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  1. #1
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    Early visual signs Western Bulldogs are back to their best

    Early visual signs Western Bulldogs are back to their best


    As proud as they are of the achievement, the Western Bulldogs keep distancing themselves from their 2016 premiership. After all, it’s a different playing list.
    But as they comprehensively overwhelmed the best team in the competition on Saturday night, it was hard not to think back to three years ago.

    The array of Bulldog jumpers around the footy at stoppages, the relentless defensive pressure that suffocated Geelong, the explosive run from defence that put a usually unflappable Cats backline under enormous heat — it had all the hallmarks, as much as the club will hate it, of a 2016-style Bulldogs performance.

    And all those traits have been a feature of the Bulldogs’ recent form spike, which has supporters hopeful of an unlikely finals push.

    Luke Beveridge’s men have won three of their past four games. But more importantly, it’s how they’ve played in those matches — even in the loss against Collingwood — that would excite their supporters the most and make rival clubs again wary of them.

    Gun wingman Lachie Hunter says the team has consistently ticked key performance indicators over the past few weeks due to a significant rise in confidence.

    “It’s always hard to judge coming off the back of that flag, whether or not people thought it came before our time. But then we had a lot of older people leave and we were right down the bottom and we were the youngest team every week for a couple of years there — but you’re still rated off the back of the premiership,” Hunter told Fox Footy’s AFL 360.

    “It was kind of hard to judge where we were at for a certain amount of time there, but we’re definitely now starting to gain some confidence in where we’re at as a side.”

    As to why the Bulldogs’ fortunes have changed in recent weeks, Hunter has played a significant role.

    The midfield brigade of Hunter, Marcus Bontempelli, Josh Dunkley and Jackson Macrae have been in stellar ball-winning form, averaging 27, 28, 33 and 37 disposals respectively over the past four weeks.

    When the Dogs won the flag in 2016, they averaged a league-high 410.8 disposals per game. Since their mid-season bye, they’ve racked up 390.8 touches per outing — ranked third. And that aforementioned star quartet is leading the way.

    But what would please coach Beveridge the most is what the midfield is doing without the ball and the overall team defence.

    According to Champion Data, the Bulldogs have been the No. 1 pressure side since Round 13, registering a pressure differential of +12.8. Also, their tackle differential during that period is +14.8 — ranked second in the AFL.

    And since Round 11, they’ve conceded an average of just 69.5 points per game — ranked seventh in the league. Rival teams averaged 72.9 points against the Dogs in their 2016 premiership year.

    Hunter agreed there were lots of “selfless” traits about the Bulldogs’ midfield.

    “I think that comes over time playing together,” Hunter said.

    “Once you’ve established yourself in the side, it gets to a certain point where it is more about the team. We’re at a level now where we’ve been playing together long enough that it is clearly about the team and that’s what we’re all playing for.”

    The skill, toughness and discipline of the Bulldogs’ on-ballers have also benefited teammates in the forward half.

    Club games record-holder Brad Johnson said it was a “big result” for the Bulldogs to dominate a Geelong defence widely regarded as the league’s best.

    “When they get their gun players coming out the front of the stoppage where they can access their forward line and their forwards can maintain some sort of positioning, they are a genuine threat to the opposition,” Johnson told the Fox Footy Podcast.

    “When they go around slow, the opposition in the past have been able to slow them down and control where and when the Bulldogs move the ball. That’s been a growth of the Bulldogs over this season, no doubt. They’re controlling that situation much better.”

    Specifically, the Bulldogs have got increases in output from Aaron Naughton, Josh Schache and Sam Lloyd on the scoreboard.

    Schache, who only returned in Round 14, kicked three goals against both Collingwood and Port Adelaide, while Sam Lloyd, who’s arguably been the best bargain buy of the season to date, has kicked eight goals from his past four games.

    And Naughton was a genuine match-winner against the Cats, booting 4.1 from 14 disposals and nine marks to win widespread praise from several AFL greats.

    “He’s what they so desperately needed at the start of the year,” Satins champion Nick Riewoldt told Fox Footy’s On The Couch.

    “The games that he’s actually been able to bob up and perform really strongly in front of the sticks, the Bulldogs have won every one of them. That speaks to the importance of him within what is a pretty unique gamestyle.”

    Premiership coach Paul Roos added: “He’s almost their most important player as to whether they win or not … If he gets hold of the ball, it just slows the whole game down for the Bulldogs, because they’re such a manic team.

    The win over Geelong has renewed hope of a late push for a finals appearance.

    Over the next three weeks, the Bulldogs face Melbourne, St Kilda and Fremantle — all at Marvel Stadium. Win those three and they move to 10-8 with four rounds to go.

    The issue is they then face red-hot Brisbane at the Gabba, the in-form Bombers and the Giants in Sydney. Plus their current inferior percentage of 93.9 is a hindrance.

    But triple premiership Lion Jonathan Brown said rival clubs still can’t afford to take the Dogs lightly over the remaining rounds.

    “They’re such a dangerous team if they get their tails up,” he told Fox Footy’s On The Couch.

    “When they start flicking the handballs out, they’re an opposition that if you were planning for them, it’s not something you get regularly in the competition.”

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  3. #2
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    Re: Early visual signs Western Bulldogs are back to their best

    I hate all these articles
    Premierships: AFL 1954, 2016 VFA - 1898,99,1900, 1908, 1913, 1919-20, 1923-24, VFL: 2014, 2016 . Champions of Victoria 1924. AFLW - 2018.

  4. #3
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    Re: Early visual signs Western Bulldogs are back to their best

    Quote Originally Posted by bornadog View Post
    I hate all these articles
    I get what you mean because we haven't really achieved anything much yet, but I would rather read this than some of the harbingers of doom that have proliferated here lately.

    I think the defensive stats: pressure, tackling, scores against are an excellent sign, even if things don't end up going quite as planned for the rest of the year at least we can see improvement.

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  6. #4
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    Re: Early visual signs Western Bulldogs are back to their best

    Quote Originally Posted by Axe Man View Post
    I get what you mean because we haven't really achieved anything much yet, but I would rather read this than some of the harbingers of doom that have proliferated here lately.

    I think the defensive stats: pressure, tackling, scores against are an excellent sign, even if things don't end up going quite as planned for the rest of the year at least we can see improvement.
    I agree great to read. It's just me and superstition. We must win this weekend.
    Premierships: AFL 1954, 2016 VFA - 1898,99,1900, 1908, 1913, 1919-20, 1923-24, VFL: 2014, 2016 . Champions of Victoria 1924. AFLW - 2018.

  7. #5
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    Re: Early visual signs Western Bulldogs are back to their best

    Quote Originally Posted by bornadog View Post
    I hate all these articles
    Whats the problem with setting expectations?

    We have a great draw, we've seemed to sort out our selection process and we have some players coming back from injuries

    I don't get why articles like the OP are an issue?

    Many people lament that we don't get our due recognition especially with things like the Rising Star but then we also appear to not want want positive stories written.

    I've read the article twice and clearly I'm missing something in the translation.
    What am I missing here BAD?
    Tough times don't last, tough people do
    "He'll accumulate and be involved, but we're looking a qualitative sheen on his game that we need, and it is part of our scope to score"

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  9. #6
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    Re: Early visual signs Western Bulldogs are back to their best

    I'm a little bit with BAD on this. A good friend pointed out to me a couple of years back that whenever the media or a particular journo gets on board and writes a glowing feature on one of our players the following week the team plays poorly or the player has an off day. I haven't got any hard evidence to back it up - just the feeling that rising expectations are just that - until you put the score on the board and bank the four points.
    Look at this season. I thought we were a monty to go 3-0 until the Suns put paid to that. I was 100% sure we would crush Carlton but ....
    Last season Sydney and Melbourne brought us undone early in the year with their pre-meditated attack on JJ that we did not respond to.
    Let's crush a weakened Melbourne this weekend and follow it up with another two big victories against the Saints and Freo.

    Then we will have woken up the entire competition and the opposition will be passing bricks at the prospect of facing us.
    http://journals.worldnomads.com/merantau
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  11. #7
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    Re: Early visual signs Western Bulldogs are back to their best

    Quote Originally Posted by GVGjr View Post
    What am I missing here BAD?
    See below

    Quote Originally Posted by merantau View Post
    I'm a little bit with BAD on this. A good friend pointed out to me a couple of years back that whenever the media or a particular journo gets on board and writes a glowing feature on one of our players the following week the team plays poorly or the player has an off day.
    That is how I feel, its just superstition.

    It is great to get positive articles, I was just being silly.
    Premierships: AFL 1954, 2016 VFA - 1898,99,1900, 1908, 1913, 1919-20, 1923-24, VFL: 2014, 2016 . Champions of Victoria 1924. AFLW - 2018.

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