WESTERN Bulldogs' stirring come-from-behind 10-point victory over Melbourne will provide a launchpad for the rest of their season, coach Luke Beveridge said.
The Demons stretched out to a 27-point lead late in the second term before the Dogs ground their way back into the game, Riley Garcia's major taking the lead with around four minutes remaining.
"Everyone's proud of them, all the staff who have worked so hard with them to support them. We haven't had a win like that for a while," Beveridge said.
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"It's a testament to their perseverance tonight. To be so far down (27 points) against a team who – along with Geelong – are probably the benchmark of the competition, to believe and persevere and hold their nerve and keep taking the game on, and bit by bit, get closer and closer, it's a tremendous night for us.
"It's a great platform for the future, to win a game like that. Many of our people who work with the boys are a bit emotional tonight.
"No week against anyone is easy, they're all difficult. It was a huge challenge for us tonight and some of the boys who haven't necessarily been involved in some of our monumental victories over the journey really stood up tonight at times, and that'll do all of our boys the world of good for the future."
Beveridge praised the work-rate and composure of rising young forward Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, who booted five goals in a match-winning turn.
"We've got to acknowledge his contribution to the win, especially the way he finished the game off with it on the line. Steven May was having a pretty significant night, and our other key forwards weren't necessarily getting it too easily and having their most outstanding nights.
"So, for the youngest and emerging of the trio (Ugle-Hagan, Aaron Naughton and Josh Bruce), to play the sort of game – Saturday night lights against the Demons – was sensational. We'll celebrate that and then bring him back to earth really, really quickly, because there's a bit to come up ahead."
Scans will be needed for newly minted half-back flanker Adam Treloar, who was subbed off after struggling with his acceleration due to a calf issue, while Beveridge said Caleb Daniel is a chance to return next week.
It was the first time the normally stingy Melbourne had conceded at least 110 points since round three, 2019, and the late withdrawal of Jake Lever didn't help matters.
"It's a missed opportunity from our end. Credit to the Bulldogs, I thought certainly in that third quarter they had some real dominance in the game," Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin said.
"But it's a typical game against the Western Bulldogs. It had momentum swings all through the night, we had our dominance at centre bounce, they had their dominance at forward-40 stoppage, and they were able to lock us in during that third quarter for a big period of time.
"110 points against isn't a normal Melbourne game. The Bulldogs certainly got the game looking more like their game for longer, and that's what enabled them to get themselves back in the game more consistently.
"We'll go away and have a look at that, 110 points against for us isn't a normal way of playing defensively, so that enables teams to come back, if you get in those shoot-out types of games."
Goodwin said Lever should be back next week to face Fremantle in what looks like being a top-four shaping match.
"He's a quality player, he's a leader of our footy club and we would have loved to have him out there. He just didn't quite get there, there were some strength markers around his shoulder that we wanted him to hit and he wasn't quite there," Goodwin said.
"We're really confident he'll be right this week. But there's no doubt when you're missing a key back, he's a high-quality player, he's a leader within our footy club, and he wasn't out there for critical moments in a pretty tight game and what I'm sure was a pretty entertaining game to watch."