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  1. #1
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    Oct 2007
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    Western Bulldogs are hunting for answers

    http://www.theage.com.au/afl/afl-new...26-gwe0ra.html

    Is this the year of the long slow deception? Are the Bulldogs reprising last year and flattering to deceive, or have they genuinely fallen away?

    The Dogs play St Kilda on Saturday eighth plays ninth and the idea of whether change and a fall is real or imagined will be examined in one game.

    True, the Dogs could and should be untroubled by sitting in eighth when last year they won the flag from seventh place, but it was a handsome seventh they won 15 games. Fourth-placed Hawthorn only won one more game than them.

    Last year the Dogs won the close ones. They won five games by under 10 points and only lost one game by a small margin to Hawthorn by three points in round three. This year again they have won close ones (over North and Richmond) but they have now lost two close ones (to the Eagles and GWS).


    But who have they beaten? Only one of their five wins was against a side in the top eight and that was Richmond who, should they lose to Essendon, will finish this round out of the eight. In that context, Geelong was a disappointing loss, even if in the broader context that it took Dangerfield and Selwood brilliance, it was at inhospitable Kardinia Park and Harry Taylor booted a bag for the first time all year to beat them is some comfort.

    The most glaring difference between the Bulldogs of this year and the Dogs of last year is that they have fallen away in the things that defined them.

    The Bulldogs were the top-ranked side for contested possessions last year and now they are eighth. Their game was predicated on winning the ball first then getting it outside and running the pants off the other team. So not only were they top ranked for contested possessions and clearances, they were top ranked for uncontested possessions. That is, once they won the ball they shared it around and hung on to it.

    Their clearances differential last year was No.1 they won more clearances than their opposition in games last year. Their contested and uncontested possession differentials were top ranked. All of these are now mid-table.

    Which tells you that they are not winning the ball as they did last year.

    This can be put down to two things. One, Tom Liberatore has been missing. He was down on form and then dropped.

    Luke Beveridge admitted that he was out of condition and dispatched him until he lifts.

    The second thing is that Jordan Roughead has been missing. Of all the injuries they endured last year, none was as structurally destabilising as Roughead being out this year has been.

    A coach at another club said the Bulldogs' clearance dominance was critically important to their success last year and so the injury to Roughead and the loss of Liberatore was vitally important.

    "If they are winning more clearances and then getting better field position, the opposition then have to defend in the middle of the ground more, which is harder to do. Once the Dogs have field position they are very hard to defend," the coach said.

    Another coach observed: "Libba has gone backwards. For whatever reason he came back out of condition and he was that player who gives them bite and drive. Wallis back in helps them and Libba will come back but you don't have to be far off in this competition to be hurt.

    "[Dale] Morris and [Matthew] Boyd out this year hurts them because they never had great tall defenders, they had [Joel] Hamling and Fletcher Roberts. They are good players but not great, but they had Morris and Boyd next to them and they are elite."

    Roughead has not played a senior game this year. Dale Morris has played only two games. Matthew Boyd has missed two. Admittedly offsetting their absences has been the bolstering return of Bob Murphy.

    The Bulldogs won the flag without a conventional forward line. They found something that worked and it worked spectacularly well, but it felt like it was unlikely to last.

    Last year they were ranked second best in the differential for taking the ball forward but only mid-table for turning that into a score. Indeed at the end of the season they finished seventh on the ladder but 11 other sides scored more points than them for the year.

    So they needed to address their scoring potency. That was OK because they knew they had Stewart Crameri coming back from suspension and they recruited Travis Cloke to be the sort of key target they craved.

    Crameri is now out for the year with a hip problem and Cloke has been dropped after underwhelming performances. (His ill-timed 50-metre penalty last week was more damaging than any of his forward line possessions. So the price was paid by both the team and the player: they lost the game, he was dropped.)

    Now the Dogs are back to square one in their forward set-up, which is not necessarily a bad place to be (they won a flag from square one last year). And on the plus side Jake Stringer is playing better and they will debut Tim English, who might be light but has enormous promise.

    Maybe the injuries, the changes, the form is all secondary to the more simple yet intangible idea that they have gone from hunter to hunted. Weekly now they deal with sides getting up to play against the reigning premiers.

    The Saints will be hunting. Hunting the Dogs, hunting a place in the eight. The Dogs will be hunting for their own answers.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
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    Re: Western Bulldogs are hunting for answers

    The season is still young. Yes Libba is significantly down in form and yes his extraction skills are critical. But he can get better in the second half and there's plenty of time before the finals for him to do that. Wallis’ return also is a bonus in the extraction department. Roughie is returning so ditto for him Plus we beat the Saints by 40 pts so whilst this article is fair enough in its estimate of factors that are so far not as good as last year, the factors are not necessarily ongoing and should lesson as Libba, Roughie and the side get better.
    Moreover we have Stringer getting better and big potential for our young team to meld better and improve their skills over and above last years level.
    I wept from seeing greatness. Bontempelli was Royce Hart at his best, full of grace, intertwining his ballet seamlessly into a game of football.

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