Hall played Big but it just wasn’t enough
Barry Hall’s own performance was a strong one in his debut season for the Western Bulldogs. While the man himself had a great year personally, did he make the team a better side? Maybe not.
Again the Dogs bowed out for the second consecutive time in the preliminary finals against St.Kilda, but made their third showing a week before the AFL Grand Final in a row. It was a tough end to another season and for one of controversy.
Jason Akermanis was shown the door after being sacked by the club, while smiling assassin and favourite son, Brad Johnson, hung up the boots after 364 AFL games.
New recruit Barry Hall managed to kick 80 goals in 24 games and finish second in the Coleman Medal with 73 goals after the completion of Round 22. For what was missing (a key forward), they got it. But as a club, they did not rise.
An extra avenue to goal was important, but still a long wanted premiership, with the last coming in 1954, waits another year.
Winning the NAB Cup, the club’s first pre-season competition victory since 1970, the media had the club in the top four.
They defeated St.Kilda in that match, but then were outdone later when it mattered most in the finals. The season could have been considered a failure for supporters after a dismal finals campaign.
But the fact the team has been consistent in making the final top four is promising. But it has been a sign for a little too long and movement needs to be made.
Yes, Hall had a major impact, especially against Hawthorn in Round 3 when he kicked six goals, Adelaide Round 5 (five), North Melbourne Round 18 (seven) and Sydney (four), in the Dogs Semi-Final clash.
However, mixed changes in the team’s dynamic made it tougher for the team to be truly the force that they wanted.
For the Dogs, too many players had sub-par seasons. Along with average performances, veterans bolted in and out of the side and injuries proved a problem.
Losing Adam Cooney and Dale Morris in Round 21 was a big blow (although Morris returned), as was Shaun Higgins, who fell after the first week of the finals, and having Brian Lake, Brad Johnson and Tom Williams who played sore during the finals didn’t help.
As a result, the team could not settle.
Jarrad Grant proved to be an x-factor at stages, yet he still is in development. A re-jigged forward line made it tougher for the Dogs, as did not having the club captain Brad Johnson, who could only manage 15 games for the season.
Brodie Moles, Easton Wood and Jordan Roughead all look to be handy types for the future, with the hard-in and under Liam Picken, who continued to take bigger steps in his second AFL season.
But while injury and illness did stop the team, not enough of them stepped up. Hall did impact, but he did not prove to be the savior which the Dogs needed to get them their second ever flag.
Ryan Griffen and Daniel Cross again stood up and set the example, while players like Will Minson went downhill. Having lost Jarrod Harbrow to the Gold Coast and Andrejs Everitt (Sydney), Johnson and Nathan Eagleton (retirement), times are changing.
But the future still looks bright for the Dogs.
But Barry Hall can’t be the answer and while he did change the team in 2010, it wasn’t enough and heavy reliance on the one-player is never good.
Collingwood won their premiership with a full team effort and non-single forward reliance.
Rodney Eade philosophically summed it up perfectly after the team’s loss against St.Kilda in their preliminary final clash.
“We’re back to where we were the last couple of years. We haven’t fallen away and we’ve had more hurdles to overcome this year,” Eade said.
“In the face of adversity, I think we’ve stood up. Teams that win flags … the planets align. The ones that have won the past 10 years haven’t had injuries.
“We’ve got to keep knocking on the door until the planets align for us.”
Take out the injuries and who knows what could happen. The door will be opening soon enough hopefully for Dogs fans.