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  1. #1
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    Western bulldogs’ depth chart, strengths and weaknesses in 2022

    WESTERN BULLDOGS’ DEPTH CHART, STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES IN 2022



    The Western Bulldogs fell a quarter and a half short of a second premiership under Luke Beveridge, but have built a list primed to contend again and again.

    Recruiter Sam Power last October signed free agent Tim O’Brien, who will likely replace premiership captain Easton Wood, but the Dogs prioritised draft points in the wake of the Grand Final loss.

    With a spread of talent, experience in key positions and the deepest, most potent midfield in the game, it will be improvement from the young core that drives the Dogs further.

    Alex Keath has evolved from an interceptor into the pillar of the defence. The 30-year-old sets the line, cuts out opposition thrusts and even at 198cm is rarely beaten on the ground. The former Crow was variously partnered by the shaky Ryan Gardner and natural third tall Zaine Cordy, so help from the interceptors and screening from the midfield will again be essential.

    Former hit-up forward Bailey Dale went behind the ball and won All-Australian honours, having juiced up the Dogs’ movement with his changes of angle and kicks that dipped like radio waves. Caleb Daniel was called up to the midfield more often but continued to link up the lines, while Taylor Duryea and Bailey Williams blanketed small forwards and owned their patch of grass.

    Local product Buku Khamis also gave us a glimpse of his potential to grow into any vacancy that emerges.

    The chemistry of the Dogs’ midfield was a challenge for Beveridge last summer, but it is intoxicating when it all alchemises. Skipper Marcus Bontempelli is simply the most impactful midfielder in the competition. The 26-year-old’s combination of contested chops, spatial awareness and vision, deep kicking and a knack for the moment is unmatched.

    Jack Macrae and Tom Liberatore are the stokers in the Dogs’ engine room, but deserve equal recognition for the way their vision, kicking and knock-ons slices teams into ribbons.

    On the wing and the half-forward line we find Adam Treloar, Bailey Smith and Lachie Hunter, the former having added the acceleration the Dogs midfield had long craved. Smith’s game appeared in the grips of an existential crisis at times last season, but as a half-forward rolling up to the contest he was among the best players in the competition over the finals.

    The Dogs tested the waters but found no further pieces to complete the ruck jigsaw, so veteran Stefan Martin will contest the centre bounces once more. Tim English is better than people think, and held to a higher account than any other when he’s walked over by the top-line rucks, but Beveridge will desperately hope he can grow (not literally) again.

    South Australian tall Jordon Sweet is a project player who got a taste last season, while draftee Sam Darcy has targeted a role as a ruck-forward.

    Aaron Naughton will be the star attraction. The ‘Astronaught’ has layered more on to his game every season, from one-out marking to a ground game, and has the keys with Josh Bruce out until late in the winter. Crumbing forward Cody Weightman turned a three-game sample in 2020 into 26 goals in 16 games in 2021.

    Darcy is just one of a handful of exciting kids who will compete for forward minutes. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan spent the off-season training with Bontempelli, and has in turn taken exciting West Australian forward Arthur Jones under his wing.

    Ugle-Hagan’s leading patterns, work ethic and kicking should flourish on the back of a second pre-season, and he will be given every chance to make a senior spot his own. Jones’ attributes appear a perfect complement for Weightman, Mitch Hannan and the key forwards, and his hybrid wing-forward role has conveniently been a cog in this team over the last two seasons.

    Hannan found his best touch in the finals as a pressure forward with a good leap and will hope to carry it into 2022, Laitham Vandermeer and Anthony Scott get up in opponents’ grills, while winger-turned-forward Lachie McNeil’s pace, pressure game and delicate kicking will win him minutes.

    Seven-time rookie Roarke Smith has finally won a senior contract as a plug-and-play forward and winger, while the underrated Jason Johannisen will continue to add experience, run and aesthetically effortless deep kicking wherever he is asked to play.

    The only unanswered question is Mitch Wallis, who was the leading goal kicker in 2020 but struggled to win a spot last season. He can’t break into the midfield, his forward role has been made obsolete but his career is a story of reinvention, and he is a deeply loved leader at the club.

    The Dogs will naturally improve as they continue to pump games into the young players who are already good enough to hold their own at the elite level, and each member of the deep midfield should hold his level, but the same questions remain.

    Martin’s fitness will be critical, as will English’s development. Each will need the other to come in and put out the fire when caught in a bad match-up, as Martin was with Dees prodigy Luke Jackson in the decider.

    The consequences of having lost Dunkley and Treloar for nearly three months in the middle of the season also can’t be underestimated. Beveridge missed out on all that time to test the full scope of his midfield and develop contingency plans. A rare clean bill of health could be transformative for the coach.

    A premiership is well within this team’s reach with some good fortune and development in the right positions, and it isn’t two minutes to midnight on the proverbial premiership clock, either. The Bulldogs will be fun to watch for years.

    DEFENDERS

    Alex Keath, Caleb Daniel, Bailey Dale, Taylor Duryea, Bailey Williams, Ryan Gardner, Jason Johannisen, Tim O’Brien, Zaine Cordy, Ed Richards, Hayden Crozier, Buku Khamis, Louis Butler, Charlie Parker, Luke Cleary, Cody Raak

    MIDFIELDERS

    Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae, Adam Treloar, Bailey Smith, Tom Liberatore, Lachie Hunter, Josh Dunkley, Toby McLean, Roarke Smith, Rhylee West, Robbie McComb

    RUCKS

    Stefan Martin, Tim English, Jordon Sweet

    FORWARDS

    Aaron Naughton, Josh Bruce, Cody Weightman, Mitch Hannan, Laitham Vandermeer, Lachie McNeil, Josh Schache, Anthony Scott, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, Mitch Wallis, Riley Garcia, Dominic Bedendo, Sam Darcy, Arthur Jones

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  3. #2
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    Re: Western bulldogs’ depth chart, strengths and weaknesses in 2022

    Is this just a fluff name every player on the list article?

    I got to Buku and I was out.

    Don't get me wrong, I like Buku well enough but at this stage he's barely "depth".
    "It's over. It's all over."

  4. #3
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    Re: Western bulldogs’ depth chart, strengths and weaknesses in 2022

    Quote Originally Posted by EasternWest View Post
    Is this just a fluff name every player on the list article?

    I got to Buku and I was out.

    Don't get me wrong, I like Buku well enough but at this stage he's barely "depth".
    At least the author seems to have at least witnessed our players take the field at some stage, unlike many of these type of articles.

  5. #4
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    Re: Western bulldogs’ depth chart, strengths and weaknesses in 2022

    Quote Originally Posted by Axe Man View Post
    At least the author seems to have at least witnessed our players take the field at some stage, unlike many of these type of articles.
    I'll pay that.
    "It's over. It's all over."

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