NATHAN Burke is becoming increasingly frustrated after his side slumped to 0-6 for the season, with any hope of keeping the door open for a finals appearance now slammed shut.
After the Bulldogs' training standards and professionalism came into question last week, Burke moved to explain how he feels the AFLW contracting system is playing a role in his side's struggles.
“This league is in a real transition period,” Burke said.
“We’ve got tier one and two players up the top, probably earning enough money to chuck a whole bunch of time into football.
“Then we’ve got tier three or four down the bottom, whose primary income is still working. When you’ve got a group here that can dedicate everything to football and then a group here who can’t, something gives for those bottom ones, it has to, you can’t be the full-on professional like the ones who are being paid more.
“We’ve probably got more on that bottom end who are still trying to make a living and earn a wage and to compete at this league, you can’t. You have to do those extra little, tiny things along the way.
“Even if you are only on a tier four, it’s hard to compete with the players who are doing those things. It’s not a case of 'we have a lazy group and their standards are slipping', we have to find a way to have those elite standards because half the players are, that’s the path that we have got to go down.”
Burke hopes the new CBA deal will go a long way towards “relieving” these issues but says his side is still hurting from a lack of experience this season.
“I think the league will take off because of that, the time and effort we are putting into these young players," he said.
“We’ve got a particularly young group; you just don’t know what you don’t know.
“If you’re not surrounded by all of those elite professionals as you come into the league, everyone wants to fit in, so you fit in with what the others are doing, it’s a weight of numbers thing.
“If you have a whole bunch of professionals, the weight of numbers is we can spend all that time on diet and doing extras and getting here early.
“I’m only allowed to have them so many hours a week, I can guarantee there’s a whole bunch of players doing more than those hours because they can, a lot of our girls can’t and that’s just the reality of the situation at the moment.”
Burke remains confident that he is the right man to lead the Western Bulldogs forward and remains contracted for next season, despite this being the worst start to an AFLW season in club history.
"We’re a really connected group… if I wasn’t talking really closely to my leadership group and the emerging leaders group and to every player, I’d be naturally thinking that [my messaging might not be working] and second guessing myself," he said.
“I’m confident in the relationship that I’ve got with these players that they are telling the truth. You can see it in people’s eyes, I’ve been in teams before at the Saints where the coach has lost the players, or the players had lost faith.
“The stuff that’s killing us is stuff, that if I’m a half-decent coach, I should be able to fix.”
The Western Bulldogs spun the magnets in search of a spark, with All-Australian defender Katie Lynch moving to full forward in a move which raised eyebrows.
"'Lynchy' plays and then she rehabs for the whole week and then she plays," Burke said.
“She’s got an issue with her leg where it’s very hard to accelerate and decelerate. When you’re playing in the backline, that is dictated by who you’re playing on and how much they run.
"Putting her up the other end, she could dictate on how she was feeling and how much she runs and sprints."
The Bulldogs shifted Elisabeth Georgostathis (game-high 29 disposals) and Rylie Wilcox into the midfield in the final term.
“You’ve got nothing to lose, you’ve got to keep the players fresh and thinking, thinking about what the big picture is for next year and the year after," he said.
“This is not a time to die wondering, we need to get to the end of the season and learn a few things about ourselves.
“That might mean that we do some weird things sometimes, some of them will come off and some of them won’t, but we won’t die wondering.”
The Dogs were rocked by a gastro outbreak during the week, with key personnel, such as Ellie Blackburn, Kirsty Lamb, Gabby Newton, Deanna Berry and Aurora Smith hampered by the bug.
“These things bob up, when you’ve only got 27, it affects you.”
Meanwhile, Celine Moody is set to go in for an operation on an injured shoulder which will put an end to her campaign.
“She came into the season with a sore shoulder, she had an operation on her thumb, and she wasn’t keen to have two," Burke said.
“Someone said to her that there was a chance that she’d get through with that shoulder, so she took that chance, and it just hasn’t come off.”
With Elle Bennetts ruled out for the season with an ACL injury and Eleanor Brown out due to personal reasons as well, Burke raised the possibility of utilising a rookie system to bolster the list.
“I’m not sure why we don’t have a bit of a rookie system, because by round four, we’ve had three players out for the whole season, so we’re down to 27 already," he said.
“I would love to have a couple of rookies sitting on the outside that we could bring in for 60 per cent of the season, but that’s not the rules so we can’t do that.”
The Bulldogs travel to Norwood Oval to take on the Crows next Friday night in their hunt for an elusive victory in season eight.