THE Western Bulldogs have firmed as AFL finalists after demolishing Hawthorn by 36 points to climb into the top eight.
The Dogs jumped from 10th to seventh spot with an 11.10 (76) to 6.4 (40) victory over the Hawks on Sunday at Adelaide Oval.
The Bulldogs will be assured of a finals berth if they beat Fremantle in Cairns next Sunday.
But they’ll likely be without utility Toby McLean, who suffered an apparent serious knee injury.
McLean started Sunday’s rout by scoring a goal just 17 seconds into the match.
But three minutes later, he was being stretchered off the ground in agony after his right knee buckled in a tackle from Hawthorn ruckman Jonathon Ceglar.
McLean’s injury took some gloss from a polished performance against the Hawks, whose season continues its dreadful spiral.
Hawthorn won three of their first four matches but have lost 11 of the next dozen.
The Dogs held an 18-point break at quarter-time, then booted three goals to none in the second term for a 40-point halftime lead, 7.6 to 1.2.
The Hawks showed some pluck in the third quarter, kicking four goals to two, before being outscored by a goal in a tame last term.
Bulldogs Jason Johannisen, Aaron Naughton and Tim English kicked two goals each while defender Caleb Daniel was superb, collecting 28 disposals including seven inside 50s and a goal.
The Dogs’ midfield was also in command, headlined by captain Marcus Bontempelli (28 disposals, 11 clearances), Bailey Smith (25 touches), Jack Macrae (29 possessions) and Tom Liberatore (28 disposals, nine tackles).
Hawthorn stalwart Jack Gunston booted three goals and his teammates Liam Shiels (20 touches) and James Cousins 19 disposals) battled against the tide.
(C) AAP 2020
WESTERN BULLDOGS 4.1 7.6 9.7 11.10 (76)
HAWTHORN 1.1 1.2 5.3 6.4 (40)
Goals: Western Bulldogs: A Naughton 2 J Johannissen 2 T English 2 B Smith C Daniel M Wallis R Smith T McLean. Hawthorn: J Gunston 3 C Wingard L Breust T O’Brien.
Umpires: Simon Meredith, Brent Wallace, Cameron Dore.
Official Crowd: 2,625 at Adelaide Oval.