WHILE we wait for play to resume, and with the little bit of knowledge we've gleaned from round one, we're taking this opportunity to put the microscope on every club.
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The biggest lesson from round one was …
This can't keep happening. The club's 2019 season, otherwise full of promise, was continually hindered by disappointing and unexpected results. Defeats to Gold Coast, Carlton, Fremantle and North Melbourne derailed any chance of gaining early momentum. While a round one loss to Collingwood isn't an embarrassment, the nature and manner of the defeat would be cause for concern. It won't want to be chasing its tail again in 2020.
What's their weapon in 2020?
The Dogs have a truly elite midfield group that deserves to be ranked among the best in the competition. Led by Marcus Bontempelli, it also features ball magnets like Jackson Macrae, Mitch Wallis and Lachie Hunter, as well as developing youngsters like Josh Dunkley and Bailey Smith. As the Dogs showed late last season when they enjoyed an inspired run of form to qualify for the finals, when those players are firing they can be very hard to stop out of the centre.
What could be their downfall?
Against the Pies, the aforementioned midfielders' inability to get first use was the club's biggest and most significant downfall. The young and slender Tim English, despite showing plenty of promise throughout his formative years in the AFL system, was bullied by the League's best big man in Brodie Grundy in round one. That simply can't become a consistent theme this season if the Dogs are going to compete deep into September.
Who missed out on round one and what does it mean for them?
It's been an interesting couple of years for Toby McLean. A key member of the Bulldogs side that claimed the 2016 premiership, McLean has been squeezed out of the side's elite midfield group and has struggled to adapt to a new role as a forward. That has seen him slide down Luke Beveridge's pecking order and resulted in him missing round one. Whether he can find his feet in attack – and how long it takes him to do that – will be an interesting storyline to follow this season.
Which players could benefit from the break between games?
There's no doubt the Dogs rushed key forward Aaron Naughton back from a knee injury to ensure he could play round one. His premature return resulted in a lacklustre display that yielded just two disposals, no marks and no scoreboard impact. With time to get his body fully right during the AFL's shutdown period, the athletic 195cm forward will be ready to hit the ground running upon the resumption of competition.
Who looked set for a breakout season?
Bailey Smith enjoyed a promising maiden season in the AFL, but looked ready to deliver more consistently upon his potential in his second campaign. Playing purely as a midfielder in round one, the hardened Smith racked up 23 disposals and seven tackles in a performance that demonstrated both his grunt and his innate ability to find the footy. He'll add another important element to a young and impressive Dogs midfield brigade.
The marketplace …
The Dogs have done a good job in locking away their young talent, but how they manage the contract situations of their veterans going forward will be interesting. Among those uncontracted beyond this year is former skipper Easton Wood. Set to turn 31 later this year, there's no doubt Wood remains a key figure in the Bulldogs back six. But whether he earns deals longer than rolling one-year contracts from here onwards is another story.