Dogs in the doldrums: Western Bulldogs 2012 Season Review
Ladder Position and Percentage: 15th – 5 wins, 17 losses, 67.01%
2011 Finish: 10th – 9 wins, 13 losses, 95.59%
After three consecutive years around the highest point of the ladder, the Dogs have continued slipping into the doldrums, but have escaped the criticism leveled at Melbourne and Port Adelaide in 2012. Their new coach, Brendan McCartney, has been serviceable and they have shown improvement to finish off the season, but it remains to be seen whether he is the man to take them forward.
Most worrying for the Dogs, despite dropping from 9 wins to 5, has been their completely impotent scoring setup. They hold the third lowest total score of the season, down nearly 100 goals from last year. Medium forward Daniel Giansiracusa is their leading goalkicker and simply is not a focal point to go into the future.
It all started promisingly enough. After a tough 3 games to begin the season, they knocked off Melbourne, Gold Coast and GWS, ran Collingwood and Geelong close and defeated finalists North Melbourne in their best game of the season. But in round 10 it started to go rapidly downhill after a thrashing at the hands of the Swans, winning only 1 of their next 12 and losing their last 11 games in a row.
After beating Port Adelaide they did not manage to get above 90 points even once, and recorded sub-60 scores 5 times. Their midfield, with the likes of captain Matthew Boyd, Ryan Griffen, Mitch Wallis, Adam Cooney and Shaun Higgins still has quality there, but the question remains, what the hell are they going to do about their forward line?
Griffen especially seems to be hitting his prime and has played some amazing football this season. He’s been the standout player for them this year – Boyd racks up the possessions, but Griffen does the damage. His 47 disposal game against the Sydney Swans in Round 21 was one of the best individual performances of the season.
A mention must go to ruckman Will Minson, who despite a kerfuffle with Port’s Danyle Pearce that saw him suspended for disciplinary reasons, has easily had his best season. Despite all the praise for Sam Jacobs (ADEL) and Ivan Maric (RICH) for their admittedly outstanding breakout season, Minson has ended the season with the most hit-outs in the home and away stretch. He’s also 5th in average hit-outs and equal second (with Jonathan Giles of GWS, after Ben Hudson of the Lions) in clearances for first string ruckmen.
Their best young player has been Mitch Wallis, without question. Has averaged over 23 disposals and 4 tackles a game and hasn’t had a ‘bad’ game all year. Will be fighting it out with Jeremy Cameron and Daniel Talia for the Rising Star this year. Honourable mention to Clay Smith, who was stiff not to get a nomination in Round 1 for his 4 goal performance.
A final blow, which some fans may see as a small blessing, was dealt when Richmond and Port Adelaide drew in the final round of the season. This saw them drop to 15th, putting them in the dreaded ‘bottom 4′ for the year. The aforementioned blessing is that they move up one spot in the draft, which will no doubt be helpful for recruiters given they have two picks in the first round this year.
Free Agents: Lindsay Gilbee, Ryan Hargrave, Will Minson
The Dogs have little to worry about here. They should have the cap space to keep Minson, who is in career best form, while Gilbee and Hargrave have retired. Gilbee might attract some interest from the likes of GWS, but Hargrave’s injury woes are unlikely to attract any suitors. The AFL is currently unclear about compensation being awarded for free agents who have ‘retired’, but the compensation received for Gilbee or Hargrave would be very low regardless.
The Western Bulldogs have activated both their Callan Ward compensation pick (to be taken directly after their Round 1 pick) and their Sam Reid compensation pick (to be taken directly after their round 3 pick).
The Dogs have picks 5, 6, 26, 45, 46, 64 and 82. The Dogs will be hoping they can snatch up the likes of Brodie Grundy as a tall, and Oliver Wines as a midfielder, which, if they’re lucky, could both be available at their first two picks.
Needs from the Draft and Trade period
Forwards, forwards, forwards. They’ll want to draft a key defender too, as Lake hasn’t got long left and it remains to be seen how well their backline will function. But with their current scoring woes and their relatively strong midfield, it’s obvious. They need to trade for a forward. Possible targets that wouldn’t be too expensive would be the likes of (estimates of price in brackets) Aaron Cornelius from Brisbane (pick 27), Luke McGuane from Richmond (pick 47, or the likes of Justin Sherman or Jarrad Grant) or Jesse White from Sydney (pick 47 or 65).
They might go all out and go for a big name, but there hasn’t been much talk of that yet. Even a stopgap like Quentin Lynch from the West Coast Eagles could be highly effective while their forwards develop, especially if they choose to draft one or two. They desperately need a focal point.
A KPP and a classy outside mid are my tips for their first two picks in the draft.
Expectations for 2013
If the Dogs recruit well and McCartney’s game plan starts to click, we could easily see them move up back into the 8-10 wins bracket. Finals are not on the cards next year. On the other hand, if McCartney turns out to be a dud as a senior coach and the group does not find anyone of worth in the off-season, it’s possible they could be overtaken by the likes of Melbourne and the Gold Coast Suns next year. The off-season is absolutely essential for their 2013 campaign, more so than most clubs.