Western Bulldogs season review for 2015

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Position: 8th (14-9)

Last season: 14th (7-15)

Players used: 40

What went right

The change of coach. It didn’t take long for the Bulldogs to win over their detractors following a summer of discontent with rookie coach Luke Beveridge transforming the struggling Dogs from also-rans with potential to one of the most exciting sides to watch. The Bulldogs surged to their first finals appearance since 2010 on the back of Beveridge’s breakneck attacking game plan which brought about the undoing of top-six sides West Coast, Sydney, North Melbourne and Adelaide as well as Richmond. A vibrant forward line, a backline that provided devastating rebound and a midfield that thrived on contested ball and benefited from blistering outside run were key to their climb up the ladder. While the resurgence was largely youth-driven, the faith shown in maligned veterans Matthew Boyd, Liam Picken and Tory Dickson was also a masterstroke as all three enjoyed a new lease of life under Beveridge.

What went wrong

For a period it looked like everything was going wrong! Their captain Ryan Griffen walked out on them, their coach Brendan McCartney was sacked, their CEO Simon Garlick resigned, star veterans Adam Cooney and Shaun Higgins joined Essendon and North Melbourne respectively and to top it all off their reigning best-and-fairest Tom Liberatore suffered a season-ending knee injury before round one. However, the Dogs recovered from all of those setbacks to defy the odds and make it to the first week of the finals. And while their high-octane fast-paced style of play took them to great heights this year, it ultimately backfired in the Second Elimination Final when they took Adelaide on in a shoot-out and came up short. The Dogs lived by the sword in 2015 and certainly died by the sword as well.

Shining lights

Where do you start? Luke Dahlhaus, Liam Picken, Robert Murphy, Mitch Wallis, Jason Johannisen, Easton Wood, Jake Stringer, Tory Dickson, Lachie Hunter, Jarrad Grant, Koby Stevens (before he got injured), Shane Biggs and Lin Jong all had career-best years in 2015. So let’s just focus on the All-Australian nominees: Boyd, Dahlhaus, Murphy, Stringer and Wood. Boyd, Murphy and Wood formed part of an undersized but surprisingly reliable defensive unit while Dahlhaus and Stringer wreaked havoc in the midfield and up forward respectively.

What’s required to improve in 2016

Seven-million-dollar man Tom Boyd has had his year to adjust at Whitten Oval and next season is the time to start delivering. The Dogs have invested a lot in the former Giant and for him to finish the season in the VFL while a mature-age former country footballer in Jack Redpath was holding his own at senior level wasn’t an ideal situation for the 20-year-old. The ruck department also has to be addressed. While they made do without for most of the season, they got found out when it mattered. So they need to decide if Will Minson is the man going forward or if it’s time to look elsewhere. Also, of the top-eight teams, only North Melbourne had a worse defence than the Bulldogs so a slight tightening up in that department will be required too.

The headline we didn’t expect

Beveridge’s Bulldogs Barking All The Way To The Finals

Grade: B. Not too many had the Bulldogs in their top eight pre-season. They went on to take the footy world by storm and become arguably the story of 2015.

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