The most ignored footy team is a success story we should celebrate.
Amidst the never-ending Essendon drugs saga, the Adam Goodes racial debate, the dominance of the WA clubs, the decline of Collingwood and Carlton, the poor state of the Queensland clubs and questions concerning the overall health of the game - the biggest story of the 2015 AFL season has largely being ignored or overlooked by the media.
And that is the astonishing performance of the Western Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs were universally written off heading into this season and along with St Kilda were just about every footy fan’s tip to finish last.
After all the Bulldogs were seen to be in crisis after their captain Ryan Griffen walked out in October to join GWS followed soon after by the departure of coach Brendan McCartney.
Not long after chief executive Simon Garlick resigned and then came the biggest blow of all when reigning best and fairest winner Tom Liberatore succumbed to a season-ending knee injury in pre-season.
It all added up to mission impossible for a club whose one and only premiership came way back in 1954.
The Bulldogs constantly struggle for media attention - even in footy mad Melbourne - but here they were getting it for all the wrong reasons.
And even the appointment of new coach Luke Beveridge - a battling player for Melbourne, St Kilda and the Bulldogs in the 1990’s - failed to arouse little enthusiasm.
But with four rounds to go the Bulldogs are incredibly in fourth position with 12 wins and six losses and not only on the verge of playing finals for the first time since 2010 but pushing for a top four spot.
It’s a comeback of Lazarus proportions but has been given scant attention because quite simply the Bulldogs - with their small supporter base - don’t sell newspapers or garner television ratings.
Hence why the club has been so starved of access to blockbuster games which not only its success but more importantly its style of play so richly deserves.
The Bulldogs are not only a great story but they are fantastic team to watch and it was a pleasure watching them put the despised Essendon to the sword on Sunday.
In an era in which boring, negative, chip it from side to side football seems to be so prevalent, the Dogs are a joy to watch with their fast, direct, attacking game style.
They are the fifth highest scoring side of the season and have arguably the two most exciting future champions of the competition in Marcus Bontempelli and Jake Stringer.
Their run and dash out of defence - led by the exciting Jason Johannisen - is thrilling - while the leadership of everyone’s favourite AFL player - Bob Murphy - has been inspiring in his first season in charge.
But while Murphy is nearing the end of his career, these Bulldogs will surely only get better in the years to come.
A staggering 12 of the 22 players that destroyed Essendon on Sunday have played less than 50 games and remember next season they will not only get Liberatore back but boom recruit Tom Boyd will surely improve after modest returns so far.
But it is Beveridge that surely deserves the bulk of the credit for the Bulldogs’ resurrection.
And it’s becoming clearer by the day that if you want a coach that knows what he is doing then get one that has worked alongside Hawthorn’s triple premiership coach Alastair Clarkson.
Indeed as Clarkson tries to win a third straight flag this year and fourth overall at Hawthorn, it is three of his former apprentices and now head coaches of rival teams that are standing in the way in Damien Hardwick (Richmond), Adam Simpson (West Coast) and who would have believed it six months ago - Luke Beveridge at the Western Bulldogs.
by Paul Gough
Paul Gough is a former AFL sportswriter who wishes all clubs played like the Western Bulldogs.