It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.

Sure, things were never as bad as they seemed after last year’s exchange period (it’s never as bad it seems), but it definitely wasn’t meant to be so good so soon.

You know the story by now: captain wants to get rid of the coach, club gives in, captain walks out anyway. As a result, the Bulldogs were left in complete disarray as they scrambled to find a coach and committed to paying a 19-year-old with nine games  experience one million dollars a year.

It’s cats that are renowned for landing on their feet: however, this time, the Dogs have pulled it off.

Hired in unusual circumstances, Luke Beveridge has proven to be an inspired choice, and is really the only logical candidate for this year’s coach of the year award.

Amid the hoopla surrounding the state of the game, with prominent commentators deriding the way it is currently being played, Beveridge has his young side playing a highly attractive brand of footy. When the players are moving the ball quickly, teams are powerless to stop them, as the Magpies and Bombers can attest after falling victim in recent weeks. They’re called the Bulldogs, but when they’re up and about, they look more like greyhounds such is the speed with which they play.

They say speed kills. Even though the Dogs have been susceptible to giving up goals from turnovers on occasion, the players remain willing to follow the game plan – and more often than not, it works.

The first year coach has empowered his players to play with the free-wheeling creativity that instills confidence in them, as well as being so enjoyable to watch. The poster boy for this is undoubtedly Liam Picken, who – after toiling away for years as a run-with player – has blossomed into an offensive force.

Averaging career highs in dispsosals (24.2 per game), contested possessions (9.6), clearances (3.6), and inside 50s (3.4), along with reaching double figure goals in a season for the first time, Picken has taken his game to new heights in 2015.

However, Picken is only one example of Beveridge’s impact. Plenty of other Bulldogs, such as Mitch Wallis, Jason Johannisen, Easton Wood, Tory Dickson and Koby Stevens (before suffering a season-ending injury), have flourished under the new regime.

Beveridge’s three seasons as Hawthorn’s back line coach under Alastair Clarkson have clearly influenced his philosophy regarding how the game should be played. Emphasis on clean ball use and quick ball movement out of defence have prompted Matthew Boyd’s shift to half back, who has developed a run and carry game alongside Bob Murphy which rivals that of Birchall and Burgoyne.

As a result, the Dogs are able to send the ball inside 50 54.6 times per game (behind only Hawthorn and West Coast) to a forward line which, despite lacking established key targets, is able to kick a winning score with a spread of goal kickers. Eight Bulldogs have scored double figure goals in 2015: this is bettered only by Fremantle, Hawthorn and North Melbourne, while being equal with Collingwood, Geelong, Port Adelaide, Richmond and West Coast.

Despite encouraging his team to play with such flair, Beveridge has ensured they remain highly effective in the contest, ranking in the top six in the AFL in contested possessions and tackles. The major knock on the Bulldogs under Brendan McCartney was that they were a strong contested side, but ineffective after doing the hard work to win the ball in close. Beveridge’s Bulldogs are a complete team.

The Bulldogs currently sit fifth on the ladder with the fourth youngest list in the league in terms of average age and the equal least experienced list in terms of average games played. 31 out of the 44 players on the list have played fewer than 50 games. Let that sink in for a minute, while also keeping in mind that last year’s best and fairest (and arguably their best player) Tom Liberatore hasn’t played a game this season.

They’re not there yet, but if the rapid progress continues, this club’s premiership window will open in the very near future. Who would’ve thought that was possible ten months ago? Just like that, despair has been replaced with hope. For that alone, Beveridge deserves the award.

Of course, Beveridge won’t be the only candidate when the award is given out later in the year. Adam Simpson has done a terrific job of thrusting the Eagles into premiership contention as the back line starts to resemble The Hunger Games, and Ross Lyon and Alastair Clarkson are omnipresent.

To put it simply though, Beveridge has done more with less, exceeding the expectations of even the most optimistic Bulldogs supporters. That is why he will be your 2015 coach of the year.