Fluctuating form costs Western Bulldogs in AFLW inauguration

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 18: Ellie Blackburn of the Bulldogs celebrates kicking a goal on the full time siren during the round seven AFL Women's match between the Greater Western Sydney Giants and the Western Bulldogs at UNSW Canberra Oval on March 18, 2017 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

The Western Bulldogs produced some breathtaking football in the inaugural AFL Women’s competition – but only in sample sizes.

Bulldogs coach Paul Groves must have been pulling his hair out over his side’s fluctuating form – not only from game to game, but from quarter to quarter.

The best example came in the six-point loss to Carlton at Ikon Park.

The Bulldogs were scintillating in the final quarter, nearly stealing victory at the death, but where was that energy for the first three-quarters of the match?

Inconsistency within games was the Bulldogs’ major downfall.

They also relied too heavily on top-end stars, with depth seemingly falling away sharply.

That’s something that will need to be addressed in the off season if the Dogs are to take the next step in 2018.

The final nail in the coffin of the Bulldogs’ first AFLW season was their woeful inaccuracy in front of goal.

In all bar one of their seven matches, the Dogs kicked more behinds than goals, preventing them from putting scoreboard pressure on their opponents.

While a sixth-place finish with two wins from seven starts was not to the Bulldogs’ liking, there was enough to like about the side to suggest the ground-work has been laid for a successful future.

The highlight: It’s hard to look past the season opener as the high point of the Bulldogs’ season.

A history-making night saw the full house sign put up at the Victoria University Whitten Oval for the Bulldogs’ first win in the competition. They smashed Fremantle by 32 points.

The crowd was a precursor to the massive throngs that would follow the Bulldogs at Barkly Street in the following three weeks.

The lowlight: During Friday night football in round two, the Bulldogs drew another massive crowd and expectations were high after their first-up win.

All the stats pointed to a close contest. The scoring shots were dead even, but the Bulldogs wound up 25 points down after kicking 2.11 for the game.

Compounding the loss, star forward Katie Brennan succumbed to an ankle injury and would miss the rest of the season.

While it was still early in the season, it was a momentum-sapping night from which the Bulldogs never recovered.

The stand-outs: Emma Kearney, top three in disposals in the competition, was magnificent in the centre.

Ellie Blackburn, who played both midfield and forward, had an uncanny knack of creating something out of nothing.

Special mentions to half-back Hannah Scott, one of the better ball users in the side and so courageous in her attack on the contest; Tiarna Ernst, who rucked one-out in a lot of games; Angelica Gogos, who averaged 6.1 tackles per game; and Lauren Spark, who read the play well across half-back.

Next chapter: It will be interesting to see how the Bulldogs use the draft and trade period in the off season.

The Bulldogs have great leaders, reliable top-end talent and a young list that will only grow in prowess with another pre-season, but they were exposed for depth in season one and that should be addressed in the winter months.