JORDAN Roughead believes the Western Bulldogs' young pups could surprise a few teams in 2015, with the newly re-signed key defender confident it won't be long before the club is challenging the AFL's elite.
After an off-season of upheaval, the mood is buoyant at the Kennel following a stirring 10-point round one triumph over West Coast.
For only the second time since 2010, the Dogs took the four points in their season-opening match, and pleasingly for new coach Luke Beveridge the victory was led by the next generation of emerging stars.
Young guns Jake Stringer (three goals), Marcus Bontempelli (22 possessions, one goal) and Jack Macrae (31 possessions) stood up under pressure and were instrumental in the Dogs clinching the win.
With Lachie Hunter and Nathan Hrovat are still to return to the side, Roughead was confident the Dogs – who finished 14th last year – have the building blocks in place to rise up the ladder during the lifetime of his new three-year contract extension.
"I don't see why we can't be really successful from now until 2018," Roughead told AFL.com.au.
"We've got fantastic facilities, we've got fantastic coaching staff, playing group, terrific admin.
"We've built a pretty solid platform over the last six months and I don't see any reason we can't be successful this year and going forward being really competitive against the bigger clubs.
"(The young Bulldogs) certainly can get better than people think, a lot quicker than people think."
Most of the hype at the Bulldogs has centred around Bontempelli, who has emerged as one of the competition's rising midfield stars.
But Roughead believes the 192cm teenager has the ability to forge a career playing a key position.
"I don't know what Chris Grant was like as a 17-year-old, but he was probably one of the best players to play for this club. I reckon you can put Marcus Bontempelli in a similar position," Roughead said.
"He's a star in the midfield, he can play centre half-forward or centre half-back – he's got the frame for it."
Whether that eventuates remains to be seen, but Roughead has confidence in the Bulldogs' next wave of tall defenders such as Michael Talia and Fletcher Roberts to step up when dependable 32-year-old Dale Morris eventually retires.
"A guy like Michael Talia showed why he should be in the AFL team on the weekend and Fletcher Roberts is performing well in the VFL. So we've got depth across the board, which is positive for the club," he said.
"They're the guys that are going to get better and improve the position of the club."
Roughead, who dislocated his AC joint in round three last season and underwent a post-season shoulder reconstruction, is yet to play finals since he was drafted with pick No.31 in 2012.
But with a rare chance to play at the MCG against Richmond in round two, the 73-game full-back said it was an ideal opportunity for the young Dogs to get some experience at the stadium in front of a big crowd.
"It certainly is - I'm excited to get out on the 'G. I haven't played there too many times myself," Roughead said.
"The Tigers played really well on Thursday night (in defeating Carlton) and we'll probably be expecting a really big, Richmond-dominated crowd.
"Hopefully we can get a lot of our Western Bulldogs supporters out and take it up to them and challenge them on Saturday afternoon.”