Western Bulldogs celebrate on the siren after beating Brisbane in an epic semi-final in 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

THERE'S a touch of 2016 building for the Western Bulldogs after they won a pulsating semi-final against Brisbane by a solitary point in front of a packed Gabba on Saturday night.

The Bulldogs trailed by 12 points late in the third quarter, but a Laitham Vandermeer scrubbed behind inside the final 60 seconds proved the ultimate difference in the 11.13 (79) to 11.12 (78) victory.

They will now hit the road for a third straight week and face Port Adelaide in a preliminary final at Adelaide Oval next weekend.

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It was a final that had just about everything, from concussed players for both teams to spectacular goals in a final quarter that just kept delivering.


With scores level and two minutes remaining, Bailey Smith looked like he'd kicked the match-winner with a brilliant running effort on his left boot, only for Lion Zac Bailey to answer 45 seconds later with his own scintillating goal on the run.

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With 75 seconds remaining, the Bulldogs won a free kick from the next centre bounce and from the ensuing inside 50 entry, Vandermeer was able to get his toe on the ball and scrub through the most crucial behind.

Both teams were spent as the final siren sounded.

Lincoln McCarthy shows his pain on the final siren of 2021's first semi-final. Picture: AFL Photos

Jack Macrae (38 disposals and a goal) was magnificent, as was Caleb Daniel (31) for the victors.

Skipper Marcus Bontempelli was also a major influence but was assisted from the ground late in the final term clutching his knee.

The Bulldogs played the second half without goalsneak Cody Weightman who was subbed off at half-time with concussion, while Brisbane played the final two quarters a man down after Jack Payne (head gash) and Jarrod Berry (concussion) were both ruled out.

The loss will devastate the Lions who bow out in two straight finals for the second time in three years despite generating 68 inside 50s to 54.


They lost the free kick count 28-19, including some contentious decisions late.

All night it was a battle of the Bulldogs' superiority at ground level up against a Lions team that wanted to transition the ball through the corridor to give their small forwards room to work in.

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Hugh McCluggage was fantastic for Brisbane with 28 disposals, a goal and two assists, while Jarryd Lyons and Mitch Robinson also worked themselves into the ground.

Just as he did against Melbourne at Adelaide Oval seven days earlier, Charlie Cameron set the Gabba alight with three goals in the opening quarter as Easton Wood struggled to go with him on the lead or at ground level.


The third of his trio was a phenomenal effort, sprinting full speed towards the right forward pocket, tapping the ball to himself, gathering and then pulling it back across his body to ignite the home crowd.

But after the Lions took an 11-point lead to the first change, the Bulldogs began to win the arm wrestle in the second, with excellent set shots by Aaron Naughton and Mitch Hannan and a terrific snap by Cody Weightman giving them a lead at the main break.


BRISBANE                                5.3      6.5      9.9      11.12 (78)
WESTERN BULLDOGS         3.4      6.6      7.11    11.13 (79)

Brisbane: Cameron 3, Bailey 2, Daniher, Fullarton, Lester, McCarthy, McCluggage, Robinson
Western Bulldogs: B.Smith 3, Liberatore 2, Hannan, Johannisen, Macrae, Naughton, Schache, Weightman

Brisbane: McCluggage, Zorko, Cameron, Robinson, Lyons, Coleman
Western Bulldogs: Macrae, Daniel, Bontempelli, B.Smith, Keath, Liberatore     

Brisbane: Payne (head); Berry (concussion)
Western Bulldogs: Weightman (concussion), Bontempelli (knee)     

Brisbane: Ryan Lester (replaced Jack Payne)
Western Bulldogs: Jason Johannisen (Cody Weightman)

Crowd: 36,470 at the Gabba