A quarter and a half was all it took to have the Bulldogs premiership dreams ripped away from them, as Melbourne romped home to a 74 point win in the Grand Final. Can the Bulldogs pick themselves up and have another tilt at the flag? Or will they continue the trend of sides who have been thrashed in Grand Finals?
Jack Tobin will be previewing EVERY team in the lead up to the 2022 season, while PuntingInDanger and his crew will be back this year to give their betting tips on every game. Be sure to head to the AFL Tips page for regular updates!
Western Bulldogs Season Preview
In: Tim O’Brien (Hawthorn), Sam Darcy (Pick 2), Arthur Jones (Pick 43), Luke Cleary (Pick 61)
Out: Patrick Lipinski (Collingwood), Lewis Young (Carlton)
The Bulldogs lost young talent in Lipinski and Young who were looking for more opportunities at other clubs. The Dogs secured Tim O’Brien in free agency in a bid to strengthen their key defensive stocks, while also picking up father/son selection Sam Darcy at pick two in the National Draft. Darcy will miss the beginning of the season with a stress fracture in his foot, but at 205cm and with the ability to play in defence, up forward and in the ruck, he is going to be a serious player for the Dogs.
The Dogs spent the majority of 2021 inside the top four, before losing their final three games of the home & away season to slip to fifth place. The Bulldogs produced a stirring finals run to make it to the Grand Final, but ultimately fell short.
The Bulldogs stacked midfield was a major success last season with Jack Macrae (38 disposals), Marcus Bontempelli (26), Tom Liberatore (23), Bailey Smith (23), Josh Dunkley (23), Adam Treloar (23) and Lachie Hunter (21) formed the deepest midfield in the league. The Dogs were ranked number one for disposals, and their midfield structure made it near impossible for their stars to be tagged.
The biggest challenge facing the Dogs in the first half of the season will be the makeup of their forward line. Josh Bruce will be out until the later part of the season, with Jamarra Ugle-Hagan set to play as the second key forward behind Aaron Naughton. Ugle-Hagan struggled across his five games at AFL level 2022, and will need to be much improved this season.
The Bulldogs defensive system was outstanding in 2021, despite their backline being viewed as a weakness by many. The Dogs were the fourth best defence in the competition, conceding just 68 points per game last season. Tim O’Brien, Zaine Cordy and Josh Schache will provide ample depth to help Alex Keath in the key defensive posts. Bailey Dale’s emergence as an All-Australian off half back was a major bonus for the Dogs, providing an excellent combination with Caleb Daniel off half back.
Tim English and Stef Martin formed a quality partnership in the ruck, if Stef Martin can stay on the park longer than it can help the Bulldogs solve their lack of ready made key forwards. English kicked 9 goals in the first five games of the season, while Martin was still in the side.
Breakout Player: Tim English
It’s difficult to pick a breakout player from a side that made the Grand Final, but Tim English is primed to become one of the best ruckman in the competition. English has always had an outstanding ability to win the ball around the ground for a ruckman, and in 2021 he made strides in his marking and goal kicking, registering career best 19 goals last season. Ruckman take a while to mature, and with Stef Martin partnering him in the ruck, English is ready to make a big impact in 2022.
What Do The Bulldogs Need To Do In 2022?
The Bulldogs biggest challenge this season will be finding a way to win games when things aren’t on their terms. When opposing sides were able to prevent the Dogs from playing their brand of football, they didn’t have a way to counteract it. The most prime example being the last quarter and a half of the Grand Final as Melbourne slammed on 15 goals to 1, with the Bulldogs unable to stop the Demons out of the centre of the ground.
This Western Bulldogs outfit isn’t going anywhere. They’ve got one of the best coaches in the AFL in Luke Beveridge, a midfield packed full of superstars, a forward line spearheaded by the best young key forward in the competition and a gritty defence that gets the job done week after week. Not to mention arguably the best player in the competition in Marcus Bontempelli. The Bulldogs have had strong continuity and will only continue to get better as they perfect their midfield rotation, once again the Bulldogs will be contending for a premiership.