Forget back-to-back, the Dogs won’t make the finals

Cam Mann Roar Rookie

By Cam Mann, Cam Mann is a Roar Rookie


57 Have your say

    The Western Bulldogs aren’t going to play finals footy in 2017. I’ve made this call among friends and they’ve laughed at me, looked at me with bewilderment, and some have threatened the ultimate disownment of unfollowing me on Facebook.

    But once I layout my reasons, I get that, ‘Well… maaaybe’ tilt of the head.

    The Dogs didn’t storm into the finals – they managed to hold on to seventh place. This is after rocketing to sixth in 2015 from 14th in 2014.

    It generally takes a few years of playing finals before you get through to the big dance, but the Western Bulldogs certainly bucked that trend.

    While the Doggies have an undeniably talented list with some of the brightest stars of the future, their best players of that finals series are green and fuelled by that youthful exuberance:

    Marcus Bontempelli is 21, Caleb Daniel 20, Tom Boyd 21, Luke Dalhaus 24, Jason Johannisen 24, Jackson Macrae 22 and Lin Jong is 23. And that’s just a taste of their young list.

    Lin Jong Western Bulldogs AFL 2016

    They also have the older heads of Liam Picken and Matthew Boyd bringing that wisdom to the pack, but that charge to the premiership was definitely headed by the kids.

    It had shades of Hawthorn’s 2008 flag – no one was expecting them to take that out. It was Geelong’s to lose, but that lack of expectation saw the Hakws flying under the radar.

    That same vibe caused no one to give the Dogs any real chance either. ‘Everyone’s second team’ finally climbing that mountain had a little bit of romance about it, but nothing more.

    In 2008, the Hawks had the greatest man-manager of recent memory at the helm in Alastair Clarkson. He used that lack of respect to light a fire under his players, snatching it from the Cats, who already had a place cleaned out in their cabinet for the cup.

    Of that Hawthorn coaching machine, the best product is perhaps Luke Beveridge – the stars aligned when he rolled into Whitten Oval.

    The club was a mess. It looked like it had just run a marathon and come in at the back of the field. Despondent bodies lying everywhere. Coach sacked, captain walked out, CEO resigned, and their No.1 pick and Brownlow medallist was off to the Dons. It was the aftermath of a warzone.

    Beveridge used that to galvanise his charges. Nothing brings people together like adversity. He tapped into that youth and inspired them, ‘Why not us?’ was the catch cry.

    Then, in the cruellest of Shakespearean tragedy, Bob Murphy’s knee buckled.

    It would not have been shocking if that was the watershed moment that saw those kids look at each other with black holes in their stomachs and silently ask ‘what do we do now?’

    Bevo used that inspiration and got Murphy back among the coaches as soon as he could. ‘Do it for Bob.’


    Mitch Wallis had one of the worst leg breaks possible and his 2016 was written off. Injuries kept coming, and the media kept calling it the end. But Beveridge was ready to make it a new beginning for whoever came in to fill that position.

    He called on all of his team to pick up the slack, stand up and be counted. And they did. All of that massive pressure was dutifully carried by this champion team. You can find that extra ten per cent when your mind says you’re done – Beveridge found even more.

    There was never a game they weren’t leaving everything on the field. It was amazing to watch.

    But that weight does get to you. Those 2008 Hawks (by their own admission) snatched the title ahead of time and the next year dropped to ninth.

    Playing on emotion can exhaust you. Playing for those who can’t be out there, playing harder to prove the doubters wrong, playing with 62 years of hope riding on your back. Once that pressure is lifted, players can relax too much, assume that they’re done, let the exhaustion get to them. Not every player, but harking back to the core of that group being so young? A lot can.

    Maybe too many get the head wobble, the premiership hangover – or worse still, they could go the other way and train themselves into the ground (but in the days of the ever watchful eye of sports science, the latter scenario is less likely).

    Not forgetting that their big power forward was snatched away from them by ASADA and replaced by an instant millionaire who hadn’t proved much up north, then continued to prove very little in his new colours. The Dogs had to find new ways to score and managed to do it without the clunky hands of Tom Boyd being involved.

    I will give him credit in the grand ginal – cometh the hour, cometh the man – Boyd played out of his skin and was just as worthy of the Norm Smith as Johannisen.


    But if not for that game, his season could easily be considered on the high end of underwhelming. Can he stand up again for more than one game in 2017?

    Then it brings the question – there will now be three behemoths in the forward line and do they need any of them? Are they stacking an area that is irrelevant to Beveridge’s game plan? I’ll obviously back in a premiership-winning coach’s plan, but it raises the question.

    And how will these young stars play with a white-hot target on their back? Or worse still – expectation? They’ve not had to contend with either of these elements for over half a century. Will it be a straw to break the camel’s back, or will this champion team absorb it like all the other turmoil that befell them?

    I need to stress that I’m not taking anything away from that fantastic grand final win. Those Dogs will deservedly be immortalised in football folklore. Dogs fans will re-watch the game for the rest of their lives – they won and they won against all the odds! They beat the Sydney beast. Both of them, actually. They took out West Coast in Perth. Stepped over last year’s premiers. What more could they do?

    They beat everyone in front of them like ’90s Van Damme.

    The Dogs grinded out a premiership in true Western Suburbs style: nothing flashy, just hard, slogging work. That makes the cup in their hands worth every push-up, every gut-busting run, every spoiled mark – those one per centers were never more valuable.

    These Dogs will be hovering in and out of grand finals for a long time as these superstar kids only get better.

    I just don’t think they will next year.

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    The Crowd Says (57)

    • Roar Pro

      March 17th 2017 @ 4:28am
      berrlins said | March 17th 2017 @ 4:28am | ! Report

      Last time I checked at 189cm Crameri isn’t a power forward, and the bloke originally came to the dogs because amongst other reasons he wanted to play in the midfield more. With Rough down I would imagine Boyd would play more in the ruck than the forward which leaves a crew of very dangerous small to mid sized forwards like stringer, Smith, Dickson, Crameri, and Mclean and only one behemoth in Cloke. They were always going to be hunted and it remains to be seen how they’ll deal with that, their first ten games will be most telling due to the difficulty, considering last year they kicked off the season with 7 etihad games but they also proved last year that they could win games outside of Victoria (freo game aside). To say they’ll drop because of youth seems a tad rash considering the youth of the other team that played off in the granny last year. Sydney is the fourth youngest team in the competition and younger than the bulldogs, will they drop out due to youth as well?

      • March 17th 2017 @ 7:04am
        I hate pies said | March 17th 2017 @ 7:04am | ! Report

        Tom Campbell will be fit for round 1 anyway.

        • Roar Pro

          March 17th 2017 @ 5:07pm
          berrlins said | March 17th 2017 @ 5:07pm | ! Report

          I also forgot Tim English who they’re considering giving a run as well but you’d still think they’d want Boyd in the ruck some of the time.

    • Roar Pro

      March 17th 2017 @ 5:04am
      Marty Gleason said | March 17th 2017 @ 5:04am | ! Report

      You’re rewriting 2008. For the entire year we all knew Geelong and Hawthorn were set up for a major showdown come the Grand Final. No one underestimated or disrespected them.

      I don’t really think the Bulldogs were playing ‘for’ anyone, even Murphy. I think they were just a talented team with potential for whom it all clicked in September.

      Good article; a prem hangover wouldn’t surprise me but they are very talented to finish as low as 9th.

    • March 17th 2017 @ 7:03am
      I hate pies said | March 17th 2017 @ 7:03am | ! Report

      You think the premiership was won on emotion alone? The dogs were missing many key players for most of the season; they dominated at the start and at the end of the year when they had their player available. It’s that simple. The 7th place undersold the quality of the football that the team could play.
      As for Boyd, he was outstanding in the Preliminary final, holding down ruck duties for most of the game, after Roughead went down.

    • March 17th 2017 @ 8:09am
      Darren said | March 17th 2017 @ 8:09am | ! Report

      So at the end of 2015 season they all predicted we would fall just like port Adelaide, now we’re being compared to Hawthorne 2008 what are you on mare this team is different and people like you just don’t want to believe that a rag tag team from the west can be anything more. If we’re are to say teams like nth and maybe Hawthorne or Geelong or even west coast and Adelaide potentially drop out off the 8 who replaces them. Besides the talked about Melbourne and st Kilda and are any of them better than the dogs, yeah we limped to 7th but that was because of injuries, look what happened when we got all our players back you peanut, good luck to the rest of the Como bark to bark

    • March 17th 2017 @ 8:25am
      Pope Paul VII said | March 17th 2017 @ 8:25am | ! Report

      Probably won’t win the free kick count.

      • March 17th 2017 @ 10:25am
        Glenn said | March 17th 2017 @ 10:25am | ! Report

        I hope the umpires this season call the throws that the Dogs get away with for what they are. Added to that a whole lot of gifts in various ways in last year’s finals series and there are a couple of glaring reasons why the Dogs won’t win it this year. I am not prepared to say that they won’t make the finals, but I will say that I don’t think they will make the top 4 – again.

        • March 17th 2017 @ 12:21pm
          I hate pies said | March 17th 2017 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

          As long as they call throws from every team. The dogs were no worse than any others last year; they were actually more skilled at handball, and people have just assumed that they were throwing.
          Unfortunately the umpires will react to this noise and the dogs players will get pinged this year even when they actually do handball it, no doubt about it.

          • March 18th 2017 @ 11:25am
            GoSwans said | March 18th 2017 @ 11:25am | ! Report

            Bulldogs had umpiring advantage all year and then on steroids during the finals and supersteroids in the Grand Final. I think to the point where the umpires and the AFL have a serious credibility issue. If the Saints or Melbourne make a big jump into top 4 I’d be very worried if I was a non-Victorian supporter playing them in the finals.

            I suspect there will be pendulum swing and that will make it harder for the Bulldogs during H&A. Umpiring rarely influences outcomes of games so if the umpires are tough on them it wouldn’t be sufficient to knock them out of the finals.

            • March 18th 2017 @ 11:38am
              Paul W said | March 18th 2017 @ 11:38am | ! Report


            • March 18th 2017 @ 1:31pm
              andyl12 said | March 18th 2017 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

              Typical Swans fan, blaming an unexpected loss on the umpires while failing to mention that the Swans wouldn’t have been there that day were it not for COLA and certain other advantages.

              Hawthorn won a 3-peat without the slightest bit of fairness from the umpires. Any other worthy side could’ve done the same.

              • March 19th 2017 @ 11:24am
                Steve009 said | March 19th 2017 @ 11:24am | ! Report

                A threepeat with a home ground advantage in three grand finals against interstate teams, which always comes with a winning free kick count going the way of the Vic team in the last 5 (I’ve never seen more blatantly biased umpiring in a grand final than I did last year).

                But the MCG grand finals, like COLA was an AFL signed off agreement, so I guess we live with it. Oh that’s right Melbourne wingers couldn’t stand for an interstate team having any sort of advantage, despite having so many of their own that the VFL (sorry afl) not only tore up the the COLA agreement they had with the swans, but then also punished them for following it.

    • March 17th 2017 @ 9:52am
      Milo said | March 17th 2017 @ 9:52am | ! Report

      Big call and means there will need to be at least eight better performing teams. Only twice i believe has the premier missed the final 8 next year namely Adelaide in 1999 and Hawthorn in 2009.

      Given the talent on the Dog’s list and the management & coaching staff, i just cant see it happening.