The off-season move to Western Bulldogs has paid dividends for Deniliquin footballer Sam Lloyd.
The 29 year-old won over many supporters for his efforts in the Dogs’ 17 point win over the Sydney Swans at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night.
The small forward’s 22 disposals and two goals saw him as one of the side’s better performers — collecting 82 AFL Fantasy points.
It was Lloyd’s match-winning ability that was the biggest highlight though, with the new Dog kicking the sealer with about three minutes left on the clock.
Following a momentum swinging goal from Bulldogs onballer Marcus Bontempelli, the home side gained a quick centre clearance when ruckman Tim English bombed the ball deep into the forward line.
The ball hit the deck before Lloyd went to ground to tap the ball on closer to goal.
The Sherrin continued to bobble around before Lloyd pick-pocketed his grounded teammate in Josh Schache, to run in and snap the ball through at the top of the goal square.
While it was his heroics that got his side over the line, Lloyd remained humble with his efforts.
‘‘The game was won in the first half with our pressure and beating them to the ball. I think we were tougher early,’’ he said.
‘‘I was happy to contribute to it and play my role as well but I was just pleased with the win.
‘‘We have such a young group with heaps of potential and it showed on Saturday.’’
Heading into the clash the Swans were favourites to win, after a disappointing JLT Community Series saw the Bulldogs winless — losing to predicted cellar dwellers Gold Coast and St Kilda.
The game saw the Bulldogs respond quickly to those losses though, storming to a 40-point lead just after half-time.
A fight back by the Swans saw the margin slashed to just four points before two steadying goals to the Dogs saw them claim a 11.16 (82) to 9.11 (65) victory.
The Swans started strongly with Isaac Heeney, the reigning AFL mark of the year winner, submitting another contender just a minute into the contest when he soared to take a classic screamer over Bailey Williams, before converting for a goal.
The Bulldogs kicked into gear following this, piling on the next seven goals in impressive fashion and dominating in all areas of the game.
At half-time the Dogs led the inside 50 count 33 to 17, holding a 33 points lead and restricting the Swans to their worst half-time score of 1.5 (11), since the 2015 season.
After both sides traded goals the Dogs led by 34 points at the five minute mark of the third.
Lloyd kicked his side to a match-high 40 point lead just one minute later, collecting a handball from Tory Dickson to run in and kick a goal from 50m out on the run.
The Swans responded with three goals in four minutes and suddenly there was some tension in the contest with a margin of just 22 points.
The Dogs settled late in the term however to bring the margin back out to 32 points at three quarter time
Early momentum went to the Swans, who added four consecutive goals in 10 minutes to be within a straight kick midway through the final term.
With just a goal in it, AFL superstar forward Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin’ had a chance to level the scores but couldn’t convert.
The Dogs held their nerve in the closing stages of the game, with two goals in a minute sealing the upset victory.
‘‘We’re very pleased with the win, we did it the hard way but the feeling in the rooms after the game was amazing,’’ Lloyd said.
‘‘To have so many good friends from Deni come and watch was a great feeling too.
‘‘We always knew Sydney would come back, maybe not that much but we knew they would come.
‘‘I was a bit nervous towards the end but credit to the boys they held off and had a good win.
‘‘Overall we as a team were just happy to win the game and realise that if we play the way we want we can beat good sides.
‘‘It was almost a bit of a relief to see we could do it after a disappointing JLT series.’’
The Bulldogs will head to the MCG to take on the Hawthorn in round two.
With both sides coming off big wins — the Hawks defeating Adelaide in Adelaide by 32 points — it makes for an interesting clash on Sunday afternoon.