After the mother of all premiership hangovers, can the Bulldogs regain their bite in 2018?
Luke Beveridge’s team deserved to celebrate their 2016 Grand Final win, but 12 months on it’s time to get back on track. You could argue that no Bulldog player improved their output last year, save for perhaps Jack Macrae. With a team comprising a core of extremely talented under 26s like Marcus Bontempelli, Tom Liberatore, Luke Dalhaus, Toby McLean, Lachie Hunter, Jason Johannisen, Tom Boyd and Lin Jong, this team should only be improving. The optimist would say that last year was merely a blip.
The Dogs’ attack significantly dropped off in 2017 and it’s hard to see that improving in 2018. Jake Stringer and Liam Picken were their leading goal scorers with just 24 majors, followed by Bontempelli, Hunter and Bailey Dale. Tom Boyd and new recruit Josh Schache would be the most talented key forward duo in the AFL based purely on draft order, but neither have lived up to the billing in their short careers (2017 GF aside for Boyd) and Jack Redpath hasn’t solidified his place in the team despite being on the list since 2012. Luke Beveridge’s team badly needs some more offensive potency.
The side has also lost some valuable experience, particularly in defence. Bob Murphy and Matthew Boyd provided composure in defence, Dale Morris will miss a lot of 2018 after suffering a partially torn ACL and Jake Stringer, although enigmatic, was a match winner on a good day. Jackson Trengove, Hayden Crozier and Schache are solid ins but its a net loss on list quality.
Marcus Bontempelli’s output dropped slightly in 2017, but at just 22 years old he remains the most exciting young player in the competition. Last year he was sent forward more often to help the Dogs goal scoring troubles, but he actually scored fewer goals than the year before – mostly due to inaccuracy. If he is to spend more time in attack, 30 goals should be a minimum output for such a talented player.
The Next Big Thing
Just two years ago Josh Schache was considered the second best player for his age in the country. After his first season, where had 34 shots on goal from 17 games, the question was when, not if, he would become a star of the competition. Then it all fell apart for the 20 year old in Brisbane. Now back home in Victoria, Schache has the opportunity to show the footy world why he was so rated so highly back in 2016 and if he can, it will be one of the great trade steals of all-time.
The Final Word
Much like the Hawks in 2008, the Doggies achieved premiership glory ahead of schedule with their inexperienced list. With the 5th youngest team in 2018, they might need a year or two before they can compete with the best again.