HOBART, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 13: Ellie Blackburn of the Bulldogs leads out the team during the round seven AFLW match between the North Melbourne Kangaroos and the Western Bulldogs at on March 13, 2021 in Hobart, Australia. (Photo by Steve Bell/Getty Images)

While ambitions of repeating their 2018 premiership deeds were sure to have been alive across the pre-season, the Dogs' dreams were dashed by the end of summer after missing the cut for the finals with four wins, five losses and a draw.

Though there was room for smiles at times this season, the mere fact that the daughters of the west failed to grab a win from their opening three starts had them chasing tails early on.

Season finish: 7th
Record: 4-1-5

2022 season snapshot

The Bulldogs were behind the eight ball well before a ball was kicked in 2022, with young gun Gabby Newton (shoulder) and livewire forward Kirsten McLeod (concussion) ruled out for the season while the exciting Deanna Berry was still recovering from the ACL injury she sustained in 2021.

Add an early-season injury to key defender Ellyse Gamble and a heartbreaking third ACL injury to Isabel Huntington in the Round 1 loss to Melbourne, and it made for sorry reading for those at the Kennel.

The club then suffered a mammoth Covid outbreak, which saw them enter their second match - a 21-point loss to GWS - with 20 days between games, before then having to play seven matches between January 28 and February 27.

Despite the issues, where many could've excused the Bulldogs for putting the queue in the rack for the year, they managed four wins - including a one-point victory over eventual premiers Adelaide away from home - and a draw from their 10 games.

With a number of youngsters emerging throughout the year and his side showing plenty of heart in the face of adversity, coach Nathan Burke has plenty to look forward to in seasons to come.

Star player: Kirsty Lamb

The tough onballer took her game to a new level in 2022, earning a maiden All-Australian selection, winning the Bulldogs' best and fairest (tied with skipper Ellie Blackburn) and taking out the AFLPA's Most Courageous Player award.

Averaging a career-best 18.7 disposals and 3.9 clearances per game, as well as chipping in with six goals across the season, Lamb also claimed a top-five finish in the AFLCA Champion Player of the Year.

Breakout player: Eleanor Brown

The ungainly defender had her best season since being drafted with pick 10 in the 2018 AFLW draft, averaging 13.2 disposals, 3.3 marks and 1.7 intercepts per game.

Selected in the AFLPA AFLW 22under22 team for the second-straight season, Brown was named on the half-back flank having been the fourth most popular player - appearing in 77% of all fan-voted teams.

Capable of locking down opponents and breaking the lines, Brown was also crowned with a third-place finish in the Bulldogs' best and fairest.


Exciting youth

Despite such a young list - 24 players on the list are currently 25 years old or younger - the Bulldogs were able to defeat eventual premiers Adelaide and only went down to Fremantle by a kick in a nail-biting contest.

The playing group eventually ran out of steam after a tough season, going down to Collingwood (25 points) and Brisbane (32 points) in their final three games, but with there is plenty to look forward to with the majority of players yet to hit their peak.


Loss of key personnel

The influence of Ashleigh Guest will be sorely missed, with the 32-year-old retiring at season's end. Guest was a much-loved member of the playing group and provided plenty of guidance on and off the field.

While Guest is the only retiree, star forwards Isabel Huntington and Bonnie Toogood - also members of the club's leadership group - are set to depart the club for GWS and Essendon respectively.

At just 23 and 24 - and two of the club's best players on the field and most influential off it - the Bulldogs would have hoped to build their forward line around Huntington and Toogood for the best part of a decade.

They will now look to the likes of Nell Morris-Dalton, who was a Rising Star nominee in 2022, to fill the void.

Finally, assistant coach Natalie Wood will depart the club as she takes the reins as Essendon's inaugural AFLW coach. Wood was in charge of the Bulldogs' midfield for the past two seasons, with the likes of Lamb and Blackburn publicly acknowledging her influence.

Season grade: C+

The heart shown by the playing group despite a number of things going wrong should be commended. Not only heart, but the win over Adelaide was one of the games of the season while they managed a 10-goal win over the West Coast Eagles in Perth.

However, the reality is the Bulldogs still missed finals, finishing six points (a win and a draw) plus percentage behind sixth-placed Collingwood.

Given their youth and the positive signs shown, it was clearly a positive year for the club, but they must continue to progress in the years to come.