Two more flags by 2025: Dogs' plan for glory

THE WESTERN Bulldogs have unveiled an ambitious plan to win two more AFLW flags by 2025.

Speaking at the club's season launch, there was no questioning Nathan Burke's aims as he implored the crowd of players, families, friends and sponsors to hold the Dogs accountable.

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"What we're aiming for is something called '2 x 25'. What does that mean? That means we are aiming to win two premierships by 2025," Burke said.

"Now, some of you might think that's a big ask, but I wouldn't put it out there if I didn't think it was achievable.

"We're going to win by 2 x 25, and we're going to put it out there and let every single one of you know so that we need you to hold us accountable. When your player, your daughter, your friend is taking short-cuts, remind them: 2 x 25.

"That's our intention. But as the girls have probably heard me say too many times, intentions are garbage. The only thing that will get there are our actions."

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Just as the game plan clicked for the Bulldogs, the 2020 season was cut short.

Burke said the players had noticeably lifted standards this year, giving him great hope in achieving the goal.

"From what I've seen from players so far this season is that they're prepared to act. They are absolutely prepared to act. The way that they're training, caring, being inclusive, giving effort – which happen to be our values – have gone to another level," he said.

"No good shying away from it, and we don't want you shying away from it, and we're going to do our utmost to make it come to life. If you want to become a champion footballer, it starts with the decision to become a champion footballer, and then acting like a champion."

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Burke recounted how the Bulldogs squad had been instructed to give handmade gifts for their Christmas Kris Kringle, and that while initially reluctant, players produced presents including poems, pictures, sewed objects and written affirmations from peers.

"The next time they question themselves, 'am I creative?', the answer is yes. We need to do the same thing with football. When your daughter questions whether she can get into the seniors, question that label."

Western Bulldogs AFLW coach Nathan Burke addresses his players. Picture: AFL Photos

The Bulldogs won the 2018 flag, but have lost a number of elite players to expansion clubs since then, including Emma Kearney and Jenna Bruton (North Melbourne) and Katie Brennan and Monique Conti (Richmond).

Midfielder Jaimee Lambert, now with Collingwood, also left the Dogs at the end of the first AFLW season in 2017, while lively midfielder Aisling McCarthy opted to join West Coast over this off-season.

Currently, the Dogs have a very young list, with 14 of their squad of 30 aged 21 or under.

They've also cashed in on a huge number of first-round selections over the past two years, most of which have come as a result of expansion signings.

The Bulldogs' No.1 draft pick from 2019, Gabby Newton. Picture: AFL Photos

The Bulldogs have added 10 first-rounders from 2017 to 2020 – five more than the closest Victorian team, Geelong – and seven in the past two drafts alone, four more than the nearest Victorian team in Carlton.

Key forward and leadership group member Bonnie Toogood – who played in the 2018 flag in her first season of football – was thrilled with the '2 x 25' plan.

"You have clubs that shy away from what they're trying to achieve, and not talk about a premiership, but at the end of the day, that's what we're here to do. We're here to win, and win a premiership, and it feels bloody good, so I want to do it again," Toogood said.

"I think a lot of us were looking round going 'this is what we want, and what we need'. A step up in standard, expectation – which may have been lacking in the past couple of years – and I think it was something us players needed to rise to and start holding each other accountable.

"When [Burke] said it, I was like, 'yes, let's go!'. You put yourself through the wringer, have your day job and train really hard, and you do want to win, and that feeling when it comes off is something this young group can really strive towards. I think our possibilities are endless."