No.1 draft pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan has come-of-age to propel the Western Bulldogs to a 10-point upset over Melbourne in a thrilling AFL grand final rematch.
Trailing for most of Saturday night’s match at Marvel Stadium, the Bulldogs stormed home to grab the lead through Riley Garcia with four minutes remaining.
The Bulldogs defended for their life in the dying stages, before Ugle-Hagan roosted his fifth goal from the boundary line with seconds to go to seal the club’s 10th, and best, win of 2022.
Luke Beveridge’s men were humiliated by Melbourne in last year’s grand final, and then in round one this season, but saluted 17.8 (110) to 15.10 (100) in a classic encounter this time around.
Most importantly for the Bulldogs, it puts them inside the top-eight with four rounds to go, overtaking struggling Richmond, who drew with Fremantle on Friday night.
“We haven’t had a win like that for a while and it’s a testament to their perseverance, to be so far down against a team, along with Geelong, who are probably the benchmark of the competition,” Beveridge said.
“It’s a really good platform for the future to win a game like that and I think many of our people were a bit emotional.”
Melbourne led at every change, and by as many as 27 points, but the Bulldogs had more run in the final term with five goals to one.
Superstar defender Steven May had an outstanding game but made a critical mistake in the last quarter that led to an important Bulldogs goal.
Ugle-Hagan, in just his 17th AFL game, delivered on his serious promise with a career-high return after booting three majors last week.
His game-sealing goal, his third of the last quarter, could long be looked back on as the moment a star’s career finally took off.
The Bulldogs were able to penetrate the much-vaunted Melbourne defence, with the Demons conceding 100 points or more for the first time since round 19, 2019.
The only negative for the Bulldogs was star midfielder Adam Treloar being subbed out with a calf issue.
After starting their premiership defence with 10 straight victories, Melbourne have lost five of their last eight to be in danger of finishing outside of the top-two.
“It’s a missed opportunity from our end, and full credit to the Bulldogs, I thought certainly in that third quarter they grabbed some real dominance,” Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin said.
“It was a typical game against the Western Bulldogs, it had momentum swings all the way throughout the night … and they were able to lock us in that third quarter.”
Champion Melbourne midfielder Clayton Oliver was typically magnificent after missing last week with a fractured thumb, collecting 28 touches and 13 clearances.
Bayley Fritsch (four goals) and Sam Weideman (three), who was a late inclusion for Ben Brown, were the Demons’ most damaging players up forward.
Star defender Jake Lever was also a late out for Melbourne.
Melbourne have six days to prepare for a showdown with Fremantle at Optus Stadium on Friday night, while the Bulldogs head down to Geelong to face the ladder-leading Cats.