These Dogs are top-four bound: No Hawthorn haze for the reigning premiers

Ryan Buckland Columnist

By Ryan Buckland, Ryan Buckland is a Roar Expert


134 Have your say

    We are in uncharted waters: last year’s premiers are by no objective measure the best team in the competition. But can the Western Bulldogs rise to that title in 2017? There are many reasons to be cautious, but one whopper that says they can.

    The Western Bulldogs won the 2016 premiership from seventh position. We’ve been over this a few times, but it once again bears repeating: no other AFL team has done this in the history of the current finals system.

    The Dogs not only won the flag from outside of the top four, they did it against the odds in each one of their four outings.

    Based on pre-game market odds, they had a one per cent chance of running the slate they did. The basis of calculation is different, but the Dogs’ run was only a little bit less spectacular and unlikely than New England’s recent Super Bowl victory.

    This is a salient fact to keep in your back pocket when assessing the prospects of Footscray this season. Yes, they are premiers, but they were in no way, shape or form the best team of the 2016 season – far from it. The Dogs are still young, and will get younger in the years ahead. They haven’t yet reached the level of recent premiers when it comes to consistent excellence, but there is a mighty strong chance the Dogs break through to that upper echelon in 2017.

    This year’s numbers game showed the Dogs failed to be blown out (lose a game by the average margin plus one standard deviation) last year. But by the same token, they failed to blow any opponent out of the water.

    The reason gets at why the Dogs were able to turn the tables on the prevailing football wisdom last season and win it all.

    Killing off the attractive football notion
    The Western Bulldogs limped to the September finish line, with injuries mounting and scoring plummeting. In their final six games, they scored 73 points per game and managed to split their ledger 3-3, as their line up changed from week to week. By the time Round 23 rolled around, the Dogs were missing close to a dozen players from their notional best 22.

    Fremantle weren’t travelling so well themselves, and the result was a torrid ‘game’ of ‘football’ that was a backwards-pass rule away from being called a rugby match. Footscray scored 49 points against a team who’d conceded 125 points a game in the five weeks prior. The Dogs were done.

    Except we all forgot two unique features of the 2016 season. One, the week off between Round 23 and the first week of finals meant the Dogs were able to bring back a bunch of their better players. But two, and more importantly, Luke Beveridge had his boys playing a style of football that kept them in games for longer.

    That medieval torture device I referred to in April last year turned out to be mighty effective in the heat of finals.

    The Western Bulldogs won the contested possession count by an average of 13.7 per game during the home-and-away season – a league high. During the finals, that jumped to a win of 28 per game.

    It helped that the Dogs had two favourable match ups in their first two finals; the West Coast Eagles, without their most important coalface player, and the Hawks, who decided to roll the dice and punt the inside battle. On paper, they had no right to beat the Giants and Swans though.

    At its heart, Beveridge’s system is simple: the Dogs look to create chaos, but in an orderly manner, to punish mistakes and crush it on turnover. Sounds contradictory right? That’s what makes it so effective.

    Luke Beveridge for the Bulldogs

    When the Dogs don’t have possession, they hope more than anything for their opponents to take a mark and slow play the ball. That allows them time to set up a finely crafted 18-man zone, which forces the opposition to kick long, sideways or to try and run through it. In any event, the zone keeps moving with the ball, waiting for the smallest mistake – a high kick that hangs in the air, a clanger, or a foolhardy midfielder who thinks he’s got the wheels to get around four Western Bulldog midfielders.

    Then the Dogs swarm like locusts, with numbers at the point of possession designed to either force a stoppage or set off a chain reaction of quick handballs and rolling movement. Occasionally, those turnovers result in a fast break with an overlap runner streaming out of congestion, but more often than that there is a mess of Bulldogs runners pinging the ball around like they’re stuck in a cartoon tornado. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

    The Western Bulldogs averaged 193 handballs per game in 2016, a clean 30 above the average of the competition and 46 times more than the 18th ranked West Coast Eagles. It was a similar story on the kick-to-handball ratio: the Dogs kicked just five per cent more than they handballed, compared to a competition average of 20 per cent.

    It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective, and it meant the Dogs were always able to stay in games – their largest margin of defeat was 57 points, against the Cats when they were premiership favourites. Otherwise, it was a string of margins of practically four goals or less. In a twisted kind of way, it was beautiful.

    (I’d love to have shown you a passage of play where this unfolds, but due to the Telstra Live Pass debacle that will have to wait for another day.)

    The ‘Scrays conceded 73 points per game, and even during their horror final-six games, managed to keep opponents to that mark despite the absence of so many critical cogs. Indeed, the Dogs held firm at that 73 points per game mark from Round 12 through the end of the home-and-away season.

    The system is likely designed for the overlap runners to play a greater role. But with injuries to Robert Murphy, Jason Johannnisen and Matt Suckling across the year, the flex midfielders which occupy the majority of the list took over ball movement responsibilities.

    While it was certainly an effective scheme for stopping teams scoring, the side effect was that it made it hard for the Dogs to go the other way effectively, scoring 85 points per game, ranked 12th in the competition for the season. The scramble to get the ball forward once it was won was just that, a scramble.

    The Dogs scored on just 43.5 per cent of their inside 50 entries last season, ranked 15th in the competition. It meant the midfield dominance the team usually enjoyed as a result of Beveridge’s system (the Dogs had the second best inside 50 differential in the home-and-away season: +8.9 per game) did not translate into points for.

    Evolution, not revolution
    The sum total of that analysis is the Dogs have the bones of an effective ball control system, which right now looks sustainable in direction if not magnitude. Opposition coaches have doubtlessly studied Beveridge’s system in the off season, and will have crafted ways to break it (handy hint: watch for clubs looking to move the ball off half back at warp speed during the rest of the preseason).

    Running the same system back is fine, and there’s little doubt the Dogs could reasonably expect to replicate the results of their 2016 season. But with this solid foundation in place, there’s a strong chance the Dogs can make a couple of personnel tweaks to head to the next level.

    For example, if Murphy is able to play 22 games as a dashing back pocket – and after Saturday’s showing I feel confident predicting it’s likely – and Jason Johannisen avoids melting his hamstrings Dash Parr style, then the Dogs can expect to have significantly more open overlap run than for most of last season.

    More critically, the Dogs will have a forward line that looks like it has been deliberately put together, rather than the bits-and-pieces set up they ran for most of 2016.

    Part of this was outside of their control. Stewart Crameri joined the Dogs just as the Essendon supplements situation was beginning to snowball. The higher ups had to nab Tom Boyd ahead of time and thrust him into an outsize role before he was ready. Luke Dalhaus embraced his destiny as an in-and-under midfielder. Everyone thought Jake Stringer was set to become a beefier, less mercurial Cyril Rioli after his breakout 2015. In the end, the front six was a bit of a mess.

    Tom Boyd chases ball

    Ironically, Stringer still ended up kicking the most goals for the Dogs despite looking out of sorts and being heavily tagged for most of the year. Tory Dickson almost kicked two goals a game, while Jack Redpath did just that in his ten games pre-ACL injury.

    Outside of that, a series of Dogs kicked small season-long totals as they were rotated through the forward half of the ground. They took just 10.8 marks inside 50 per game, ranked 13th in the competition. In losses, that figure dropped to 7.7, ranked 17th (behind Port Adelaide).

    A generous view might laud an unpredictable front six as a new level of forward-midfield flexibility – personified by the performances of Clay Smith and Liam Picken during their September run. I am more inclined to see it as an unfortunate reality foist upon the organisation, who made the most of it.

    Which is that whopping big reason why any outright pessimism directed at the Dogs is misplaced. The Dogs’ forward line situation has improved markedly from the same time last year.

    Crameri is back, adding a second mid-sized forward threat to complement Stringer. Dickson becomes the third banana in that fleet, able to sneak around and bob up for uncontested marks in tough spots on the field for goal kicking – and he’ll kick them more often than not.

    Boyd grew meaningfully over the latter part of 2016, particularly in the finals series, when he was asked to play a multitude of roles. His ice-cold final-quarter goal is one of the best moments of a grand final chock full of great ones. He won’t be a one-out tall this season following the signing of Travis Cloke, who for all his flaws can play one on one and takes contested marks. Accidental number one ruckman Jordan Roughead can also take contested marks – albeit he’s out for the first part of the season.

    It’s not quite a revolution, because one expects the Dogs to move the ball forward in the same way they did last season. But as an evolutionary step, adding a competent, well-rounded forward group to this midfield is exactly what they need.

    A premier without the pedigree
    In the background, there are plenty of smaller niggles working against a year of improvement. Most of them centre on the first issue we talked about: the Dogs are a premier without the usual pedigree.

    The Western Bulldogs have seen their fixture difficulty ramp up plenty, going from the 12th ranked slate in 2016 to the fourth ranked in terms of difficulty in 2017 – based on Pythagorean winning percentages from last year. The Dogs play each of last year’s top eight away from home, with trips to Canberra, Perth, Geelong, Sydney and Adelaide (games against North and Hawthorn are at Etihad). That shouldn’t phase the team too much, given by the end of the season the Dogs were just as good at stopping teams scoring away from home as they were in their torture chamber.

    They were given this slate due to their first up finals win; had they lost and finished in seventh, their home-and-away position, the double ups against the Giants, Swans and Eagles may not have all materialised.

    Their depth was also hit in the off season. Nathan Hrovat, Kobe Stevens and Joel Hamling were traded out, while Jed Adcock retired. All told, the Dogs lost just under seven per cent of the games their players played last season in trades and delistings, in the bottom third of the league.

    Mitch Wallis is still some way from returning from a broken leg. Ruckman Roughead had hamstring surgery yesterday and is set to miss the first quarter of the season. Offsetting this, of course, is the Dogs will get back a host of players who had interrupted seasons with clean bills of health.

    Youth could also be an issue. The Dogs had the youngest premiership list since the 2008 Hawks, and the least experienced matchday line up in however long you care to consider. Coming into 2017, the Dogs have the eighth-most experienced full list (excluding rookies) in the competition, although if you take Murphy, Dale Morris and Matthew Boyd out of the equation, that plummets to 17th. Take Cloke out while we’re at it, and the Dogs have less experience than the free pass Brisbane.

    It seems to be the biggest question hanging over the Dogs coming into 2017: Hawthorn flamed out of the finals altogether after their 2008 premiership, and they were young too. So, that’s the fate of Footscray too, right?

    Travis Cloke of the Magpies kicks a goal

    The Hawthorn question isn’t really a question
    Just because Hawthorn won a premiership ahead of time like the Dogs, doesn’t mean you can conflate the two circumstances.

    Hawthorn’s 2008 premiership side saw two of its three most experienced players never play again: Shane Crawford and Trent Croad. The third, Stuart Dew, played half of the 2009 season before retiring. That exposed a team that was extremely young and inexperienced. Brent Guerra was the most experienced Hawk, with 156 games at 26 years of age, in 2009.

    The Dogs will have the opposite occur in 2017, with the return of their 295-game captain in Murphy and injection of a near-250 game key forward in Cloke.

    Where there is some similarity is the surprising nature of the result. The Hawks built their premature flag run on the first of Alastair Clarkson’s tactical innovations: the cluster. In some ways, the Dogs rode Beveridge’s swarming zone wave to more victories than they perhaps should have given the combination of youth, talent and injury which was at the club last season. But even then, it is still a stretch.

    The only element of the Dogs’ season that has me concerned about the prospect of a fall from grace is if that new forward line group doesn’t work. While Beveridge will have made some tweaks to his system, we have seen in the first round of the preseason competition that teams are more willing to run the ball quickly out of half back to counter defences that want to build zones. Teams will do that to the Dogs, although it may not be as effective given the way they play. They may not be able to rely on holding teams to a dozen goals a week and hope to score 13 themselves.

    Everything else is detail. Yes, Footscray are young. Yes, they lost some depth. Yes, they have a tougher fixture. Yes, they had trouble scoring last season.

    But with a newly functional forward line, the team’s biggest weakness from 2016 has been actioned.

    The Western Bulldogs currently sit second on premiership lines. I’m not 100 per cent certain they warrant that level of respect, simply because the race is so wide open. But in a season where most of genuine contenders have flaws, the Dogs have gone about addressing theirs to build on one of the best-established base schemes and lists in the competition.

    If they can take it to the next level and earn that premiership pedigree they skipped on last season, there’s no reason why a top-four finish is beyond this team.

    From there, we know the damage the Western Bulldogs can do.

    Ryan Buckland
    Ryan Buckland

    As an economist, Ryan seeks to fix the world's economic troubles one graph at a time. As a sports fan, he's always looking one or two layers beneath the surface to search for meaning, on and off the field. You can follow Ryan here.

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    The Crowd Says (134)

    • February 22nd 2017 @ 6:16am
      SonOfLordy said | February 22nd 2017 @ 6:16am | ! Report

      “On paper, they had no right to beat the Giants and Swans though.”

      I’m not sure they did.

      GWS were robbed of a 50m penalty in the final minute of the preliminary final. Bulldogs were also recipients of free kick count in their favour.

      Then in the Grand Final we saw one of the most appalling umpiring performances in world sport. It was totally shambolic with the umpires at times failing to interpret rules properly and applying the wrong punishments.

      I counted a net 17 points going the Bulldogs way just on DIRECT scores via abject umpiring blunders alone. Forget about the momentum killing free kicks against Sydney throughout. Despite this, Sydney were only 1 point down with 8 minutes left in the match.

      At one point early in the last quarter it was 17 free kicks to 4, with Sydney having only received ONE free kick from the 13th minute of the FIRST quarter to early in the FINAL quarter. Didn’t receive a single free kick in the premiership quarter.

      People will tell you with a straight face that the umpires didn’t influence the result though…

      As for the Bulldogs, I think everything went their way when they needed it to. I’m not sure where they go from here though. They might have reached their ceiling.

      They were able to put it all together in the finals, but their style seems like a real grind in the regular season.

      If Sydney and GWS are locks for the top 4, it doesn’t leave much room for the Cats, Hawks, Eagles, Bulldogs, resurgent Fremantle, maybe the Crows.

      • February 22nd 2017 @ 7:39am
        I hate pies said | February 22nd 2017 @ 7:39am | ! Report

        Here we go again. Like I said last time you said this, if you’re going to count the free kicks missed for Sydney then you need to count the free kicks missed for the Bulldogs, which you don’t.
        And on the 50m penalty in the prelim; the GWS player was in no way impeded, which is what the rule was brought in for, so that would have been the weakest 50m penalty in the history of finals. The dogs were on top for 90% of that game (and the grand final as well), and if you’re relying on the umpires to win you the game then you don’t deserve to win.

        • February 22nd 2017 @ 12:45pm
          GoSwans said | February 22nd 2017 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

          There’s a lot of people who think the umpires determined the result of the Grand Final. The 17 to 4 evidence is not countered by ‘they missed frees for the Dogs’. The failing to pay free kicks against contact below the knees on three occasions with the third injuring one of the Swans most important players was incompetence. A South Australian player tweeting that they’re not paying that rule today pretty clear evidence that is wasn’t just my bias.

          If the Bulldog’s finals games were fairly umpired we wouldn’t still be talking about it.

          My advice to anyone supporting a non-Victorian team in a final against a Victorian team that hasn’t won a flag in a while is don’t waste your money going to Melbourne.

          • February 22nd 2017 @ 1:20pm
            another paul said | February 22nd 2017 @ 1:20pm | ! Report

            Hahahaha it’s a conspiracy.

            Also the injury for Hannebry though regretable was not a free, the rule is you are not allowed to slide and make contact below the knees, Wood clearly makes contact above the knee.

            • February 22nd 2017 @ 1:35pm
              Paul W said | February 22nd 2017 @ 1:35pm | ! Report

              Agree, no free

            • February 22nd 2017 @ 3:12pm
              SonOfLordy said | February 22nd 2017 @ 3:12pm | ! Report

              Clearly makes below the knee contact here.


              • February 22nd 2017 @ 3:17pm
                I hate pies said | February 22nd 2017 @ 3:17pm | ! Report

                That photo shows nothing; he got him above the knee and he didn’t slide. It’s play on

              • February 22nd 2017 @ 5:51pm
                SonOfLordy said | February 22nd 2017 @ 5:51pm | ! Report

                The photo clearly shows his lower leg being hit with a slide/bump in addition to crunching his knee.

              • February 22nd 2017 @ 7:19pm
                Bruce said | February 22nd 2017 @ 7:19pm | ! Report

                He didn’t make contact below the knee. He hit Dan’s thigh, and his leg sort of buckled. Dan just didn’t get low enough and wasn’t desperate enough. Look at this video at 6:06 of 8:47. You cannot say he was hit BELOW the knee.

              • February 22nd 2017 @ 10:03pm
                SonOfLordy said | February 22nd 2017 @ 10:03pm | ! Report

                Nah mate, gets him in the bottom of the leg as well.

                You’re not allowed to touch anyone at all above the shoulders or below the knee.

                While Hannebery doesn’t go to ground (as you’re supposed to do), the Bulldogs player “slides” in going to ground.

                The rule exists to precisely stop this kind of injury.

                Most of the contact is with the knee and thigh, but there is contact with the lower leg and foot. If you make incidental contact with someone’s head you still have a free kick paid against (or even get reported).

                Watching in real time the only conclusion an umpire can come to is that Hannebery was hit below the knee. It takes forensic analysis to determine that most of the impact was absorbed by the knee and lower thigh. There was still incidental contact with the lower leg.

                99/100 a free gets paid in any other match.

              • February 22nd 2017 @ 10:45pm
                Aransan said | February 22nd 2017 @ 10:45pm | ! Report

                I agree with you SOL on this point about Hannebury’s injury and a free kick should have been paid but the game was lost by that point. As a neutral observer I felt that the Bulldogs always looked like they were going to win the GF. GWS defeated Sydney and the Bulldogs defeated GWS, they were worthy winners of the GF.

          • February 22nd 2017 @ 1:20pm
            Paul W said | February 22nd 2017 @ 1:20pm | ! Report

            Good, more seats for the rest of us 😉

          • February 22nd 2017 @ 3:19pm
            I hate pies said | February 22nd 2017 @ 3:19pm | ! Report

            My reference to frees missed for the dogs was in direct reference to anon’s dodgy accounting. I thought that was pretty obvious.

            • February 22nd 2017 @ 5:55pm
              SonOfLordy said | February 22nd 2017 @ 5:55pm | ! Report

              What dodgy accounting?

              I have provided the most comprehensive proof of GF favouritism you will find on the internet or through any media outlet.

              • February 23rd 2017 @ 1:18am
                Don Freo said | February 23rd 2017 @ 1:18am | ! Report

                Anon’s dodgy accounting…not yours.


          • March 3rd 2017 @ 10:39am
            me too said | March 3rd 2017 @ 10:39am | ! Report

            no doubt had the umpires instead favoured the opposing teams in the prelim and final the dogs would have lost both games. they had the umpires favour throughout the season. they also took out their opponents best midfield player illegally in both those games. deliberate tactic or not, they got away with both without penalty. Hopefully the umpires association has been quietly brought to task over it, but i doubt it. we’ll see this year whether the goodwill extends another season.
            All that said though, the Doggies were remarkable and I can’t see them falling away from genuine contenders. They just might not get such an extraordinary run of favour again.

            • March 3rd 2017 @ 12:21pm
              Paul W said | March 3rd 2017 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

              Illegally took out their opponents best midfielder, give me a break. Cordy had eyes only for the ball and contact with the knee to Ward in a big marking contest like that could not be predicted.

              Wood did not slide, got to the ball first and contact was made above Hannabery’s knee. Unfortunate, but no free and not illegal.

        • February 22nd 2017 @ 3:19pm
          SonOfLordy said | February 22nd 2017 @ 3:19pm | ! Report

          I have been through the game.

          Bulldogs got the rub of the green. 50/50 ones would be awarded to the Bulldogs, when it was a 50/50 one for Sydney they wouldn’t get it (hence the Bulldogs having over 4 times more free kicks than Sydney at one point late in the game).

          I’ll have to get my notes, but the only howler for the Bulldogs was a push in the back or high contact they didn’t receive in their forward line in the last quarter.

          But there was quite a few similar free kicks Sydney didn’t receive, so it gets cancelled out.

          Even the AFL mafia acknowledged that the game was poorly umpired. That’s very rare for the AFL to admit fault. Are you saying the AFL is wrong?

          • Roar Guru

            February 22nd 2017 @ 3:23pm
            Pumping Dougie said | February 22nd 2017 @ 3:23pm | ! Report

            Nooo … please anon, not your unbiased, unequivocal notes again. �?�

            Haven’t you put enough dribble on this site?

            It will be great when the season rolls around again and you can start to look forward instead of back. Hehee

            • February 23rd 2017 @ 1:19am
              Don Freo said | February 23rd 2017 @ 1:19am | ! Report

              He still has the first two games of last year up his sleeve when Ross had a full squad. That’s only come out twice this pre-season.

          • February 22nd 2017 @ 3:30pm
            Birdman said | February 22nd 2017 @ 3:30pm | ! Report

            Not sure about the AFL being wrong (not sure why they felt the need to make a comment) but one thing’s for sure, they would have preferred a Sydney side to win the flag.

            This year they will be riding the Giants home home hard but if the Swans finally make the Buddy deal pay off with a flag, they will also be rejoicing.

            • February 22nd 2017 @ 5:59pm
              SonOfLordy said | February 22nd 2017 @ 5:59pm | ! Report

              The AFL hate the Swans. They slapped a trade ban on them for having the temerity to use all of their salary cap.

              I think if anything they would like GWS to wait a year or two before commencing their dynasty. It’s a bad look to have this manufactured team with all their first round picks to have so much success so soon.

              • February 23rd 2017 @ 1:20am
                Don Freo said | February 23rd 2017 @ 1:20am | ! Report

                You’re making us all hate The Swans.

              • February 23rd 2017 @ 6:08am
                Krash said | February 23rd 2017 @ 6:08am | ! Report

                Like you made us hate Freo…no mirrors at your place Don. No one forgets your rants a couple of years ago against Stevic and others when Hawthorn beat your beloved Dockers…it went on and on the the ludicrous and emotionally childish stage..

                Your hypocrisy has no bounds and makes others dislike you and freo….or you just have a bad memory or just to arrogant to remember. Either, way…you come across as a whiny tool!!! And looks like this year is it going to change!

                I think the best team won the grand final last year but did get the rub of the green when it came to umpiring. They also had the Swans measure throughout that and the previous year, they just matched up better!

              • February 23rd 2017 @ 8:32am
                Pumping Dougie said | February 23rd 2017 @ 8:32am | ! Report

                I love Don.

              • February 23rd 2017 @ 10:39am
                Don Freo said | February 23rd 2017 @ 10:39am | ! Report

                Stevic pulled his head in last year. My campaign appears to have been successful.

                Since then, Hawthorn has begun its plummet. Hmmm! More than coincidence?

          • February 22nd 2017 @ 7:21pm
            Bruce said | February 22nd 2017 @ 7:21pm | ! Report

            Dogs did get the rub of the green…I agree with you there.

        • February 22nd 2017 @ 3:33pm
          Pope Paul VII said | February 22nd 2017 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

          They were paying that 50m in the zone all season for much less. Got lucky there for sure.

      • Roar Pro

        February 22nd 2017 @ 8:02am
        Marty Gleason said | February 22nd 2017 @ 8:02am | ! Report

        The third quarter as the ‘Premiership Quarter’ is a cliché from the 90s when there were no close Grand Finals. Now the Premiership quarter is the last one.

      • Roar Guru

        February 22nd 2017 @ 8:19am
        AdelaideDocker said | February 22nd 2017 @ 8:19am | ! Report

        Sees article mentioning the Bulldogs, immediately scrolls down to the comments, sees Anon/SonofLordy complaining about GF umpiring. Bingo!

        I swear he just does it to be a nuiscance, nowadays.

      • February 22nd 2017 @ 9:19am
        me too said | February 22nd 2017 @ 9:19am | ! Report

        you’re on a hiding to nothing mentioning the umps. People insist they have no bearing and will bring in all the reasons in the world. fact is, if any player had been as involved in as many scores as the poor decisions they’d be singing his praises. but it’s all part of the game. the umps seem to get swept up in the romance of it all, like the rest of us. it’s tough luck in the end.

      • February 22nd 2017 @ 12:16pm
        DeanM said | February 22nd 2017 @ 12:16pm | ! Report

        Sydney and the Giants would not even have reached the Prelim finals without all the AFL Academy draft tampering and leg ups they received.
        Bulldogs were able to overcome Sydney with their residual benefits of COLA cheating and their academy rort.
        Well played Bulldogs for beating Sydney and the AFL in 1 game.

      • Roar Guru

        February 22nd 2017 @ 12:24pm
        Pumping Dougie said | February 22nd 2017 @ 12:24pm | ! Report

        LOL, yep, SoL is Anon.

        Fellow Roarers, you’ve convinced me.
        Why do people feel the need to create multiple identities on this site?
        Are they embarrassed of what they’ve written before? Is it because they suspect their name has become so tainted and disrespected, because other Roarers promptly dismiss their ad nausea whining?

        Or is it because they don’t have enough people agree with them, so they feel the need to pretend somebody (themself) shares the same view?

        • February 22nd 2017 @ 12:43pm
          Slane said | February 22nd 2017 @ 12:43pm | ! Report

          I think it might have something to do with the computer program that monitors these boards. All of my posts get automatically moderated which is almost enough to make me swap IPs/email addresses and use a different moniker. As it stands, I read a hell of a lot more than I contribute so I can put up with perma-moderation for now.

          • February 23rd 2017 @ 1:23am
            Don Freo said | February 23rd 2017 @ 1:23am | ! Report

            I am on permanent moderation too. Some posts are not put up for 8 hours after I post them.

            I expect one day a moderator will open a mind.

        • February 22nd 2017 @ 3:37pm
          Birdman said | February 22nd 2017 @ 3:37pm | ! Report

          Hydras are common on these sites.

          They allow a poster of initiate support for their particular point of view – most don’t have the smarts to change tone or avoid repetition so it’s pretty easy to spot them.

        • February 22nd 2017 @ 5:52pm
          dave said | February 22nd 2017 @ 5:52pm | ! Report

          I still need convincing,maybe ask SOL his opinions on Ross Lyon.

          • February 22nd 2017 @ 9:55pm
            SonOfLordy said | February 22nd 2017 @ 9:55pm | ! Report

            Put up or shut up time for Ross Lyon. Out of excuses. He’ll never have a better midfield at his disposal. He’s had 18 months now to implement his new game plan.

            I can’t think of any excuses for him. We’ll see how good he is.

      • February 22nd 2017 @ 12:44pm
        Bruce said | February 22nd 2017 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

        Is that you Anon?

      • February 22nd 2017 @ 3:44pm
        Nate said | February 22nd 2017 @ 3:44pm | ! Report

        I don’t normally gripe about umpires and I haven’t put in my 2 cents on this topic since that day. That said, while I am a Swans fan I felt they were ripped big time in the grand final. The story of a Dogs premiership was too much to ignore and everyone made sure it happened. Agreed with all the points you make Lordy.

        • February 22nd 2017 @ 3:51pm
          SonOfLordy said | February 22nd 2017 @ 3:51pm | ! Report

          Thanks mate. I’m not a Swans fans and have nothing against the Bulldogs, but in my eyes the umpires tainted the result.

          If the game was umpired properly, the Swans likely go into 3/4 time with a 5-6 goal lead. I’m not joking.

        • Roar Guru

          February 22nd 2017 @ 3:51pm
          Pumping Dougie said | February 22nd 2017 @ 3:51pm | ! Report

          Is that you again, anon? ?

          • Roar Rookie

            February 23rd 2017 @ 1:54am
            BillyW said | February 23rd 2017 @ 1:54am | ! Report

            Sounds a lot like Matt from another, now disbanded, site….but don’t want to go there!

            The Dogs got the rub of the green more often than not throughout the entire year but they still had to make it work for them……so much has to go right to win a flag and they still need to be acknowledged for getting it done!

            The talk of the umps/AFL gifting them the flag is also ridiculous…..

            I reckon the Dogs are right in top4 calculations and as such a back to back is a definite possibility…
            If we thought last year was an open field this year could be even more so (unless GWS use last years finals experience to springboard an unbeatable run to their first flag…. also a possibility!)
            Just the fight for finals spots could come down to 13 teams with only a few rounds remaining……bring it on!

            • February 23rd 2017 @ 8:36am
              Pumping Dougie said | February 23rd 2017 @ 8:36am | ! Report

              LOL – rub of the green!?What are you smoking? Phenomenal amount of injuries to players in our Best 22. Even in the GF we had to overcome 4 of our Best 22 out. As for the umps, they had zero impact on the result.

              • Roar Rookie

                March 4th 2017 @ 7:20am
                BillyW said | March 4th 2017 @ 7:20am | ! Report

                I was referring to 50/50 decisions and some of their “slick” ball use by hand that went unnoticed!
                But fair play on the injury front they definitely got a raw deal there. And I never suggested umpires influenced results.
                I find it somewhat amusing that even after a flag some of the Bulldog fans still seem to have a complex….getting all outraged and defensive over what they perceive to be negative comments about their club…..of all my comments that’s the one you single out?
                Who cares what jealous trolls from other clubs think…
                Relax, enjoy your premiership….you of all people should know it can be a long time between drinks!

      • February 22nd 2017 @ 5:13pm
        Blake Standfield said | February 22nd 2017 @ 5:13pm | ! Report

        The game was managed by the umpires like it’s done in the NBA.

      • February 22nd 2017 @ 7:36pm
        dylillama said | February 22nd 2017 @ 7:36pm | ! Report

        Jeebuz – give it a rest. Were there some bad decisions on the day? Without a doubt. Were the Bulldogs harder at the ball; cleaner in front of goal; fiercer tacklers? Did they run the game out better? Without a doubt. The better side on the day won.

        Umpiring mistakes happen. You win some, you lose some. There’s no conspiracy. Google ‘Leo Barry mark’ – all photos clearly show Sampi being held off the ball while Barry takes the mark. We were lucky that the storied 2005 premiership didn’t end in a free kick to him, a goal the other way, and West Coast as dual premiers.

        Let it go.

        • February 22nd 2017 @ 9:54pm
          SonOfLordy said | February 22nd 2017 @ 9:54pm | ! Report

          “Were the Bulldogs harder at the ball; cleaner in front of goal; fiercer tacklers? Did they run the game out better? Without a doubt. The better side on the day won. ”

          The old harder at the ball myth and they some how “earned” their 17 free kicks to 4…

          At half time Sydney were winning the contested possession count despite getting destroyed 12-4 in the free kick count. Sydney were the harder team. The contested ball count was pretty even throughout the game.

          If the Bulldogs were as good as you thought they were, then why were they only 1 point ahead with 8 minutes left in the match (despite a lopsided free kick count in their favour)?

          • February 23rd 2017 @ 1:36am
            dylillama said | February 23rd 2017 @ 1:36am | ! Report

            Seriously mate, you need to stop.

            When I say fiercer at the contest, it’s not just individual contested position. The Dogs swarmed the ball – their pressure was intense, they got more numbers to the contests for longer, and moved it better when they had it in hand.

            And the last 8 minutes which you keep bringing up – the Dogs ran out better. 8 minutes to go, 1 point down, if we were better on the day we would have run over them. We were close enough if we were good enough. We weren’t. End of.

            I see you’ve ignored the rest of my post. I’m tired of people like you bringing the rest of us Swans fans down. We lost, end of. What do you expect to happen? The AFL to go ‘oh you’re totally right’, and hand the premiership cup over?

            • February 23rd 2017 @ 1:51am
              SonOfLordy said | February 23rd 2017 @ 1:51am | ! Report

              “When I say fiercer at the contest, it’s not just individual contested position. The Dogs swarmed the ball – their pressure was intense, they got more numbers to the contests for longer, and moved it better when they had it in hand. ”

              Most teams have been “fiercer” at the contest than Hawthorn over the last 5 years. Did Hawthorn not deserve or earn their 3 premierships?

              You might have got caught up in the hype of the feel good fairytale of the year, but the fact is for all their swarming and pressure they were no better at contested possession than Sydney.

              • February 23rd 2017 @ 5:20am
                dylillama said | February 23rd 2017 @ 5:20am | ! Report

                ‘caught up in the hype of the feel good fairytale’?? My team lost – I was gutted.

                But also I don’t have to make excuses as to why that was.

              • February 23rd 2017 @ 6:11am
                Krash said | February 23rd 2017 @ 6:11am | ! Report

                Mate, he doesn’t need to stop! His opinion is as worthy as yours and if that makes you uncomfortable go for a walk or stop replying…it’s a bloody comment section and he has a passion for what he believes in…hence the follow through on what the thought he has put behind it…again, if it makes you feel uncomfortable read something else…

              • February 23rd 2017 @ 8:38am
                dylillama said | February 23rd 2017 @ 8:38am | ! Report

                I’ve said this to him today. He’s been going on about it for months. But sure I’ll stop.

                Sigh. I haven’t gotten into an argument on the internet for years. Ive forgotten how pointless it is.

            • February 23rd 2017 @ 8:41am
              Pumping Dougie said | February 23rd 2017 @ 8:41am | ! Report

              Dylillama, I know plenty of Swans supporters and they’re all rational, reasonable, gracious fans who have good footy knowledge. So don’t worry, us fans of other clubs know that anon and his other alias’s on this site (e.g. SoL, Krash, etc that he uses to pretend other people share his views) are not a sizable sample. Every club has supporters who can’t see the wood through the trees. Well said by the way.

              • February 23rd 2017 @ 8:56am
                dylillama said | February 23rd 2017 @ 8:56am | ! Report

                Thanks mate. Just drives me nuts!

      • February 22nd 2017 @ 7:43pm
        Andrew Browne said | February 22nd 2017 @ 7:43pm | ! Report

        As someone who made a fair dollar off the bulldogs in the finals season I saw no unfair frees. However, I watched the Grand Final 3 days later and I have to say the Dogs got more than the rub of the green. I would be checking the umpires bank accounts it was that bad.

        • February 23rd 2017 @ 1:52am
          SonOfLordy said | February 23rd 2017 @ 1:52am | ! Report

          Appreciate the honesty mate.

      • March 10th 2017 @ 4:25pm
        Arky said | March 10th 2017 @ 4:25pm | ! Report

        I felt at the time that the Bulldogs were favoured by the umpires by about a net 4 goals over the course of the match, and of course they won by 22 points, so it was a lineball ‘umps decided the result’ kind of match. I thought based on their last quarter performance they just about deserved the win, but it was sodding close.

        The Bulldogs had all the luck in that final series which they hadn’t had in the preceding century. Can’t say they weren’t due a good run like that, but it would also be a mistake to assume they are the best team in the competition coming into this year, or even really close.

    • February 22nd 2017 @ 7:47am
      HawKy said | February 22nd 2017 @ 7:47am | ! Report

      Hawthorn Haze…..Hehehe…..2 flags vs 13 …..Hehehe.

    • February 22nd 2017 @ 7:56am
      Tricky said | February 22nd 2017 @ 7:56am | ! Report

      Nice scribe Ryan,

      You mentioned about the return of experience with Bob and Cloke, I’m not convinced Cloke will see a lot of footy inside the dogs best 22. Externally it looks like he’s been recruited as an insurance player

      In saying that he has not enjoyed the silver service that he used to get from that all impressive delivery midfield of 09-12 in fact since then the delivery (or lack thereof) he has rec’d has been deplorable – that being an understatement.

      He certainly will receive better service from the VFL Footscray side than he did from the best 22 at Collingwood and this may assist in a form improvement which may lead to a spot on the dogs best 22 (I suspect that would depend on the opposition they get). Even then his set shots for goal are not what they were in the Halcyon days. If it does turn out that – at best – he is serviceable and able to fill the role if required then that would be a BIG win for the dogs

      • February 22nd 2017 @ 9:15am
        Tom M said | February 22nd 2017 @ 9:15am | ! Report

        I think you’ll find Cloke will play from round 1, especially now that Roughead is out. Boyd moves to play in the ruck where he will flourish and Cloke holds down the key forward roll taking the oppositions best defender every week

        • February 22nd 2017 @ 11:21am
          Paul W said | February 22nd 2017 @ 11:21am | ! Report

          Cloke will take the focus off Stringer, Crameri and Boyd, when he’s down there, and allow them to do their stuff.

          • Roar Guru

            February 22nd 2017 @ 12:17pm
            Cat said | February 22nd 2017 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

            Yeah because opposition coaches are rarely afraid of Cloke with the ball near goals. 90% chance he’ll shank it out on the full and turn it over.

          • February 22nd 2017 @ 12:47pm
            Bruce said | February 22nd 2017 @ 12:47pm | ! Report

            Yep I think so Paul W. And with the way the dogs dominate ground balls he could even play as a defensive forward, just making a contest each time and not getting outmarked.

          • February 23rd 2017 @ 12:11am
            Tricky said | February 23rd 2017 @ 12:11am | ! Report

            If anything it would be the other way around – if he plays in the 1’s

        • February 23rd 2017 @ 12:10am
          Tricky said | February 23rd 2017 @ 12:10am | ! Report

          Would be very surprised if he plays round 1 and I’d be very surprised if he makes the 22 on merit rather filling in for the injured.

    • February 22nd 2017 @ 9:15am
      Birdman said | February 22nd 2017 @ 9:15am | ! Report

      I still think the Dogs deserve to be flag faves ahead of GWS based on the experience of saluting, improvements in their forward and back lines and a proven coach.

      The Roughead injury does worry me a bit but better now than later in the season.

    • February 22nd 2017 @ 10:36am
      Aransan said | February 22nd 2017 @ 10:36am | ! Report

      Ryan, how important do you rate Cordy in the team?

      • Columnist

        February 22nd 2017 @ 10:41am
        Ryan Buckland said | February 22nd 2017 @ 10:41am | ! Report

        It’s hard to judge – he’s only just starting his career. The signs he showed during the latter half of last season were all good but if he has a material impact on their season it will be a surprise.

        • Columnist

          February 22nd 2017 @ 2:59pm
          Adrian Polykandrites said | February 22nd 2017 @ 2:59pm | ! Report

          I doubt Cordy plays unless there are injuries – which was what happened last year. Cloke likely takes his spot forward and he’s behind Roberts and Adams in the pecking order in his more natural position as a key defender.

      • February 22nd 2017 @ 11:09am
        Another Paul said | February 22nd 2017 @ 11:09am | ! Report

        I personally don’t rate Cordy at all, that’s mainly from a skills perspective though, to me he seems the least skilled player on the park with poor decision making to boot. His redeeming factors and the reason Bevo was selecting him at the end of the season is his versatility, he can “play” each of the key positions and his defensive pressure. I think this year with the forward line having more structure, the ruck covered by boyd and roughead and plenty of choice down back he will struggle to get a game. I hope for his sake I’m entirely wrong though

        I really want to see Collins lock down a position, I still occasionally go and watch his tackle on Patton in last years preseason and I think he is our only real answer to power forwards once Morris is gone. Also Roberts although he did a great job during the finals has always seemed out of his depth when lining up on power forwards.

        • February 22nd 2017 @ 1:08pm
          Paul W said | February 22nd 2017 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

          Collins still looks a long way off developing an AFL body, Doesn’t seem to be in the frame at the moment. I hope he does come on.

          • February 25th 2017 @ 10:23pm
            mattyb said | February 25th 2017 @ 10:23pm | ! Report

            I’m concerned for Collins in the modern game. To slow,that’s why he slid to the dogs in the first place and the bargain appears a bust.
            On the plus Fletcher Roberts is looking good.

    • February 22nd 2017 @ 11:03am
      Brian said | February 22nd 2017 @ 11:03am | ! Report

      The Dogs greatest strength is their depth. Suckling, Murphy, Wallis, Cloke, Adams, Crameri, Redpath, Jong. I count 8 serviceable AFL players who didn’t even play the GF. They are definitely more liekly to make top 4 then not.

      The only downside is their best 22 is far behind’s GWS. If both teams stay healthy it would take a true Beveridge miracle to overcome GWS.

      The umpiring in the Preliminary Final was fair however it shouldn’t have been. GWS made a huge mistake in allowing their stadium to be swept up in Doggies hysteria. GWS should have made that stadium a sea of orange as was their right.

      • February 22nd 2017 @ 2:50pm
        Jim said | February 22nd 2017 @ 2:50pm | ! Report

        Only problem Brian you actually need fans to achieve a ‘sea of orange’ hahaha…

      • February 22nd 2017 @ 3:33pm
        I hate pies said | February 22nd 2017 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

        GWS were outplayed for the majority of that game. They don’t have the supporters to fill a tennis stadium let alone a football stadium

      • February 23rd 2017 @ 12:32am
        Tricky said | February 23rd 2017 @ 12:32am | ! Report

        Depth yes but Cloke is not what you’d call “good depth”