FIRST, the good news for the Western Bulldogs.

They're probably going to start favourite in their next seven matches - North Melbourne, Adelaide, Essendon, Port Adelaide, Collingwood, Gold Coast and West Coast.

That is speculative future, though, and documented past in the form of the four completed matches of 2022 has presented a lot of bad news. The most recent of those was the worst of the three losses this year, against Richmond at the MCG on Saturday night.

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This was a loss that would cause coach Luke Beveridge genuine concern, as his resident stars in Marcus Bontempelli, Bailey Smith, Bailey Dale and Jack Macrae all performed well. Agitated during and after the match (the dressing rooms were a walking-on-egg-shells experience for anyone in there), Beveridge now needs to find a way to reinvigorate a season which was prepared for with great optimism.

Beveridge has been here before. His Dogs missed finals in the two seasons after their 2016 premiership, but their worst result under his watch was an eight-win season in 2018. He usually finds a way, got his team into the finals before the '16 flag in 2015, and again in 2019 and 2020. There was a Grand Final last year. But he will need to be at his creative best to work through this latest slump.

It is too simple to say the Dogs' problems to this point of 2022 are all due to terribly inaccurate kicking for goal. Clearly, that is a major problem. Since three-quarter time of their round two loss to Carlton, they have regularly choked inside 50. That game against the Blues was there to be won, but 2.7 in the final quarter killed their chances.

Even the following week in their only win for the season, against Sydney, they finished with 9.17, and in the second quarter of that match registered 1.7, and in the third term, 2.5. Against the Tigers, they butchered chances early – 2.7 in the first quarter – and again in the third quarter with another 2.7 output. They are 18.43 in the last nine quarters.

Luke Beveridge during the loss to Richmond in round four, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Aaron Naughton may be the best forward in the game at some stage very soon, but that status can only be afforded if he fixes his messy set shot returns (8.8 in 2022). The misses have been demoralising. In play, he is clearly suffering from Josh Bruce's absence since he blew his knee in the final seconds of round 22 last year.

The No.1 pick from the 2020 NAB AFL Draft, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, is simply not ready to play the type of role now required, week in and week out.

THERE'S STILL LIFE IN THE TIGERS

ROBBIE Tarrant is about to turn 33. Josh Gibcus has just turned 19.

Two players at vastly differing stages of AFL careers, but indicative of the very different Richmond outfit of 2022.

Old, young and everything in between are reshaping Richmond in 2022. A big win against Western Bulldogs on Saturday night was a second victory this year against a team which won a final in 2021 (GWS in round two) and took it to 2-2.

Robbie Tarrant, Joshua Gibcus, Hugo Ralphsmith and Noah Balta sing the song after the win over the Western Bulldogs in round four, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

They're not the Tigers of 2017-20 who pillaged the competition with three premierships. But they’re going to be very dangerous at times. Tarrant is still learning the Richmond way, but he has already freed up Nathan Broad, Gibcus, and when fit Dylan Grimes, in the backline.

The Tigers stalwarts are still very, very important. Dion Prestia, a best-and-fairest winner in the 2019 flag year, and Jayden Short, who had the same status the following year, were excellent against the Dogs. So too Tom Lynch (four goals), Daniel Rioli and Marlion Pickett.

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Hugo Ralphsmith, 20, looks a really good prospect. Then there's Shai Bolton, an extraordinary talent who after his goal at the Punt Rd end of the MCG on Saturday night is the clubhouse leader for goal of the year. That would follow his mark at the city end of the same venue earning official status of mark of the year in 2021.

Dusty Martin is expected to return at some stage after his personal leave. Look out.

REPLACEMENTS PULL OFF A MIRACLE

SOMETHING special could be brewing at West Coast.

The Replacements, after three gallant losses, got a highly deserved win in round four, against Collingwood at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night.

Absent was an entire high-end midfield. No Luke Shuey, Andrew Gaff, Elliot Yeo, Tim Kelly, Dom Sheed. Instead, the to this point of their AFL careers and with due respect to their obvious abilities, there were no names such as Connor West, Hugh Dixon, Brady Hough and Luke Foley among the 22 who secured victory.

Brady Hough, Hugh Dixon and Patrick Naish celebrate the Eagles' win over Collingwood in round four, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

COVID and its associated health and safety protocols have smashed the Eagles in 2022, but unlike 2020 and 2021 when he may have sooked it up a few too many times, coach Adam Simpson, publicly at least, has embraced nothing but the positives out of the obvious negatives attached to being required to play 39 players in four rounds. It has been great coaching and leadership.

Under great adversity, the Replacements were good in round one against Gold Coast, arguably should have won against North Melbourne in round two, were blown away in a derby in round three, and then savagely tore open the Collingwood balloon.

West Coast's premiership hopes in 2022 seemed over before the season started for reasons outside its control, and that brings competition integrity issues to the conversation. But if it is able to maintain the commitment displayed on Saturday night, it is going to cause some damage before the year is concluded.

REALITY CHECKS FOR ROOKIE COACHES

SAM Mitchell and Craig McRae had dream starts to their AFL coaching careers, but both ended round four with jolting reality checks.

Both had two wins to open their accounts, both could have made it three-from-three, both were subjected to demoralising results on the weekend.

Dejected Hawks leave the field after the loss to St Kilda in round four, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

For the Hawks, wins against North Melbourne and Port Adelaide, losses to Carlton – by one point – and St Kilda (by an ugly 69 points) on Sunday at the MCG. The Pies - wins against St Kilda and Adelaide, losses to Geelong (after leading by 37 points) and the West Coast Replacements at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night.

There has been a lot to like at Hawthorn and Collingwood to this point of 2022, but football reality has already kicked in. Keen to see how both teams respond, respectively against premiership contenders Geelong and Brisbane in round five. Keen to see if they hold their nerves on how they ideally want to play – attackingly – as opposed to how they may feel they may need to play now that losses have become part of their thought processes.