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The comprehensive end-of-year review: Western Bulldogs

Marcus Bontempelli. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
Roar Guru
25th November, 2018
13

This is the 18th of 19 articles looking at the meta-results for both team and players, as collected from ELO-Following Football’s wide range of sources.

Finally, the Western Bulldogs.

Back in 2017

The team finished tenth with a home-and-away record of 11-11 with a percentage of 97. The year before, they earned grace with their fans with their miracle run through four finals upsets to their first flag since Footscray back in 1954.

The expectations for the team

The consensus was a ninth-place finish, with surprisingly few placing them as low as they finished. The exception was, ahem, me: my prediction in this publication back in March had them finishing in 13th place. In the interest of honesty, it was the only one I picked exactly right.

Coming into the season, the player who was considered to be in the top 50 in the league by the AFLPA or The Roar was Marcus Bontempelli (top 15). That was it.

So much for the amazing young roster we looked at in 2016 and thought would dominate for years to come.

In 2018, the team finished

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13th with a home-and-away record of 8-14 and a percentage of 77. But the last two teams that finished thirteenth went to the Grand Final the next year – Richmond won it after landing 13th in 2016, and Collingwood came agonisingly close after being 13th in 2017.

It’s been…

Over two years since the Bulldogs last won a flag. Yes, the clock has started ticking again.

It’s been nine years since they earned a double chance (fourth place in 2010). They actually finished higher in 2015 (sixth) than they did in their premiership season of 2016.

According to our patented “ELO-Following Football” rating system, the team’s rating this season started at 45 (in 13th) and followed a vague trend downwards towards their season low of 24 after their dismal five-goal performance in Round 19.

Their rating went up as they put a little burst on at season’s end, finishing their season back where they started: 13th, with a rating of 39.7.

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Every other system had the Bulldogs 14th, behind Brisbane. Ours places the Lions at 39.5, two tenths below the Doggies.

Across the spectrum game-by-game expectations

Final record: 8-14, 77.3%.
Betting Line expectations: Favored only five times, a record of 5-17. They also went just 8-14 against the spread, tied for lowest in the league.
ELO-Following Football forecasts: We also had them picked at 5-17.
AFL.com.au game predictions: 6-16.
The Roar predictions: The Roar prognosticators only favoured the Dogs four times, expecting them to go 4-18. The individual picks summed to 23-98.
“Pick-A-Winner” predictions: 4.5 wins, 17.5 losses.
The Age forecasters: 6-16; individuals went for the Bulldogs 72 times and against them 192 times.
BetEasy “CrowdBet” percentages: 5-17.

My own game-by-game predictions had them at 5-17.

What was their best game of the season?

Arguably, they finished the season with their most impressive game of 2018, even in defeat.

Against a team with a 20-game winning streak at the MCG in progress, the Bulldogs played like Bullgods. They aggressively took Richmond to task at their own fast-paced, play-on style of football and coming within a difficult set-shot of upsetting the minor premiers, losing 98-95 in their final game of 2018.

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It would be tantalising to say that following three good-looking victories against the Saints, Kangaroos, and Blues in Round 20-22, the four August games as a whole were the start of an excellent 2019-season-to be.

If you insist on a win for your best game, the 103-101 victory over Geelong in Round 15, where Harry Taylor pushed a game-winning set shot, would be a great candidate.

Which game would they most like to erase from memory?

Round 9’s slogfest in the Adelaide Oval. While the poor play on both sides was forgivable in extreme conditions was forgivable, the truth is that the Crows managed to produce 9.9, despite both weather and missing nine of their best players that night.

Meanwhile, Beveridge’s boys managed to guide only two of their 16 scoring shots between the big pipes, producing their first sub-three goal game in over 50 years.

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If we were to speak of the club in as many words as they had wins in 2018

“How long can they savour that one flag?”

Meta-player of the year results

1. Jack Macrae – 390 points (9th overall)
Best & Fairest finish: Second (to my complete surprise). Received 14 Brownlow votes, most on the club.
Last year’s result: Second (36th overall).
Notable games: Two dominant games (Round 7-8), four prominent games (Round 6, Round 19, Round 21, Round 23), and four notable games (Round 2-3, Round 9, Round 20).
All-Australian 40-man roster. ELO-FF Top 22. First team midfielder.

2. Marcus Bontempelli – 273 points (28th overall)
Best & Fairest finish: Third. Equal second with nine Brownlow votes.
Last year’s result: First in 2017 (9th overall) and 2016 (5th overall).
Notable games: One dominant game (Round 21), three prominent games (Round 6, Round 8, and Round 22), and one notable game (Round 13).

Marcus Bontempelli Western Bulldogs AFL 2017

2016’s premiers were 2017 and 2018 non-finalists. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

3. Lachie Hunter – 199 points (55th overall)
Best & Fairest finish: First (to my complete surprise). Equal second on the club with nine Brownlow votes.
Last year’s result: Fifth (105th overall). Second (32nd overall) in 2016.
Notable games: Two prominent games (Round 3 and Round 21) and two notable games (Round 2 and Round 22).

4. Toby McLean – 118 points (93rd overall)
Best & Fairest finish: Ninth.
Last year’s result: Seventh (163rd overall).
Notable games: One prominent game, in Round 3, and two notable games, in Round 7-8.

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5. Josh Dunkley – 115 points (97th overall)
Best & Fairest finish: Fifth. Fourth in Brownlow votes with four.
Last year’s result: 30th
Notable games: One prominent game (Round 22) and two notable games (in Round 15 and Round 20).

6. Jason Johannisen – 114 points (98th overall)
Best & Fairest finish: Sixth. Received three Brownlow votes, good for fifth on the team.
Last year’s result: Third (65th overall); fourth (68th overall) in 2016.
Notable games: One dominant game (Round 20).

7. Luke Dahlhaus – 75 points (183rd overall)
Best & Fairest finish: not in top ten
Last year’s result: Fourth (95th overall); fifth in 2016 (69th overall).
Notable games: One notable game, in Round 15.

8. Matt Suckling – 64 points (201st overall)
Best & Fairest finish: not in top ten.
Last year’s result: 13th
Notable games: One notable game (Round 4).

9. Caleb Daniel – 60 points (208th overall)
Best & Fairest finish: Sixth.
Last year’s result: Eighth (164th overall).
Notable games: One notable game, in Round 21.

Caleb Daniel Western Bulldogs AFL 2017

Tom Liberatore and Caleb Daniel of the Bulldogs celebrate. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

10. Hayden Crozier – 57 points (223rd overall)
Best & Fairest finish: Eighth.
Last year’s result: 16th.
Notable games: One notable game, in Round 14.

The Bulldogs had six top 100 players and seven top 200 players in the 2018 ELO-FF meta-rankings. Averages would be 5½ and 11, respectively.

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Honourable mentions
Billy Gowers – 53 points (11th place) – One notable game, in Round 14.
Aaron Naughton – 43 points (equal 12th place) – Fourth in Best & Fairest voting.
Bailey Williams – 43 points (equal 12th place) – Tenth in Best & Fairest voting; also, one notable game (Round 3).

Player movement during the trade period

In: Taylor Duryea (from Hawthorn), Sam Lloyd (from Richmond).
Gone: Marcus Adams, Luke Dalhaus, Jordan Roughead. If this is a wash, Dog fans will be happy.
Current list of draft picks: 7, 27, 32, 45, 63, 75, 82.

2019 list highlights

Backs: Zaine Cordy, Hayden Crozier, Brad Lynch, Dale Morris, Aaron Naughton, Bailey Williams, Easton Wood, Lewis Young.
Midfielders: Marcus Bontempelli, Josh Dunkley, Mitch Honeychurch, Lachie Hunter, Jason Johannisen, Lin Jong, Tom Libertore, Patrick Lipinski, Jack Macrae, Matt Suckling, Mitch Wallis.
Rucks: Tim English.
Forwards: Tom Boyd, Bailey Dale, Caleb Daniel, Tory Dickson, Billy Gowers, Toby McLean, Liam Picken, Ed Richards, Josh Schache, Jackson Trengove.

Forecast for 2019

In 2016, the favourite phrase in the footy community was that the Bulldogs were everyone’s second-favourite team, meaning they were lovable and you’d probably root for them from a soft spot in your heart as long as they weren’t playing against your club that week.

If you weren’t a Sydney fan, you were probably happy to have them win that last Saturday in September, right?

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So it would be nice if we could tell you that the Doggies would be the next in the leap-frog procession of 13th place teams, and they’ll follow in the footsteps of Richmond and Collingwood to make the Grand Final in 2019.

Sorry. Can’t do it.

We see them struggling to move up the ladder – who will they pass? Fremantle made more progress than they did during the trade period. The top twelve teams in 2018 were quite a way above the Dogs last year, and there isn’t much reason to suggest Footscray leapt over that chasm since we last saw them take the field.

So we’re slotting them behind those top twelve and Fremantle, and predicting a 14th place finish for the Western Bulldogs in 2019.