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  1. #1
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    Honest reflection and the path forward

    I truly believe the worst thing a club can do is to not accurately evaluate its list. Get it wrong and you can set yourself up for years of pain at the bottom (see Carlton) or forever lurking in the middle of the pack (see St Kilda - don't let their ladder positioning fool you, they're not a top 4 side).

    I've been critical of our list management for a while, despite us making a Grand Final last year. For a long time we've been short on rucks, short on key defenders and short on natural forwards. Understand that it's rare you can ever tick EVERY box, but if you want to compete deep, you need to mitigate your weaknesses and maximise your strengths. Sounds simple, and yet we have neglected our areas of weaknesses for too long.

    It hasn't 'cost us' until now. We have never been a highly skilled team under Bevo and we've never had a strong structure. We've relied on a number of other areas, namely;

    1. Strong midfield - in the past we have just overwhelmed our opposition.
    2. Contributions from 22 - we've had our stars but we've relied on even contributions.
    3. Flexibility - talls who can play on smalls, smalls who can play taller, ability to play multiple positions etc.
    4. A grinding mentality - questionable whether this is sustainable. Saw it succeed in 2016 and succeed for large parts of 2021, but when our ability to grind dissipates we have little structure to 'save us', which sees us fall in a hole (2017, 2018, arguably 2019/2020, 2022)

    In my mind, the following is apparent;

    1. Our midfield has dropped away and it's overrated. The end of the H&A season last year ahs become a trend. We recovered in the finals until the GF capitulation and we really haven't recovered since. The names on paper look good, but how effective are they REALLY? Stats aside, Bont's form has been... concerning. Dunkley's effort is good but his limitations are severe (ball use, lack of spread from the contest). Treloar has been disappointing and is a defensive liability. I might cop some flak for this and I love the guy, but Macrae is a bit of a stat padder - his influence on games has been 'meh' this year (maybe the average form of Bont and Treloar has an impact on Jack). Hunter has been well down and is similar to Macrae, there's little 'hurt' factor in his game. Libba looked good stat wise today but he's nowhere near the level he was in tight and his ability to spread is AWFUL. Smith has been pretty good, save for some crap disposal.

    One of the biggest issues I have with our midfield group is their inability to spread. We are slow and our desire AND acceleration to defend is plainly terrible.

    2. Contributions from the 22 are well down. Who has improved, let alone maintained their form from last year? English is the obvious improver, Dale has maintained his form, Gardner is an improver ... there's not much else to write about. Who is well down on production? Bont, Treloar, Williams, Daniel, Hunter, Duryea, Vandermeer, Keath. Meanwhile some of our fringe types who gave us something, have given nothing (McNeil, R Smith, Sweet, Garcia, Hannan).

    3. Flexibility is largely form dependent. It hasn't worked - the ruck situation, Bont as a forward, Daniel, Cordy etc.

    4. We aren't grinding. We don't look hungry. We look heavy both mentally and physically. We lost a GF to Melbourne and read about all the on-field and off-field bickering, but we turned up to R1 and were MEEK. Problem is, we simply can't be 'off' in this area and still win because our structure is non-existent. Melbourne can have moments where they're playing poorly but their defensive structure is so good that they can 'get by' until the tide turns.

    OK, so where to from here?

    ** Evaluate the list honestly and act accordingly. We have too many half back flankers and too many mids. We have few natural forwards, next to no rucks and next to no KPDs. Fix it. Call it a mini-rebuild, call it a refresh, whatever. It's clear it needs fixing.

    ** Understand that we need more balanced talent on the list. How do we get it? Listen to offers for Dunkley, Hunter and Daniel for a start. I'm open to going to the draft if we rate it. Can we get 3 top 15 picks i.e. x1 for Dunkley, x1 for Daniel and then our own.

    ** Draft/trade in natural forwards. That's a mix of medium forwards (i.e. Dickson/Fritsch types) and small crumbing forwards.

    ** Draft/trade in x2 key defenders and a lockdown defender (Morris/Boyd type - Duryea is almost done).

    ** Draft/trade in x2 rucks. Not sure who is out there, could we/would we entertain somebody like Rory Lobb to partner with English? Likely would cost too much, and maybe Darcy is that player. Either way, English needs support because Martin is done and we don't rate Sweet.

    ** Make calls on McLean (harsh - but we can't keep carrying him), Wallis, Schache, West, Butler, McComb, Khamis.

    ** Consider a reboot for certain players. The first one I'd be looking at is Williams to the midfield. He looks 'done' as a defender for now, can he play inside mid or wing? Big body, good above his head, big kick. Showed a bit in the midfield around 2018, then followed it up with a poor pre-season which led him to a crossroads before he rejuvenated as a defender. Worth trying again, would give us something different in the midfield which we need. Khamis as a forward/ruck sounds like it's happening at VFL level, can Hannan move back? Could West play as a small defender? Vandermeer as a running half back? Daniel further up the ground?

    ** Lastly, do we need a change in coaching? I'm inclined to say yes and I think our targets should be Clarko and Buckley if so. The former is a great, the latter will be much better the second time around. I feel like Bevo (and his coaching group) are out of ideas and the same stubbornness which got us a Premiership and a GF birth is also partly why we're in a hole right now. Bevo has been wonderful for our club, but he's been the head coach for 8 years. That's a lengthy period of time, he looks disgruntled and tired. I could be wrong.

    Apologies for the length of this post. Above all else, I'm convinced we have issues in both our playing personnel and in our coaching. Do you change one before the other? Do you change both?

    What would you change?
    Sam Power is my religion.

  2. #2
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    Re: Honest reflection and the path forward

    Great Post. Agree, Bevo looked a bit drained in the presser today. Its been an emotional week for the team. My condolences to Varcoe and the Wallis family.


    The draft points accumulation to get JUH and Darcy I hope they don't come back to bite us because our current young crop in 20-23 age bracket is a concern , some of the younger players are not able to step up and challenge for the midfield positions.

    Today being beaten by a harder working Adelaide younger midfield was really disappointing.

    In 2016 - we at least head some depth like Jong, Prudden, Adcock, MArcus Adams and Suckling . Jong played without fear, and Adcock was a good kick.

    A lot has to go right to win a Premiership, but it is always a few years of good planning.

    Thanks for the great write up.

  3. #3
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    Re: Honest reflection and the path forward

    Quote Originally Posted by macca View Post
    Great Post. Agree, Bevo looked a bit drained in the presser today. Its been an emotional week for the team. My condolences to Varcoe and the Wallis family.


    The draft points accumulation to get JUH and Darcy I hope they don't come back to bite us because our current young crop in 20-23 age bracket is a concern , some of the younger players are not able to step up and challenge for the midfield positions.

    Today being beaten by a harder working Adelaide younger midfield was really disappointing.

    In 2016 - we at least head some depth like Jong, Prudden, Adcock, MArcus Adams and Suckling . Jong played without fear, and Adcock was a good kick.

    A lot has to go right to win a Premiership, but it is always a few years of good planning.

    Thanks for the great write up.
    Thanks Macca.

    One point I neglected was the impact of JUH/Darcy and our draft pick points as you noted. I'm fine with that even now as both of these players can (hopefully) give us structure, but it's important we get some young talent on the list quickly. Trading two of Dunkley, Hunter and Daniel might hurt a bit short term but it would provide a chance for us to bounce soon after if we draft well.

    I'd even consider trading all 3 to be honest...
    Sam Power is my religion.

  4. #4
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    Re: Honest reflection and the path forward

    I would trade Dunkley. In fact we might be in a better position now if we traded him out when he wanted to go.
    Can't remember what the offer was exactly which might change things.
    Hunter is family so I would say no. And Caleb Daniel is such an iconic figure I wouldn't trade him either. He's too loved. And he's pretty damn good.

  5. #5
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    Re: Honest reflection and the path forward

    What drives me mad is how keep topping our list up with Bevo's army of mini-me's. The earnest battler who 'earned' his chance. The nuggety, driven 'warrior' who'll give his all. Instead of bringing in different types and flavours.

  6. #6
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    Re: Honest reflection and the path forward

    I was going to start a thread titled blessing or curse last night, specifically focussing on the Darcy/JUH/Treloar transactions.

    Although all 3 will be/are good players, none of them filled the needs of a side challenging for a premiership.
    The Treloar year we had so much to juggle with keeping Dunkley, getting Treloar, and also adding a ruck (Stef) and a tall small forward (Hannan). If Treloar hadn't landed in our lap, could/would we have investigated other options?

    JUH and Darcy - although both have potential to be elite talents, we spent a lot to get them and I think it is a fair question to ask whether having those multiple picks would have netted a better result. Would we better placed as a side if we had been able to trade one of those top picks for a ready made KPF, or been able to use them on 2 or 3 top young talents instead of 1?

    I don't think it's the reason for our list management issues, and we have still brought in a lot of best 22 talent in the last few years alongside the ones falling in our lap, but I don't think the situation helped.

  7. #7
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    Re: Honest reflection and the path forward

    The opening post is the critical thinking that every club needs to do when assessing where their list is at and if their playing style is keeping up with the opposition teams.
    Where a lot of teams struggle is having the mettle at the board and admin level to pull the trigger of kick starting a refresh.
    They factor in considerations like membership and perhaps even sponsorship considerations before making the call.

    Look at North, they cleared house and probably thought it would be a quick trip to the draft before they got the kick but it's now proven to be a far bigger challenge. The Hawks tried or at least teased a fire sale last year but couldn't quite pull the trigger.
    Sydney lost a couple of players in Hewett and Dawson and have to factor in what might happen with Franklin, Rampe and Kennedy but have backed the growth in their younger player group to get them back into contention.
    Then there is the draft dodging and top up approach of Geelong that has kept them competitive but hasn't delivered what they really want.

    Given we made it to the GF last year and really positioning ourselves in the GF to win the game it's clearly a reflection that our list was talented enough and with a few tweaks we should have been right in the mix again this year.
    While at the moment we look to be a bit off the pace I can understand why the club thought we were close. I find our lack of KP depth and our almost refusal to use a tag frustrating but there is no doubt that we should have entered this year with confidence that we were in the mix for 2022.

    Like every year come the end of the season we will have to make the hard call on where we are as a club, the strengths and weaknesses of the playing list and the effectiveness of the footy department in developing players and our game plans within the coaches box.

    The next few weeks might determine the direction we will need to chart going forward.
    Will it be a few tweaks?
    Could it be a refresh?
    Or could it be adding some additional resources to the coaching and footy department is all we need to do?

    Great thread TBB, I think we will be revisiting this frequently during the season.
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  8. #8
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    Re: Honest reflection and the path forward

    What disappoints me the most is the lack of visibility of our President. I have no idea what she stands for, other than perhaps “the brand”. Smorgo or Gordo would have stepped up this week and said what a tragic week it has been for the football club, and how the deaths of those close to us has impacted everyone at the Whitten Oval. As a club, we put our collective arms around all of us and support each other like the family we are.

    Instead, again it is left to Bevo and his under-resourced team. How he cannot be emotionally spent is beyond me, especially with what he invests with the players and those close to him.

    I would really love to see for once our President step up and take the load off some others for a change.
    "I'll give him a hug before the first bounce and then I'll run into my pack and give them orders to rip him apart."

  9. #9
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    Re: Honest reflection and the path forward

    Quote Originally Posted by Dancin' Douggy View Post
    I would trade Dunkley. In fact we might be in a better position now if we traded him out when he wanted to go.
    Can't remember what the offer was exactly which might change things.
    Hunter is family so I would say no. And Caleb Daniel is such an iconic figure I wouldn't trade him either. He's too loved. And he's pretty damn good.
    We were offered a first and second round pick for Dunks but wanted 2 1st rounders. Good luck getting anywhere near that now.

  10. #10
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    Re: Honest reflection and the path forward

    When I reflect on yesterdayís game I immediately find myself in the same hole I have been in for a long time.

    The quality players are not in their best positions and they are not playing smart football as a cohesive team. As a result weíre not getting the full benefits from their talent. Cordy in the ruck, 7 hitouts and 7 possessions. And some easy forward entries for the opposition.

    one example from late in the game: Walker gets an easy possession 40m out and kicks a good goal. Analyse the possession. He ran into an open space and marked a soft kick. The hole was deliberate and both kicker and receiver knew it would be there and played it perfectly.

    Shortly before this the ball was coming into our forward line. Schache was moving his opponent right and pointing to his left at the hole he was opening. Obviously he wanted to lead into it. But the ball holder kicked high to a pack around Naughton.

    There is a lack of cohesion bringing the ball into the forward zone. One plan, kick it high to Naughton. Yes there are occasional good deliveries, Bont and McRae can do it but itís pretty rare and our forward efficiency is very low. That is why we are not seeing those extra goals.Thatís why JUH is struggling, he has to go and get the ball because itís not being given to him. Thatís why he tries to outmark Naughton.

    We need players playing to a well thought out and practised plan. Iím not seeing it. We need a better match day plan (now).

  11. #11
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    Re: Honest reflection and the path forward

    If we had a mid (besides Libba) who would set up to defend a stoppage, that would be a great start.

    Keays gets two clearance in the last so what do we do? Leave him all alone on the crows goal side of a ruck contest when our back-up was competing with R. O'Brien. Silly. He gets a third clearance and pumps the ball forward. A la the GF.

    Crows put a tall behind the play as an extra in defence. Our solution? Bomb high to that extra all day. Again, silly and a lack of game sense.

    Teams have worked us out, and Bevo has stopped adjusting as well as he used to mid-game
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  13. #12
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    Re: Honest reflection and the path forward

    Great posts. GVGJr mentioned this…..and it infuriates me no end when oppo midfields get a run on why we don’t we change tactics and lockdown, tag if necessary.

    Same in backline, if you are being trounced make every player play man on man. Sometimes dour, boring football is better than the showy stuff.

  14. #13
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    Re: Honest reflection and the path forward

    Quote Originally Posted by Danjul View Post
    When I reflect on yesterday’s game I immediately find myself in the same hole I have been in for a long time.

    The quality players are not in their best positions and they are not playing smart football as a cohesive team. As a result we’re not getting the full benefits from their talent. Cordy in the ruck, 7 hitouts and 7 possessions. And some easy forward entries for the opposition.

    one example from late in the game: Walker gets an easy possession 40m out and kicks a good goal. Analyse the possession. He ran into an open space and marked a soft kick. The hole was deliberate and both kicker and receiver knew it would be there and played it perfectly.

    Shortly before this the ball was coming into our forward line. Schache was moving his opponent right and pointing to his left at the hole he was opening. Obviously he wanted to lead into it. But the ball holder kicked high to a pack around Naughton.

    There is a lack of cohesion bringing the ball into the forward zone. One plan, kick it high to Naughton. Yes there are occasional good deliveries, Bont and McRae can do it but it’s pretty rare and our forward efficiency is very low. That is why we are not seeing those extra goals.That’s why JUH is struggling, he has to go and get the ball because it’s not being given to him. That’s why he tries to outmark Naughton.

    We need players playing to a well thought out and practised plan. I’m not seeing it. We need a better match day plan (now).
    Being a bit closer to the action in Ballarat definitely showcased this issue for me. Our issue is not just personnel, it is the way we use them. Aaron Naughton so rarely gets quality delivery, Tex Walker did not have to crash packs, he could mark out on a lead. Their small forwards were also able to take unopposed marks. We shouldn’t just concentrate on “who we can get” but craft a game style around our strengths. Not one of our 2016 forward line were elite forwards but we weren’t expecting them to take speckies as the only option, and in the Eade years we made a virtue of a small mobile forward line.

    Side note: there was a lot of finger pointing from the backs as to who should be doing what. Ironically I saw Daniel appear to rebuke Gardner for a down the line kick to a pack while we held the lead. Unfortunately Caleb minutes after coughed it up in a much worse fashion. I also noticed what poor 1-1 defenders Williams and Richards are. Is the balance in our defence right, even allowing for the Keath injury? We have a lot of guys who are there for attacking roles - Dale, Williams, Richards, Daniel - who aren’t strong defenders and from what I saw, once they went on the attack were bordering on lazy in getting back if it rebounded.
    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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  16. #14
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    Re: Honest reflection and the path forward

    Quote Originally Posted by The bulldog tragician View Post
    I also noticed what poor 1-1 defenders Williams and Richards are. Is the balance in our defence right, even allowing for the Keath injury? We have a lot of guys who are there for attacking roles - Dale, Williams, Richards, Daniel - who arenít strong defenders and from what I saw, once they went on the attack were bordering on lazy in getting back if it rebounded.
    This is what I also picked up and discuss in another thread. We need to rethink these guys and their roles as they are leaking goals. Their three smalls killed us.
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    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: Honest reflection and the path forward

    Quote Originally Posted by bornadog View Post
    This is what I also picked up and discuss in another thread. We need to rethink these guys and their roles as they are leaking goals. Their three smalls killed us.
    Theyre there for the turnover game not because of their amazing defensive qualities.

    The issue is they're not working hard enough, the game plan requires full time mania.
    Someone else mentioned Melbourne can be poor for periods but their structure provides such a strong foundation they rarely are hurt during these times.

    Our 8 goal run probably one of the rare occasions.

    We need to strengthen the defense so we don't have to rely on manic ball hunting from our smalls to provide cover for our lack of structure.

    I'd have a fair run at McKay from North.
    Retired from match day thread - Sep 2021 (Sometimes)

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