Western Bulldogs boffins spent a long time after the devastating finals exit contemplating their next roster moves to get up the ladder four seasons after winning the club’s first flag of the AFL era.
They were among the most cagey of all clubs, first announcing Tory Dickson’s retirement, then announcing delistings in increments as they searched for ways to carry out their recruitment ambitions while trying to work out how to use their draft capital without spending the points needed to match a bid on their prize next generation academy prospect.
The Bulldogs remained quiet until the second week of the trade period, although they were being mentioned all over the media on connection to the Adam Treloar saga, so it was intriguing to see them pull off their trades in quick succession.
First they got Mitch Hannan across from the Demons for a future third-round pick and then offered Lachie Young in a three-way trade that saw Brisbane get Pick 63 and North get Young and Pick 70 in exchange for the Bulldogs getting Stef Martin.
So with their delistings finalised and four list spots to fill, the Bulldogs went into trade negotiations with Collingwood to extract Adam Treloar and enough draft value index points to match a potential bid at Pick 1 with their 2020 first-rounder and future picks on the table.
Having shown their hand, the Pies traded away Picks 26, 33 and 42 with their unwanted player in exchange for Pick 14 and a future second-rounder, which means that if the Dogs finish in the top four, they’ll have got Treloar for essentially nothing except his vastly reduced salary and a five-year commitment, although the Pies banking the future second represents points towards Nick Daicos.
What this trade table aggression was all in aid of was securing Jamarra Ugle-Hagan when a bid came for him, which as it eventuated came off the top, and the Doggies matched it easily, securing the consensus No. 1 and future star forward.
The leftover points from matching the bid at Pick 1 gave the Dogs Pick 66 – which came in at Pick 55 due to the 12 bids being matched, eliminating 23 picks from the board – where they picked up Dominic Bedendo from the Murray Bushrangers before passing out of the national draft.
Lachlan McNeill capped off a dream season with Woodville-West Torrens, winning the SANFL premiership and collecting the accolade of a breakthrough player on his way to being chosen at Pick 11 in the mini-draft a year after being altogether overlooked.
Hannan is a returning son of the west, having played in their VFL Premiership in 2016 and being immediately drafted by the Demons as a then 23-year-old mature ager, where he played 50 games for 55 goals and 26 goal assists. He’s a medium-tall forward who fits a list need but may end up being a depth player.
Martin is entering his twilight as a ruckman, yet it is very clear that Tim English needs to be brought along with far more support and the longer games will suit a Richmond-style dual ruck approach to give the advantage to the talent-brimming Dogs midfield.
Treloar is the accumulator that the Bulldogs have been waiting for and he’ll join a midfield that on its day is the match of any in the AFL, so it is just crazy to think what they’ll be like in a couple of years with the synergy that big games bring, but he could be like Lachie Neale at the Lions and just take them to the next level.
Ugle-Hagan is the second Oakleigh Chargers AFL draft No. 1 in a row, with 13 coming from the junior club in the past two years and ten from their grand final winning team. He’s used to being given Rolls Royce delivery into inside 50, which you’d expect with the Dogs midfielders to be able to replicate. The only question is how they fit so many key talls into the team.
Bedendo is purely a project player who had a promising bottom-age year but needs to develop into a competitive body shape in order to play at a senior level. He has the athletic potential and ability, but as with many of these Victorian 18-year-olds, there’s much to do beforehand and he’ll be better for a couple of seasons of NEVFL.
McNeill is a ready-to-go midfielder who can play inside or outside mid and has had a full season in the SANFL behind him after being passed over in his initial draft year. He will start behind a stacked group in the middle, as to be expected with one of the deepest lists in the AFL, but a debut may take some time.
The Western Bulldogs have been true to their song, coming out of the post-season snarling, but fans are more interested to see whether their bite can match their roar.