The Dogs had hoped their fairytale premiership last year would have been the start of a dynasty, at least giving Bob Murphy a chance this year to taste glory. It wasn’t to be. They began the season in good shape, winning five of their first seven, but the campaign soon fell apart, losing six of their next eight. Four straight wins would follow but the margin for error was too thin, and three losses to end the season would ensue. Jason Johannisen was targeted by opponents and struggled with this for weeks; Travis Cloke, his future again uncertain, and Tom Boyd had mental health issues, while Tory Dickson, Jake Stringer and Stewart Crameri could not get going. Marcus Bontempelli was solid without being consistently brilliant. Jack Macrae and Luke Dahlhaus found plenty of the ball but hardnut Tom Liberatore, off contract next year, was also among those to struggle. The Dogs slipped from sixth to 16th in clearances. There has been industry speculation of tension in their recruiting and list department.
UNSIGNED FREE AGENTS: None
RETIREMENTS/DELISTINGS: Bob Murphy, Matthew Boyd
WHERE THEY’RE AT:
Like many footy fans, I was waiting for the Dogs to hit top gear. However, because of injury, form and dealing with the added attention opposition put into their key personnel, they missed the chance to defend their premiership. A summer of home truths and the chance to attack next season with typical Bulldog spirit lays ahead.
WHAT THEY NEED:
Is it another forward? Is it outside run through the middle of the ground? No – the first area of help should be in defence. Premiership defender Joel Hamling left last year to join Fremantle, Marcus Adams was injured this year and played only 10 games, while Murphy and Matthew Boyd have retired. Opponents terrorised Johannisen every week and when his run was curbed, the Dogs were slowed. There is much to debate. They may need to go after another key defender because they were torched late in the year by power forwards. Or do they trust Zaine Cordy and Fletcher Roberts and hope Marcus Adams gets his body right? They could send Jordan Roughead back to defence, leaving Tom Campbell and Boyd as the ruck combination.
WHO THEY SHOULD TARGET:
I’ve decided they need another rebounding defender and Jackson Thurlow from the Cats fits the bill. He is a fantastic kick, is composed and athletic. He would help fill the void left by Murphy and Boyd across half-back and would suit the Dogs’ rebounding style. Thurlow may be after greater opportunity. The arrival at Geelong of Zach Tuohy, the impressive form of Jed Bews, and Jake Kolodjashnij showing he can play half-back and wing have meant Thurlow has struggled for a game. He has managed only 39 matches in his first five seasons, although he played the last four games of the home-and-away season.
WHAT COACH LUKE BEVERIDGE SAID:
“It has been a muddling year for us. (At) 11-11, we halve the year – it’s not what we set our sights on. Our consistency over four quarters hasn’t been good enough. We’ll need to be stronger in every area next year to be a formidable group. We haven’t been able to beat the best teams, so we’re in the pack, but I’m really optimistic that we can drag ourselves up into that [top] eight area next year.”