AFLW 2018 team preview and predicted finish: Western Bulldogs

Joel Shepherd Roar Rookie

By Joel Shepherd, Joel Shepherd is a Roar Rookie

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    If there’s any team that agrees with me about the importance of midfielders, it’s surely the Bulldogs.

    Maybe it dawned on them last season, watching their poor team battling with one star (Lambert) on-field but injured and struggling, while another (Katie Brennan) sat out entirely, and seeing two smallish midfielders, Ellie Blackburn and Emma Kearney, carrying the entire enterprise on their shoulders.

    “Wow,” I imagine the coaching staff saying. “We’d be pretty good if those two got some help.”

    And help they got in the draft, where the Dogs went midfield crazy.

    We’ll count Izzy Huntington as a midfielder for the sake of argument, even though she can play pretty much anywhere.

    Monique Conti is most certainly a midfielder, as is Jenna Bruton (MVP at the St Kilda Sharks ahead of even Bri Davey), former pro-cyclist Emma Mackie and even the speedy Daria Bannister, though she’s sometimes listed as a forward pocket.

    What exactly this means the Dogs will do for a forward line is another question. Katie Brennan is nearly a one-woman forward line, and they did secure impressive young small forward Deanna Berry from Melbourne.

    But after them, there’s not much. Likely the Dogs will turn one of their existing talls into a forward, and use their midfield depth to continue last season’s success rotating Blackburn up the ground, and other midfielders as well, particularly Huntington. Given their quality, and Brennan’s, it could work.

    The Dogs backline also gets a boost with Rachel Ashley signed from WA as a free-agent, where she’ll combine with the likes of Bailey Hunt and Hannah Scott, and whoever else the influx of new midfielders pushes back of center.

    For all the well-deserved talk of Huntington, the key to the Bulldogs’ future could be Conti. For my money Monique Conti is the most talented woman ever to pick up a football.

    Football is her second sport, and if it were her first, she’d have been number-one pick by a mile. Her basketball commitments have so far only hurt her draft ranking.

    They could hurt her actual football development as well, but if they don’t, then the sheer firepower the Dogs will acquire around the ball could become almost unbeatable, as it was hard enough to contain just Blackburn and Kearney.

    Add Conti to those two, plus Huntington splitting time between the forward line and midfield, and strong support from Bruton and others, and even the Demons could be struggling to contain the Bulldogs’ run.

    Uncertainties over the new kids’ adjustment to their first season, and over the Dogs’ very vague concept of a forward line, prevents me from placing them any higher than fourth.

    But if they added another good forward next year, and maybe a rebounding halfback, the Dogs could be a real premiership threat in 2019.

    Prediction: 4th.

    In addition to his interest in sport, Joel Shepherd is a professional Science Fiction author. You can read more by him here.

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    The Crowd Says (5)

    • December 11th 2017 @ 7:34am
      Not so super said | December 11th 2017 @ 7:34am | ! Report

      This comps 15 minutes of fame is over

      • Roar Guru

        December 11th 2017 @ 8:17am
        Cat said | December 11th 2017 @ 8:17am | ! Report

        The fact the you are butt hurt enough by its existence to bother coming over to post that comment shows you are wrong.

    • December 11th 2017 @ 3:56pm
      Kangajets said | December 11th 2017 @ 3:56pm | ! Report

      Well I said Collingwood would come 17 th last week . My bad

      I expect the bulldogs will make the top 4

    • December 12th 2017 @ 1:58am
      Jarren said | December 12th 2017 @ 1:58am | ! Report

      Think you are underestimating Dogs forward line. 4th most productive forward line, virtually without Brennan, and with Lambert having little impact. I think Huntington will be a star, and will spend a lot of time forward. With Brennan will form a 1 – 2 punch teams will find hard to stop. Conti and Bruton in the middle means they can also throw Blackburn forward without screwing their midfield. Could go all the way.

      • December 12th 2017 @ 2:32am
        Joel Shepherd said | December 12th 2017 @ 2:32am | ! Report

        I agree about Huntington, the only junior I’ve seen who impressed me more is Conti. She’ll probably spend more time forward than anywhere else, but it’d be a waste not to use her in the midfield at all, she’s got a huge tank and will run opponents off their feet. But they need more targets than just Brennan and Huntington — both are great leading marks but if there’s just two of them, defenders can fall back and fill those spaces. One of their existing talls then needs to give them a contested marking option, but there’s no guarantee that’ll work.

        The Dogs could definitely go all the way, but they’ll need everything to go perfectly, all their improvised forwards will need to fire and Huntington and Conti in particular will need to play to top potential immediately with no settling-in period — there’s no time for one in a 7 week season. It’s possible, but it’ll be a heck of an effort given how tough the likes of Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide are looking.

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