With the defection of their club captain, Ryan Griffen, to the Giants at the end of 2014 and the loss of Tom Liberatore with a ruptured ACL during the preseason, the Western Bulldogs were third favourite for the wooden spoon at the start of the 2015 season.
Who could have predicted what would happen next?
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, first time head coach Luke Beveridge resurrected the Doggies season immediately. Playing scintillating, fast football, the Doggies defeated West Coast, Richmond, Adelaide and Sydney in the first five rounds to announce their arrival to the league. Like the Eagles, they covered an undersized back-line with team defence allowing mid-sized defenders like Wood, Murphy and Boyd to outpoint their taller rivals.
As expected from a young side, they suffered some heavy losses and surprising upsets, but still managed 14 wins and 8 losses for the year, compared with 7 wins and 15 losses in 2014.
Unfortunately after a wonderfully entertaining shoot-out at the MCG, their season ended with a close and disappointing loss to Adelaide in the Elimination Final.
From a fan of free-flowing football, I say a big “Thanks” to the Doggies for a season of beautiful football! Don’t ever change!
Western Bulldogs fans, please set me straight: I found this difficult as your team has so much depth!
B: Dale Morris, Fletcher Roberts, Robert Murphy
HB: Easton Wood, Joel Hamling, Matthew Boyd
C: Jason Johanissen, Tom Liberatore, Jack Macrae
HF: Luke Dahlhaus, Stewart Crameri, Matt Suckling,
F: Tory Dickson, Tom Boyd, Jake Stringer
Foll: Jordan Roughead, Mitch Wallis, Marcus Bontempelli
I/C: Lachie Hunter, Liam Picken, Koby Stevens, Toby McLean
Fringe: Marcus Adams, Kieran Collins, Zaine Cordy, Shane Biggs, Jed Adcock, Jack Redpath, Lin Jong, Will Minson
The Doggies had the 18th hardest draw in 2015 and have been given the 12th hardest draw in 2016. Considering they finished seventh in 2015, that is surely a win and gives them a chance to consolidate the improvement they made last season.
In fact, why just consolidate, why not push for the top 4?
The Western Bulldogs’ list is filled with young talent that has yet to reach its peak, so why can’t they climb the ladder further? What’s holding them back?
Probably the lack of a dominant tall defender, tall forward and established ruckman! New draftees Adams and Collins will be asked to help hold down a defensive post, a tough task in their first season in the AFL. Up forward the loss of Crameri will place more pressure on Redpath or million dollar baby, Boyd, and the jury is out as whether they can stand up. Roughead as a ruckman is an unknown quantity and Will Minson is surprisingly out of favour.
So with all of that negativity, what hope have they?
Well, when your team is studded with future stars like the Bont, Stringer, Wallis, Macrae, Hunter, Dahlhaus and new recruit Tom Liberatore how important are tall forwards and defenders? The ball will be moving forwards more often than backwards and Dickson and Stringer have proven they can kick bags of goals. Even if they don’t surely Boyd and Redpath will get better (Boyd can’t really get worse).
Either way, fans of football should enjoy the ride!Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
DO YOU RISK IT FOR THE BISCUIT?
Matthew Boyd – D – $560,900
2015 Av. 104 from 18 games.
Past: 98, 104, 113, 116, 106
Vest: subbed in Q4 of round 18 (Essendon)
2015: Playing as a permanent defender for the first time, Boyd averaged 28 possessions per game, only managing less than 20 disposals once in the entire year (19 versus Geelong in round 19). Due to the role change, Boyd’s tackle count dropped to only 2 per game but he increased his average marks per game from 4 in 2014 to 8 in 2015. The only drawback to his year was the four missed games, mainly due to general soreness.
PROs: This is an odd pro, but he lacks pace and penetration with his kicking so he tends to get left alone to win a heap of the ball. Given his midfield prowess, it’s hardly surprisingly how good he is at reading the play and winning intercept possessions.
CONs: As in 2015 he will cop the dreaded “General Soreness” several times. In addition he has the odd game where his kicking can let him down and affect his SC scoring.
Verdict: If you’re happy with a gun defender playing 18 games (ie; you have bench cover), go for it!
Jackson Macrae – M – $539,100
2015 Av. 99.9 from 20 games.
Past: 100, 61
2015: Playing on the wing, Macrae produced a very similar season to 2014, again averaging 27 possessions per game. He was briefly dropped to the VFL in rounds 7 and 8 after a brief lean patch but he held his spot until the end of the year from round 9 onwards.
PROs: He’s a ball magnet entering his fourth year so he’s likely to improve again.
CONs: Due to his outside role, he is more suited to the Dreamteam than the Supercoach scoring system.
Verdict: He’s a gun who can get better but only select him if you play that silly Dreamteam game.
FLYING UNDER THE RADAR
Luke Dahlhaus – F/M – $563,600
2015 Av. 104.5 from 22 games.
Past: 92, 79, 84, 66
2015: Perhaps due to the ACL injury to Liberatore, Dahlhaus spent more time in the midfield than before which allowed him to collect a career high 26 possessions per game (12 contested), lay 5 tackles per game yet still kick 14 goals for the year. To top it off, he played every game and produced 12 tonnes and 5 scores over 90. Of the 5 scores under 90, only one was below 70, a 58 against Carlton in round 14 after copping a corked leg.
PROs: He’s durable, a consistent scorer, a great tackler and entering his sixth year.
CONs: A small question mark on what his role will be with so many midfielders at the Doggies. Does he spend more time forward with Libba back?
Verdict: He does it all and if he maintains his midfield time, jump on board. Surprisingly he hasn’t received much attention this preseason.Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
THE NEXT FYFE?
Marcus Bontempelli – M – $557,100
2015 Av. 103.2 from 20 games.
Past: 79 from 16 games in 2014
Vest: 1 Red, subbed off early in Q4 of round 9 (GWS).
2015: To start 2015 the Bont was on fire, with his first 2 games netting a combined 49 possessions and 20 tackles which added up to SC scores of 126 and 142. Unfortunately opposition coaches took notice and sent taggers or big bodied midfielders to watch him and his output dropped off slightly. His year was still remarkable for a second year player, averaging 21 possessions per game (half contested) and scoring 8 Supercoach tonnes in the regular season. Only twice did he score under 80, by far the worst being a 42 when tagged by Vince. He only once missed consecutive games with an adductor strain in rounds 10 and 11.
PROs: He’s the full package (not to be confused with Jake “the package” Stringer) who’s entering his third year and already averaging over 100. How good could he get?
CONs: He is so damaging he will likely receive a lot of defensive attention again.
Verdict: He offers less value than last year but he’s so great to watch, I’m tempted to risk him at M5!
DO YOURSELF A FAVOUR…
Tom Liberatore – M – $357,300
2015 Av. DNP
Past: 110, 107, 83, 75
2015: The year was ruined by a knee ACL injury in the preseason
PROs: He averaged 110 across 22 games in 2014. He averaged 107 across 22 games in 2013. He costs $357, 300! Enough said!
CONs: The only negative is the risk of complications following his knee reconstruction that may cause him to miss a game here or there.
Verdict: Do NOT risk it! Leave him for me. I’ll take the bullet for you!
THE ROLE CHANGE
Jordan Roughead – D – $347,400
2015 Av. 64.4 from 16 games.
Past: 61, 67, 66, 60, 52
Vest: 1 Red, subbed at HT in round 14 (Carlton)
2015: Roughead started as a defender until round 7, but after that he split his time between defence, the forward line and the ruck (50% according to Champion Data). As a defender he churned out regular scores in the 50s and 60s but as a ruckman he scored over 80 in 5 games out of 7. He did miss 7 games through foot, back and finger injuries.
PROs: It looks like he is the preferred ruckman at the Kennel. As a pure ruck he should comfortably average in the 80s, perhaps even 90s.
CONs: He’s injury prone and the Doggies have a strong ruckman in Minson waiting for an opportunity.
Verdict: If he’s guaranteed the #1 ruck mantle, he could be a steal in the back line.
NEW KID IN TOWN
Matthew Suckling – D/F – $396,500
2015 Av. 73.5 from 21 games.
Past: 77, 0 (knee ACL), 83, 91, 57, 56
Vests: 3 Green, on Q2 of round 13 (Ess), on Q4 of round 14 (Coll), on Q3 in the GF.
2015: Suckling’s form was erratic early for Hawthorn due to wayward kicking and a lack of defensive pressure. He amassed 23 or more disposals in 5 of his first 6 games but he didn’t come close to a SC century. Eventually Clarko lost patience with him and attempted to drop him in round 9, only for him to be a late inclusion for Lewis. Clarko also handed him the sub vest in round 13 and 14 and tried to drop him in round 19 only for him to replace the late withdrawal, Brian Lake. Suckling’s form improved a little in the semi-final and preliminary final but he was still made sub for the grand-final. The Bulldogs chased Suckling for his kicking prowess in the off-season and the Hawks’ faithful cheerfully waved good riddance.
PROs: The Bulldogs seem likely to play him on a wing, a role much more suited to Suckling’s lack of defensive ability and pace. On his day, he can kick goals from anywhere inside 60 metres of goal and he excels at hitting targets inside 50.
CONs: He’s just not quick enough and can be caught out defensively which may see him dropped or moved forward. He can go missing in high pressure games as his kicking requires time and space.
Verdict: The forward/back dual position eligibility is handy but he is unlikely to score over 80-85.
Lachlan Hunter – M – $415,500
2015 Av. 77 from 12 games.
Past: 60, 53
Vests: 4 green in the first half of the season. Subbed on late in Q3 in 3 of the games.
2015: The year started terribly for Hunter with a 4 week suspension for being late to training followed by a scandal when a VFL team-mate used his account to bet on a game. Luckily he avoided AFL sanction and eventually broke into the team in round 6. He was in and out of the side and copped 4 green vests from round 6 to round 16 but he finally managed to play consistently from round 17 onwards. That is when things became interesting for Supercoaches, with Lachie scoring 125, 120, 85, 104, 82, 121, 79 and 107 in an 8 week burst that would make most premium midfielders proud. He managed over 30 possessions in 4 of those games and didn’t drop below 20 possessions once during that run.
PROs: He’s a gun entering his fourth year and he finished 2015 strongly. Sounds like a break-out!
CONs: Suckling joining the team and Libba returning from injury will limit midfield spots.
Verdict: A forward (edit: midfielder only, thanks TDA) with midfielder stats – if he plays on a wing in the preseason you have to consider him.
KICKS BETTER THAN HIS FATHER
Josh Dunkley – M – $117,300
2016 National Draft #25
Who is he?
The son of former Swan, Andrew Dunkley, Josh had an interrupted 2015 due to back stress fractures so he didn’t settle into one team, instead playing a few games for Richmond’s VFL side, for Vic country and for the Gippsland Power in the TAC cup. He’s an inside mid who lacks pace but is a good overhead mark so he can play forward. Early reports from the Doggies are that he has trained well and impressed the coaches.
Verdict: Watch the NAB cup: he’s a good chance to play.
MATURE AGE RECRUIT
Marcus Adams – D/F – $117,300
2016 National Draft #35
A 21 year old hailing from West Perth, Adams had an outstanding year in 2015 playing as a key defender, finishing fourth in the B&F. Standing 193cm and 95 kg, Adams is surprisingly fast and agile and an excellent intercept mark, which lead to him being used forward at times as well.
Recent reports from the club indicate that he has impressed his coaches and team-mates and seems likely to play early games.
Verdict: If he can take his training form into the NAB cup, he’s one of the rookie defenders who may play early games this year.
SAY HELLO TO WEITERING’S LITTLE FRIEND
Kieran Collins – D – $117,300
National Draft #26
Everybody’s talking about his Dandenong Stingrays teammate, Weitering, but Collins had an impressive 2015 as well. He’s a monster, standing 193cm and 94kg at just age 18, but he also tested well in the Combine agility and clean hands tests. Despite his size, he improved his attacking play as the year progressed, running off his opponent more and more to help launch counter-attacks from defence. The only question will be how well he’ll adjust to playing against mature age (and size) forwards after pushing lightly built teenagers around in the TAC cup and U18 championships.
Verdict: The word is that the Doggies drafted he and Adams to free up Roughead so one of them should debut early.
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