THE WESTERN Bulldogs surged to a shock premiership with a group of emerging stars in 2016 but has had to refresh half its team to earn a second shot at Grand Final glory.

The Bulldogs looked set up for a period of sustained success after they upset Sydney in the 2016 Toyota AFL Grand Final to break a 62-year premiership drought.

The team that day included 13 players aged 23 or under and is the youngest premiership group in the past decade (averaging 24 years, five months), with Collingwood in 2010 the most recent to triumph with a younger line-up (24 years, two months).

>> 2016 v 2021. SEE THE TEAMS BELOW

But rather than becoming consistent contenders the budding Bulldogs missed the finals in 2017 and 2018, then finished seventh and were bundled out in elimination finals in both 2019 and 2020.

The elimination final victory over Essendon this year was the Dogs' first taste of post-season success since their glorious 2016 premiership.

The Western Bulldogs' Bailey Smith (left) and Easton Wood celebrate a preliminary final win over Port Adelaide on September 11, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

In the unexpectedly barren five years the Bulldogs turned over more than half of the 2016 premiership team before relaunching for another Grand Final attack.

Only nine of the 2016 Grand Final team will also play in this year's decider and hope to become the first dual premiership players in the Dogs' history.

Marcus Bontempelli, Zaine Cordy, Caleb Daniel, Josh Dunkley, Lachie Hunter, Jason Johannisen and Jack Macrae remain from the younger group, with Tom Liberatore and premiership captain Easton Wood also set to return to the grandest stage.

>> 2016 v 2021. SEE THE TEAMS BELOW

Toby McLean is the only other member of the premiership team still at the Dogs but has been struck down by multiple ACL injuries.

The Western Bulldogs' Tom Boyd and Toby McLean celebrate a goal during the 2016 Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

Bailey Dale was already at the club after being drafted with pick No.45 in 2014 but only played four mid-season matches in 2016 and showed few signs of becoming the player that earned a Therabody AFL All-Australian blazer this season.

Roarke Smith initially joined the Dogs though the 2014 NAB AFL Rookie Draft and has since been de-listed then 're-rookied' twice. The winger also endured two knee reconstructions but has finally broken through for a career-high 13 matches this season.

Bailey Williams played six matches in his debut season of 2016 with the last coming in round 23, after being selected with pick No.48 the year before, but only cemented his place in the side from last year.

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Rather than growing too much from within or rushing to add established players to a young premiership team the Bulldogs are now benefiting from hanging onto and nailing a series of first-round selections.

Raw ruckman Tim English (pick No.19) was drafted at the end of the premiership year and high-flying forward Aaron Naughton (No.9) arrived the following season.

Electrifying midfielder Bailey Smith (No.7) was drafted in 2018 and the Dogs added small forward Cody Weightman (No.15) in 2019.

The Western Bulldogs' Tim English and Melbourne's Max Gawn grapple in the ruck during round 19, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Laitham Vandermeer (No.37) was also picked up in 2018 but has been dropped from the starting 22 after being subbed out of the preliminary final, while Ryan Gardner was selected in the 2019 mid-season draft after failing to make the grade at Geelong and is also unlucky to be omitted for the decider.

Anthony Scott was a pre-season pick up from the Bulldogs' VFL squad before this season started and will now hope to hold his place as medical sub, with Vandermeer the most likely challenger for the final spot.

>> 2016 v 2021. SEE THE TEAMS BELOW

Most of the trades the Bulldogs have made to boost their chances of a second success now look like bargains.

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Josh Schache cost the Dogs a second and third-round selection in 2017 after Brisbane had used pick No.2 to draft the forward just two years earlier. Much like Tom Boyd did in 2016, Schache could finally make the most of his talent at the right time of the year.

Two-time Hawthorn premiership player Taylor Duryea arrived in 2018 in exchange for a future fourth-round selection and has played every match this season.

The Bulldogs looked to add bookends the following year, including Alex Keath from Adelaide for some mid-draft pick swaps. Josh Bruce also came across from St Kilda for second and third-round picks but is unlucky to now be sidelined after tearing an ACL in round 21.

Josh Bruce celebrates his 10th goal against North Melbourne. Picture: AFL Photos

Last year's Continental Tyres Trade Period looks especially fruitful for the Dogs, led by Adam Treloar arriving from the Magpies in exchange for pick swaps well below the expected value of a three-time All-Australian squad member. The midfielder will play in his second Grand Final after losing one with the Pies in 2018.

Stefan Martin was also brought in from the Lions for some late pick swaps to take on the ruck role and allow English to spend more time forward, while former Bulldogs VFL player Mitch Hannan was recruited from Melbourne for a future third-round selection.

The Dogs are more seasoned this time than they were in 2016 and will enter the Grand Final with Naughton, Smith, Weightman and Williams as their only players aged 23 or under.

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But the nine Bulldogs looking to win a second flag five years after their first is the same number as Hawthorn had when it saluted twice in the same timeframe.

The Hawks had a similar age profile in 2008 (24 years, seven months) to the Dogs of 2016 and also missed the finals the year after being premiers. Their 2013 flag was of course the first of a 'three-peat'.

The Bulldogs will find out at Optus Stadium on Saturday whether they might be better set up this time for a similar period of sustained success.

Western Bulldogs players celebrate with the crowd after winning the 2016 Toyota AFL Grand Final against Sydney. Picture: AFL Photos

Western Bulldogs' 2016 Grand Final team

B: Jason Johannisen, Joel Hamling, Matthew Boyd

HB: Fletcher Roberts, Dale Morris, Easton Wood

C: Lachie Hunter, Marcus Bontempelli, Liam Picken

HF: Josh Dunkley, Zaine Cordy, Jake Stringer

F: Tory Dickson, Tom Boyd, Clay Smith

Foll: Jordan Roughead, Luke Dahlhaus, Tom Liberatore

I/C: Jack Macrae, Toby McLean, Shane Biggs, Caleb Daniel

Emerg: Matthew Suckling, Tom Campbell, Lin Jong

Western Bulldogs' 2021 Grand Final team

B: Easton Wood, Alex Keath, Bailey Williams

HB: Caleb Daniel, Zaine Cordy, Bailey Dale

C: Bailey Smith, Tom Liberatore, Lachie Hunter

HF: Cody Weightman, Aaron Naughton, Adam Treloar

F: Josh Schache, Tim English, Mitch Hannan

Foll: Stefan Martin, Jack Macrae, Marcus Bontempelli

I/C: Jason Johannisen, Josh Dunkley, Taylor Duryea, Roarke Smith        

Emerg: Laitham Vandermeer, Ed Richards, Anthony Scott, Ryan Gardner