IN TERMS of the pivotal, match-defining moments that can be reflected upon at season's end as being the difference between success and failure, the Western Bulldogs' thrilling semi-final victory over Brisbane had a few.
Yes, there was Bailey Smith's remarkable goal from the boundary with a tick under two minutes remaining – and his now iconic 'ice in my veins' celebration to boot – as well as Laitham Vandermeer's clever heads-up play to rush through the winning score.
But at the other end of the ground, amid a hostile Gabba environment, there was another just as significant. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, Taylor Duryea – a man with September experience in abundance – was the player at the centre of it.
Isolated against Charlie Cameron in his defensive-50, Duryea's ability to not only keep pace with the dual All-Australian small forward, but push him off the footy, proved crucial. In hindsight, it proved match winning.
Duryea corralled Cameron towards the boundary with one instinctive forearm to the Lions attacker's side, before ushering the footy out of play. Just like that, help in the form of his Western Bulldogs teammates arrived and the pressure valve was released.
"It was not a position I wanted to find myself in," Duryea laughed.
"He's just such an explosive player. His acceleration is probably the best in the competition for someone in that small forward position, so I just told myself to keep my feet and make sure I compete.
"It was one of those things, the ball probably didn't bounce up for him either. A few things went my way. But I was very thankful that he didn't get his hands on it and run into an open goal. I don't know how I could've lived with myself if that happened."
Easton Wood, the Western Bulldogs' 2016 premiership skipper, had initially been given the job of handling Cameron on Saturday night. Fresh off a five-goal haul during the qualifying final against Melbourne the week prior, it was a daunting task.
However, when Cameron's first four disposals yielded three goals and one goal assist to help Brisbane open a handy 11-point buffer at quarter-time, Dogs coach Luke Beveridge was forced into a change.
Duryea was the man asked to step up and held Cameron to just nine disposals – and without a goal – for the remaining three quarters. It proved pivotal as the Bulldogs surged into the lead late in the game.
"It was basically at the end of the first quarter," Duryea said.
"I got the message to get on to Charlie. Easton has that ability to play on a tall or a small, so it didn't mess around with how we wanted to set up down back anyway. For me to play on a deep small, it doesn't change things too much for us."
After a 2020 campaign ruined by groin and quad injuries, Duryea's return this season has helped shoot the Bulldogs up the ladder. He's handled some of the most dangerous small forwards in the competition, a requirement that will continue this weekend.
Should his side qualify for a first Grand Final since its remarkable premiership campaign of 2016, Duryea will need to limit the effectiveness of Port Adelaide's brigade of smaller options in attack.
But whether he's tasked with manning one of the Power's dangerous youngsters like Connor Rozee or Zak Butters, or perhaps one of their more experienced veterans like Robbie Gray or Orazio Fantasia, remains unclear.
"They've got a pretty good small forward mix as well," Duryea said.
"For us guys, it's maybe a good dress rehearsal given Brisbane has a number of small forwards that are pretty dangerous. That will be the same this weekend.
"You've got Zak Butters, Connor Rozee, Robbie Gray, Orazio Fantasia – I'm not sure if he plays, I know he was sore – plus Steven Motlop and any of the resting mids. The hands are going to be full again this week."
Duryea, of course, has been in this position before. A dual premiership winner already with Hawthorn in 2014 and 2015, the veteran defender is gunning for his third flag with the Western Bulldogs in season 2021.
Having played a key role in each of his Hawks premiership campaigns, Duryea is now passing on some experience to his younger Dogs teammates about taking the long route to the Grand Final this season.
"Each year is unique in itself," Duyrea said.
"Even in the years that I won with Hawthorn, they were different. There was one where we lost our first final, then had to win the next three. Then there was another when we went through a traditional path from the top-four position.
"Parallels can be drawn with the challenge of having to win on the road and in hostile environments. The hardest way to get to a Grand Final would be Brisbane at the Gabba and Port Adelaide at the Adelaide Oval.
"But that's just the reality of our finals series. It's hard to draw parallels, given what this year has thrown at us with quarantine and borders being shut to each other.
"At the end of the day, it's still footy. To get to the Grand Final, you're going to have to win a preliminary final. They're always the hardest match in each finals series and we expect for that to be the case again this week."