The Western Bulldogs’ focus will quickly turn to a review of their failed premiership defence following their nine-point loss to Hawthorn.
The Western Bulldogs have bid a fond farewell to retiring greats Bob Murphy and Matthew Boyd but their focus will quickly turn to a post mortem of their failed premiership defence.
A season dogged by erratic form, injuries to key personnel and breakdowns within their game plan finally ended with a 15.9 (99) to 13.12 (90) loss to Hawthorn on Friday.
Even if they had won the Dogs would have needed a small miracle to make the finals.
“It has been a muddling year for us. At 11-11, we halve the year and that’s not ideal – it’s not what we set our sights on,” coach Luke Beveridge said.
“Games like tonight we would’ve won last year and we haven’t quite been able to cover (injured) key personnel and we probably haven’t, as a group, come on as we would’ve liked.
“It’s an opportunity to take a breath and consider all of the things that have affected the year.
“And stay positive and keep a clear head … really make sure that in the off-season we have a narrow focus on what we need to improve on.”
Murphy and Boyd, who amassed 33 possessions in his final game, were chaired from Etihad Stadium along with retiring Hawthorn great Luke Hodge.
One of Beveridge’s more pressing concerns ahead of next season is finding a replacement for skipper Murphy.
“There’s a significant change sweeping through our club again with the two boys in Boydy and Murph retiring,” Beveridge said.
“I’m not sure what our demographic will be but it is a shift when you get those players finishing up.
“So that’s exciting in that our younger guys need to make sure that they pick up the slack there now and own the leadership side of things.
“There’s no doubt our leadership group is going to change. Two significant contributors and stalwarts are going to go out of it, so we’ll go down the democratic route and form our leadership team in the off-season, but it’s too early to talk about who might be the figureheads.”
A tough decision also looms on the future of Travis Cloke.
The former Collingwood star forward played just 10 games and kicked 11 goals in the first season of a two-year deal with the Dogs.
“Obviously he’s a mature player who’s had a very, very strong career,” Beveridge said.
“But his heart’s got to be in it and we’ll talk to him about that.”