The Western Bulldogs are finished for 2017, but are still the best-buy low candidate in the AFL

Ryan Buckland Columnist

By Ryan Buckland, Ryan Buckland is a Roar Expert

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    Another disappointing loss in the books, it’s time to think about 2018 and beyond for the Western Bulldogs. Contrary to the current doom and gloom, there are abundant reasons to be a Bulldogs optimist.

    What went wrong for the Western Bulldogs? That’s the wrong way to frame what looms as one of the biggest debates of the second half of the year. The more appropriate question is: what went right? And not this year, but last year?

    The Dogs finished seventh after the home-and-away season last year, running into the finals with a horrid injury list and a 3-3 record over their final six games. In a dour, utterly depressing Round 23 game, the Dogs looked as though they’d given up on life.

    Then came the pre-finals bye, and the return of many first choice players, and the focus on winning one-on-one battles at ground level and playing a territory game. The Dogs had swarmed their way to success in 2016, but it had mostly been a defensive strategy. Luke Beveridge extended it to the pointy end of the ground, rolling with small forward lines and seeking to punish opponents who played tall.

    Over the finals series, the Dogs averaged a heady +21.0 in adjusted contested possession differential (contested possessions less free kicks and contested marks) over their four games. Geelong were similarly strong (+20 over two games), but all of that (+38) came against the Hawks in their qualifying final. The Dogs also upped their kicking significantly, booting the ball 1.17 times for every handball compared to 1.05 times in the home-and-away season.

    Their style was starkly shifted. Then came the favourable match up in week one against a soft-as-well-poached-eggs Eagles. It rolled into a favourable match up against the tiring Hawks, which the Dogs exploited to the hilt. It rolled into a classic encounter against the GWS Giants, who had the chops to manage the Dogs in tight and still get an outside game going. We all know how that one ended.

    Then came grand final day, and all the emotion and belief that surrounded it. Then the grand final happened.

    It was a series of extraordinary events. The Dogs were no way known the best team of the 2016 season, and that they won the premiership over an unprecedented four week stretch made that notion vanish. Expectations should have been tempered.

    Based on the views expound across the spectrum of football media, it appears Hawthorn’s three straight flags have messed with our collective ability to assess the difficulty of making it through a 27-week season as the last team standing. Let alone doing it twice, and better still twice in a row.

    Should the Dogs have improved? Yes. A team coming from seventh place who limped to the home-and-away finish line riddled with injury should have pushed for a finish in the top four. A young midfield, with a super dooper star at its core; a stoic defence helped by a scheme that starts further up the ground; investment in the forward line, their weakest link in an otherwise sound personnel base.

    I saw it, and I was confident enough to predict a mini-leap from 15 wins to 16 or 17.

    This has not materialised. The Dogs find themselves with a losing record and precious few weekends to turn it all around. The enormity of such a task appears not lost on Beveridge, whose press conference following Friday night’s loss at the hands of the Adelaide Crows was revealing.

    The worst loss since I’ve been at the club
    Teams lose games of football for a variety of reasons – some of them predictable, others less so. We have had a greater share of the latter this year, the season’s parity promise delivered in spades.

    The Dogs were not favoured to win on Friday night, but the manner of their loss came as a surprise to all involved. Every single problem that has crept into the Western Bulldogs game – structure, system, personnel – manifested in a 59-point loss that could have been twice as bad.

    Rain teemed down in the first half, conditions that should have halted Adelaide’s free-wheeling style and given a boost to the Dogs who love the slop. Adelaide found the going a bit tougher than the Dogs through the middle of the ground, with the inside 50 count favouring them 33-26 and contested possessions 86-80. However, Footscray could only muster four goals to Adelaide’s five, with the Crows taking a three point lead.

    Conditions changed at the half; there was no more rain, and the ground once again became pristine. The game changed with it. Adelaide ran riot, the Dogs unable to stop them no matter how many numbers they threw at the ball or behind it. Footscray’s misfiring forward line somehow played scrappier football in the dry than in the wet, unable to get shots off or retain the ball in their half of the ground. It was a riot.

    Jason Johannisen Western Bulldogs AFL 2017

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    The Dogs would go on to score just 13 more points for the game (1.7 in the old scale) on 24 inside 50s. Their forward 50 forays had the direction of a cannonball fired in the dead of night, Adelaide’s Jake Lever able to roam across defensive 50 and intercept at will. There was no fluency to their play, no spirit or verve, and perhaps most troubling for coach Beveridge very little heart.

    By the end of the third quarter, the team was going through the motions, letting itself be dictated to by an Adelaide team spreading the field wide and overwhelming an undersized Dogs’ back 50.

    Post-match, a forlorn Luke Beveridge used the bland, generic, clichéd line of questioning presented to him with remarkable latitude, laying out the issues he sees at the heart of his team’s troubled season and hinting at the forward agenda.

    We were beaten one on one, we allowed them to take six intercept marks in our forward area, our intensity level wasn’t where it needed to be again in that third quarter, and they controlled the aerial game, and we didn’t use the footy well enough.

    That was the first 30 seconds. After some platitudes, the hammer came down as a journalist asked whether the loss would lead to some harder questions being asked of the club.

    There’s a lot of variables which creep in at a football club that affect performance, and it’s difficult to identify what they are and then quantify the effect they have on the group. But there’s a line in the sand types of experiences – and we’ve had a few of them already where you say they can’t look that way again – and tonight’s second half was definitely one of those experiences which was too disappointing for a team and a club that’s come a long way, we don’t want to regress but we regressed a bit.

    After some more immediate questions were posed, Beveridge was asked about Taylor Walker and Josh Jenkins taking a combined 18 marks inside forward 50. He took a wide bearth.

    We need to live in the real world: we lack height. We are challenged vertically. Pound for pound, we would have been a hell of a lot lighter than the Crows. So we’ve got to play a certain way to try and get an edge and we weren’t able to do that for long enough which is the frustrating part.

    We were dominated from an aerial point of view, we should have been better, we should have been better from a technical point of view and we’ve got to coach our players better to improve in those areas.

    Do you make wholesale changes?

    We’ve been really fortunate for the past couple of years that you consider that draft of Caleb (Daniel), Toby (McLean), Bailey Dale, Lucas Webb, Joel Hamling when he was here, Tommy Boyd came through then, we had a really good mix of young players who came in and filled a void. They’re important players for us. Last year it was Josh Dunkley, Marcus Adams, some of our younger guys are more key position types and probably aren’t quite ready yet for the level so we haven’t been able to draw on that draft.

    There’s a lot of teams with injuries, but we’ve probably been challenged a bit with depth. So, you can’t just make wholesale changes, the boys need a chance to improve.

    Keeping the faith
    In his usual way, Beveridge was calm, measured and direct. With him, we always know there is meaning in the words he says – most coaches are like this of course, but the temptation to fall back on weasel words and platitudes after a loss must be strong.

    Luke Beveridge deep in thought

    (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

    So it was revealing that after stating across the press conference that there are no excuses for his team’s bad patch, Beveridge spent two thirds of his press conference rattling them off: a lack of height, injuries, depth challenges, the throes that come with a young team, unquantifiable variables like hunger and want, coaching, foot skills, structure. He painted the picture of a man staring at an exam paper, knowing he needs to pick up the pen.

    He’s right about the season. It’s not too late for the Dogs, nor is it for many teams that finds themselves outside the top eight with seven games to go. But he’s also right that if things don’t change soon, the Dogs will be also-rans – even if they play in September.

    I won’t anticipate what comes the Dogs’ way for the rest of this year. Beveridge is a master tactician, an indisputable fact made clear by his young team’s rapid rise up the ranks and sparkling September run in 2016. Anything I say will look dumb.

    The Dogs’ height challenges do look more glaring when their midfield isn’t able to choke up the play in the middle of the ground. Nothing has really worked forward of the ball: big, small, mid-sized, ground balls; it’s not clear there is a path for anything workable to materialise. Tom Boyd and Travis Cloke’s collective availability would be a plus, but it is clear there are more pressing matters at hand for them.

    We can count on Beveridge getting whacky, trying different set ups across the ground in an effort to find something that works. He has a 100 per cent strike rate in AFL Coaches Association Coach of the Year voting after all.

    Beveridge is the Dogs’ greatest asset. So long as he is in place, it’s hard to think success will escape Footscray for meaningful periods of time. Like Alastair Clarkson, his teacher, at Hawthorn, Beveridge is a recruitment tool – “come and play for the best coach in the competition, the guy who will extract from you the purest distillation of football talent”.

    But the reasons for buying low on the Bulldogs don’t end with the CEO. For one, the team’s young talent is unquestionable.

    Marcus Bontempelli has had a down year by his lofty, and early-career, standards, but remains the eighth most influential player in the game according to the official AFL Player Ratings. He is one goal away from joining Patrick Dangerfield, Dane Zorko and Dustin Martin in the 20-10-1 club (20 disposals, ten contested possessions and a goal a game – hat tip to Adrian Polykandrites), and he’s still 21 years old.

    The Dogs’ midfield is full of flexible inside-outside talent. Jack Macrae is leading the league for giveaways per disposal, only turning the ball over on four per cent of his football actions. Lachie Hunter’s numbers have come back to earth, driven by a modified role that has seen him spend more time in the forward half of the ground.

    Caleb Daniel is the heir to Sam Mitchell’s throne, and already has Mitchell-like moments of wizardry on a game to game basis. Mitch Wallis has been one of the most impactful forward half rotation players in the competition since returning from his broken leg in Round 9. Luke Dahlhaus’ destiny is as an impact midfield-forward.

    If Tom Liberatore can start winning the ball deep in packs again, the Dogs are legitimately stacked through the middle for the best part of a decade on these guys alone. It extends to the depth players, who all project as competent starters capable of flexing across the ground.

    Jake Stringer has upside, if only because we know what he did in 2015. Tom Boyd has upside, if only because he’s two metres tall and can bulldoze anyone in the league.

    The rest of the team’s tall stocks still need time on the vine. Zaine Cordy looks like he’s getting ready to make the leap to competent key defender, and he’s just 20 years of age. It’s hard to look at Tim English and not think he’s a reincarnated and slightly pastier Dean Cox.

    That’s not to mention the older players, like Jason Johannisen, Jordan Roughead, Jack Redpath, Matthew Suckling and Easton Wood – who all play their roles at very high levels. Johannisen just signed on through the 2022 season – through both restricted and unrestricted free agency.

    It’s hard to conceptualise this, but the Dogs are one of the youngest and least experienced teams in the league. If the tea leaves are correct, and the trio of Matthew Boyd, Dale Morris and Robert Murphy retire at season’s end, and all other things being equal, the Dogs will enter 2018 with the second youngest and second least experienced list in the competition.

    Right now, outside of this veteran trio, the most experienced player on the Dogs’ list is Travis Cloke – he is the sole 200 gamer. He, along with Liam Picken and Tory Dickson, are the only players who will be 30 or older at the start of next season.

    Robert Bob Murphy Western Bulldogs AFL 2017

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    With this in mind, I see it as likely the Dogs will be a big player in this off season. The looming retirement of their three celebrated veterans, the early re-signing of their biggest expiring contract in Johannisen, and the ability for teams to manoeuvre their way into a large amount of salary cap space this year (by restructuring deals following the 20 per cent spike in this football year plus the salary cap banking mechanism) means the Dogs should have plenty of money to play with.

    They signalled their intent last week, throwing their hat into the Jake Lever Sweepstakes. He fits both need (he is tall) and demography (22 years old next season), and is a prodigious talent – albeit plying his trade as a loose defender in 2017.

    The Dogs could also be a big player in Sam Reid’s restricted free agency; Reid is slightly older than Lever (26 next season), but has fewer miles on the odometer than a typical middle age key forward. He is also tall. Tom Boyd is still 21 years old, mind.

    The Dogs off field crew have earned themselves a sterling reputation for identifying and recruiting bargain-basement talent in recent years. The Tom Boyd deal showed the club is not afraid of making big moves if they think it can help make their club better.

    While the Western Bulldogs may be at a low ebb, it’s hard to objectively view their future as anything but bright. The Dogs are the best buy-low candidate in the league. A disappointing 2017 season could be spun as the price of success; for a club so starved of success, it is a price worth paying.

    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 (120)

    • July 12th 2017 @ 8:36am
      GoSwans said | July 12th 2017 @ 8:36am | ! Report

      They were gifted multiple games including the Grand Final by unfair umpiring last year and two games this year. Their list is overrated. They have a huge chunk of their salary cap tied up in one player who has under-performed (except for one game). If you are right when will we see them rise back to the level of 2016 without umpire assistance?

      • Columnist

        July 12th 2017 @ 8:57am
        Ryan Buckland said | July 12th 2017 @ 8:57am | ! Report

        600k is about 4% of the salary cap.

        Please don’t turn this into another one of those spiralling umpiring hell shouting matches.

        • July 12th 2017 @ 9:47am
          GoSwans said | July 12th 2017 @ 9:47am | ! Report

          Multiple reports quote $1 million per year which was 9.4% of last year’s salary cap.

          • Columnist

            July 12th 2017 @ 9:55am
            Ryan Buckland said | July 12th 2017 @ 9:55am | ! Report

          • Roar Guru

            July 12th 2017 @ 10:17am
            Pumping Dougie said | July 12th 2017 @ 10:17am | ! Report

            The Swans will be paying $1.5m to a 35 year old former champion in 2021 (who will more than likely be retired by that stage) while the Doggies in the same season will be paying only $1m to a 25 year old key position forward / ruck in his prime.

            Both deals have big consequences for remunerating the rest of the squad, but to date it seems like only the Swans have had trouble keeping their players.

            • Roar Pro

              July 12th 2017 @ 11:10am
              Andrew Macdougall said | July 12th 2017 @ 11:10am | ! Report

              The Boyd contract is front loaded too, which will only help the Dogs.

              • Roar Guru

                July 12th 2017 @ 11:17am
                Cat said | July 12th 2017 @ 11:17am | ! Report

                7 years – $7m

                1st year: draftee wages approx $100,000
                2nd year: approx $1.7m

                Which leaves 5 years and $5.2m remaining.

            • Roar Pro

              July 12th 2017 @ 12:21pm
              anon said | July 12th 2017 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

              I think the Franklin contract was reckless, but Franklin’s delivered every year thus far. Boyd hasn’t and looks likely he never will with his various issues.

            • July 12th 2017 @ 12:41pm
              Peter the Scribe said | July 12th 2017 @ 12:41pm | ! Report

              Pumping Dougie…..Even if Tommie Boyd languished in the two’s the rest of his career he is still worth what you paid for him. If he never plays another game it is still worth it….no figure can be placed on one cup…Even if you paid him double…. Now I think Tommy will bounce back and be a great player anyway but my point is that the 2016 cup is sitting in your Kennel and bitter umpire bashers like Go Swans can squawk all they like…they missed their chance for a flag and were beaten by a more desperate team and no one can ever take that well deserved cup away from the Doggies.

              • Roar Guru

                July 12th 2017 @ 12:48pm
                Pumping Dougie said | July 12th 2017 @ 12:48pm | ! Report

                Absolutely PtS. I’m sure most people would agree with all of that – a few sour grape, irrational supporters on this website are not exactly representative of mainstream opinion. Cheers.

            • July 12th 2017 @ 1:02pm
              Shane said | July 12th 2017 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

              Former champion – good one. If you add up all the skill of all the dog’s forward line players, they still wouldn’t be better than Buddy currently is. Boyd is not even averaging a goal a game this year, and only 20 hitouts. which puts him in Rhys Stanley/Nathan Vardy territory – hardly earning his keep.

              I don’t think there would be a team, including the Bulldogs who wouldn’t trade Boyd for Buddy in a heartbeat.

              • Roar Guru

                July 12th 2017 @ 1:23pm
                Pumping Dougie said | July 12th 2017 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

                Shane, I think you’ve misread my comment, I wasn’t disrespecting Buddy. He’s a champion now and will forever be remembered as a legend. He’s been fantastic for the Swans and Hawks. But in four years time, at the age of 35, I suspect his career will be over and thus, he will be a former champion, but still slicing $1.5m out of the Swans salary cap.

                His career is not in question, but the value he provides to the Swans over 9 years needs to consider that he most likely will be providing zilch in the last three years of that contract.

              • July 12th 2017 @ 5:26pm
                Paul W said | July 12th 2017 @ 5:26pm | ! Report

                Stanley/Vardy – 26 years old. Zero premierships.

                Boyd – 21 years old. One premiership.

                Great comparison.

            • July 12th 2017 @ 3:29pm
              Mark said | July 12th 2017 @ 3:29pm | ! Report

              And a 35 year old Bud will still be miles ahead of 25 year old Spud Boyd.

              • Roar Guru

                July 12th 2017 @ 3:43pm
                Pumping Dougie said | July 12th 2017 @ 3:43pm | ! Report

                And Boyd will have helped secure at least one Bulldogs flag over his seven years, whilst the Swans will be left flag-less from their 9 years with Buddy and be unable to fill his retired place on the roster for the final 2-3 years due to player number constraints and salary cap constraints.

              • July 12th 2017 @ 4:22pm
                Mark said | July 12th 2017 @ 4:22pm | ! Report

                Cute how cocky some get after one flag in their lifetime.
                Bud will win a flag at Sydney. And I look forward to read your response when he does.

              • July 12th 2017 @ 4:59pm
                Peter the Scribe said | July 12th 2017 @ 4:59pm | ! Report

                How Mark? Flags are all that matter….flags for Buddy deal at Swans = 0, Flags for Boyd deal at Dogs = 1. Don’t see how you can argue against that unless you get a flag with Buddy?

              • Roar Guru

                July 12th 2017 @ 5:04pm
                Cat said | July 12th 2017 @ 5:04pm | ! Report

                Going by that metric Peter I guess it is fair to say Buckley was a lousy player. 0 flags in his career.

              • Roar Guru

                July 12th 2017 @ 5:17pm
                Pumping Dougie said | July 12th 2017 @ 5:17pm | ! Report

                C’mon Cat, this thread has got nothing to do with criticising Buddy as a player. He’s a champion. So the Buckley correlation is irrelevant. We’re simply talking about the gamble taken by the Doggies versus the gamble taken by the Swans, in recruiting Boyd and Buddy respectively, and which decision was more worthwhile once you consider / speculate upon the full term of each contract.

                Angela (below) has got the best idea – just look at the positives!

            • July 12th 2017 @ 3:43pm
              Angela said | July 12th 2017 @ 3:43pm | ! Report

              For mine, and probably his team mates, Buddy is worth every penny (for multiple reasons).

      • July 12th 2017 @ 9:38am
        Another Paul said | July 12th 2017 @ 9:38am | ! Report

        Go cry to mum. Lets blame the umpires when it’s clear as day that the swans had approximately 10 players missing and the dogs had none. It’s called intensity, the dogs had it and half of the swans did not. You’re never going to win when half your team doesn’t show up.

        • July 12th 2017 @ 9:48am
          GoSwans said | July 12th 2017 @ 9:48am | ! Report


        • July 12th 2017 @ 2:46pm
          Sammy the Tank said | July 12th 2017 @ 2:46pm | ! Report

          “Go cry to mum”…it must be school holidays?

      • July 12th 2017 @ 9:44am
        I ate pies said | July 12th 2017 @ 9:44am | ! Report

        Bloody swans supporters, always whinging about the umpires. No team has ever won a premiership due to umpires; I don’t get why this is such a difficult concept for you people to understand.

        • July 12th 2017 @ 10:38am
          GoSwans said | July 12th 2017 @ 10:38am | ! Report

          This weekend imagine your team’s opposition repeatedly infringing for two and a half quarters with one free kick being awarded while your team in the same two and a half quarters get 15 free kicks against. Let me know how you feel about that and if it might have influenced the scoreboard. I don’t get why this is so hard to understand.

          • July 12th 2017 @ 11:31am
            I ate pies said | July 12th 2017 @ 11:31am | ! Report

            I understand what you’re saying; it’s just not true. Suck it up princess, we have the flag and you don’t.

            • July 12th 2017 @ 2:47pm
              Sammy the Tank said | July 12th 2017 @ 2:47pm | ! Report

              “Suck it up princess”…it must be school holidays?

            • July 12th 2017 @ 3:32pm
              Mark said | July 12th 2017 @ 3:32pm | ! Report

              I’ve seen 2 flags in my lifetime and will see more. You won’t.

      • July 12th 2017 @ 10:34am
        Cam said | July 12th 2017 @ 10:34am | ! Report

        Gee that ‘one game’ was a ripper though wasn’t it GoSwans!
        Ha ha ha ha ha

        • July 12th 2017 @ 10:40am
          GoSwans said | July 12th 2017 @ 10:40am | ! Report

          He probably earned the $7 million with that one game. Shame we can’t say the same about Tippett ((but it’s only $4 million)!

      • July 12th 2017 @ 11:57am
        michael said | July 12th 2017 @ 11:57am | ! Report

        More contested possessions getting to the ball first adds up to more frees you clown

      • July 12th 2017 @ 12:14pm
        michael said | July 12th 2017 @ 12:14pm | ! Report

        Go swans .said we got more frees we got to the contest first we got more numbers to the ball and in the end had more hart than your lot did I wish we got the favourable treatment Sydney get from the AFL you lot get

        • July 12th 2017 @ 2:50pm
          Sammy the Tank said | July 12th 2017 @ 2:50pm | ! Report


      • July 12th 2017 @ 12:35pm
        Peter the Scribe said | July 12th 2017 @ 12:35pm | ! Report

        GoSwans -Gifted their finals???? Gifted their flag? Are you for real or just winding everyone up? From a team who gets one of the best rubs of the green from the umps too! As a pies supporter with no team to support in the 2016 finals I followed (like many) the Dogs games very closely. They were inspirational, courageous, daring and had a group of players playing the best footy of their lives in a period that most pundits know is most scrutinised…September. To suggest anything else is just your bitterness leaching out. The Dogs home and away management of injuries and their finals campaign was perhaps the greatest triumph by a group of players and coaching staff that the game has ever seen. End of story. They will bounce back big time in 2018 if not this year.

    • July 12th 2017 @ 8:55am
      Pumping Dougie said | July 12th 2017 @ 8:55am | ! Report

      Thanks for the article Ryan.

      Yep, it’s been a disappointing season for the Doggies and no excuses can be made, but after the last two years’ heroics as well as claiming the flag, a hangover year is fine by me. As you say, a very young, talented and developing list led by the back-to-back Coach-of-the-Year still gives plenty of cause for optimism for the future. We might be light on experience in terms of games played, but we’re high on experience in terms of ‘experience’.

      Team hunger, Libber’s poor form and the absence of a CHB (Hambling gone, Adams injured) are the three areas which will make a huge difference in 2018 if we can fix. Plus we need big Boyd back in the forward line. I’m very excited by what Tim English will become down the track.

      P.S. No doubt we’ll get some sad, pathetic sore-loser Swans fans posting ungracious comments here again, like they do on every Bulldog thread, incapable of accepting they were beaten by a better side, whining about the 2016 grand final umpiring and thinking they were robbed in 2015 and 2017 losses against the Doggies as well. ??

      • July 12th 2017 @ 10:36am
        Matto said | July 12th 2017 @ 10:36am | ! Report

        I’m also looking forward to what bevo comes up with for next season.
        Like Ryan highlighted in the article the young key position players still need time.

      • July 12th 2017 @ 11:55am
        D.Large said | July 12th 2017 @ 11:55am | ! Report

        I don’t begrudge the Dogs their premiership.
        I’m also sure the bloke who got a sliver medal against Steven Bradbury doesn’t begrudge him his gold.

      • July 12th 2017 @ 12:19pm
        Mattyb said | July 12th 2017 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

        That pretty much sums it up PD,hunger and the lack of a CHB. Libbas form has been shocking and Clay Smith not much better. Both look slow and unfit.
        The tall defender stocks in the seconds look promising. Young is becoming a revelation and I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes in this week,although some of Beveridges comments suggest probably not. I’m starting to have a tiny bit of confidence in Collins and maybe he’ll come in this week as he’s a year older than Young. Collins would have been a great player 20 years ago so I hope he can adjust to the modern game. He’s form recently has been very serviceable,reminds me a bit of Harris who also looked ordinary when he begun. He’s a big boy Collins.

        The dogs need a good pre season,with increased fitness. They also need to tidy up some of their ball use around the ground. The kicking into the forward 50 also needs to improve but that wasn’t overly good last year either but the dogs got away with it.

        Special mention to McLean and Dale,they’ve looked excellent in a sorry year,add Dunkley as another kid to return and that’s a positive from a dismal season. McLean and Dale also add a bit of polish that we lack,Dunkleys future sits as an old fashioned inside mid getting the hard ball,he lacks polish though which is a bit of an issue with a few of the players.

        • Roar Guru

          July 12th 2017 @ 1:05pm
          Pumping Dougie said | July 12th 2017 @ 1:05pm | ! Report

          Cheers matty. Dale has improved no doubt, but it looks to me as if he has fallen away a bit again in recent weeks. He’s averaging 17 disposals and half a goal this year, which is not quite good enough for a wingman / half-forward, but it’s definitely improvement and his ball use is good. I’ve always been a fan of McLean and its good to see him improving week-by-week, but I think he is too lightly framed to play consistently onball, which he seems to be at the moment.

          Clay Smith’s form in the VFL was extremely good the last few weeks, so I was surprised he played so poorly when he came back into the seniors last week. A few others like Libber, Daniel, Honeychurch (surely we will delist him this year), Dahlhaus and Dale were all poor last week.

          I thought Stringer’s first half last week was the best he’s moved for a while. He disappeared in the second half, along with Picken, but not really their fault given the ball rarely went into our forward line with any opportunity.

          Zaine Cordy is developing nicely and it’s good to read that Collins, Young and English are all looking very promising as tall players developing in the VFL. I’m hoping we draft Nick Coffield at the end of the year too, to add to our running defender stocks. He would be the third local boy from my club at the Doggies, joining Bont and Lipinski. He’s tall and athletic, captain of the Northern Knights, AA of the U18s and is a great user of the footy off the half-back flank.

          • July 12th 2017 @ 5:24pm
            Peter the Scribe said | July 12th 2017 @ 5:24pm | ! Report

            Which local club there Dougie? seems a bit of an AFL nursery you have there….or do you mean the Northern Knights is your club?

            • Roar Guru

              July 12th 2017 @ 5:30pm
              Pumping Dougie said | July 12th 2017 @ 5:30pm | ! Report

              Eltham – currently 6 players on AFL lists: Bont, Caddy, Zaharakis, Lipinski, Vlastuin and Currie.

              • July 13th 2017 @ 11:58am
                Peter the Scribe said | July 13th 2017 @ 11:58am | ! Report

                Blimey Dougie…that’s a good nursery from leafy Eltham there! I better email the Pies spotters to get down there! 🙂

        • July 12th 2017 @ 1:22pm
          Macca said | July 12th 2017 @ 1:22pm | ! Report

          Interesting views on Collins there Mattyb – wasn’t that long ago that it was being suggested that the blues would have been better off taking Schache instead of Weitering and then taking Collins instead of McKay. It will be interesting to see how the Curnow plus a 2016 3rd round pick (used as part of the trade for Marchbank and Pickett) for Collins and Dunkley plays out in the next 5-10 years.

          • Roar Guru

            July 12th 2017 @ 1:31pm
            Pumping Dougie said | July 12th 2017 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

            All true Macca. Still early days. Very impressive debut season by Dunkley last year though. Collins and McKay are both too early to tell. Weitering looks to be a future gun (definitely a better choice than Schache at this stage) and Marchbank has been impressive for the Blues this year. I’m not convinced about Pickett, but still too early to make a call.

            I think GWS did poorly out of the Boyd trade in the end. It looked good for them at the time, getting Griffen and pick 6, which they used to draft Marchbank. But Griffen has been poor at GWS (I think Boyd has been more serviceable for the Dogs and has significant upside ahead of him), playing an identical number of games as Boyd but having less influence, and of course Marchbank has now gone to the Blues.

            • July 12th 2017 @ 1:50pm
              Macca said | July 12th 2017 @ 1:50pm | ! Report

              Agree with most of that Dougie although I wouldn’t call the Boyd trade one way or the other just yet.

              It will be interesting to see Pickett after a full pre-season, he can do some amazing stuff and has plenty of speed but just can’t do it for long enough but even if he is a bust Marchbank warrants the price paid.

              • Roar Guru

                July 12th 2017 @ 3:25pm
                Pumping Dougie said | July 12th 2017 @ 3:25pm | ! Report

                Agree Marchbank probably warrants the price, although it’s hard to figure out exactly what that was. (I think it’s Pickett, Marchbank and 2017 2nd rounder [currently pick 34?] to Carlton in exchange for 2017 1st rounder [currently pick 3?] and a couple of 3rd rounders.)

              • July 12th 2017 @ 3:29pm
                Macca said | July 12th 2017 @ 3:29pm | ! Report

                Not quite Dougie – we have our first rounder but we traded Geelongs 2017 first rounder

                It was effectively 3 trades;
                Trade 1: Zach Tuohy and a future 2017 second-round pick was traded to Geelong for Billie Smedts, the Cats’ future 2017 first-round pick and pick 63 in this year’s draft.

                Trade 2: Future first-round pick (secured via the Tuohy deal) along with picks 45 and 58 were traded to GWS in exchange for Caleb Marchbank, Jarrod Pickett and GWS’ future second-round pick.

                Trade 3: On-traded GWS’ future second-round pick to Hawthorn in exchange for picks 48, 66 and 70

              • Roar Guru

                July 12th 2017 @ 3:47pm
                Pumping Dougie said | July 12th 2017 @ 3:47pm | ! Report

                So that’s currently pick 16 instead of pick 3, plus two 3rd rounders, effectively given-up for Marchbank, Pickett and pick 34, . Even better for Carlton.

      • July 12th 2017 @ 3:36pm
        Mark said | July 12th 2017 @ 3:36pm | ! Report

        Watching your team play like absolute pea hearts in round 12 goes a long way. Has JJ recovered yet? Fair enough too, playing on that superstar …Hewett.

        • Roar Guru

          July 12th 2017 @ 3:52pm
          Pumping Dougie said | July 12th 2017 @ 3:52pm | ! Report

          Hee, hee … glad you got some consolation for the grand final loss by winning one of our two H&A matches this year, Mark. You win some, you lose some. Well done on your recovery from a 0-6 start to the season, the Swans are back in town so cheer up!

          • July 12th 2017 @ 4:26pm
            Mark said | July 12th 2017 @ 4:26pm | ! Report

            Nice try with the backhanded compliment. We were 0-6 and will play finals.
            You won’t, just in case you were wondering 🙂

            • Roar Guru

              July 12th 2017 @ 4:54pm
              Pumping Dougie said | July 12th 2017 @ 4:54pm | ! Report

              Exactly – great recovery – so cheer up. (Good to see you’ve found a happy face now.)

    • July 12th 2017 @ 9:01am
      me too said | July 12th 2017 @ 9:01am | ! Report

      The planets aligned perfectly last year – the pre-finals break, the end of the hawks era, no other team really standing up bar an inexperienced giants, unbelievably favourable umpiring, both good and ordinary players hitting career highest form at the perfect time, star opponents getting injured during games. they were the leceister city miracle of the AFL. It happens, but never two years in a row. they won’t be back.

      • July 12th 2017 @ 10:05am
        Geoff Schaefer said | July 12th 2017 @ 10:05am | ! Report

        I agree Me Too. The planets aligned perfectly at the right end of the season. Much as they did for Adelaide in 97 and remarkably again in 97. But then finished 11th in 99. They are where they are this year because several other teams have improved whilst they have stagnated. Last year’s flag was great, but I think they’re where they should be and Ryan is letting statistics blind him by the obvious.

      • July 12th 2017 @ 11:41am
        Chris said | July 12th 2017 @ 11:41am | ! Report

        Agree 100% with that. I’ve seen them play really good footy once this year, the game they lost against GWS. And that wasn’t even 4 quarters of good footy, they were still ordinary at times. Even in 2016, outside of the finals series they were only a mid-table team. Their 2nd half of the season form was average in particular.

        I think their list is incredibly over-rated. Just because the list is young doesn’t mean they’re going to be good in a couple of years. Most of those “young” players are midfielders who are already 21yo+, so for midfielders we’ve usually got a good idea by now whether they’re topliners. Most look to be B/C graders who were made to look better than they were by the game style they were allowed to play last year. How many can go on to be A-graders?? All the key positions are lacking in A-grade talent and there’s only 1 obvious A-grade midfielder.

        They might get lucky with a few of these guys or recruiting. But, I suspect they’ll be like Port have the last few years – Really good 1 year, then down for a couple before a resurgence once some of the holes have been filled in a couple of years time. In fact, the similarities are uncanny.

        I certainly wouldn’t be buying into any Dogs stocks for 2018 though.

    • July 12th 2017 @ 9:48am
      I ate pies said | July 12th 2017 @ 9:48am | ! Report

      Plenty of optimism there Ryan. Those contested possession differentials were out of this world, and go a long way to explaining why they did so well with free kicks; first to the ball and all that.
      The backline is a big cause for concern – we should have thrown the kitchen sink at Steven May while he was uncontracted. When Boydy is back the forwardline will be fine.
      I’m looking forward to seeing what Beveridge does with the gameplan over the offseason – clearly it needs to be refined to allow a more functioning forwardline, and it’s not something that can be done during the season.

    • July 12th 2017 @ 10:00am
      Mattician6x6 said | July 12th 2017 @ 10:00am | ! Report

      Great article, over coming years things do look up at the bullies, cheers for mentioning how hard it is to even make a grand final, it’s a fact that is lost on most.

    • July 12th 2017 @ 10:00am
      michael said | July 12th 2017 @ 10:00am | ! Report

      Sick of the constant complaining about the umpires by snow flake Sydney swans supporters they have a bloody nerve for how long have they had the run of the green from the afl

      • July 12th 2017 @ 11:33am
        I ate pies said | July 12th 2017 @ 11:33am | ! Report

        If they were that concerned with umpiring you’d think they’d complain about the decade of one-sided free kick counts to West Coast at home. Alas, umpiring is only an issue when they lose.

      • July 12th 2017 @ 3:59pm
        Mark said | July 12th 2017 @ 3:59pm | ! Report

        Like a trade ban for no reason?
        Neck up parrot.

        • Roar Guru

          July 12th 2017 @ 4:08pm
          Cat said | July 12th 2017 @ 4:08pm | ! Report

          You mean the trade ban Sydney chose over having the same salary cap as the rest of the established clubs?

          • July 12th 2017 @ 4:29pm
            Mark said | July 12th 2017 @ 4:29pm | ! Report

            The one that was already worked into contracts?
            No problem having it taken away, do have a problem shifting the goalposts because we pulled off the signing of the century and it upset the powers that be.

            • Roar Guru

              July 12th 2017 @ 5:06pm
              Cat said | July 12th 2017 @ 5:06pm | ! Report

              Rules change all the time. Nothing new.

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