Tim English celebrates a goal during the match between Geelong and the Western Bulldogs at GMHBA Stadium in round 24, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

Ins and outs


Lachie Bramble (SSP, Hawthorn), Nick Coffield (trade, St Kilda), Jordan Croft (No.15 draft pick, father-son), Joel Freijah (No.45 draft pick), James Harmes (trade, Melbourne), Aiden O'Driscoll (No.55 draft pick), Ryley Sanders (No.6 draft pick), Lachlan Smith (No.47 draft pick)


Josh Bruce (retired), Hayden Crozier (delisted), Mitch Hannan (delisted), Robbie McComb (delisted), Toby McLean (delisted), Tim O'Brien (delisted), Cody Raak (delisted), Roarke Smith (delisted), Jordon Sweet (trade, Port Adelaide)

Medical room

Bailey Smith is the big one at the kennel. The poster boy will miss the entire 2024 campaign after tearing his ACL in December. Jack Macrae has been dealing with a hamstring injury. Alex Keath has been managing a knee injury across the post-Christmas block. Bailey Williams and Aiden O'Driscoll have both been working through concussion protocols following a gruesome collision.

Bailey Smith in action during the R22 match between Western Bulldogs and Hawthorn at UTAS Stadium on August 13, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Three burning questions

Will the off-season upheaval have an instant impact at the Dogs?
That is the great unknown. No club made more meaningful changes to its football department than the Western Bulldogs. The club has faced plenty of scrutiny since missing out on last year's finals series, but the changes around Luke Beveridge could refresh the football department and playing group inside the Whitten Oval.

Can the Dogs retain the big three out-of-contract stars? 
Sam Power has a lot on his plate this year. The Bulldogs re-signed Aaron Naughton last October. Now they will aim to secure Jamarra Ugle-Hagan's signature – hopefully by round one – along with free agent Tim English and rockstar midfielder Bailey Smith. There is more confidence in the first two, but the latter looms as one of the most intriguing contract calls of 2024. 

Is Sam Darcy ready to roll?
Not much has gone right for the 2021 pick No. 2. Sam Darcy has dealt with a range of unique injuries across his first two seasons, only managing seven senior appearances. But after banking a full pre-season, the tall utility will give the match committee something to think about when it comes to selecting Rory Lobb ahead of him.

Track watch

Harvey Gallagher could be in line for a surprise debut in round on. James O'Donnell has been the bid improver after playing 12 games in a come-from-nowhere debut season. James Harmes has overcome a slow start to the pre-season to feature prominently of late. 

James Harmes and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan during the Western Bulldogs' training session at Whitten Oval on November 27, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

Fantasy lock

Marcus Bontempelli (MID, $1,056,000) elevated his game to a whole new level in 2023. After previously recording a career-high average of 108 in 2021, Bontempelli topped triple figures for the sixth time with an impressive 117 to make him the best midfielder in the game. His ability to consistently hit key stat lines, including tackles, marks and goals, make him a Fantasy star.

Instant hit

Ryley Sanders. The Tasmanian is well placed to secure a round one debut after a brilliant maiden pre-season to date. With Bailey Smith sidelined and Jack Macrae running into hamstring trouble, Sanders looks poised to transition straight into the Bulldogs' engine room. Expect the 2023 pick No.6 to give the Rising Star judges plenty to consider when they vote in September.

It's a big year for…

Luke Beveridge. He is contracted until the end of 2025 and has the best record of any coach in the history of the Western Bulldogs, but despite that record he enters 2024 as one of the most intriguing figures in the game. Two reviews and an off-season of change have left the 2016 premiership coach with a vastly different looking mix around him. Will it help him reset the club and launch towards a second flag under his watch?

Luke Beveridge speaks to his players during the Western Bulldogs' clash with Geelong in round 24, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Pass mark

After missing out on playing in September last year, the Bulldogs haven't won a final since the 2021 preliminary final. They must get back to the finals this year, especially with clubs coming for All-Australian ruckman Tim English. 

Best 23 for 2024

B: Alex Keath, Liam Jones, Taylor Duryea
HB: Ed Richards, James O'Donnell, Bailey Dale
C: Bailey Williams, Marcus Bontempelli, Adam Treloar
HF: James Harmes, Aaron Naughton, Caleb Daniel
F: Rory Lobb, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, Cody Weightman
Foll: Tim English, Tom Liberatore, Ryley Sanders
I/C: Jack Macrae, Jason Johannisen, Anthony Scott, Rhylee West, Nick Coffield
Emerg: Sam Darcy, Harvey Gallagher, Oskar Baker, Ryan Gardner