While the Dogs finished with one win less (seven) and a lower percentage than in 2013, they did finish a spot higher in 14th, so the season can be considered one of improvement. The Dogs have been in games longer and restricted the amount of thrashings, but they haven't been able to eradicate costly lapses during games. The emergence of youngsters like Marcus Bontempelli, Luke Dahlhaus, Jack Macrae and Jake Stringer have provided plenty of hope.

The coach

Brendan McCartney came under fire midway through the season for his team's lack of progress after promising finish to 2013. His consistent narrative of patience wore thin but the pressure subsided with a spike in the team's form lead by an impressive group of kids. McCartney is contracted for a further two seasons but a similar result next season will bring fierce pressure.

What worked
-Midfield: With skipper Ryan Griffen having an indifferent season, the club's impressive band of young midfielders stood up. Macrae and Dahlhaus took their games to the next level while Tom Liberatore established himself as one of the game's elite inside midfielders.

-The recruitment of Stewart Crameri: Lured from the Bombers to help with a shortage of firepower up forward, the 26-year-old paid his way by leading the goalkicking with 37. His arrival also helped with the emergence of Jake Stringer.

-Own VFL team: After enduring several frustrating years aligned with Williamstown, the Footscray team has given the club the freedom to develop players as they see fit. The side finished the home and away season second on the ladder and produced AFL-ready players like Bontempelli and Mitch Honeychurch. It has also brought footy back to the Whitten Oval.

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What failed
-Key defenders: Jordan Roughead and Michael Talia loomed as the men to hold down those critical positions for the next decade but Talia has spent the majority of the year in the VFL while Roughead battled injury and inconsistency. Mark Austin was upgraded from the rookie list and struggled.

-Key forwards: Liam Jones and rookie Jack Redpath were both tried at different times during the season but neither took their ample opportunities. Tom Campbell offers presence and a contest but is better suited to the ruck.

-Lack of run: Run and carry and spread from the contest continues to be a problem. Playmakers Adam Cooney and Shaun Higgins had average seasons while Jason Tutt failed to cement a spot in a team crying out for speed.

Tom Liberatore had another stellar season, leading the League in clearances and tackles and was fourth in contested possessions, making him a strong contender to receive his first All Australian jumper.

Tom Liberatore has become one of the best inside midfielders in the competition. Picture: AFL Media

Surprise packet
He may have played only three games but Mitch Honeychurch looms as one of the bargains of the 2013 NAB AFL Draft. Selected at pick 60, the tough midfielder impressed with his attack on the ball and his nose for a goal.

Best rookie/first-year player
Marcus Bontempelli is the raging hot favourite for Wednesday's NAB AFL Rising Star award and it's not hard to see why after his impressive debut season. The classy 18-year-old, who is one of the youngest players in the competition, is averaging 15 touches and nearly a goal a game. A rare talent who makes things happen.

Michael Talia started 2014 as one of the up and coming key defenders of the competition after nine impressive games in 2013. But the Rising Star nominee's career has stalled after playing only three games this season.

Best win
The eight-point win over Collingwood in round 13 at Etihad Stadium. After a disappointing loss to the Brisbane Lions at home the previous week, the Dogs weren't expected to challenge the then in-form Magpies. But despite losing Adam Cooney to injury in the first quarter, the Dogs played some of their best footy of the season to stun the Pies.

Low point
Home losses to fellow strugglers the Lions (round 12) and an understrength GWS (round 23) were particularly hard to stomach for the red, white and blue faithful. Clay Smith requiring a second knee reconstruction within 12 months also hurt.

What needs to improve?
The Bulldogs simply need to win more games with the talent on their list. If they can address the lack of outside run, unearth a key forward and eliminate costly lapses, this won't be such a problem in 2015.

Who's done?
Retirements: Daniel Giansiracusa has called time on his impressive career while injuries finally caught up with Tom Williams.

Delistings? First round pick Christian Howard's time at Whitten Oval looks over after he played only two games in 2014. Tom Young, Brett Goodes, Daniel Pearce, Matt Fuller and Jason Tutt should all be nervous too. Third-year rookies Mark Austin, Jack Redpath, Lin Jong and Alex Greenwood need to be upgraded or delisted, with Jong the only one likely to be retained.

Trades/free agents
Shaun Higgins may have played his last game for the Dogs, with the restricted free agent likely to seek a fresh start at a rival club. Forwards Liam Jones and Jarrad Grant may have run out of chances and could attract interest at the trade table.

What they need

The Dogs badly need a consistent, strong-marking key forward that kicks goals. Geelong Falcons star Patrick McCartin could be the man if they can trade into the first few picks in the draft. A classy outside runner wouldn't go astray either. Key position father/son prospects Zaine Cordy and Jayden Foster will be handy additions.