Preliminary finals are rare beasts for the Western Bulldogs, but captain Brad Johnson says there is no sense of achievement among his AFL side at this point of the campaign.
The Bulldogs will play Geelong next weekend for a place in the grand final after they eliminated Sydney in Friday night’s semi-final at the MCG.
Since joining the competition in 1925 the Bulldogs have played in only two grand finals (one win, one loss) and been beaten in six other preliminary finals, including the heart-breakers of 1997-98.
But Johnson said although the Bulldogs had little to lose in coming up against such a hot favourite, there was unfinished business in 2008.
“The relief will be if we win in a couple of weeks’ time,” he said.
Preliminary finals draw bitter memories for most Bulldogs fans, as they were overrun in the 1997 clash by Adelaide, who went on to win the premiership.
The following season, the Bulldogs had the chance to atone, but again lost to Crows, who won a second premiership a week later.
Johnson experienced both defeats, but said this time it would be Geelong who would carry all the pressure of expectation.
“We have got nothing to lose,” he said.
“Geelong are without a doubt favourites for this game but we will certainly be seeing ourselves as a strong contender, that’s for sure.
“We’ll be out there to give it our best shot and compete as hard as we can.
“And I am sure that if we do that, we’ll be in a position to win.”
Johnson bore no after effects of the head clash with Sydney’s Martin Mattner he suffered in the second quarter of the game, which forced the 32-year-old from the ground.
His coach Rodney Eade and teammates praised Johnson for his courage in returning to the ground soon after and throwing himself into contests, and booting a late goal.
“He got dazed a bit just before three-quarter time, but I thought he was terrific,” Eade said.
“His leadership game was fantastic and he certainly answered a lot of critics the way he went about it.”
Defender Dale Morris said the Bulldogs responded to their skipper’s actions.
“He took the hit and I don’t know if many players would have come back on and did what he did, but he’s just a great player and stood up and … led by example,” he said.