More AFL finals woes for Bulldogs out west

·2-min read

The Western Bulldogs' AFL demons have come back to haunt them after they squandered a hefty lead in their elimination-final loss to Fremantle.

After leading by as much as 41 points and holding Fremantle goalless until the 20-minute mark of the second quarter on Saturday night, the Bulldogs were left stunned as the Dockers stormed home to run out 13-point winners.

Fremantle booted 11 of the final 13 goals in the 11.7 (73) to 8.12 (60) victory at Optus Stadium.

Luke Beveridge's men will be left to rue a horrendous fade-out which had shades of their last visit to the west during September - their grand final defeat to Melbourne last year.

In the premiership decider in Perth, the Dogs had led by 19 points after halftime before the Demons turned the game on its head with 16 of the last 17 goals.

The Dogs dominated proceedings early on Saturday night, asserting themselves over a Fremantle side which lacked significant finals experience and appeared overawed by the occasion.

Marcus Bontempelli, superb for the Dogs in their grand-final defeat, was again brilliant on the big stage, booting two first-quarter goals while also influencing the midfield battle.

Bailey Smith and Adam Treloar also made hot starts with the Bulldogs comfortably leading contested possessions, inside-50s and tackles at the first change.

When Josh Dunkley slotted the first goal of the second term to extend the visitors' lead to 41 points, the Dockers looked done for.

But spurred on by a sellout crowd, Fremantle responded with Michael Walters' drought-breaking major kickstarting a stunning comeback.

A disappointed Beveridge said his side had been "chipping away at consistency" with their decision-making and ball use.

"We got a lot of that right early. Then we got it incorrect for large periods of the second half. That's as blunt as I can be," he said.

"We were up by 40, it's a significant swing and it's bloody disappointing."

Beveridge, who denied his players had lost their nerve, cautioned against comparing Saturday's loss to their grand final defeat.

But he conceded it was difficult to know whether the "trauma" of that loss had lingered over the course of the season.

"It's difficult to understand any sort of magnitude on that, whether it did or whether it didn't," he said.

"We felt at different stages, with one or two of the significant wins, that we were definitely moving beyond that.

"But all of us as individuals, when we think about what we're capable of, we'd self reflect and say, 'I think I can be more consistent'.

"That's what we have to strive for next year."