LATE in the third quarter of the Western Bulldogs' thrilling win over Brisbane on Saturday night, Laitham Vandermeer pumped the ball deep inside forward 50 to open space.

Adam Treloar was in a sprint with Deven Robertson as the ball bounced towards goal.

The bounce favoured Robertson, with the young Lion grabbing the ball and watching Treloar sail past with a half-hearted arm out before handballing to Grant Birchall and clearing the danger.

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It was a single moment in a 120-minute game, but one that captured Treloar's recent slide from midfield maestro to someone lacking confidence, and possibly hunger.

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Hey Adam, 'not everyone gets to play the role they want'

Access All Areas looks at Adam Treloar's patchy form since returning from injury, and his poor body language from Saturday night

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Despite successive wins to kick off their finals campaign against Essendon and the Lions, Treloar is not the only Bulldog below his best, with best mate Josh Dunkley also battling for form.

In fact, since the duo returned late in the home-and-away season from their respective long-term injuries – Treloar with ankle surgery and Dunkley shoulder surgery - a statistical analysis does not paint a good picture.

Both players' output has dropped off significantly, despite the odd glimpse of good form.

Western Bulldogs' Adam Treloar embraces teammate Josh Dunkley after a win in round four, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Let's start with Treloar. There's no doubt a change in role has, at least in some part, contributed to his declining numbers, if not his apparent wavering in effort.

When the 28-year-old came to the Bulldogs from Collingwood last off-season, someone was going to miss out on onball minutes.

Simple maths dictates that not all of Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae, Bailey Smith, Tom Liberatore, Lachie Hunter, Dunkley and Treloar can be stationed close to the contest all the time.

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Treloar's first 10 weeks were excellent, averaging 25 disposals, using his run-and-carry to gain 354m a game, while attending an average of 12 centre bounces.

Statistics courtesy of Champion Data show he spent two-thirds of his playing time in the midfield, which included just 12 per cent on the wing.

Adam Treloar

Rds 1 - 10

Rds 21 - SF

Diff

AFL Player Ratings

12.9

9.7

-3.2

Disposals

25.0

19.0

-6.0

Clearances

4.0

1.6

-2.4

Uncontested Possessions

15.6

10.2

-5.4

Metres Gained

354.1

211.1

-143

CB Attendances

12.1

3.4

-8.7

It's been a different story since returning from the syndesmosis injury in round 21, dropping to 19 disposals, 211m and just three centre bounce attendances a game.

Coach Luke Beveridge has identified Bontempelli, Macrae and Liberatore as his preferred centre bounce combination, leaving Treloar to spend more time away from the midfield.

In fact, in the past five matches he's spent 54 per cent of his playing time in the forward line, and just as significantly 25 per cent of time on the wing.

It hasn't left much time to spend around the contest.

Adam Treloar

Rds 1 - 10

Rds 21 - SF

Time on Wing

12.9%

25.0%

Time in Midfield

67.4%

45.7%

Time up Forward

32.5%

54.3%

*Midfield time includes wing. 

Although Treloar's form is of concern, perhaps it is Dunkley who the Bulldogs should be most worried about.

His split in time between midfield and forward has barely changed from the opening six weeks of the season when he was destroying opponents, to the past eight weeks where he's battling to influence.

Dunkley's numbers have plummeted across the board following his return from shoulder surgery, down from 30 disposals a game to 17, five clearances to less than three, eight score involvements to three, and 257m gained to 116m.

Josh Dunkley

Rds 1 - 6

Rds 18 - SF

Diff

AFL Player Ratings

17.4

7.7

-9.7

Disposals

30.3

17.1

-13.2

Clearances

5.2

2.7

-2.5

Contested Possessions

12.3

7.6

-4.7

Uncontested Possessions

19.0

10.3

-8.7

Tackles

5.7

4.4

-1.3

Metres Gained

257.4

116

-141.4

Score Involvements

7.7

2.9

-4.8

CB Attendances

12.7

10.1

-2.6

He has played the odd shutdown role in that period, and showed signs of his best against Brisbane with 21 touches, seven tackles and 24 pressure acts (second most on the Bulldogs).

But while his team has got past the Bombers and Lions with Treloar and Dunkley not firing, Beveridge will be desperate to see a return to form, and in Treloar's case intensity, if they're to keep the fairytale alive against Port Adelaide on Saturday night.

Josh Dunkley

Rds 1 - 6

Rds 18 - SF

Time on Wing

2.2%

4.1%

Time in Midfield

62.4%

58.9%

Time up Forward

37.0%

41.1%

*Midfield time includes wing