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  1. #1
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    Who is the best Bulldog of the modern era?

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    Reminiscing about football’s past has been a key coping mechanism for many Australians as we navigate through this baron, game-less period due to the coronavirus.

    You don’t need to look much further than the Bulldogs’ Twitter account for evidence of this – every single day while there are no matches being played, Shane Biggs’ glorious Grand Final passage of play is replayed for the fans.

    Momentous Moments, Fixture Throwbacks, moments from ‘On this Day’ – it’s a smorgasbord of footy nostalgia.

    The Herald Sun has done their bit too, ranking the top 20 players from each club, from the modern era.

    Today was the Bulldogs’ turn, and it was 341-game Club Legend Chris Grant who came out on top in journalist Sam Landsberger’s eyes.

    There was a pound of brilliant Bulldogs to choose from. In the top 10 are the likes of Brad Johnson, Scott West, Dale Morris, Rohan Smith and current star Marcus Bontempelli.

    So, jump on social media, FaceTime, Zoom, or whatever platform you’re using to keep in touch with your red, white and blue brethren and have the debate.

    One thing’s for sure – Dogs fans have been treated to some amazing talent over the recent past.

    Herald Sun’s Top 20 Bulldogs of the modern era


    1. Chris Grant
    2. Brad Johnson
    3. Marcus Bontempelli
    4. Scott West
    5. Dale Morris
    6. Scott Wynd
    7. Rohan Smith
    8. Bob Murphy
    9. Adam Cooney
    10. Matthew Boyd
    11. Brian Lake
    12. Ryan Griffen
    13. Nathan Brown
    14. Luke Darcy
    15. Tony Liberatore
    16. Daniel Giansiracusa
    17. Liam Picken
    18. Jack Macrae
    19. Daniel Cross
    20. Lindsay Gilbee


    DO YOU AGREE WITH SAM?
    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: Who is the best Bulldog of the modern era?

    Jack Macrae and Cooney could just about be straight swapped.
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    Re: Who is the best Bulldog of the modern era?

    On first glance I'd have West in at two, with everyone ahead of him dropping down a spot.

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    Re: Who is the best Bulldog of the modern era?

    Nathan Brown isn't ahead of Darcy for mine. TBH his best football was the half season at Richmond before he broke his leg.

    Bont isn't ahead of West (yet) but will overtake him. West has more Brownlow votes than any other player in history to have not won the award. 7 B&Fs. We forget how good he was because he wasn't flashy.
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    Re: Who is the best Bulldog of the modern era?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mofra View Post
    Nathan Brown isn't ahead of Darcy for mine. TBH his best football was the half season at Richmond before he broke his leg.

    Bont isn't ahead of West (yet) but will overtake him. West has more Brownlow votes than any other player in history to have not won the award. 7 B&Fs. We forget how good he was because he wasn't flashy.
    Yeah, West is 2nd to CG.

    Brian Lake has to be top 10, IMO. He is the greatest key defender I've ever seen play for the club by the length of Flemington Straight.
    Our 1954 premiership players are our heroes, and it has to be said that Charlie was their hero.

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    Re: Who is the best Bulldog of the modern era?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mofra View Post
    Nathan Brown isn't ahead of Darcy for mine. TBH his best football was the half season at Richmond before he broke his leg.

    Bont isn't ahead of West (yet) but will overtake him. West has more Brownlow votes than any other player in history to have not won the award. 7 B&Fs. We forget how good he was because he wasn't flashy.
    Yes, Westy doesn't get the love he deserves from a lot of Bulldog supporters.

    I have no doubt The Bont may be on top of the list at the end of his career, but at his stage, Chris is one of the best players of all time for mine.
    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: Who is the best Bulldog of the modern era?

    I never really got West as a kid because he didn't kick it much or kick goals or do anything super cool. I've managed to contextualise him a bit in my grown mind and understand him as a great player, without having really ever seen it in action.

    But the other day I watched a game from 04 (the one against the Roos where Johnno kicks the winning goal falling over) and was absolutely floored by him. His handspeed in close was breathtaking, his workrate was overwhelming, and his presence at every single contest undeniable.

    He would be an absolute monster in today's game.
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    Re: Who is the best Bulldog of the modern era?

    Quote Originally Posted by comrade View Post
    Yeah, West is 2nd to CG.

    Brian Lake has to be top 10, IMO. He is the greatest key defender I've ever seen play for the club by the length of Flemington Straight.
    Better than Chris Grant?

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    Re: Who is the best Bulldog of the modern era?

    The actual article:

    Western Bulldogs modern-era top 20: Chris Grant heads Brad Johnson, Marcus Bontempelli

    Tough and gritty in their own right, Dale Morris and Liam Picken were perhaps underrated during their careers. But they haven’t been missed here, overtaking many of the Bulldogs’ best from the modern era.

    Chris Grant broke the Western Bulldogs’ games record, and then Brad Johnson broke Grant’s record.

    Both played as key forwards – Grant a classical 193cm spearhead, and the 182cm Johnson as undersized as Warwick Capper’s shorts.

    Some clubs have a clear-cut king – a player whose reputation soars higher than the rest – but these two were hard to split.

    Plenty of old Bulldogs argue that Johnson was the best player they played with. But Grant was the club’s marquee man. The favourite son.

    The next question was whether Marcus Bontempelli (127 games) had done enough to penetrate a royal podium.

    He’s rattled past several 300-gamers, but Scott West has the runs on the board and Bontempelli is still making his, albeit at a rapid strike-rate.

    The next dozen you could just about throw a tea-towel over.

    There’s a mix of everything. Brownlow Medals? Won by Cooney, Liberatore and Wynd, with Grant and West unfortunate not to own one, and Bontempelli every chance to land one.

    Premierships? There are five from the 2016 glory– retirees Morris, Picken and Boyd, with Bontempelli and Macrae still flying the flag.

    Three more – Lachie Hunter, Jason Johannisen and Tom Liberatore – weren’t far off this list.

    In fact, sustained brilliance for a little while longer would see them all walk into the next one.

    And then there’s the 300-gamers – Grant, Johnson, West, Smith, Murphy – who were automatic inclusions the instant they breached their milestone banners.

    The omissions speak volumes for the quality that made the cut.

    Current GWS coach Leon Cameron was a wonderful two-sided player. Danny Southern was a crowd favourite and as tough as old leather.

    Steve Kretiuk was an old-fashioned defender, a sidekick for the more versatile Matthew Croft.

    Skinny backman Ryan Hargrave chalked up 200 games. Dashing wingman Nathan Eagleton did the same. It was athletic backman Easton Wood who captained the fairy-tale flag.

    None of them could be squeezed in.

    Steve Wallis and Steve ‘Super’ MacPherson only missed out because too much of their brilliant careers came in the 1980s, while magical wingman Dougie Hawkins would’ve been on the podium had he not made his debut back in 1978.

    But just who is No.1?

    Herald Sun footy writer Sam Landsberger runs the rule of the Bulldogs best since 1987.

    1 CHRIS GRANT
    A 20-cent coin donated by a young diehard ensured Grant had no regrets choosing loyalty over Port Adelaide’s open chequebook in 1996. The Bulldogs posterboy of yesteryear, Grant controlled the flow of games whether he was stationed at centre half-forward or centre half-back. The great irony of his career is that such a scrupulously fair player was stripped of a Brownlow Medal over a clumsy spoiling attempt that would not have cracked an egg. EJ Whitten’s No.3 looked a snug fit on his back.

    Key stat: Drafted at pick No.105 (yes, 105), Grant booted 51 goals as a skinny 17-year-old in his debut season in 1990.

    2 BRAD JOHNSON
    Johnson’s raw numbers suggested he was this hulking 195cm spearhead with broad shoulders and a menacing frown. Instead, the ‘Smiling Assassin’ stood just 182cm and yet he has kicked more goals than Tom Hawkins, Grant, Warren Tredrea, Fraser Gehrig and Travis Cloke, who have all played at least 250 games. Johnson punched above his weight for a club-record 364 games. In fact, football might never see a better overhead mark by an undersized star.

    Key stat: Kicked 3.0 in time-on of the last quarter in his 300th game to overrun Adelaide by three points.

    3 MARCUS BONTEMPELLI
    At 24 Bontempelli’s resume is already as decorated as a Christmas tree, even if Rising Star (and goal-of-the-year) judges got it wrong in 2014. He’s taken home three out of the past four best-and-fairests, a premiership, two All-Australians and last year’s AFL coaches’ award. The game’s cleanest-cut superstar – Bontempelli once told a senior coach in a draft interview that the worst thing he’d done in life was be rude to his sister – glides with grace, needing only 20 disposals to dominate a game. The Bont’s bullet-like rise is still in motion, looking every bit a generational player entering his prime. Tracking towards the AFL Hall of Fame and quite possibly the Bulldogs next premiership captain.

    Key stat: Recorded 103 and 183 SuperCoach points in two VFL games in his first season and was never seen for Footscray again.

    4 SCOTT WEST
    West – winner of a club-record seven best-and-fairests, all pocketed in an 11-year stretch from 1995-2005 – could sit atop this royal heap in the eyes of some. The sight of the No.7 unleashing a teammate into space was as frequent as it was instrumental for a blue-collar midfield. How Melbourne’s Shane Woewodin polled Brownlow Medal votes in the final round of 2000 to pip West remains a mystery, and the handballing hero also finished runner-up in 2006 and third in 1999.

    Key stat: Only four players have polled more Brownlow votes without winning the medal – Leigh Matthews, Joel Selwood, Scott Pendlebury and Brent Harvey.

    5 DALE MORRIS
    Played the 2009 finals series with a broken leg and the 2016 finals series with a broken back. Nick Riewoldt rated Morris his toughest opponent and they shared a rivalry that dripped with mutual adoration. A source of inspiration for his teammates, Morris’s signature moment will forever be the run-down tackle on Lance Franklin in the 2016 Grand Final. The Bionic Bulldog bstarted out as a story of persistence, and thank goodness Simon Minton-Connell never gave up on this Doutta Stars kid.

    Key stat: Shutdown Andrew McLeod on debut, which was Grant’s 300th match, and polled just one career Brownlow vote.

    6 SCOTT WYND
    The long-time captain used to swim in respect from his teammates who saw how hard he pushed his body to play through pain. Statistics will never tell the tale of this exquisite old-fashioned tap ruckman who played with grinding authority.

    Key stat: Remains the last ruckman to win a Brownlow Medal (1992) some 28 years on.

    7 ROHAN SMITH
    Scorching runs from halfback that often culminated in a cracking, right-foot goal was his trademark. ‘Bubba’ was a jet, often waxing with best mates Brad Johnson and Scott West, and he was selflessly ready to retire on 299 games in 2006. The Dogs did the right thing and upset Collingwood in an elimination to gift Smith and West their fairy-tale 300th together. Played with penetration and punch, and that should be remembered over punching the MCG turf after the heartbreaking preliminary final in 1997.

    Key stat: Won the EJ Whitten Medal as Victoria’s best in State of Origin in 1998, and claimed the Bulldogs’ goalkicking award in 2000 with 42.20.

    8 BOB MURPHY
    The son of a priest and a nun had a profound impact on the club, leading its resurrection after a tumultuous 2014. Murphy played on the likes of Eddie Betts and Stephen Milne early, was swung to centre half-forward (booting 6.2 in a game) and then set up games from a back flank. Gifted on both feet, the opposition would sweat anytime the spiritual leader wheeled into space and Murphy played with balance that was matched by the life he led away from football.

    Key stat: Was named All-Australian captain in 2015, just three games before suffering the knee injury that cost him the 2016 premiership he richly deserved.

    9 ADAM COONEY
    Cooney was just 22 years old when he became the first No.1 draft pick to win the Brownlow Medal in 2008, and not once did he look flustered or fussed on the field. But there was no cure to the nasty knee injury Cooney suffered in the finals series that year, diluting his special powers. That explosion of pace and potent goalkicking was wound back slightly as he played through pain, but he did record a hitout to advantage rucking against Dean Cox.

    Key stat: The only player in VFL-AFL history to propose to his girlfriend with a Burger Ring, and has one leg about 2cm longer than the other.

    10 MATTHEW BOYD
    It is fitting Boyd is coaching at Collingwood because, like Nathan Buckley, he pushed himself and his teammates hard in the quest for high standards. No rookie has played more games than Boyd’s 292 and he is one of the draft’s great success stories. Graduated from an intense tagger to a midfield star in his own right, and was then reprogrammed by Luke Beveridge into an attacking halfback, where he won a third All-Australian jumper. Ultimate professional who squeezed everything last drop out of a storied career.

    Key stat: Played a VFL game for Frankston with Luke Beveridge in 2001 at the opposite ends of their careers.

    11 BRIAN LAKE
    Once upon a time defenders were there to defend. Brian Harris (yes, Harris before a legal name change) started to change that, choosing to mark instead of spoil and repel instead of nullify. Lake read the play like a picture book and, while his 2007 best-and-fairest came in a disappointing season, back-to-back All-Australian honours followed when the Bulldogs were a top-four outfit. Forged his way at Whitten Oval before filling his trophy cabinet at Hawthorn. It wouldn’t surprise if Jeremy McGovern looked up to this bloke.

    Key stat: A case of sleep apnoea, which most clubs were unaware of, helped push Lake to pick No.71.

    12 RYAN GRIFFEN
    Shock defection to GWS as Bulldogs captain triggered the sacking of coach Brendan McCartney in 2014. But Griffen’s previous five seasons were packed with consistency and class. A strong overhead mark and powerful kick, Griffen once accumulated 47 disposals in a heavy loss.

    Key stat: Never played in a win against the Bulldogs, and watched them win the 2016 premiership from a petrol station outside Newcastle.

    13 NATHAN BROWN
    Played with flair and funk that pushed the boundaries – teasing North Melbourne by holding out the ball in 2002 backfired – but was simply a joy to watch. In fact, people forget just how good this bloke was in his seven years as a Bulldog. Kicked seven goals three times and produced countless moments that made fans gasp in disbelief. Got his kicks both on and off the field and would’ve been towards the top of this list had he played longer at Whitten Oval.

    Key stat: Played in back-to-back wooden spoons (2003 Western Bulldogs, 2004 Richmond).

    14 LUKE DARCY
    The transition from Scott Wynd to Luke Darcy was a little bit like Adam Gilchrist taking the reins from Ian Healy. Darcy blossomed into an athletic and attacking ruckman who had this knack of making the game look childishly easy. At the turn of the century there were few more influential players in the game. In 2005 Darcy booted 6.0 to ensure the Dogs celebrated Chris Grant’s 300th with a win. Sadly, that was the beginning of the end. The next week Darcy did his knee, and then he did it again in pre-season seven months later.

    Key stat: Darcy had to wait until his fourth AFL game to register a kick.

    15 TONY LIBERATORE
    It’s no surprise that son, Tom, holds the AFL record for most tackles in a game (19). Liberatore epitomised the Bulldogs of the 1990s as an in-your-face tagger who played to Charlie Sutton’s catchphrase of “shop early and avoid the rush”. Footage of Liberatore (163cm, 77kg) playing his final game with a smashed nose and burying Saverio Rocca (195cm, 112kg) in a tackle brings a smile to Bulldog faces.

    Key stat: Left North Melbourne for Footscray after failing to register a senior game.

    16 DANIEL GIANSIRACUSA
    With footy IQ to match his trendy style, the slick small forward twice topped the club’s goalkicking and also enjoyed eight games where he dominated the midfield with more than 30 disposals. The neat player outsmarted Brandon Ellis to earn a free kick that decided the match in 2014 and knocked Justin Koschitzke out for months with a bump that was declared legal in 2006.

    Key stat: Captained the Western Bulldogs to the NAB Cup premiership in 2010.

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    Re: Who is the best Bulldog of the modern era?

    17 LIAM PICKEN
    Battler for a long time, superstar at the right time. Tom Boyd’s priceless Grand Final performance sits on the top shelf, and that’s where Picken’s entire September belongs. The one-time nitty gritty, stopper stopped hearts with his rockstar-like patch of finals form. You could tell from Picken’s first assignment – tagging Brent Harvey on debut in 2009 – he was made of the right stuff, and as the years went his attacking flair started to flow as freely as his hair.

    Key stat: Did not miss in the 2016 finals, kicking 8.0.

    18 JACK MACRAE
    The quiet achiever at Whitten Oval, Macrae is one of the AFL’s unassuming stars. The fine wingman has finished in the top-three of the best-and-fairest three years running, which is slowly approaching Michael Tuck territory (runner-up six times without winning). The ball magnet was All-Australian last year and should’ve been in 2018, if selectors waited to watch his 43-disposal game in Round 23 before picking the side. Will forever be the man who kicked the last goal in the 2016 preliminary final.

    Key stat: Has won at least 20 disposals in 86 out of his past 87 games, the exception because he badly tore a hamstring in the first half.

    19 DANIEL CROSS
    In 2014 Melbourne coach Paul Roos slapped the whiteboard and demanded more from his players. Scribbled on the board where 31-year-old Cross’s GPS numbers – 15-17km and high repeat sprint numbers. Cross crossed to the Demons that season specifically to raise the bar, and that sums up the inside midfielder who excelled off a recipe of courage and hard work.

    Key stat: Took over Simon Garlick’s No.4 in 2005, handing his No.38 to rookie Dale Morris.

    20 LINDSAY GILBEE
    Kids, if you’re spending your isolation learning how to kick a Sherrin then YouTube Lindsay Gilbee, the Bulldog with a right foot sweeter than honey. Penetrating and accurate, Gilbee was arguably the game’s most lethal ball user for chunks of his 200-game career. He was also a well-rounded defender, with a happy knack of getting a right fist to the ball or nailing an opponent with a run-down tackle.

    Key stat: Gilbee’s 21 kick-ins from fullback in Round 16, 2004, remains an AFL record.

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  17. #11
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    Re: Who is the best Bulldog of the modern era?

    Quote Originally Posted by Happy Days View Post
    Jack Macrae and Cooney could just about be straight swapped.
    I love Jack but in all fairness Cooney is a brownlow medallist.

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    Re: Who is the best Bulldog of the modern era?

    Quote Originally Posted by westdog54 View Post
    I love Jack but in all fairness Cooney is a brownlow medallist.
    Cooney was also done after that Brownlow, only had 4 seasons before it, and only maybe 2 of them were good. And we’re all far enough away from it now to admit Ablett was robbed.

    He belongs on the list, but I don’t think he has the longevity to be ahead of most of the guys he’s ahead of.
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  20. #13
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    Re: Who is the best Bulldog of the modern era?

    Quote Originally Posted by Happy Days View Post
    Cooney was also done after that Brownlow, only had 4 seasons before it, and only maybe 2 of them were good. And we’re all far enough away from it now to admit Ablett was robbed.

    He belongs on the list, but I don’t think he has the longevity to be ahead of most of the guys he’s ahead of.
    Jack Macrae is a club champion, Cooney was absolutely elite. Competition elite.

    If we're talking peak, Brian Lake had a couple of seasons where he was as good as anybody (including Scarlett). He was McGovern with pace.
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    Re: Who is the best Bulldog of the modern era?

    Quote Originally Posted by Happy Days View Post
    Cooney was also done after that Brownlow, only had 4 seasons before it, and only maybe 2 of them were good. And we’re all far enough away from it now to admit Ablett was robbed.

    He belongs on the list, but I don’t think he has the longevity to be ahead of most of the guys he’s ahead of.
    Nah, *!*!*!*! him

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    Re: Who is the best Bulldog of the modern era?

    A few points:

    -Chris Grant #1 for me by a wide margin.

    -I think Libba is too low. Warrior who won Brownlow and then reinvented himself under Plough to be the most feared tagger in his era.

    -Think Bob is above Bubba for me.

    -Nathan Brown above Darcy is a joke

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