the catalyst for Dogs' late charge, says speedster

Jason Johannisen has found his feet after a delayed start to 2019 - AFL,Western Bulldogs,Jason Johannisen
Jason Johannisen has found his feet after a delayed start to 2019

JASON Johannisen's season started slowly, but he wasn't the only one at the Western Bulldogs.

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A serious ankle injury ruined the dashing Bulldog's pre-season, and meant he missed the start of the home-and-away campaign.

As Johannisen's season found its feet, the Dogs limped to the mid-year bye with four wins and seven losses, and it looked like another wasted season was on the cards for Luke Beveridge's side.

The Dogs have rediscovered their bite since, evening their win-loss record at 10-10 after last Saturday night's 104-point obliteration of Essendon, and are firmly in contention for their first finals appearance since their premiership year of 2016.

Jason Johannisen and the Dogs were at their explosive best in the eclipse of Essendon. Picture: AFL Photos

The 26-year-old Johannisen credits a sense of familiarity and an emphasis on greater efficiency in front of goal as key reasons for the Dogs' turnaround in form.

"The team hasn't changed too much, so that chemistry with the 22 has been building," he said.

"Playing a lot of games together has definitely helped.

"It was good to see the boys finish the work, and their accuracy was pretty elite on the weekend."

The 2016 Norm Smith medallist hasn't missed a game since round four, which has helped him find some rhythm.

Johannisen has averaged 21.6 disposals from 17 matches this year, the second-highest of his career, while his averages for rebound 50s (3.6) and inside 50s (3.7) are also close to career highs.

"I didn't do any pre-season this year because of injury and I didn't have the most ideal preparation coming into the season," Johannisen said.

"I've slowly built into the year and played some pretty good games … I feel like in terms of my body I'm finding a bit of a mojo, you could say."

In 2016 we were fighting for a top four spot, and this year we're fighting to get into finals ... in terms of the mindset, it's exactly the same - Jason Johannisen

Johannisen is reluctant to compare this year's strong late-season form with 2016, but says the club is enjoying riding the wave.

The Bulldogs finished seventh that season, but won four straight finals on their way to the club's first flag since 1954.

"In terms of the feeling around the club, it is pretty similar," Johannisen said.

"But back in 2016 we were fighting for a top four spot, and this year we're fighting to get into finals. So it's a little bit different but in terms of the mindset, it's exactly the same."

Standing in the Bulldogs' way this week is GWS, a side they haven't defeated since the 2016 preliminary final.

MATCH PREVIEW Giants v Dogs

Curiously, eight of the 22 Dogs who thumped Essendon last weekend have never played at Giants Stadium, with the last meeting between the sides in round one last year in Canberra.

"We haven't really focused on our past encounters because it's been over a year since we played the Giants, and both sides have changed quite a lot," Johannisen said.

"It's a great challenge for us boys. There's a few players who haven't played at that ground, so it's definitely a different vibe."

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