BONT made another deposit on the 2021 Brownlow Medal, Bailey Smith had his best game of the year and as for Aaron Naughton – if he isn't already the best key forward in the game at 21, he will be by the end of the year.

And there were at least a dozen other major positives for the Western Bulldogs in their massive, season-shaping win against West Coast in Perth.

Crucial status as a top-two seeded finalist is now fully in their control. After 14 matches, they've got the competition's best percentage by a long way, sit one game behind ladder leader Melbourne, and one game ahead of Brisbane, Port Adelaide and Geelong.

Marcus Bontempelli simply does not play a bad game, and there are now 159 matches of evidence to prove that. He again exuded authority and control in Sunday's match with 29 disposals and three goals, including one that might just be the clubhouse leader for goal of the year. Smith, reverting to the inside-midfield role that propelled him to AFL stardom in just his second season in 2020, was equally crucial in the demolition of the Eagles. 

Naughton booted four goals, three in the last quarter when the Bulldogs embarrassed their opponents. His presence under the incoming long bomb from teammates makes for compelling viewing. He hits the ball, seemingly every single time, at full velocity, and without fear of hurting himself or anyone, including teammates.

You could put all the AFL's key forwards up against a wall and ask me to take a pick, and I'd be taking Naughton in a heartbeat. He might have the most X-factor of anyone in the comp and, at 21, is behind only Bont as his team's most important player in the push for the 2021 flag.

In analysing the Bulldogs' smashing of the Eagles on Sunday, don't underestimate the club's ability to overcome the mentally draining outcomes of last weekend's after-siren loss to Geelong, and then being forced to quarantine in Perth for seven days.  

Where's the fight, West Coast?

Contrast that steely-mindedness with their opponents on Sunday, and I, clearly, had overplayed the significance of West Coast's previous two performances. An undermanned win against Carlton before the bye followed by a victory which came via the last four goals of the match against Richmond in round 14 suggested a restart on the 2021 season.

But it was back to the pick-and-choose Eagles at a COVID-19 enforced empty Optus Stadium against the Bulldogs. And while the injury list is no longer a problem, the unquestioned commitment of those available now is.

The Eagles' midfield was blown away by their Bulldogs opponents. There were some excuses for their ineffectiveness, as injury and match conditioning have been factors. But when it all got a bit too hard yesterday, there was next to no real resistance. And that is now Adam Simpson's biggest problem as he tries to resurrect an again-spluttering season.

West Coast is placed seventh, two games and big percentage outside the finals double-chance zone. With just eight matches remaining, history says that gap cannot be bridged. And recent history says this Eagles outfit isn't up for the serious fight anyway. 

West Coast captain Luke Shuey after his side's loss to the Western Bulldogs in round 15, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

How to become a contender in 101 steps

Under Chris Fagan, the Lions improve by the match, and there are now 101 matches of improvement.

In year one as coach, 2017, Brisbane finished last with five wins. In 2018, it was another five-win season but a more-than-OK percentage of 89. Then came a second-place finish to 2019, only for a straight-sets exit out of the finals. The improvement came again in 2020, with another second-placed finish, and then a win in a qualifying final against eventual premiership team Richmond.

The Lions were belted by Geelong in the 2020 preliminary final, but again, the improvement has emerged. In round two, they were robbed of victory against the Cats at GMHBA Stadium when an umpire refused to pay an obvious free kick in the final seconds to Zac Bailey on the edge of the goal square in a game decided by one point.

Then on Thursday night, Brisbane smashed Geelong by 44 points at the Gabba. Even without Ryan Lester and Darcy Gardiner, they quelled the dangerous Tom Hawkins-Jez Cameron-Gary Rohan forward line. There isn't a weak Lions link in 2021.

05:17 Mins
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The 10: Round 15's best moments

Watch all the best highlights from a thrilling round of football

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Tiger three-peat? Once bitten, twice shy...

After making the embarrassing mistake of writing off Richmond's 2019 premiership hopes the morning after Alex Rance suffered a season-ending knee injury, I have vowed to never again dismiss this club.

Though again tempted to do so after seeing it slump to 7-7 and kick an embarrassing two goals only against St Kilda in round 15, I shall refrain until mathematics proves they actually can't qualify for the finals. And even then, I may wait another week.

The manner in which the Tigers dealt with adversity, a lot of it self-inflicted, last year was destiny-defining, leading to a third flag in four seasons. But maybe the cumulative effect of needing to respond to problems has been a toll too great.

St Kilda's Luke Dunstan and Paddy Ryder tussle with Richmond skipper Trent Cotchin. Picture: Getty Images

Dees just keep getting it done

Good teams find a way.

Melbourne found a way against Essendon on Saturday night. The Demons have found lots of ways in 2021 to get themselves to an extraordinary 12-2 scoreline.

They've found ways to kick winning scores without meaningful input from two key forwards – Ben Brown and Sam Weideman – around whom much of their pre-season plans were based. Injury, then form, and then decisions based on the team dynamic, have been the reasons for the attacking duo's absences.

A high-end finals bound team may have beaten the Demons on Saturday night, when they gritted out a good win by manufacturing scoring opportunities.

I will be staggered if Brown isn't given a sustained crack at holding down a place in the team in the lead-in to the finals. Crucially, he kicked five goals in the VFL on Sunday. Reckon he's back in for next Saturday's match against GWS at the 'G.

Twitter: @barrettdamian