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July 14th, 2018 by admin

The Western Bulldogs show how to rebuild a playing list in only five years

One of the Bulldogs’ inspired draft selections: former rookie Jason Johannisen. Photo: Michael Dodge/AFL MediaThe Western Bulldogs lost a preliminary final in 2010, not quite good enough for the third year in a row.
Nanjing Night Net

Their decline from there was a quick one. By the end of the next year, the Bulldogs were the 10th best team. They were looking for a new coach. They knew they had no choice but to start over. It was not a good time to be bad. Given the arrival of the expansion teams, it was meant to be the worst time.

In 2012, Gold Coast had eight first round draftees on their list, nine once you included one of their uncontracted signings, Jared Brennan.

Steven May, Charlie Dixon, Rory Thompson and Zac Smith were zone selections, with the Suns having removed the 12 best 17-year-olds from the 2010 draft pool the year before.

The Giants had 11 first-round picks of their own by then, plus Callan Ward, Tom Scully and Phil Davis. By this year, that number had expanded to 23. Jeremy Cameron, Adam Treloar, Dylan Shiel and Nathan Wilson were among their 12 pre-draft signings, and the club was able to trade four players who would have been in the 2012 and ’13 drafts, turning Jesse Hogan, Jaeger O’Meara, Brad Crouch and Jack Martin into another seven first rounders.

Some clubs, like Melbourne, were trying to restart from what should have been the bottom but wasn’t. Others – Richmond, North Melbourne, Essendon – were trying to find ways around those concessions to get from the middle to the top.

The Dogs? Their squad was understandably  creaky  – only Essendon, Hawthorn, St Kilda and Sydney had an older average age in 2012. They had one bit of good fortune when the  new teams came along, given their access to a pair of  father-son players at the end of 2010.

With other teams pushed down the order due to Gold Coast’s domination of the first round and the latest version of the bidding system not yet in place, the Bulldogs were able to draft Mitch Wallis and Tom Liberatore as first and second round picks. Since then, though, the Dogs have pieced together a premiership line-up in incredibly quick time, from a challenging spot, with a change of coach and what has turned out to be just a mini-crisis right in the middle of it all.

Five members of Saturday’s side were there when Simon Dalrymple moved from a coaching role into the head recruiting position, after Scott Clayton’s move to the Suns: Jordan Roughead, Easton Wood and three former rookies, Matthew Boyd, Dale Morris and Liam Picken.

Tom Boyd was traded in, so was Shane Biggs and Joel Hamling was picked up as a delisted free agent.

Dalrymple and his team found the other 14, nailing picks that needed to be made the absolute most of but also finding players in much darker corners. Marcus Bontempelli, Jake Stringer and Jack Macrae are the only three top 10 picks on the Dogs’ list. Clay Smith is the only other first-rounder, chosen at the end of 2011 with a pick pushed down to 17 because Greater Western Sydney had so many early selections.

Of Dalrymple’s 14 premiership players, Luke Dahlhaus and Jason Johannisen were chosen as rookies at the end of 2010. Liberatore was already there, the Dogs matching a bid for him in the second round of the 2010 draft. Toby McLean and Josh Dunkley were drafted in the 20s, Caleb Daniel in the 40s, Tory Dickson in the 50s and Fletcher Roberts in the preseason draft after he was overlooked by all clubs in the national draft.

Lachie Hunter made it into the 40s after other clubs (in hindsight) waited too long to put their hand up for him as a father-son. Pick 62 was all that was needed to match a bid for Zaine Cordy, who played just his 11th game on Saturday.

While they were old Dogs six years ago, on Saturday the Bulldogs fielded a much younger team, one that should still have significant growing to do. They have turned things around while other clubs are still trying to make their way up from the bottom. They have found players in all parts of the draft, while picking the right time to move others on. They have rebuilt their list at super-speed, at a time when others have had access to more, and they have won at a time when they were still supposed to be waiting  in the queue.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.