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  1. #1
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    No Hunter, no gatherer: What's wrong with the Western Bulldogs?

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    When Western Bulldogs vice-captain Lachie Hunter was busted for drink driving in April, media focus centred around the circumstances of the incident, his dealings that night with teammates Billy Gowers and Bailey Smith, a decision to contact manager Paul Connors about the incident before notifying the club, and Hunter's voluntary relinquishment of the vice-captaincy.

    Less of a topic in the public discourse, was how his absence would be felt on the field.

    Hunter, 25, hadn't had anything near the public profile of skipper Marcus Bontempelli, but there have been few more consistent players at Whitten Oval in recent years than the father-son recruit. He has finished in the top six of the club's best and fairest for each of the past six years, topping the Charles Sutton Medal count in 2018. Only West Coast star

    Andrew Gaff obtained more uncontested possessions last year than Hunter. So, without Hunter for the first four rounds, following the resumption of the 2020 season, the Dogs have lost one of the best link-men in the AFL.

    Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge lamented after Sunday night's loss to St Kilda that the Dogs had finished with 142 kicks and 177 handballs.

    "[St Kilda's] pressure was pretty good," he said.

    "We didn't plan to go in and have that kick-to-handball ratio but it happened. It was off the back of us not spreading up the ground well enough. It's not something we train, but it crept into our game so we'll need to make sure that we make it clear to the boys what the right patterns are there."

    How dearly the Dogs would have liked to be able to call on Hunter, consistently one of the club's top gut runners, to help with that spread issue.

    More to the point, Hunter's position on the wing - generally a "set and forget" role for his side - had to be filled. This is where the domino effect of Hunter's serious indiscretion is witnessed. In 2019, Hunter's premiership teammate and contemporary Jack Macrae attended an average of 20 centre bounces per game, according to Champion Data. Macrae's centre square brilliance earned him All-Australian selection last year.

    Against the Saints, Macrae was sent to the vacant wing in the first half. He didn't attend a single centre bounce. With Macrae - an enormous accumulator both on the inside and outside - away from his usual position, the Dogs were blitzed in the midfield, as Zak Jones and Jade Gresham, in particular, led St Kilda to a 15 plus advantage in contested possessions at half-time.

    Clearly something had to be done so Macrae returned to the guts in the second, attending nine centre bounces. He was far from dominant, and the Bulldogs were still beaten in centre clearances after half-time, but the contested ball problem was neutralised.

    It would be unfair though to sheet home the blame for the Dogs' loss to Hunter's absence. As Beveridge frankly acknowledged post-match, his side have several serious issues.

    While Easton Wood and Tom Liberatore remain on their respective comeback trails from injury, one issue which is largely within Beveridge's control is selection.

    The continued absence of versatile small Toby McLean continues to raise eyebrows, both from Dogs supporters and within opposition football departments.

    "Toby's made some really strong contributions over a period of time," Beveridge said.

    "We've got some very similar players playing in our front half. We've got to work out what that mix is and the balance of it. The players who were in tonight earned their spot."

    They may have earned their spots in Beveridge's eyes, but question marks remain over the long-term viability of forward Gowers and key defender Ryan Gardner.

    The latter, picked up in last year's mid-season rookie draft, made some costly turnovers against the Saints, after being preferred ahead of the vastly more experienced Jackson Trengove and Zaine Cordy.

    "He mucked one or two up tonight, but he's actually a pretty good kick," Beveridge said of Gardner.

    "But he's trying to acclimatise to the intensity of the game. He had his moments tonight that he wouldn't have been overly pleased with. You can't end up a good AFL footballer if you don't get opportunity, and so we've got to make that decision as to whether he gets that opportunity now and a long run at it, or whether we change things around."

    That last sentence from Beveridge goes to the heart of the biggest question about the Dogs. They won seven of their last nine home and away games in 2019, and Champion Data rated their 2020 list as the second-best in the AFL. That points to a team ready to contend for a premiership. Is it really the time to be chancing the arm with speculative players?

    "You're always in a state of flux and transitioning. You've just got to keep an open mind and stay positive, and can't look any further than next week," Beveridge said.

    "You're always going through change, and sometimes it's a step backwards to go forwards."

    Asked about where the Dogs sat in the AFL's pecking order, Beveridge noted that key talls Tim English and Aaron Naughton - despite their obvious promise - remain callow and that Josh Bruce and Alex Keath are still acclimatising to a new side. However, that didn't seem to hurt St Kilda, whose foreign legion of off-season recruits was central to their win on Sunday night.

    Like all clubs, the Dogs are also feeling the pinch of football department cuts. Midfield coach Jordan Russell and stoppages expert Joel Corey both remain stood down, with the club opting to prioritise their medical and myotherapy team in these austere times. Senior assistant Steven King is filling the midfield breach.

    While acknowledging that his workload had increased because of the diminished numbers, Beveridge was loath to use the circumstance as an excuse.

    However, as one senior football department figure at a rival club noted, the Dogs don't look like an organised team at the moment.

    Bottom of the ladder after two rounds, in a shortened season, they have to turn things around quickly. By the time Hunter returns, it could almost be too late.
    Premierships: AFL 1954, 2016 VFA - 1898,99,1900, 1908, 1913, 1919-20, 1923-24, VFL: 2014, 2016 . Champions of Victoria 1924. AFLW - 2018.

  2. #2
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    Re: No Hunter, no gatherer: What's wrong with the Western Bulldogs?

    I think Daniel has been reading the forums
    Premierships: AFL 1954, 2016 VFA - 1898,99,1900, 1908, 1913, 1919-20, 1923-24, VFL: 2014, 2016 . Champions of Victoria 1924. AFLW - 2018.

  3. #3
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    Re: No Hunter, no gatherer: What's wrong with the Western Bulldogs?

    Gardener is actually a pretty good kick says Bevo. Well sorry but you’re judged based on how you kick in a match and he’s woeful. Being a good kick at training is meaningless. I’m a decent kick under no pressure

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    Re: No Hunter, no gatherer: What's wrong with the Western Bulldogs?

    Quote Originally Posted by bulldogsthru&thru View Post
    Gardener is actually a pretty good kick says Bevo. Well sorry but you’re judged based on how you kick in a match and he’s woeful. Being a good kick at training is meaningless. I’m a decent kick under no pressure
    Agree. I have seen nothing in the way Gardiner kicks a ball to suggest he is a good kick. He is a liability with ball in hand and a liability without it.

  6. #5
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    Re: No Hunter, no gatherer: What's wrong with the Western Bulldogs?

    Hunter's absence has nothing to do with meek showings against GWS and Collingwood.
    Western Bulldogs: 2016 Premiers

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    Re: No Hunter, no gatherer: What's wrong with the Western Bulldogs?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mofra View Post
    Hunter's absence has nothing to do with meek showings against GWS and Collingwood.
    Hopefully you are not inadvertently pre-empting this Friday night!!
    They come after one,
    They come after all,
    They can't handle all,
    Lets go....

    Bob Murphy

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    Re: No Hunter, no gatherer: What's wrong with the Western Bulldogs?

    Playing Macrae on a wing robs our contested ball strength and doesn't address the outside loss of Hunter. It's a lose-lose that most of us on the outer could see prior to the game.

    Just one of the many head-scratchers from Bevo.
    "You've got no fear of The Underdog, that's why you will not survive"
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    - Western Bulldogs, 2016

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    Re: No Hunter, no gatherer: What's wrong with the Western Bulldogs?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sedat View Post
    Playing Macrae on a wing robs our contested ball strength and doesn't address the outside loss of Hunter. It's a lose-lose that most of us on the outer could see prior to the game.

    Just one of the many head-scratchers from Bevo.
    I’d sooner have Hayes back on the wing if it means Macrae gets to stay in the middle. The Saints walked it out of the contest in the middle waaay too often and way too easily.

  10. #9
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    Re: No Hunter, no gatherer: What's wrong with the Western Bulldogs?

    Quote Originally Posted by The Adelaide Connection View Post
    I’d sooner have Hayes back on the wing if it means Macrae gets to stay in the middle. The Saints walked it out of the contest in the middle waaay too often and way too easily.
    Centre clearances were Saints 14 to 9
    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: No Hunter, no gatherer: What's wrong with the Western Bulldogs?

    Quote Originally Posted by bornadog View Post
    Centre clearances were Saints 14 to 9
    Exactly.

  12. #11
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    Re: No Hunter, no gatherer: What's wrong with the Western Bulldogs?

    Quote Originally Posted by azabob View Post
    Hopefully you are not inadvertently pre-empting this Friday night!!
    The final last year was a very poor display, that has to be part of our conversation
    Western Bulldogs: 2016 Premiers

  13. #12
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    Re: No Hunter, no gatherer: What's wrong with the Western Bulldogs?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sedat View Post
    Playing Macrae on a wing robs our contested ball strength and doesn't address the outside loss of Hunter. It's a lose-lose that most of us on the outer could see prior to the game.

    Just one of the many head-scratchers from Bevo.
    The stats say the exact opposite - his replacement in the centre (Bailey Smith) had 6 clearances, equal high with Bonti.
    Western Bulldogs: 2016 Premiers

  14. #13
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    Re: No Hunter, no gatherer: What's wrong with the Western Bulldogs?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mofra View Post
    The stats say the exact opposite - his replacement in the centre (Bailey Smith) had 6 clearances, equal high with Bonti.
    Do they have a breakdown of what the numbers were in the first half? Also Macrae and Smith can be in the centre square at the same time.

    This just shows that Smith is an awesome and critical addition to our midfield group.
    "You've got no fear of The Underdog, that's why you will not survive"
    - Spoon, 2007
    - Western Bulldogs, 2016

  15. #14
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    Re: No Hunter, no gatherer: What's wrong with the Western Bulldogs?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mofra View Post
    The final last year was a very poor display, that has to be part of our conversation
    100% agree. When I read your statement I thought of this Friday then realised you meant last year.

    Our head in the sand started straight after the GWS final.
    They come after one,
    They come after all,
    They can't handle all,
    Lets go....

    Bob Murphy

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    Re: No Hunter, no gatherer: What's wrong with the Western Bulldogs?

    Given we basically live or die based on the fortunes of our midfield perhaps depriving it of Macrae isn't such great planning.

    We've got half backs up the wazoo so I'd be tempted to nudge JJ up there until Hunter's cleared to play again.
    BORDERLINE FLYING

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