Dogs' AFL fans bring bite to GWS fortress
Photo Source: AAP
It might be Greater Western Sydney's AFL home fortress but, on Saturday, Spotless Stadium belonged to the Western Bulldogs - and their fans.
The blue and white faithful brought plenty of bite to the second preliminary final to witness their team put on a performance 55 years and 1212 games in the making.
Not since 1961 has the club reached a season decider.
They broke that drought in dramatic fashion at a venue where the Giants had won six of eight games this year, four of those by more than 60 points.
From the moment the Giants ran out for their pre-match warm-up, they were roundly booed by Dogs fans, who made up at least half of the sold-out 25,790 crowd.
The jeering continued in earnest every time former Dogs players Callan Ward and Ryan Griffen touched the ball.
Even when Ward briefly returned to the bench following a sickening second-quarter blow to the head, he was the recipient of crowd vitriol.
The on-field niggle was just as heated, with punches regularly thrown and players taking every opportunity for a bit of biff.
GWS vice-captain Heath Shaw and Bulldogs midfielder Tom Liberatore gave each other a good roughing up in the first quarter, while feisty ruckman Shane Mumford became the enemy of just about every foe who crossed his path.
But Luke Beveridge's battlers, who finished seventh on the regular-season ladder, had already vanquished both of last year's grand finalists en route to this match.
Not willing to leave without locking in the club's third-only grand-final berth, the Dogs hunted and hounded the Giants at every turn, ultimately outpressuring them despite a third-quarter comeback during which the hosts slotted four goals to one.
One away from an unlikely premiership, Bulldogs fans will take their vocal chords to the MCG next Saturday to play Sydney for the flag.
"It's been 1212 games since their last grand final," AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said before the match.
"It will not only put to bed the past seven lost preliminary finals; it will not only carry the hopes of their passionate fans - they will carry the support of most Victorians at the MCG next week."