Luke Beveridge during the Western Bulldogs' clash with West Coast in round three, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

ELITE football administrators and coaches regularly talk internally about the controllables and the uncontrollables.

Their logic is simple: if you don't properly manage the basic, day-to-day events inside your business, then you will have no hope of dealing with the unexpected developments that are never far from potentially destroying grand plans.

For the Western Bulldogs, the back half of 2023 and beginning of 2024 has been a period in which they have struggled on many controllable fronts, leading to a dreadful finish to last season and a worrying start to the new one.


The Bulldogs weren't supposed to miss finals last year, but inexplicable losses to Hawthorn and West Coast in rounds 22 and 23 saw that happen, and a 2-3 scoreline this year (wins against West Coast and Gold Coast, losses to Melbourne, Geelong and Essendon) has already ramped up pressure to extreme levels.

Given the quality of player that coach Luke Beveridge has on his list, the mounting losses are becoming damning. The on-field results are not being aided by events in the usually controllable space of public messaging, with Beveridge adversely contributing here, too.

Luke Beveridge during the Western Bulldogs' loss to Melbourne in round one, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

The coach ventured down some weird paths in his post-match media conference last Friday night after the loss to the Bombers, in the latest edition of mixed Bulldogs messaging which stretches back to CEO Ameet Bains in early July last year stating publicly a view which had the Dogs possessing a top-four playing list. The Dogs had started the 2023 season 7-3 and on that day had a 9-6 scoreline. Since round 10 last year, they have won seven and lost 11 games.

The dismissal late last season of Beveridge's trusted assistant Rohan Smith led to an angst between Beveridge and the Bulldogs' head of football, Chris Grant, which has not been repaired.

Luke Beveridge and Chris Grant at Western Bulldogs training on June 23, 2020. Picture: AFL Photos

In my eyes, the Bulldogs had no choice but to re-contract Beveridge at the start of 2023, through to the end of 2025. Since inheriting a broken team late in 2014, he had twice taken his club to a Grand Final, for a win in 2016 and a loss in 2021, and despite failing to win a final in any other season, he had earned the right to an extension.

But the club itself second-guessed that decision a year later when president Kylie Watson-Wheeler and Bains commissioned corporate football's gun-for-hire Peter Jackson to review football department operations.

Again, a mixed message, particularly when Watson-Wheeler said publicly that Beveridge himself was not the focus of the review, only the department itself and the processes within it.

Kylie Watson-Wheeler and Ameet Bains at the Bulldogs' 2024 photo day. Picture: AFL Photos

An outcome of that review saw Matthew Egan, who had joined the club in October as coaching and performance manager, pitchforked into being general manager of football operations. Beveridge's line of command was changed from reporting to Grant to Egan.

The problems at the Bulldogs had been evident long before Beveridge's confusing media appearance last Friday, which included rambling references relating to team selection, pain of failure, an unknown future, missed opportunities and an effective acknowledgment that his project player James O'Donnell was recalled for the Essendon game to have him ready for the next match against St Kilda, this Thursday.

All-Australian players Caleb Daniel, Jack Macrae and Bailey Dale have all been signed long-term to the Bulldogs, respectively to the end of 2026, 2027 and 2027. More mixed messaging, as well as a clear disconnect between Bulldogs' list management and team selection, has come in the form of that trio all experiencing the substitute vest in 2024, and Daniel even being omitted, while Oskar Baker, delisted by Melbourne at the end of 2022, and Lachie Bramble, delisted by Hawthorn at the end of last year, are being given games.

Caleb Daniel ahead of the Western Bulldogs' clash with Gold Coast in round two, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

Rory Lobb was wooed by Beveridge himself when he was available at the end of 2022. He too has a Bulldogs contract until the end of 2026, but is currently mired in the VFL.

Pre-season, Beveridge volunteered that Ryley Sanders was the best first-year player he had seen in his time at the Bulldogs. He subbed Sanders out of his debut game, and again put him in the sub vest last Friday night.

The Bulldogs have on their list some of the game's best players, including Marcus Bontempelli, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Tom Liberatore. They also have the All-Australian ruckman of 2023, Tim English, and key forward Aaron Naughton, who was valued so highly the club last year gave him a contract to the end of 2032. The latter two have not been playing at optimum levels this year.

Bulldogs problems also stretch to the indecision of Bailey Smith, who is out of contract at the end of the year and is considering offers from Geelong, Collingwood and Hawthorn.

Bailey Smith before the Western Bulldogs' clash with Essendon in round five, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Ruckman English is also deliberating his future, though suitor West Coast is believed to have tempered its interest in recent months.

At 2-3, and with St Kilda awaiting on Thursday night at Marvel Stadium, the Bulldogs' season is not yet a write off.

But in his 10th season, Beveridge is coaching for his career. There is no mixed messaging about that.

X: @barrettdamian