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  1. #1
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    Feb 2012
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    Four burning questions for the Western Bulldogs ahead of the AFL restart

    Four burning questions for the Western Bulldogs ahead of the AFL restart
    By Stirling Coates / Editor

    The Bulldogs will have fire in their bellies after a calamitous effort in Round 1 against Collingwood.

    After a surge in the second half of 2019 had many picking the Doggies as a top-four smokey, they looked like red, white and blue witches hats against the Magpies in a 52-point demolition.

    If anyone has a point to prove in Round 2, it’s them.

    Here are four burning questions for the Western Bulldogs as their quest for redemption begins.

    1. What the heck happened in Round 1?

    I tipped the Doggies ‘last’ Friday night and, while I knew I was backing the slight outsiders, I never thought they’d get towelled up to the extent they did.

    Nothing worked. They got monstered in disposals and contested possessions, got smashed in clearances, lost the inside 50s by 20 – and were powerless to stop the Pies in defence too – while also losing the tackle count in a comprehensively miserable performance.

    A whopping seven players failed to reach ten disposals, with three failing to reach five, while several superstars were well below their best.

    Alex Keath’s club debut was arguably the lone highlight.

    Collingwood might be a premiership contender, but no side with finals aspirations should be losing in that manner and Luke Beveridge must get to the bottom of it immediately.

    The Dogs came home with a wet sail last year to play finals, but it was a poor start in 2019 too. If last year had been a 17-game season too, they would have finished 12th.

    They won’t have as much time to get a wriggle on in 2020 and must get it together now.

    2. Is there room for everybody in the forward line?

    The Bulldogs didn’t lack for scoring in 2019, finishing third in the AFL with 1941 points.

    But that didn’t stop them from picking up Josh Bruce from St Kilda in the trade period. The Dogs aren’t going to lose this trade – they gave the Saints picks 32 and 51 for someone who’d kicked 168 goals in 99 games – but bringing in a 28-year-old key forward when you’ve got Aaron Naughton and Josh Schache coming through is strange timing.

    Schache – after finishing third at the club with 24 goals last season – was relegated to the emergency list in Round 1 and you’d hope, at 22 and fresh off a breakout year, he’s not getting shoved aside for 28-year-old unless this year’s sole goal is a premiership.

    Playing all three talls at the same time makes the side too one-dimensional, especially if it means Sam Lloyd or Tory Dickson – first and equal-third in last year’s tally – has to sit out.

    Billy Gowers – 2018’s leading goalkicker – is on the outer too, so there’s clearly depth up forward. Finding the right balance will be key.

    3. Are we a genuine contender?

    It was a tale of two seasons for the Bulldogs in 2019. Following two non-finals finishes after the 2016 premiership, they looked certain to extend that streak to three seasons following a 4-7 start that featured losses to Gold Coast and Carlton.

    But the wheel turned. The young midfield – let by the emergence of Josh Dunkley – really came into its own and they went 8-3 to surge into September, only for the wheels to fall off in a horror loss to Greater Western Sydney.

    With only 11 players from the 2016 triumph still with the club, this isn’t a team that won a flag ahead of time coming into their prime. This is a whole new side and Beveridge deserves credit for having them reloaded and ready to have a crack already.

    The fact they traded for two 28-year-olds in the offseason suggests they think the time is now, but whether they’re capable of having a serious crack this year isn’t so clear cut.

    I’ve covered the forward line in depth already but, to be fair, there don’t appear to be too many holes elsewhere. Any midfield that boasts Marcus Bontempelli, Lachie Hunter, Jackson Macrae, Tom Liberatore and Josh Dunkley is clearly up there with the best.

    Their defence was by far the leakiest of any finalist last season, but former Crow Keath gives the Doggies the key defender they’ve sorely lacked and should make a huge difference. Their weakness in the ruck isn’t really an issue in today’s game anyway.

    On the other hand, their Round 1 side was the sixth youngest in the competition and two of the club’s three 150-plus gamers – Jackon Trengove and Matt Suckling – appear to be on the fringe. They only have four players over 30 on the list, but three of them (Dickson, Wood and Lloyd) will be hard to replace when they retire.

    They’re definitely headed in the right direction, but they might not have a flag in them just yet.

    4. If we bomb this year, where does that leave Luke Beveridge?

    This isn’t a prediction that they will bomb this year and, even if they do, Beveridge is contracted until the end of 2023 so it won’t matter.

    But would three missed finals appearances in four years post-2016 be enough to have more than just Damian Barrett questioning his job security?

  2. #2
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    Apr 2009
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    Re: Four burning questions for the Western Bulldogs ahead of the AFL restart

    Big week for the club, 0-2 in 17 rounds makes it really hard
    If you kicked five goals and Tom Boyd kicked five goals, Tom Boyd kicked more goals than you.

    Formerly gogriff

  3. #3
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    Oct 2010
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    Re: Four burning questions for the Western Bulldogs ahead of the AFL restart

    Not bad.

    It's hard limiting things to only four questions, because after the elimination final last year and round one this year we're mimicking Batman's The Riddler, we have question marks all over us.

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  5. #4
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    Oct 2007
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    Re: Four burning questions for the Western Bulldogs ahead of the AFL restart

    Jeez they've exercised some restraint limiting themselves to just four questions.

    Aside from Macrae and probably Crozier is there another player on the list whose output you're certain of once things resume?

    We're the quintessential question mark right now.

    Will English grow up and begin to assert himself more?
    Will Bruce plug in effectively, and consistently?
    Will Libba get on on the park? Stay on the park? And if so will he be 'Libba'?
    Will Naughton's knee behave?
    Can Wood still be influential?
    Will Keath gel with our backline, and will we use him properly?
    Will Mclean reconsolidate as a best 22? And if yes, where?
    Will Lewis Young earn enough trust to be a regular? Will Bevo 'switch-man' him into ineffectiveness?
    Will Trengove's wherabouts finally be determined?
    What should we count on from Schache? If he gets a regular game.
    Can Cavarra stake a claim or is it too soon?
    Does Weightman make things interesting in the small forward mix? And if so, because he's good enough or because we've exhausted all other options?
    Can West earn his keep somewhere other than a very crowded midfield?
    Is there room for Dickson? Can he stay fit?
    Can we find Daniel a stable role to extract the most from his ample skill set?
    Does Williams want it enough?
    Ditto for Dale?
    Where does Hayes fit in? And at whose expense?
    Will we see Jongy again?
    And I'm loath to doubt him but how does Bont fare with the captaincy in strange and challenging times?

    Let alone bigger picture musings about our systems and style.

    Chime in at your leisure 'cos I sure as hell don't have the answers.

    Anything could happen and nothing would shock me. We could equally pinch another flag or pinch another spoon and I'd be 'yep, makes perfect sense'.

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  7. #5
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    Oct 2010
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    Re: Four burning questions for the Western Bulldogs ahead of the AFL restart

    Good questions RS, but not dissimilar to any questions in content and quantity that all but a small few teams would be asking themselves about their players and structures/ systems right now.

    My big concern is we're not going to go to basics with selection and with how our players apply themselves. The former aside, because after all our coaching staff/ MC are a bunch or rogues at this point in the season out of habit, if the players apply themselves we'll be competitive against the majority of teams.

    If we get that right, and the MC doesn't shit the bed too badly we'll probably be more than competitive.

  8. #6
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    Jan 2007
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    Re: Four burning questions for the Western Bulldogs ahead of the AFL restart

    Come Sunday night, we will know a lot more, but pre round one we weren't as worried as we are now
    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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