http://www.canberratimes.com.au/afl/...19-gwtuv7.html

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I had the pleasure of sitting in a commentary box next to Luke Hodge on Friday night and listening to his views on various AFL topics.

One of his interesting insights came when he mentioned Tom Liberatore's decision to play a football game in Vietnam after the Bulldogs' grand final celebration. Liberatore's decision was a one-off and not overly significant. But to Hodge it spoke of a mindset, and reminded him of the effect success had on the Hawks after their 2008 victory, and how this was significantly different to their mindset after they won their next flag in 2013.

Few in the modern game would be able to contrast what it's like to win a flag with a young team versus what it's like to win one with on older team better than Hodge. After the Hawks' 2008 premiership, Hodge explained how their focus was on savouring their incredible achievement with plenty of celebrating, as is the natural reaction. However, it left some players coming back to training a little bit off fitness-wise.

The other component Hodge mentioned was that, as a younger side, the 2008 Hawks felt there was plenty of time for them to achieve premiership success again. However, when they won their next flag, in 2013, Hodge said the focus was immediately on coming back fitter next year so that they could experience success again. They were acutely aware of how hard it had been to earn success again after their initial breakthrough victory. It's an unnatural way to respond to such a significant achievement but, as history will show, winning back-to-back flags is an unnatural event.

Hodge isn't the only person to discuss the Bulldogs' slide in form this season. Some have labelled it as a premiership hangover, something Peter Gordon has taken exception to. In Saturday's Herald Sun, Gordon spoke about the "severe anxiety" he suffered during games last year, and that he was now trying to "sit back, enjoy a game and not be so anxious". However, he said this shouldn't be seen as him or anyone else at the club not caring as much as they have in the past.

All involved at the Western Bulldogs should be incredibly proud of what they achieved last year, but the reality is that somewhere else in the competition there are still people pacing the corridors, making themselves sick with fear that their premiership dream may not come true this year. They will be taking sport more seriously than it was ever intended to be taken, but they will be the ones celebrating at the end of the year, and at this stage it doesn't look like it will be the Bulldogs.

Other than young premiership teams finding it harder to negotiate the natural desire to be present after success rather than thinking about next pre-season's training, the other major hurdle they tackle that older teams don't is a lack of appreciation of the finite nature of time.

Older players know how long it has taken them to reach success; they can see their footballing mortality and have plenty of teammates who have already experienced theres. All of this sharpens their level of urgency about making next year as special as the current one.

An under-appreciation of time is not limited to young footballers. Admittedly, most people have limited flexibility over how they spend their working time, because of the financial needs of themselves and their family. However, of the people who can control how they spend their time, I'm forever amazed at the number who spend it in ways they don't enjoy.

Most people take far more time analysing a decision on where to spend their money, than they do analysing where they spend their time. Yet, later in life, I would imagine many of them would regret that.

Nobody embraced "possibility" more than the Bulldogs team of 2016, who conquered September when few thought they could. No one would be suggesting that they aren't trying this year or that they haven't played some football reminiscent of last year's form, but the Bulldogs' reactions to many of last year's events were unhuman.

The natural human reaction to breaking your back is to rest; instead, Dale Morris played last year's entire finals series with this ailment. They overcame the logical conclusion that teams which finish the year in seventh place or have an injured skipper don't win grand finals, and the players continued to sprint during games even though their minds would have been screaming at them to stop.

At the minute, they're playing against sides filled with players who fear that if they don't win and enjoy the success the Dogs already have, their footballing careers may lack meaning.

The challenge for the Dogs will be re-establishing why it means more to them than their opponents, which will then determine why they are willing to pay a bigger price for the win than their rivals each week.