18 Teams in 18 Days: Western Bulldogs

2017: 10th (11 wins – 11 losses)

Key Acquisition:

Jackson Trengove (from Port Adelaide), Hayden Crozier (from Fremantle), Josh Schache (from Brisbane)

Key Losses:

Robert Murphy (retirement), Matthew Boyd (retirement), Jake Stringer (to Essendon), Travis Cloke (retirement), Stewart Crameri (to Geelong)

Million Dollar Question

Can the Dogs get back to their best in 2018? They didn’t seem themselves for most of the 2017 season, finally succumbing to the dreaded premiership hangover. After a fruitful offseason that netted them some handy players including high flying half forward Hayden Crozier, swingman Jackson Trengove and the under the raider acquisition of Brisbane forward Josh Schache, the Dogs could be poised for a bounce back in 2018. After struggling through a season in 2017 which looked for the most part like they were just going through the motions, the Dogs will be keen to prove in 2018 that 2016 wasn’t a fluke.

Case For

This is still a rather young team in terms of average games played (56), and that perhaps may have been one of the main reasons why the Dogs struggled with the expectations of 2017. The Dogs had many star players who had down years in 2017, including star onballer Marcus Bontempelli (who only averaged 23 possessions a game), Lachie Hunter (who averaged just 22 possessions) and Jason Johannisen (who averaged just 21). It’s unlikely these players will have two down seasons in a row, simply due to the fact they’re star players, so expect a rise in individual and collective performances in 2018. Adding Schache and Crozier to the forward should help with the scoring issues the Dogs faced last year too, after they averaged just 11 goals per game in 2017, and had only 3 players kick more than 20 goals in 2017 (Stringer and Liam Picken with 24 and Bontempelli with 20). If Schache can show the kind of potential Brisbane expected from the former number 2 overall pick, the Dogs could be kicking more winning scores in 2018. Their average of 84.5 points per game simply won’t cut it. It remains to be seen just how big an impact the retirements of inspirational skipper Bob Murphy and Matthew Boyd will have off the half-back line, but the Doggies should have enough talent to fill those holes from within. Be it last years surprising tall Lewis Young or first year dashing halfback Ed Richards. Regardless, with the pressure off of them heading into this season, the Dogs could be set for a quick rise back up the ladder.

Case Against 

They’re a hard bunch to read going into the new season the Bulldogs. Did the young list really struggle with the expectations of being reigning Premiers? Or is this the tale of a team that really just had a September for the ages in 2016. It feels like many of those questions will be answered this season. As mentioned, they’ve added some varied types over the offseason, but it’s going to be extremely hard to replace both Murphy and Boyd’s presence behind the ball. The Dogs averaged the 5th most inside 50’s last season with 54 a game, but had the 11th ranked efficiency when inside 50 at 50.1%. The Dogs will have an interesting forward setup in 2018 led by big men Schache, Tom Boyd and the smaller types like Torrey Dickson and Hayden Crozier. If this forward dynamic can’t produce bigger scores consistently, the Dogs may be left on the outside looking in again once September rolls around.

One to Watch

Aaron Naughton. A lovely key back prospect out of WA, Naughton may be given a chance by coach Luke Beveridge quicker than some might expect. Possessing great agility and an innate ability to peel off and intercept, Dogs fans will love having Naughton patrolling the defensive 50 into the future. Fans may have their hearts in their mouths at times with Naughton’s ordinary kicking technique and sometimes rushed decision making, but he’ll make up for that with his appetite and determination to get to and effect every contest he can.

Bold Prediction

Though they’ve been strangely forgotten about after winning the premiership just two seasons ago, expect the Bulldogs to bounce back this season. They’re well coached, are supremely talented, have added some complementary pieces in the offseason and will be sure to get much better seasons from some who disappointed in 2017’s failed premiership defense. They will play 13 games at their beloved Etihad Stadium in 2018, and on their day don’t fear anybody. Expect another September run for the Dogs in 2018.

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