‘Bevoball’ no longer cuts the mustard from the west

At what point do the Western Bulldogs draw a line?

Despite the team somehow only being one game outside the top eight with six games to go, overall it has been a disappointing season which has only shed more light on the strangeness of the list. When they play well, the Bulldogs are a unique team.

‘Bevo-ball’ is acclaimed, the plethora of quality midfielders squeezed into a 22 is genius and the stats seem incredible.

When they don’t play well, the Bulldogs are really a shell of a team that has good players but a huge distance off the ground.

Luke Beveridge’s odd rosters are no longer genius, but rather puzzling and undoubtedly frustrating to supporters. The Western Bulldogs have eight wins and eight losses after 16 games. They have won just two out of eight games against teams in the finals so far and have generally been able to penalize those below them on the ladder.

To make it to the final, they must navigate three teams in the top four of the ladder, as well as an equally desperate St Kilda, a GWS team trying to find a spark and Hawthorn in Tasmania. Now Beveridge has had a lot of credit on the club’s bench.

He is the only coach in Bulldog history to win 100 games, the only coach to lead the team to multiple Grand Finals, only the second premiership coach they’ve ever had, and of the 14 coaches in charge. out of 50 games, he has the highest win percentage. He is a two-time winner of the AFL CA Coach of the Year award, in his first two seasons with the club.

His legacy with the Bulldogs is set in stone and he has undoubtedly brought fans the best memories they will ever have. However, how long will the Bulldogs and Beveridge dine on the miracle that was 2016?
Even last season’s Grand Final appearance felt more like dominoes accidentally falling into place rather than the dominance sometimes seen during the first 19 rounds of the season.

In his seven full seasons, the Bulldogs have made it to the finals five times. Three times they were knocked out immediately and the other two were those flying carpet rides to the grand finale.

Luke Beveridge

(Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Beveridge has never led his team to a top four finish and will continue to do so after his eighth season. Sure, it seemed a fait accompli with less than a month to go into 2021, when the Bulldogs inexplicably lost their last three games of the season. A good team with 15-4 does not, regardless of the unavailability.
If Bulldogs fans had questions about off-season list management decisions, we were all entitled to it.

The obvious flaw on the AFL list was in defense. Beveridge clearly had no faith in Lewis Young, who spent his last two seasons at the club as a forward/ruck depth option lacking positional continuity at VFL level, let alone AFL level. Those in power chose to let Young, a then 22-year-old defender in the infancy of his career, walk to Carlton for very little, and chose to chase Hawthorn’s Tim O’Brien, a failed attacker who excelled at just a handful. games as an intercepting defender.

Who drove this? It’s an unknown, but that just means the blame can be shared across the board. Young missed just three games for Carlton this season, defending the tie’s third-most one-on-one game-per-game average of players who have played multiple games. His loss rate is below average, hovering around 32%, but that’s the trade-off for adjusting to playing tight on opponents.

He is rated elite for his 9.2 spoils a game, while his 2.5 intercepts scores a game above average. Young’s height and reach have proven particularly useful in an auxiliary defense environment, providing crucial loot to cover his teammates.

Young got five matches in 2018, posting similar numbers at half the loss rate, bordering on elite. Beveridge never reviewed that.

Instead, 28-year-old O’Brien, who flourished as an interceptor against the Bulldogs in Round 22 of 2021 with 24 disposals and 10 points, played on defense and often as a substandard key defender.

He is eight inches shorter than Young, lost 40% of his one-to-one and on average fewer divestments and marks.
O’Brien has also been dropped.

It’s easy enough to pick a few players out and think about what could have been in retrospect, but these moves were mind-boggling at the time and have aged badly even from that position.

Gary Rohan from the cats.

(Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images).

Alex Keath and Ryan Gardner try their best, they really do, but the supporting cast is defensively absent and it results in the Bulldogs being discovered quite easily.

25.05% of within 50’s against the Bulldogs results in a goal. That is the fourth highest percentage in the league and is only a few decimals away from North Melbourne. Pretty devastating.

There’s also the persistence of handpicking a number of adult VFL conscripts to play in a significant number of games, which is baffling to supporters, let alone neutral observers.

When it finally appeared that Anthony Scott had found an influential role in the second half of the Hawthorn match, he was told to shut Charlie Cameron out in an all-overseas job of responsibility the following week and was subsequently expelled from the team. put .

With the bad comes the good, and Beveridge, of course, deserves credit for all he’s done and continues to do.

This season he supported Ed Richards and rewarded Rhylee West’s efforts even though he could fall into that funky out-of-position bracket. Buku Khamis’ positional shift gave him opportunities, Dom Bedendo has played a few games and the support he has given Jamarra Ugle-Hagan has been amazing.

Aaron Naughton, Tim English and Cody Weightman have all benefited from the confidence their coaches have instilled in them, while Bailey Dale’s move to halfback has been an overwhelming success.

But winning tends to mask the underlying issues. Sometimes we see it as AFL fans, but clubs certainly have statistical access and analytical minds at their disposal to spot these shortcomings and are designed to proactively fix them. Instead, it feels like the Bulldogs are constantly treading water. It feels like they feel too comfortable too easily and the coach tends to get locked into their own opinions about players and tactics.

So again, we have to think, at what point do the Bulldogs draw the line?

If they’re happy constantly trying to sneak into the top eight and deal damage from there, that’s great. Untenable, but great.

The Western Bulldogs ethos always felt a little weird, unique at best and mind-boggling at worst. At some point there has to be a change.

Beveridge has a one-year contract left, which makes for tricky timing if you think one of the greatest coaches of all time has an interest in your roster.

But above all, Bulldogs supporters just wanted clarity and an understanding of the direction the club is headed.

Supporters are a club’s main stakeholders and if they question weekly team selections or voice their grievances on social media as the defense capitulates once again, it behooves the powers to at least change something.

2016 was incredible and 2021 was a wild ride, but you have to draw the line somewhere. You would think a time to do that with the Western Bulldogs is approaching.