Main content

Season review: Western Bulldogs

Bulldogs have 'lost their identity' The highs and lows of the Western Bulldogs' year in The Wash-Up

In a nutshell

The Bulldogs missed the finals for the second straight season and, after another failed year which saw them lose three more games than 2017, it appears there will be large scale movement at the Whitten Oval in the off-season.  

What we said in the pre-season 

A minority of AFL.com.au reporters tipped the Bulldogs to rise, while others thought they would remain outside the top eight. Ryan Davidson was the only journalist to nominate Jack Macrae as a surprise All Australian and he was pretty close with the star midfielder making the 40-man squad.


Have your say: Give your season verdict on the Bulldogs using the form at the bottom of this article.


What worked

Performance of their draftees
Billy Gowers (rookie), Aaron Naughton and Ed Richards all played more than 18 matches in their first seasons at the Bulldogs, becoming key members of the best 22. Gowers proved his worth as a forward, while Naughton and Richards earned NAB AFL Rising Star nominations.

Jack Macrae's elite season
Macrae averaged the second most disposals of any player in the AFL (32.8) behind Hawthorn's Tom Mitchell. The 24-year-old is the red hot favourite to take home the Bulldogs' best and fairest award.

The late-season emergence of Josh Dunkley
Dunkley, pick No.25 in the 2015 NAB AFL Draft, was stagnating as an under-sized forward, but found real value in a role as a midfielder in the second half of the year. Ran with some of the game's best players and averaged 29.8 disposals over the last seven games.

What failed

Ravaged by injuries (again)
The Bulldogs were forced to field 38 players across the season as a "nightmarish" injury toll took hold. Had eight players suffer season-ending injuries during the year, with Clay Smith (knee) forced into early retirement.

Premiership players falling out of favour
Mitch Wallis, Jordan Roughead, Shane Biggs, Caleb Daniel and Fletcher Roberts all spent time in the VFL after inconsistent performances across the season. Wallis and Daniel, to an extent, recaptured their best form but the Bulldogs needed more from these players.

Low-scoring Dogs
The Western Bulldogs continue to struggle to outscore their opponents and not make the most of their forward 50 entries. The Dogs were the fourth-lowest scoring team in the AFL – topping 100 points just four times in 2018.

Overall rating

D-

The Bulldogs did not appear to learn much after they were forced to repeat a year at school in 2017.

The coach

Despite a much-improved last month of the season, Luke Beveridge has his work cut out for him to get this group back to playing the type of football it displayed in 2016. Building on the momentum the club gathered in the last month of the year should be a positive, but with Beveridge in charge at the Kennel until 2020 results will need to improve.

The leaders 

Captain Easton Wood managed just 12 games in 2018 with a serious hamstring injury hampering his campaign. Marcus Bontempelli took the reins in Wood's absence, but when he was sidelined by a burst appendix, Jason Johannisen and Lachie Hunter had the chance to captain the club.

MVP

Jack Macrae: Was third in last year's best and fairest count behind Bontempelli and Johannisen, but looks the standout candidate this season. Macrae's class and hard work make him a genuine A-grade midfielder.

Surprise packet

Brad Lynch: Of all the Brownlow Medal winners this century, only Richmond superstar Dustin Martin managed to gather more disposals in his first three AFL games when compared to Lynch. Showed plenty in nine games to suggest he could become a permanent fixture in this side.

Get excited

Ed Richards: The flame-haired defender possesses electric pace, composure in traffic and a competitiveness that points to him being a star. The grand-nephew of Collingwood great Lou, averaged 13.6 disposals from 21 games in his first season.

Disappointment

Jordan Roughead: The ruckman managed just 12 matches with indifferent form and injuries affecting him throughout 2018. The restricted free agent appears a big chance to leave at the end of the season.

Best win

Round 15: Western Bulldogs 16.7 (103) d. Geelong 15.11 (101)

Snapped a five-game losing streak with one of their best performances of the season in their only victory against a top-eight side this year.

Best individual performance

Marcus Bontempelli. Round 20 v St Kilda

The star Bulldog booted four goals in the third term alone to help carry his side to a comfortable 35-point win over St Kilda after erasing a 28-point deficit.

Low point

The Bulldogs' 57-point loss to Port Adelaide in round 13 summed up their fall and the problems that have emerged in the last two seasons. The Dogs also lost Easton Wood and Jack Macrae to hamstring injuries, with Tom Boyd (finger) and Lukas Webb (thumb) also suffering injuries.

The big questions

How many players will depart in the off-season?
Plenty, according to speculation. Luke Dahlhaus, Jordan Roughead and Mitch Wallis have all been linked to opposition clubs.

Can the Dogs recapture their 2016 premiership form?
This remains the key question – was 2016 an accurate reflection of the club's trajectory to sustained success or a season (and month) out of the box?

Can Liam Picken return to playing?
The Bulldogs are confident Picken will be fit to start pre-season after ongoing concussion symptoms meant he did not play a game in 2017. The club was extremely cautious with his recovery and it would be a major positive if the hard-working forward could return to football without any further effects.

Season in a song

(Just Like) Starting Over by John Lennon

Who's done?

Retirements: Clay Smith, Shane Biggs

Delistings: Kieran Collins, Nathan Mullenger-McHugh

Unsigned free agents: Jordan Roughead, Mitch Wallis, Tom Liberatore, Luke Dahlhaus and Dale Morris

How should they approach trade and draft period?

The Bulldogs are likely to be active in the player exchange period, with a few of their players seemingly on the way out of the door. A quality ruckman in the mold of Scott Lycett would be a good fit, while a notable goalkicker would also be an attractive prospect.

Early call for 2019

A return to finals is a realistic aim for a young and developing, but talented group. Whether they can get there as early as 2019 remains to be seen.

Bulldogs fans: what's your season verdict?

Share your views via the form below and we'll publish the best responses on Sunday, September 9. 

Having trouble on the app? Click here to open the form in a web view

(function() { var qs,js,q,s,d=document, gi=d.getElementById, ce=d.createElement, gt=d.getElementsByTagName, id="typef_orm", b="https://embed.typeform.com/"; if(!gi.call(d,id)) { js=ce.call(d,"script"); js.id=id; js.src=b+"embed.js"; q=gt.call(d,"script")[0]; q.parentNode.insertBefore(js,q) } })()

Read more

THE WASH-UP More season reviews