SAM POWER hit 'Go' on the Western Bulldogs' premiership push at the end of 2019.
Power, the former Bulldog and Kangaroos left-footer, became a lawyer after his playing career ended before joining Carlton as an integrity officer and scout within the Blues' football department.
But it has been his impact at the Kennel as the brains behind the Dogs' list build that has been his biggest hit, with the club aiming for its second flag in six seasons when it takes on Melbourne in next week's Grand Final at Optus Stadium.
Power arrived at the Bulldogs as its general manager of list management ahead of the 2018 season with the list at a semi point of transition.
After missing the finals in 2017, the club was again outside of the top-eight in 2018. But Power wanted to maintain a focus on youth, mindful not to burn any top selections for quick fixes. The magic of the 2016 flag had not altered when the Dogs viewed their next tilt.
"In 2018, when I started in the role and given the list demographic and profile it was very much a draft focus,” Power told AFL.com.au’s Road to the Draft podcast earlier this year.
"One, due to how young we were, our list and the growth that our young talent on the list still had, and two, the strength of that 2018 draft that we were really keen to attack."
With pick No.7 at that year's draft they grabbed midfielder Bailey Smith, whose finals performances so far have rocketed him into the next stratosphere of stars in the game.
Rhylee West came next as a father-son pick at No.26 before Laitham Vandermeer was chosen at No.37 as an over-age prospect who had been overlooked the previous season. Vandermeer is in doubt for next week's Grand Final with a hamstring injury but has been a revelation with his pace and tenacity.
Having shored up its youth that year and adding to a core of players who were still comparatively young and yet to peak, including Marcus Bontempelli, Caleb Daniel, Jack Macrae, Josh Dunkley and 2017 acquisition Aaron Naughton, the Dogs had double-dipped on their future stocks.
That year they had also swiped dual premiership defender Taylor Duryea from Hawthorn as a free agent bargain choice.
Power has won a reputation in the list management industry as a methodical straight-shooter, understated but process-driven without being caught in the emotion of contract calls. The Dogs don't overpay their recruits and managed their cap by 'pre-paying' some of its salary cap by banking some money under the AFL rule which enables clubs to maximise their player payments and leave space to recruit and retain.
And since that 2018 intake, Power has had as many hits as a Rolling Stones best-of, with the club's recruiting strategy evolving as their confidence in their young talent grew. The here and now became more of a focus.
"(Our strategy) has changed over the last two years to a more balanced approach," Power said.
"We've still been really keen to bring in young, high-end talent but balance that with addressing specific needs through trade and free agency which we've had a bit more of a focus on the last two years.
"It definitely does change given the natural trajectory and an informed view of our playing group and when we think it will be playing its best football."
In 2019 they took Ryan Gardner as a mature-age mid-season rookie draft selection after years on Geelong's list and a stint at Footscray's VFL side. He now looks likely for a key role in the Dogs' defence next week against Melbourne's multi-pronged key forward attack.
With pick 15 at the national draft they selected Cody Weightman, having also been interested in fellow small forward Kysaiah Pickett, as well as trading in former Saint Josh Bruce and Adelaide's Alex Keath to fill major vacancies at either end of the ground.
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Keath will return from a hamstring strain to take on a key defensive spot for the flag decider and Bruce will miss after injuring his knee in round 21 when he was third in the Coleman Medal race after a consistent season.
After last year's disappointing elimination final loss to the Saints, their second straight exit at the opening finals stage, the Dogs weren't done with their mature topping up.
They brought in Stefan Martin from Brisbane as a low-risk ruck option to support Tim English, dragged Mitch Hannan out of Melbourne to be their medium forward and secured Adam Treloar from Collingwood at nearly half-price.
That deal was won after they leveraged having Jamarra Ugle-Hagan coming as the No.1 pick through the club's Next Generation Academy, allowing them to ship off their first-round selection to the Pies knowing they could match the bid for Ugle-Hagan with later picks.
And the Dogs' talent won't stop rolling through the doors at Whitten Oval, with father-son prospect Sam Darcy to arrive via this year's draft. Darcy, the son of Luke, is expected to attract a top-three bid in November and is a 204cm key forward.