What went right
In a pretty average season where the Dogs only had eight wins for the year, it was hard to find many positives. But in his fifth season, Jack Macrae was one of them. A genuine ball magnet, he averaged almost 33 touches a game at 75% efficiency, just under 400 metres gained, six clearance and five tackles. In a team that struggled in a lot of areas, Jack was a shining light in a poor season.
One of the things the Dogs did better than most was unearthing talent. When you look at the players who played big chunks of the year, it shows that Luke Beveridge has some great talent at his disposal. When you have young players like Billy Gowers, Ed Richards, Josh Dunkley, Patrick Lipinski and Aaron Naughton all playing 18 games or more, it shows that the Dogs have faith in these kids. If they can continue to improve and perform on the big stage, the future looks bright for the Dogs.
What went wrong
In 2016, the Dogs ran, tackled, hassled and pressured teams into submission. The 2018 Dogs looked nothing like that team who won the flag from the bottom half of the top eight. They averaged a mere 63 tackles for the year and are in the bottom six for majority of key statistics. Whether it was down to lack of talent, some injuries or whether the players aren’t responding to the coach, I don’t know. But the fact that their good players are now wanting to leave and they aren’t bringing in any top end talent says that there is something going awry down at the Kennel.
The biggest issue the Dogs have is that all year, they were smashed around the contest. They were again in the bottom SIX for clearances, hit outs and in turn, inside 50’s. With the players they have in the middle like Macrae, Lachie Hunter, Marcus Bontempelli and Luke Dalhaus, it is outrageous to think they would get comprehensively beaten around the stoppages. But I think them not having a standalone Ruckman was a big part of that. With even a half decent tap ruckman, their engine room would no doubt be able to generate a lot more ball forward.
The Dogs struggled to kick a winning score this season with Jack Redpath out injured and with Stewart Cranmeri and Jake Stringer moving on to other clubs. But Billy Gowers showed plenty for the Dogs to get excited about. He may have only kicked 26 goals for the season, but he presented well and always looked dangerous when the ball went forward. He needs to work on his conversion, kicking 20 behinds as well, but his marking presence and pressure inside 50 was impressive to watch.
Round 15 Western Bulldogs 16.7.103 def. Geelong 15.11.101
It was meant to be a comfortable win for the Cats who were building nicely towards September but it turned out to be anything but. In a close first half, no team got a lead of more than two goals before it was pegged back in a sea sawing affair.
After the Dogs kicked the first two goals of the third quarter the Cats came roaring back with four unanswered goals to take the lead. The lead changed five times after that and the Dogs looked home when they grabbed a nine point lead with 60 seconds left in the game.
Then came along the little master. Gary Ablett Jnr kicked a true crumbers goal to bring the lead back to three points with 30 seconds left. Harry Taylor had a chance to win the game off his own boot after the siren but sprayed it wide and barely scraped it in for a point in what was a great win for the Dogs.
Round 1 – Greater Western Sydney 20.13.133 def Western Bulldogs 7.9.51
This fixture had all the pundits licking their lips. With two teams with the potential to go deep into September, this one was setup to be a cracker. Up until quarter time it met all the expectations, then it turned bad. The Giants kicked 16 out of the next 20 goals and belted the Dogs off the park. Jeremey Cameron kicked 6 and Toby Greene kicked four as the Dogs had no answer for the Giants midfield grunt and potent forward line. It set the tone for the Dogs for the season and it didn’t get any better from there.
What they need to improve on
The Dogs need to either look at being very active in the trade period or focus all their efforts on this year’s and next year’s draft. But first foremost they need invest in a tap ruckman. Without being able to win it out of the middle they will struggle against any team that has a semi decent ruckman. Apart from that there are no quick fixes for their problems. They need to look at their off field set up to be able to keep their top end talent and draw some more elite players to the club. Until they fix the issues that keep driving players away, they will not make any head way up the table.
The Dogs definitely underperformed considering their genuine talent they have in the midfield and down back. With the list they have it was a genuine surprise to see them struggle the way they did.