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    Deep Dive: Inside look at how the Western Bulldogs are shaping up for 2020 season

    Deep Dive: Inside look at how the Western Bulldogs are shaping up for 2020 season



    Recruiters have delivered something the Western Bulldogs have not had for a decade. And one of their coaches has revealed how their forward line will look in their pursuit of a third flag. Hint: it’ll be a lot different.

    Ash Hansen has been coaching at Whitten Oval for eight years and can’t remember a forward line like this one.

    St Kilda recruit Josh Bruce (197cm) will partner Aaron Naughton (195cm) and Josh Schache (199cm) in an attack that is set to stretch backlines as if they are sweatpants worn after Christmas.

    Three left-footers, two of them contested-marking beasts – Naughton ranked No.2 in the AFL last year, Bruce was No.6 – and the other one of the game’s best shots for goal, with Schache’s 63.2 per cent accuracy ranked No.5 last year.

    “Having those three tall targets, which the Dogs haven’t had for a while, it’s going to be a different dynamic,” Hansen, the forwards coach, said.

    You have to go back a long way to find a Western Bulldogs attack with so much aerial power.

    Under Rodney Eade they topped up with Scott Welsh (2008-09) and Barry Hall (2010-11), although they were largely lone forces.

    The previous decade was dominated by undersized stars Brad Johnson and Nathan Brown.

    Targets including Jade Rawlings and Jarrad Grant never really worked, and so you probably have to revisit 1997-98 – when Chris Grant, Simon Minton-Connell and James Cook played 10 games together – for such a spread of marking power.

    “If you don’t have those tall targets it does challenge your ball movement to win field position or to take that mark that leads to an easy score,” Hansen said.

    “We feel they can all play in the same forward line. Does that mean they will? Not necessarily.

    “If guys aren’t in form, well for the integrity of selection they might not play.

    “We’ve also got Naughts who can play down back. He gives us that flexibility that if we need a key defender through injury or illness he can fill that role.”

    Schache appears the only one who could be pushed to the VFL, and competition for spots to complete the attack is seriously hot.

    Toby McLean, Sam Lloyd, Bailey Dale, Bailey Smith, Patrick Lipinski, Cody Weightman, Ben Cavarra and Laitham Vandermeer are all chances for Round 1.

    “We’re happy to play any of those guys, really,” Hansen said.

    The Dogs haven’t produced a Coleman Medallist since Simon Beasley’s 93-goal season in 1985.

    Will they deploy one stay-at-home spearhead? Will another push up to the wing as a linkman?

    Or will they all mix and match?

    “We certainly don’t prescribe a deep or high forward,” Hansen said.

    “They all have the athletic ability to cover the ground, use the ball really well and then defend the turnover, which is really important.

    “In the modern game I don’t think you can have an un-athletic forward line, because the transition is just so quick on both sides of the ball.”

    The Dogs want a get-out option. That way they can transition the ball out of the back half at speed — think Jason Johannisen and Bailey Williams — and take field position by kicking to a target under pressure.

    “And we’re going to have representation from that contest at the next one really quickly, because we’re going to have three key players covering the ground,” Hansen said.

    “The other thing is you’re going to hopefully get more one-on-ones, because their direct opponents have to respect them, so they can’t go off and support. That’s only going to help Schach and Brucey.”

    The evolution Whitten Oval — and with 194cm forward Jamarra Ugle-Hagan due to arrive next year — was born out of the Dogs identifying the importance of a second ruckman to support No.1 man Tim English.

    “With the speed of the game you can’t rely on one ruckman, because momentum shifts can occur when your No.1 ruckman is off the ground,” Hansen said.

    “The quality of that contest can really affect your stoppage game. So developing that third tall forward that can relieve in the ruck allows you to maintain two key forwards forward.”

    “That’s another layer that comes into selection. It’s not so much how many tall forwards you’re playing, but the support it gives your No.1 ruck.”

    Expect Bruce and Schache to share the secondary load. Hansen said Bruce “has got an appetite to ruck” and, like Schache, the “athletic engine to cover the ground”.

    “It also gives them the freedom to get into the midfield and break the shackles of a defender sitting on you,” Hansen said.

    “It’s got benefits to get guys into the game and they can share that load. If they’re going really well up forward we might want to hold them there.”

    Plenty of clubs are set to stack their front half with three power forwards in 2020. Will that prove the recipe for premiership success? Hansen wasn’t so sure.

    “In 2016 we had essentially a key defender in Zaine Cordy playing as a second tall forward, and playing a really critical role,” Hansen said.

    “The following year Richmond had one key forward, the year after that West Coast had the three towers and then last year Richmond had two.

    “So in the last four years the key-forward post and the dynamic has changed each year. It tells us there’s no set way in that area of the ground.”

    CELEBRITY FAN: WIL ANDERSON
    There’s no need for Berocca in the Whitten Oval cupboard this year, as the hangover is well and truly over.

    Recruiting a Keath and Bruce has to be the Aussiest trade period of all-time.

    But this is The Bont’s team. I ran into his mother once in the rooms after a game and said: “Thank-you” She said: “I get that a lot!”

    We might have to call this year Brexit at the Bulldogs, because it’s the year of the (Tim) English breakout.

    The list is strong, the leadership is strong, all the players are in the right age demographic to play their best football and we finished last year so well. All this hope going into the season, this must be how it feels to be a Richmond fan.

    I expect JJ to have a huge season, especially now that he has competition internally from Bailey Smith for most eye-catching haircut in the team.

    It’s good to have B1 and B2 in charge down at the Bulldogs: Bevo and The Bont.

    It would be great if the Dogs could win the flag in 2020 so Peter Gordon could start his president’s victory speech just as he finishes his speech from 2016.

    THE LIST
    ARRIVALS: Josh Bruce (St Kilda), Alex Keath (Adelaide), Ryan Gardner (2019 mid-season rookie draft), Cody Weightman, Louis Butler, Riley Garcia (national draft)

    DEPARTURES: Dale Morris, Liam Picken, Tom Boyd (all retired), Fletcher Roberts, Lukas Webb (both delisted)

    “We’ve gone to the draft a lot in recent years, and there’s some talk around (academy prospect) Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, which will be a key focus within our draft strategy. You continue to take a balanced approach. We’re really confident with the list we have. It’s still very young in parts so there’s still an unproven element across the entire list.” said Chief executive Ameet Bains.

    OFF CONTRACT: Easton Wood, Matthew Suckling, Tory Dickson, Taylor Duryea, Jackson Trengove, Ben Cavarra, Bradley Lynch, Billy Gowers, Callum Porter, Buku Khamis, Jordan Sweet, Lachie Young, Lin Jong, Roarke Smith, Ryan Gardner, Will Hayes

    “Discussions have started (with Wood). The key one to get done at the back-end of last year was Bailey Smith. We’re keen to get a couple done before Round 1,” said Bains (Sam Lloyd and Hayden Crozier have re-signed since)

    WHAT’S NEW?
    The backline has two new key posts – Alex Keath has arrived from Adelaide, and Ryan Gardner has arrived from the forward line.

    Gardner, 22, turned up at Whitten Oval halfway through last season and has trained as a deep defender all summer.

    Like premiership full-back Joel Hamling, Gardner spent time at Geelong without playing a senior game.

    Keath’s ability to peel off and take intercept marks was on show against North Melbourne.

    Lewis Young, 21, dominated a hit-out in Mooloolaba as a forward and got his chance in attack when Bruce (back) and Naughton (knee) missed against the Roos.

    “(Playing forward) is only going to help his development, so certainly we’ll continue to explore that, and after the way he performed against North we’d be silly not to,” Hansen said.

    DO THEY GET BULLIED?
    Footage of Toby Greene grabbing at Marcus Bontempelli’s right eye stung over summer, partly because his teammates barely gave a yelp.

    Nearby stood baby Bulldogs including Rhylee West, Pat Lipinski and Bailey Smith in an elimination final team that had an average age of 23.9 years, which was younger than every team across Rounds 22 and 23, including Gold Coast

    Hansen said the weights room at Whitten Oval had since been put to use.

    “In hindsight, the combative side and what our young guys need to do in the gym … is really important. It’s certainly been a focus,” he said.

    “For all the key-position boys it’s important they continue to grow their strength and power, because their position demands that combat.

    “Our midfielders need to be able to stick those open-field tackles, be strong over groundballs and not get knocked off over the ball.

    “Even be able to stand up for a teammate or be in a position where you can shield a teammate and not get knocked off the line, or impose yourself and take the wind out of an opponent legally is really important too.”

    IT’S A BIG YEAR FOR:
    JACKSON TRENGOVE: Arrived as a free agent from Port Adelaide on a three-year contract worth $1.5 million that expires this year. Trengove was dropped in Round 23 last year and it’s been a tough pre-season, with Josh Bruce making life hard for the 29-year-old in match simulation.

    PRE-SEASON HERO:
    TIM ENGLISH: Sam Lloyd reckons he’s destined to join Brodie Grundy and Max Gawn as one of the AFL’s premier rucks and plenty of Whitten Oval insiders agree.

    THE BEST PLAYER YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF:
    LAITHAM VANDERMEER: The 180cm Mooroopna boy is in the mix to make his AFL debut early in the season.

    “People wouldn’t have seen much of him, but we’re really excited around what he can do with his speed and aggression at the contest and his X-factor,” Hansen said.

    “He had a hamstring injury prior to the Marsh Series and was tracking really well before then.”

    Vandermeer’s promise was rewarded with a one-year contract extension (until 2021) in December.

  2. Thanks bornadog, Bulldog4life, KT31, josie, AshMac thanked for this post
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  3. #2
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    Re: Deep Dive: Inside look at how the Western Bulldogs are shaping up for 2020 season

    Big call on Vandermeer. I hope he does debut so we can see if he is going to be a player.
    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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    Re: Deep Dive: Inside look at how the Western Bulldogs are shaping up for 2020 season

    Quote Originally Posted by bornadog View Post
    Big call on Vandermeer. I hope he does debut so we can see if he is going to be a player.
    Thanks BAD for posting. Good read.

    Interesting about both Vandermeer and Cavarra being in the mix for Round 1. Looking forward to seeing both debut at some stage during the season.

    Also note that the author has left off Tory Dickson in the list of attacking options - he has an adductor injury but thought he would be ok for Round 1.

    "Toby McLean, Sam Lloyd, Bailey Dale, Bailey Smith, Patrick Lipinski, Cody Weightman, Ben Cavarra and Laitham Vandermeer are all chances for Round 1."

  6. #4
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    Re: Deep Dive: Inside look at how the Western Bulldogs are shaping up for 2020 season

    Quote Originally Posted by whythelongface View Post
    Thanks BAD for posting. Good read.

    Interesting about both Vandermeer and Cavarra being in the mix for Round 1. Looking forward to seeing both debut at some stage during the season.

    Also note that the author has left off Tory Dickson in the list of attacking options - he has an adductor injury but thought he would be ok for Round 1.

    "Toby McLean, Sam Lloyd, Bailey Dale, Bailey Smith, Patrick Lipinski, Cody Weightman, Ben Cavarra and Laitham Vandermeer are all chances for Round 1."
    Axeman posted the article.
    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: Deep Dive: Inside look at how the Western Bulldogs are shaping up for 2020 season

    All that's missing from Wil Anderson's paragraph is "I'm here all week. Try the veal."

    I wonder in what universe Cavarra is considered even faintly likely to play in round one before I remind myself it's Bevo's universe, we just live in it.

    From the VFL I've seen up close Vandermeer just looks like he 'has it'; confident, proactive player who's unafraid of the hard stuff. He's got some competition ahead of him for a running half back role though.
    BORDERLINE FLYING

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  9. #6
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    Re: Deep Dive: Inside look at how the Western Bulldogs are shaping up for 2020 season

    Quote Originally Posted by Rocket Science View Post
    All that's missing from Wil Anderson's paragraph is "I'm here all week. Try the veal."

    I wonder in what universe Cavarra is considered even faintly likely to play in round one before I remind myself it's Bevo's universe, we just live in it.

    From the VFL I've seen up close Vandermeer just looks like he 'has it'; confident, proactive player who's unafraid of the hard stuff. He's got some competition ahead of him for a running half back role though.

    It's the best footy universe I have ever lived in.
    WASH YOUR HANDS!!!

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