#14 – Western Bulldogs
The Western Bulldogs are arguably the AFL’s saddest team. A team with just the one premiership, back in 1954, proudly lists Russell Gilbert, Merv Hughes and Julia Gillard among its most prominent supporters. It has three finals appearances this millenium, but no grand final appearances. Since 1962, they have made the finals a grand total of 14 times – that’s roughly once every 4 years (14/52). For comparison’s sake Adelaide has made the finals 12 times in their first 24 years of football and Port Adelaide 9 out of their 18. North Melbourne, who they are sometimes compared to financially, have made 25 out of 52, including a spell in the 60’s where they didn’t make it at all.
It’s fair to say they’re not the most successful of clubs.
But there is genuine hope.
The Bont – just a whisker away from being last year’s Rising Star – is a favourite among commentators and pundits. The AFLPA gave him their Rising Star award also. He is a bright spot at Whitten Oval after many dark years. Alongside Tom Boyd (just, I mean, CRAZY unproven), Tom Liberatore (out for the season), Mitch Wallis and Luke Dahlhaus, the Bulldogs have a very good young core. But it needs health and games under its belt to prove anything. They’ve also got Michael Talia – Daniel Talia’s younger brother – just for kicks. Their new coach Luke Beveridge seems hard-nosed – you know, the descriptor given to every single coach hired in the last five years. But if the first two weeks are any sign, Beveridge may be on to something. The Dogs are playing a hard-nosed (there it isn’t) brand of attacking football that has them leading the league in tackles and, amazingly, winning their first two games against the generally respectable West Coast and Richmond. We’ll see how it lasts as teams get used to their tactics and the young guys wear down.
Despite their early-season success, this is an incredibly difficult one. Liberatore is injured. Griffen is gone. So is Higgins. Murphy and Matty Boyd are older than the universe itself. Tom Boyd has proven nothing. So I’m going to name this sad Bulldog the team MVP.
Look. it was that or Will Minson.
And I have to live with myself.
Most hated player:
Oh, this is an easy one. Last year’s captain Ryan Griffen begged out of the kennel. He can expect no kindness from the literally sixes of fans at that particular television network’s dream match-up. He’s been replaced by Bob Murphy, who at age 32 is just keeping the spot warm for one of the other young guys…assuming they don’t jump ship…WHAT? Come on, don’t be naive.
Best young gun:
Ignoring the easy bet that is BONT (TM), my vote lies with Tom Liberatore. He’s got the Bulldogs in his blood – so probably won’t do a runner – and led the league in tackles last year. That included finals, and the Bulldogs didn’t play finals last year. Or the year before. Or the…anyway, he’s very good.
At the Bulldogs? This is almost an unfair question. Management?
I’m pretty baffled by the inclusion of Jordan Roughead as the Dogs’ vice-captain for season 2015. Admittedly, I think there’s no doubt they’re just prepping for 2016 and the next captain, but Jordan Roughead? Really? Even Jarryd Roughead would be a better choice, despite playing for Hawthorn. I’m not saying he’s the biggest spud, but a vice-captain spot should be reserved for an elite player, on the level of a Shaun Higg…well, an Adam Coo…or a Ryan Gri-you know what, forget it, why not Roughead? That might as well be his vice-captaincy campaign.
What to expect when you’re expecting a premiership:
Bulldogs fans should expect very little. Getting 8 wins would be a good response, getting 10 would be exceptional, getting more memberships and a sponsorship from Old El Paso would be a dream come true.
Hold off for another year Dogs fans. Let Beveridge find his feet, keep it together, blood the youngsters and for the love of everything beautiful, bring back Jose Romero’s hair as the next captain of the club.