The 2016 premiers were the hunted in 2017 and didn’t cope with this new tag. They suffered from a premiership hangover, with the pressure that defined them in 2016 severely lacking.
They went from premiers to non-finalists and relied too heavily on their stars to get them over the line when it mattered. Many of their fringe players who had provided consistency and stability throughout the 2016 season failed to fire. The cracks were showing midway through the season with Tom Liberatore, Mitch Wallis and Shane Biggs all in and out of the side.
Jake Stringer was subjected to media scrutiny regularly, providing an unnecessary distraction for the club.. His class was sorely missed during the year as the forward line proved to be dysfunctional. The Cloke experiment didn’t work out and Boyd had his struggles throughout the season, making it a difficult overall season.
Put simply, they just weren’t the same side as 2016, missing the eight by one game and percentage.
FB: Easton Wood – Marcus Adams – Dale Morris
HB: Jason Johannisen – Jackson Trengrove – Matt Suckling
C: Jack Macrae – Tom Liberatore – Liam Picken
HF: Toby McLean – Tom Boyd – Tory Dickson
FF: Luke Dahlhaus – Jack Redpath – Bailey Dale
R: Jordan Roughead – Marcus Bontempelli – Lachie Hunter
INT: Bailey Williams – Mitch Wallis – Caleb Daniels – Hayden Crozier
EMG: Zaine Cordy – Lin Jong – Josh Schache – Josh Dunkley – Shane Biggs
Best 22 Analysis
New recruit and ex-Lion Josh Schache will be made to work hard to earn his place in the starting 22, with Tom Boyd and Jack Redpath ahead of the former no2 pick. Tom Boyd didn’t play during the JLT Community Series and is still a massive question mark. The key forward featuring at some point during the season near his best will make a difference, although Easton Wood playing in attack may be a handy stopgap.
The Bulldogs’ more senior recruits Jackson Trengrove and Hayden Crozier should slot into the defensive end of the starting 22 leaving Lin Jong, Josh Dunkley and Shane Biggs on the outer.
The critical ingredient underpinning the entire season of the Western Bulldogs is the performance of their senior players who underperformed last year. Tom Liberatore, Mitch Wallis, Tory Dickson and Lachie Hunter all need to return to their 2016 form or else the load will yet again fall on Marcus Bontempelli, who is ready to explode this season.
There’s plenty of versatility in the side, depth waiting in the wings and flexibilty up Luke Beveridge’s sleeve. The retirement of Robert Murphy will have an impact early stages of the season as well, although they may be able to cover it.
Round 9 vs Adelaide @ Adelaide Oval
The first of two away games at the Adelaide Oval, the Bulldogs will face the Crows in a stretch that includes Fremantle, Carlton, Gold Coast and Brisbane. If they are to win all those games and lose poorly to the Crows then it would no doubt stifle momentum at a key moment in the season.
Round 15 vs Geelong @ Etihad Stadium
Friday Night football is critical to every team’s exposure given the opportunity to showcase the club’s brand and identity and given the Bulldogs don’t get many opportunities, this is a huge match. Both teams will no doubt be in finals contention and this game will shape as a beauty with ramifications for later on in the year.
Breakout Player – Marcus Adams
Adams will miss the first couple of months of 2018 which is a heartbreaking for the club. However, the breakout for Adams can come in the run home, when he should be fit and firing. If he can have a tangible effect on the team heading into finals, he’ll have done an amazing job.
Fantasy Gold – Marcus Bontempelli
The young star was one of the few Bulldogs players to improve on his 2016 statistics. Given his ability to have an impact through the midfield and in attack, Bontempelli should continue to improve this season. He is a fantasy gun and more tackles will only continue to help the points.
Ladder Prediction – 7th
The Western Bulldogs have so much class at their disposal, however it’s hard to judge them given the inconsistency we have seen recently. Their scoring abilities are still a concern, with a lot of question marks around their key forwards. If key players on the list can have improvements on last year, allowing Bontempelli to play 10-15% more forward, then a lot of teams will have headaches to deal with during the year.