Luke Beveridge is contracted as Western Bulldogs coach until the end of 2025, for reasons that defy comprehension.
He was extended beyond this season in December last year, having not only gone backwards in 2022 after a grand final in 2021, but after giving up a seven goal lead in an elimination final.
As it stands now the Dogs are right in the middle of no man’s land after losing to West Coast last Sunday, following on as it did from the loss to Hawthorn in Round 22. The Dogs were sitting in the eight after Round 21 and with finals on the line have lost to two of the bottom three teams.
The Dogs have got a history of choking under Beveridge late in the season. Let’s not forget 2021, when the Dogs were on top of the ladder after Round 20 only to lose to Essendon and Hawthorn again in the following two rounds, to end up missing the top four.
Yes, they were able to still make a grand final from fifth position on the ladder, but that’s a snake charmer’s way out. There’s no doubt Beveridge is the master smoke and mirrors coach of our time, swindling his way to a decade long coaching career.
Coaching the Dogs to a premiership in 2016 seems to have given Beveridge the keys to the city and while only six players remain on the list from that flag, another six are plying their trade elsewhere in the AFL – Jake Stringer, Josh Dunkley and Lachie Hunter couldn’t wait to get out of the joint after being mismanaged, while Zaine Cordy, Jordan Roughead and Joel Hamling were all surplus to requirements as key position defenders, despite the Dogs being hardly over endowed in that area.
Jack Macrae is the latest player to get “Bevo’d”, taken out of the primarily centre square role that made him a three time All Australian, and shunted out to play as a forward with spells rotating in the middle. Macrae has looked disinterested at stages this season, and has clearly not taken the change well.
Bailey Smith is another player that has been a shell of themselves this year. Can it really be less than 24 months since was kicking four goals in a prelim and three in a semi final, breaking lines as one of the most exciting young players in the competition? His form has gotten worse the longer the season has gone, amid suggestions that he will be looking for a new home this off-season.
In his time at the Dogs, Beveridge has had as much access to top end talent as any coach in the league, and does to this day.
Marcus Bontempelli is rated by many as the best player in the game. Tom Liberatore is seen as the best pure clearance player. Tim English is certainly in the conversation as the best ruckman, and may well be the All Australian ruck this year. Aaron Naughton would command $1M a season on the open market. Cody Weightman is as good as any small forward in the game.
We’ve already mentioned Macrae and Smith. Bailey Dale and Caleb Daniel are All Australians. Adam Treloar has been in the AA squad three times. Plus due to the vagaries of the AFL Academy system and the father-son rules, the Dogs have been gifted a #1 and #2 draft pick in the last three years, with Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Sam Darcy respectively.
That is more than half a team worth of the most elite talent there is. Yet, when it comes to coaching this talent day in, day out, and week in, week out, Beveridge has never done better than middle of the road.
And this year in particular, so many lesser lights or lower tier players have either stagnated or gone backwards. Laitham Vandermeer is the first that comes to mind. Alex Keath and Ryan Gardner down back. Josh Bruce is nowhere, and Rory Lobb was always going to be a waste of time. Anthony Scott adds very little, and Lachie McNeil even less.
In nine seasons, Beveridge has never coached the Dogs to a top four finish on the ladder. He’s had them 6th, 7th, 10th, 13th, 7th, 7th, 5th, 8th, and they currently sit 9th with one game to go, and can only finish as high as 8th.
They are essentially North Melbourne under Brad Scott for a decade, except the Dogs were able to get lucky in a finals series or two, and with far more talent than Scott ever had access to at the Kangaroos.
Winning a flag covers all manner of sins, and especially so for a situation like the Dogs were in, with only one premiership in their history when Beveridge arrived at the club.
But the Bulldogs are going nowhere with Beveridge at the helm, and it’s time to cut ties. Presumably they can’t afford to cut him now after ridiculously extending him, and will have to ride it out.
In 2018, I asked whether Beveridge was a fraud that got lucky, whose bag of tricks had no magic left in it, and the question still stands.
Clubs are extremely patient these days, whereas it may pay to do some good old-fashioned bloodletting. Something is wrong at the Dogs under Beveridge, and has been for a while. We can only look at the top. The fish rots from the head.