Beaten preliminary finalists Greater Western Sydney pummelled the 2016 premiers in Canberra on Sunday, winning their clash by a whopping 82 points.
It was the Giants’ highest ever score and winning margin against the Bulldogs.
GWS kicked the first four goals of the game and were never challenged in the 20.13 (133) to 7.9 (51) result, as stars Jeremy Cameron (six goals) and Toby Greene (four) ran riot up forward.
While the Bulldogs were smashed at UNSW Oval in front of 10,454 fans, their worries extend to Liberatore who will undergo a second knee reconstruction 117 games into his career.
Coach Luke Beveridge later confirmed the 25-year-old had suffered an ACL injury to his right knee.
Liberatore missed the entire 2015 after rupturing the ACL on his left knee in a pre-season match.
“It’s going to be a grind again, it’s always a tough time to recuperate from an ACL injury and Tom had a tough time of it last time he did it,” Beveridge said.
The Dogs seemed to lift when Liberatore went off in the first quarter after a lacklustre start, kicking the next three goals to only be five points behind at quarter-time.
But it was all the classy Giants from there as they booted 16 goals to four after the first change.
They were led sensationally by key on-ballers Stephen Coniglio (32 possessions and two goals), Josh Kelly (29 and two) and Dylan Shiel, while Tim Taranto also played an integral role.
GWS’ new-look half-back line performed well, with former No.1 draft pick Lachie Whitfield slotting in seamlessly after Nathan Wilson’s move to Fremantle and the injury to Zac Williams.
Giants coach Leon Cameron was pleased his team were able to fire first up after being smashed at the Adelaide Oval by the Crows in round one last year.
“The last couple of years we haven’t won round one,” Cameron said.
“There’s four points for every round so they’re no different but just the build and anticipation after the pre-season that makes the game a bit bigger.”
On a dark day for the Bulldogs, Jack Macrae, Luke Dahlhaus and Lachie Hunter found plenty of the ball and young ruckman Tim English showed some serious promise in his fourth game.
Beveridge said the injury to Liberatore had some impact on his team, but not an “80-odd point effect”.
“Almost the whole thing went wrong in the end. We were probably a bit fortunate it wasn’t a bit more in the end,” Beveridge said.
“The fundamentals of the game, the in close stuff was on show from the orange brigade and we just couldn’t match it.”
In other bad news for the Dogs, Hayden Crozier, who crossed from Fremantle during the off-season, could miss at least two weeks after straining his medial ligament.
© AAP 2018
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 4.2 11.4 17.4 20.13 (133)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 3.3 4.4 5.6 7.9 (51)
Goals: Greater Western Sydney: J Cameron 6 T Greene 4 J Kelly 2 J Patton 2 S Coniglio 2 A Tomlinson D Shiel H Himmelberg Z Langdon.
Western Bulldogs: J Roughead 2 B Dale B Gowers J Dunkley M Honeychurch M Suckling.
Best: Greater Western Sydney: S Coniglio J Kelly J Cameron L Whitfield D Shiel T Greene.
Western Bulldogs: J Macrae L Hunter L Dahlhaus J Roughead.
Injuries: Greater Western Sydney: Nil. Western Bulldogs: H Crozier (knee) T Liberatore (knee).
Umpires: Simon Meredith, Andrew Mitchell, David Harris.
Official Crowd: 10,454 at Manuka Oval.