"SUSTAINABILITY would be great." 

That now fateful Luke Beveridge wish in the wake of the Western Bulldogs' flag fairytale two years ago has dissolved as fast as a Berocca.

Those Dogs were the first to storm from seventh place to the premiership, but that glorious September run – and the statistical spikes that came with it – hasn't proven sustainable at all.

Beveridge's squad morphed into an offensive juggernaut in that post-season, owing in part to sudden success from intercepts, and cranked its pressure to maximum. 

They were middle of the road in both categories until then and have subsequently plummeted with a team even the coach says is unrecognisable to his flag heroes.

The strengths at the Kennel even before those finals – namely in contested possession, an ability to retain the ball in their forward half, and a stingy defence – have eroded at the same time. 



2016 H&A


2017 H&A


Disposal differential

+43.6 (ranked 1st)

+37.5 (1st)

+8.7 (7th)

-48.5 (17th)

Contested poss diff

+14.4 (1st)

+28.2 (2nd)

+2.1 (8th)

-23 (17th)

Inside 50 diff

+8.9 (2nd)

+16.2 (2nd)

+5 (3rd)

-11 (17th)

Time in forward half

+7:02 (2nd)

+14:30 (1st)

+5:37 (4th)

-5:25 (15th)

Points for

84.4 (12th)

96 (2nd)

84.4 (15th)

60.5 (18th)

Points against

73.1 (3rd)

71.5 (1st)

87 (8th)

127 (18th)

Scores from intercepts

46 (14th)

51.5 (4th)

51.3 (15th)

35 (18th)

Pressure factor

1.8 (10th)

1.92 (3rd)

1.81 (10th)

1.66 (18th)

The sustainability, or lack thereof, theme extends to personnel. 

Only half of the 2016 premiership-winning team turned out for Sunday's 51-point loss at Etihad Stadium to a West Coast side widely expected to go into freefall. 

Jake Stringer (Essendon) and Joel Hamling (Fremantle) are elsewhere, Matthew Boyd is in the ABC commentary box, and four others, including 2013 No.1 draft pick Tom Boyd, are stuck in the VFL. 

Almost every player had a turn in Beveridge's doghouse last season, a strategy that had served him well in the premiership year. 

The rest of the crew are injured: Liam Picken (concussion) and knee victims Dale Morris, Tom Liberatore and Clay Smith. Only Smith will be back soon. 

Bob Murphy, who famously missed out on playing in the Grand Final because of a serious knee injury, is also in retirement. 

Beveridge oversaw the youngest team in the competition in both of the opening two rounds this season, and they copped successive hidings that planted them firmly in the AFL cellar. 

The difference between the missing 11 and their replacements is a whopping 829 matches.

Among the newcomers are Tim English (four career games), Aaron Naughton and Billy Gowers (two each), and Ed Richards (one).

After blowing out 62 years' worth of cobwebs in their extraordinary title run, the Dogs could become the first club in VFL/AFL history to go from champs to chumps in two years. 

That is a realistic proposition if some of the stars of yesteryear continue to fail to replicate their 2016 feats. 

Champion Data's player ratings reveal that only six of the Bulldogs' top 15 contributors from that season played on Sunday, and just one more (Liberatore) was in the round one team.

Mitch Wallis is languishing in state league ranks, unable to force his way in as of yet. 

Just as problematic is the dramatic individual decline, from even superstar Marcus Bontempelli down to Liberatore and Picken. 






M. Bontempelli




T. Liberatore




L. Dahlhaus




L. Picken




C. Smith




C. Daniel




D. Morris




Beveridge has time to arrest the slide and may be able to draw inspiration from his old club Hawthorn, the last side before the Dogs to miss finals the season after winning the flag.

The Hawks tumbled in 2009 then started the following season 1-6 before rallying to make the eight.

The issue for Beveridge is the numbers that matter are going in the wrong direction. 

Rough mismatch for Zach

Hawthorn captain Jarryd Roughead didn't need to kick a goal to be the match-winner against Geelong on Sunday night. 

His behind with a minute on the clock, after out-marking teenage Cat Zach Guthrie, broke the deadlock and proved to be the final score of the contest. 

WATCH: Last two minutes - Geelong v Hawthorn

There was little doubt the 193cm, 98kg Roughead was going to be too good in the air for 187cm, 76kg Guthrie – and the statistics ram that home. 

Roughead has a 38 per cent win percentage (fifth-best of the top 50) from his 353 one-on-one contests since 2012. 

As for Guthrie, his 38 per cent loss rate from the 16 one-on-one battles he's been involved in is below average for a defender. 

Devon is the pressure king

Pressure has never been a sexier topic in the AFL than it is right now, and the best footballer in that area so far in 2018 is Essendon recruit Devon Smith.

Smith's 71 pressure acts are the most in the competition and he also ranks equal-second with 14 forced turnovers and is equal-third for the 19 points scored from those turnovers. 

Devon Smith is the AFL's early 2018 leader in pressure acts. Picture: AFL Photos

This is not a new phenomenon for the ex-Giant. 

Smith's 22.3 pressure acts per game since 2015 place him ninth in the League and his average of 3.5 forced turnovers in that period is No.1 among players to make at least 25 appearances.

Gold Coast gets the memo

Still on pressure, Stuart Dew's unbeaten Suns boast the AFL's highest 'pressure factor' of 197 this year. 

That rating owes much to their round one tally of 214, the club's second-best ever recorded in this category.

Gold Coast has out-pressured its opposition in seven out of eight quarters in 2018 – the equal-most in the competition – after doing so in only 35 quarters for all of last season (ranked 17th).