Luke Beveridge is a snake charmer. A con artist. A charlatan.
After their 82-point loss at the hands of GWS, the Bulldogs season is over. That’s beyond doubt. The question now becomes how long Beveridge has left at the helm.
Premiership coaches get all manner of leniency in the aftermath, and in many respects this is fair enough. Mark Williams at Port Adelaide was really the last flag-winning coach to be shown the door in a messy departure.
Of course, much of this is tongue-in-cheek, but people are entitled to ask questions of Beveridge. It seems he has coached his team into a hot mess of ineffectiveness.
It wasn’t just the size of the loss to the Giants, but the nature of it. In the middle two quarters, the Dogs were powerless to stop GWS piling on 13 goals, while only kicking two themselves.
The disorganisation of the Dogs on the field in this period was astounding for a Round 1 performance given teams are coming off months of preparation.
GWS are replete with tall forwards. Jeremy Cameron kicked six goals. Jonathon Patton kicked two but could have had a few more. Harrison Himmelberg was up there. Adam Tomlinson floated down. Rory Lobb could have, but spend his time mainly in the ruck.
The Bulldogs had plenty of tall backmen in the side. In fact, arguably more than any other team this weekend. Premiership players Zaine Cordy, Fletcher Roberts, Jordan Roughead were in the team, each of which has played their best football in a key defensive post. Easton Wood is a renowned intercept marker who plays taller than he is at half-back. Jackson Trengove was another key defender out there for the Dogs. Aaron Naughton was on debut.
Yet, many of these players weren’t used in defence. Wood was wasting away up forward as a round peg in a square hole, in a bewildering tactic made all the more so by how undermining it is for the captain.
No-one could tell where Trengove was playing, so absent was he. Roughead was in the ruck, and resting forward.
Meanwhile, frequently the Giants drove the ball forward to see Shane Biggs standing Patton or Bailey Williams covering Cameron.
From his first day in charge Beveridge has preached versatility, and while it can be important in the modern game, it has been overdone at the Dogs.
While last year was blamed on a premiership hangover, it could also easily have been a loss of confidence among the playing group as they were switched around within the side, never being able to settle in their best position.
Beveridge also rings the changes at selection more than any other club. In a team playing well, this adds a hungry edge. In a team struggling to recapture their mojo, it breeds uncertainty, fear and conservatism.
There are no credits earned at the Bulldogs. Caleb Daniel finished top five in the best and fairest in 2017, but didn’t make the senior side in Round 1. Wood finished a spot above him and is currently being punished as the most unnatural forward in the game. Mitch Wallis was the most contested player at the Dogs in the second half of last year, returning bravely from a broken leg, but it counts for nothing in the mind of Beveridge. No spot for you.
The Dogs lining up as they did had the worst forward six of any team on the weekend (when they had anyone in their forward half at all, that is). The match was barely a minute old and there was nothing but emptiness up forward when they tried to drive the ball in from the outer wing.
Excluding the Gold Coast / North Melbourne game played in torrential conditions in Cairns, only Fremantle was worse at converting inside 50s to scoring shots than the Dogs across Round 1, and the Dockers problems up forward have long been documented.
This is going to happen when you have backmen playing up forward, and your most dangerous forward prospects on the day were a first-gamer and third-gamer respectively. Meanwhile, out-and-out key forwards Tom Boyd and Josh Schache also couldn’t get a game, left to wonder where they are at in their careers.
The Bulldogs fielded the youngest side in the competition in Round 1, which puts the result against the Giants into some perspective. But if the rebuild is on, why not commit to playing Boyd and Schache? At 22 and 20, they are the future.
The Dogs lost confidence the longer 2017 went on. They’ve started 2018 in an even worse state, and it will be even harder to come back from. Beveridge must understand that throwing the magnets around and forcing his players into unnatural roles is stunting their development, not enhancing it.
Is Luke Beveridge the genius coach he appeared in 2015 and 2016? Or is he nothing more than a fraud that got lucky, whose bag of tricks has no magic left in it? There’s 22 home-and-away rounds left this season. Let’s find out.