RETIRING Western Bulldogs defender Matthew Boyd says there’s plenty of upside to the Western Bulldogs’ disappointing premiership defence.
And just like the Hawks of ‘09, Boyd is confident his beloved Bulldogs can and will bounce back – but only if they stay “unified”.
“I think we’ve underachieved in some ways, but then again it will hold us in really good stead going forward as a footy club,” Boyd said on Fox Sports’ Gameday Live.
“I’ve talked a little bit about how much I admire and respect Hawthorn throughout their period of winning three flags in a row.
“But they missed out on finals after the 2008 flag and they grew as a team. They matured and were able to do something special.
“I hope that our boys can learn from it and move forward and stick together and be united like we’ve been for the past three to four years. I think good things will come.”
Brownlow Medal winner Adam Cooney, who was a former teammate of Boyd’s, also suggested the Bulldogs would look on 2017 as a valuable learning experience.
“I expect a huge bounce back from the club in 2018, there’s no doubt about that,” Cooney said.
“They definitely won a premiership before their time in 2016. I personally thought that GWS and the Bulldogs would almost create a dynasty to fight it out for flags for the next three to five years.
“It was a disappointing season for the Dogs. But they’ll bounce back.”
While it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what went wrong for the Bulldogs, injuries and form were central to the Dogs’ downfall.
The form of two premiership players in Tom Liberatore and Jake Stringer, in particular, have been talking points throughout the season, with the former axed for his lack of conditioning.
But Boyd said it was too simplistic to hold two players accountable for the form of the entire squad.
“I think it’s pretty hard to single out just two individuals from a squad of 45,” Boyd said.
“Those guys continue to work hard on their game and are continuing to improve. They’re both still very young men.
“I think Libba’s 24 and Jakey Stringer is 22 or 23. They’re very young men in the scheme of footy. Obviously they’ve got a lot of maturing and improving to do, as does the entire list.”
Cooney also defender Stringer, rebuking suggestions that the club should consider trading the talented forward.
“I wouldn’t trade Jake Stringer. He’s had a poor season this season, and his end of 2016 wasn’t great either,” Cooney said.
“He’s had a lot of off field issues going on. I think if he can sort out what’s going on in his life in the off season then he’s got a huge amount of upside.
“He’s only 22 years old. His best football is in front of him. I wouldn’t be trading a superstar like Jake Stringer.”
Hawthorn thwarted any hope the Bulldogs had of making a late finals dash, with a nine-point win over Luke Beveridge’s side at Etihad Stadium on Friday night.
Cooney said the match epitomised the Bulldogs’ “flat” season.
“It was bruise free footy for the first half. I think the Dogs only had 10 tackles in the first quarter. Jaeger O’Meara had nine himself by half time,” Cooney said.
“I thought the Dogs might have given it a little more of a yelp, but it wasn’t to be.
“They were flat at times last night, particularly in the third quarter. But that just sums up the Dogs’ season. They were flat, they didn’t find that inspiration or spark that they had in 2016.”
SOURCE : FOX SPORTS