Wild ride leads a fan to the heartland home of the Bulldogs

As she lapped up the sun during a Sunday walk, Western Bulldogs supporter Eloiza Soluta felt the urge to celebrate the team’s grand final berth at her club’s home ground.

Ms Soluta started following the Bulldogs in 2005 while studying for her Australian citizenship, and her love for the club has grown over the years, including the unforgettable premiership win in 2016.

Western Bulldogs supporter Eloiza Soluta celebrates her team making the AFL grand final at Whitten Oval on Sunday. Credit:Luis Ascui

Like thousands of other Bulldogs fans, she watched joyfully from home as the team thumped Port Adelaide by 71 points in Saturday night’s preliminary final to book their place in the season decider against Melbourne at Perth’s Optus Stadium on September 25.

“I was enjoying the sun and when I saw the ground while I was walking, I just said, ‘I need to go and see EJ Whitten and get a photo’,” Ms Soluta said.

Bulldogs supporters have been on a wild ride in the finals. The team was sitting among the best sides for much of the season before falling out of the top four in the final two rounds, which meant all three of their finals have been elimination games.

Melbourne’s latest COVID-19 lockdown has meant the team has been away from home since August 28 with their elimination final against Essendon in Launceston, their semi-final against the Brisbane Lions in Brisbane before travelling to Perth and flying into Adelaide for the preliminary final.

Ms Soluta said the team’s last-minute win over the Lions still stuck in her memory after young Bulldog Laitham Vandermeer knocked the ball through for a behind to give his side a one-point win.

Saturday night’s game was far different, with the Bulldogs leading throughout and having the result locked in by half-time, kicking 12 goals to three in the first half.

“Oh, the match with Brisbane was a very exciting one,” she said.

“It was very exciting Saturday night as well. They have actually nailed everything [they wanted to do] and I feel like no one expected them to play like this and they just pushed through and did it from the first quarter right through the game. It was amazing.”

Her favourite player is Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli due to him being so “down to earth and holding his team together”.

Ms Soluta, who came to Australia from the Philippines, hopes like the rest of the city that the current lockdown may be eased in time for her to watch the grand final with friends and family.

She still has great memories from 2016 where she loved seeing the players during the grand final parade and watching the grand final in the city with friends at a public viewing site.

“Last night, I’m just on the couch watching it, preparing my drinks and food and watching them throughout the night.

“Hopefully the lockdown will be finished so I’ll be watching the game with our friends and family and that will be an exciting one. I’m looking forward to that.”

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