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  1. #1
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    Dogs’ days: Which side is better - 2016 or 2021?

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    Marcus Bontempelli had not turned 21 when the Western Bulldogs broke their premiership drought in 2016.

    He won their best and fairest that season - his third since being pick No.4 in the 2013 national draft - as the Bulldogs’ list was transformed when now Sydney recruiter Simon Dalrymple picked premiership players in all parts of the draft over six consecutive seasons to add to the six players still on the list who had played in the 2010 preliminary final.

    Bontempelli is an even better player at 25, a Bulldogs’ champion who is arguably the best player in the competition right now.

    But was the group he won the flag alongside in 2016 better than the 2021 version he is hoping to lead to a second premiership under Luke Beveridge?

    No-one denies the 2021 list is a little deeper than it was in 2016 with elite prospects such as Aaron Naughton, Tim English, Bailey Smith and Cody Weightman secured through the draft while Josh Bruce, Alex Keath and Stefan Martin were traded in to fill needs. Adam Treloar was a bonus with the potential to turbo-charged the already strong midfield.

    A key figure behind the flag, former skipper Robert Murphy - who missed playing most of 2016 with a knee injury - says it would be a mistake however to assess the 2016 group using some sort of objective measure.

    “The style and the spirit of the team looks similar but the 2015-2016 [group], it really wasn’t on paper,” Murphy said.

    “It did not have an orthodox line up at all. We had a fair bit of talent but the top end stuff wasn’t in the spine really and we had a style that was different to a lot of teams but we did have a pretty unique spirit that came from some desperate times preceding it.”

    Murphy is right with the grand final spine of Joel Hamling, Fletcher Roberts, Tom Liberatore, Tom Boyd (who shared ruck duties with Jordan Roughead) and Liam Picken even more unconventional than last week’s spine, Ryan Gardner (who is now out injured), Alex Keath, Tom Liberatore, Bruce and Aaron Naughton.

    At the core of both line-ups is the midfield with the premiership list’s handball club including Bontempelli, Liberatore, Jackson Macrae, Lachie Hunter, Caleb Daniel (now a defender). Toby McLean and Josh Dunkley still at the club while Luke Dahlhaus has joined Geelong.

    They are all more experienced players five years on with Bailey Smith and Treloar massive additions.

    “If you want to ruin your afternoon try to sit down and rank the midfielders one through to eight,” Murphy said. “I tried doing it once.”

    He gave up.

    The key to success for both teams was territory with the Bulldogs winning the battle in the 2016 finals series after they finished seventh - a slightly misleading ladder position given they still won 15 games.

    In the premiership year only two teams conceded more points than the Bulldogs but 12 teams scored more. At this stage of 2021 they have kicked the most points and conceded the least.

    An intangible that Murphy noticed in 2016 was the lift in standards the addition of good draft picks brought to training as Beveridge schooled the group using small sided games that sharpened their reflexes.

    “[Depth] is handy if you lose players but the thing I noticed at the time is that it was the best quality of training we had ever had ... it lifted the watermark of quality,” Murphy said.

    “The cool thing was to train as hard as you could.”

    Beveridge knows that talent is one thing but as he said on 3AW on Wednesday night, the best teams are mature enough to take it up to other teams in man to man combat.

    “[You] still need to be brash and challenging the other sides in the physicality of the game,” Beveridge said.

    The Bulldogs in 2016 had that asset in spades with their backline full of mature hard nuts in Dale Morris, Matthew Boyd and the skipper Easton Wood who could not only play the game but lent support to Roberts, Cordy, Shane Biggs, and Jason Johannisen.

    Liam Picken, Clay Smith and Dahlhaus competed like crazy up forward while Jake Stringer was an X-factor. Liberatore is the only noted hard man in 2021 but his teammates no longer cop any rough stuff after the Giants embarrassed them in the 2019 elimination final.

    Murphy sees the 2021 version as a second coming under Beveridge that has been remodelled with a more traditional structure with key forwards and crumbers inside 50, two genuine ruckmen, a deep midfield, running defenders including Bailey Dale and Bailey Williams - who were on the list in 2016 - and recruits Taylor Duryea and Hayden Crozier, and lockdown tall defenders.

    “There is a question do we need another key defender but there are not too many teams that are absolutely complete are there?” Murphy said.

    “It’s like they are Bevo’s Bulldogs mark two.”

    Bulldogs mark two has more talent but until it gets the job done in September, 2016 has the edge.
    FFC: Established 1877

    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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  3. #2
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    Re: Dogs’ days: Which side is better - 2016 or 2021?

    Well, we came from very far back, with a heap of serious injuries in 2016.
    Too early to say. We also had a lot of workmanlike players that performed out of their skins that year.
    It's not the breed of the dog, but the fight in it.
    "We've got to be good in the phone box, and good in the tardis" - Pearls of wisdom from Luke Beveridge.

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    Re: Dogs’ days: Which side is better - 2016 or 2021?

    2016 is a historically criminally underrated side, but in terms of top to bottom talent this one is better.
    - RIP Goldstein for 2021 First - 2020-2020 -

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    Re: Dogs’ days: Which side is better - 2016 or 2021?

    Hard to separate them. 2016 beat WC in Perth, Port in Adelaide and GWS in Sydney. 2021 appears to be a more balanced list and has beaten WC in Perth, Port in Adelaide and really had Geelong beat at their shit hole of a ground.

    2016 won a flag, so has the edge. 2021 and beyond could realistically win more.

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    Re: Dogs’ days: Which side is better - 2016 or 2021?

    Talent, skill, heart, mongrel, desire …they’re all needed for a flag. So far the 2016 brand has this group covered in the sheer desperation facets. I’m not sure yet who could do the equivalent of the ferocious Clay Smith attack on the ball in Q3 of the PF which brought us a goal when the tide was turning, or the stunning repeat efforts of Shane Biggs in the GF, but we also didn’t have the prospect of Naughton taking incredible pack marks, or the complete beast and unbelievably skilled player Bont has turned out to be.

    In 16 everyone played a role when they had to, nothing was ever left on the table, nothing could get in the way of their sense of destiny. I guess we’ll only really know this Finals series because when all’s said and done it’s just an academic point till this group achieve the same.
    www.bulldogtragician.com A blog about being a lifelong fan of the Dogs and our quixotic attempt to replicate 1954. AND WE DID
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  10. #6
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    Re: Dogs’ days: Which side is better - 2016 or 2021?

    Quote Originally Posted by Happy Days View Post
    2016 is a historically criminally underrated side, but in terms of top to bottom talent this one is better.
    Couldn’t agree more.
    Sam Power: Great Sage, Equal Of Heaven

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    Re: Dogs’ days: Which side is better - 2016 or 2021?

    Why does that say "arguably"?

    Bontempelli is clearly top dog.
    "It's over. It's all over."

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    Re: Dogs’ days: Which side is better - 2016 or 2021?

    Quote Originally Posted by EasternWest View Post
    Why does that say "arguably"?

    Bontempelli is clearly top dog.
    Are you arguing?
    FFC: Established 1877

    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: Dogs’ days: Which side is better - 2016 or 2021?

    Quote Originally Posted by bornadog View Post
    Are you arguing?
    No. Spitting facts.


    Bontempelli has been around the top few for a few years but he's become a matchwinner this year. He'll end up with nearly thirty goals as a midfielder. He racks up huge k's and just about every posession seems to count. There's currently no other player like him. He astounds me.

    Don't make me take you to the Yarraville nets.
    "It's over. It's all over."

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    Re: Dogs’ days: Which side is better - 2016 or 2021?

    Quote Originally Posted by EasternWest View Post
    No. Spitting facts.


    Bontempelli has been around the top few for a few years but he's become a matchwinner this year. He'll end up with nearly thirty goals as a midfielder. He racks up huge k's and just about every posession seems to count. There's currently no other player like him. He astounds me.

    Don't make me take you to the Yarraville nets.
    I think he is almost my favourite all time player. (which is hard to choose.)
    FFC: Established 1877

    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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  17. #11
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    Re: Dogs’ days: Which side is better - 2016 or 2021?

    Quote Originally Posted by Happy Days View Post
    2016 is a historically criminally underrated side, but in terms of top to bottom talent this one is better.
    Agreed.

    The 2016 side still managed to churn out 15 wins with a horror run of injuries (and beat Sydney, who the pundits claimed to be the clear best side in the home and away season on their deck), and only really got pushed to its full limit in the preliminary final in what was the most ridiculous undertaking of all time in finals to claim the cup.

    But because it didn't have a traditional key forward (apart from Tom Boyd) and had a solid performer/ battler or two in defence it doesn't get nearly the kudos it deserves.

    This year the side is better up front, better in the middle, and different but possibly on-par in defence. What remains to be seen is whether it can bring its best in finals where many of the core have been disappointing over the past couple of years.

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    Re: Dogs’ days: Which side is better - 2016 or 2021?

    2021 side is better, however the only concern that I have is that we just lack that hardness in the back line of Boyd, Morris, Biggs. The hardness of Picken, Smith, Dalhouse

    We hopefully have a better ruck in Martin, improvements in Bont, Dunks and Hunter

    The forward line looks so much more powerful, so its all up to who runs out in September
    BB.

    Bulldogs are on a Roll.

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    Re: Dogs’ days: Which side is better - 2016 or 2021?

    Here's my crack at a composite best 22 from the 2016/2021 sides if all players were fit and at their peak.

    B: Wood (16) Keath (21) Boyd (16)
    HB: Dale (21) Morris (16) Williams (21)
    C: Hunter (21) Libba (21) JJ (16)
    HF: Picken (16) Naughton (21) C. Smith (16)
    FF: Stringer (16) Bruce (21) English (21)
    R: Roughead (16) Bont (21) Dunks (21)
    I: Daniel (21) Treloar (21) Duryea (21) Murphy (16)

    I'm sure I've missed some obvious ones.
    Our 1954 premiership players are our heroes, and it has to be said that Charlie was their hero.

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  23. #14
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    Re: Dogs’ days: Which side is better - 2016 or 2021?

    Quote Originally Posted by comrade View Post
    Here's my crack at a composite best 22 from the 2016/2021 sides if all players were fit and at their peak.

    B: Wood (16) Keath (21) Boyd (16)
    HB: Dale (21) Morris (16) Williams (21)
    C: Hunter (21) Libba (21) JJ (16)
    HF: Picken (16) Naughton (21) C. Smith (16)
    FF: Stringer (16) Bruce (21) English (21)
    R: Roughead (16) Bont (21) Dunks (21)
    I: Daniel (21) Treloar (21) Duryea (21) Murphy (16)

    I'm sure I've missed some obvious ones.
    Macrae!

    Also big of you to name Naughton at CHF.
    - RIP Goldstein for 2021 First - 2020-2020 -

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    Re: Dogs’ days: Which side is better - 2016 or 2021?

    Quote Originally Posted by Happy Days View Post
    Macrae!

    Also big of you to name Naughton at CHF.
    The Unobtrusive One misses again…

    I think you’re generous to Stringer on his form in that particular year, of which he spent time at Footscray..maybe that’s what you are considering though with ‘at their peak’, in which case Murph is unlucky to be a mere interchange…
    www.bulldogtragician.com A blog about being a lifelong fan of the Dogs and our quixotic attempt to replicate 1954. AND WE DID
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