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Are the Dogs' struggles in the ruck too much to overcome?

Highlights: Collingwood v Western Bulldogs The Magpies and Bulldogs clash in round four

EVERY week is shark week at the Western Bulldogs.

With developing youngster Tim English overcome by one of the game's premier big men in Brodie Grundy on Friday night, the Dogs' midfield was again forced to react on the run.

English enjoyed arguably the best individual performance of his blossoming career at the MCG, winning 17 disposals, taking six marks and laying six tackles.

But with his ruck craft still a work in progress, the Dogs' clearance beasts were again heavily relied upon to ensure Luke Beveridge's side could claim the territorial battle.

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To nearly do it against one of the game's best midfield groups showed their depth. But the key word, just as it was during last week's defeat to Gold Coast, is nearly.

Despite being on the wrong side of a 60-6 hitout differential, with Grundy (23 disposals, 58 hitouts, six clearances and eight tackles) clearly on top in the air and on the ground, the Bulldogs midfielders were able to almost break even in the clearance battle.

Grundy had 17 hitouts to advantage throughout the evening. English didn't have one. With such dominance going one way, the Dogs were forced to improvise.

Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae and Lachie Hunter were again prolific. Together with the remaining Western Bulldogs midfielders, they came up with 10 sharks from Grundy's work in the air. However, they were eventually overrun and overwhelmed.

Marcus Bontempelli racked up 36 touches against the Pies. Picture: AFL Photos

While Beveridge might look at English's improving performances as a positive, the side's inability to completely dominate its opposition from the centre is concerning.

At half-time, the hitout differential was 26-3. And yet the Dogs led clearances 14-11.

Achieving a similar result for four quarters against a midfield as strong and as deep as Collingwood's was simply unsustainable. Eventually, the Pies gained complete control.

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At one stage it had looked as though Collingwood's decisions at the selection table would be brought into question, with one of the game's premier taggers in Levi Greenwood omitted.

Even despite Dayne Beams' late withdrawal due to illness, it was youngster Callum Brown who the Pies would call upon. Greenwood would be forced to bide his time.

Perhaps it was a message against one of the League's fellow deep midfield groups in the Western Bulldogs; Collingwood would back its star-studded engine room against anyone.

But with a number of Dogs getting off the chain, a shutdown player would have been useful.

It even forced Nathan Buckley to get creative. Jordan De Goey was thrown into the centre at times, as the Pies looked for ways to change the momentum out of the middle.

But it was hardly a surprise that the Western Bulldogs were getting on top.

Through the first four weeks, Dogs players have racked up more than 25 touches in a game 23 times. They have gone on to win more than 30 possessions 10 times.

It's come despite English being comfortably beaten in the ruck by Callum Sinclair, Ben McEvoy, Jarrod Witts and now Grundy through the first month of the season.

English would have learnt a lot from Grundy's ruck craft at the MCG. While his touch on ground level is clearly his best current skill, his aerial work is still improving.

Despite cracking 100kgs over the summer, English was moved off the footy with relative ease by Grundy. It followed last week's performance, where the youngster was monstered by one of the game's most physically imposing rucks in Gold Coast skipper Witts.

A series of smooth groundball pick-ups, particularly those within a 10-minute burst in the second term, were reminiscent of Grundy at his best. Now, it's about refining his ruck work.

With more summers in the gym will come more assertiveness in other areas of his game.

The Dogs have limited options through the ruck. Tom Boyd, returning to VFL action this weekend following a pre-season plagued by injury, led the club for hitouts last season.

Jordan Roughead, now plying his trade for Collingwood, was behind him, while Jackson Trengove, injured and out of favour playing in the VFL, was next in the queue.

But Beveridge would find reasons worth persisting with the talented English, with those glimpses highlighted by several passages on Friday night.

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