The suggestion has been put forth that substantial changes need to occur if the Western Bulldogs are to develop efficiently and move forward into the future. Brad Hardie’s opinion piece suggests that there is an explicit need for the sacking of the coach and an overhaul of the football club department. However, this is in contention for one of the most premature calls in 2013.
That seems like a big call given some of the stories that have done the rounds this year, but Hardie’s piece stretches the bounds of reality. It calls for former club greats to return to their club, and for the appointment of current Richmond assistant coach Mark Williams as senior coach of the Western Bulldogs.
Overlook the fact that while Williams was a Premiership coach with considerable credentials, he is also the man who was signed to a contract extension with Port Adelaide when he should not have been, and who left the club in what could only be described as a shambles.
Hardie criticises the Bulldogs for player selection and accuses the list of lacking in depth and talent. This is despite the fact that the club’s second draft pick in Jackson Macrae was this week nominated as the NAB Rising Star after collecting 26 disposals, taking 5 marks and laying four tackles.
The Bulldogs also made the masterful recruiting stroke of drafting Brett Goodes who has been a stalwart in defence, averaging 20.8 disposals, 5.5 marks and 2 tackles in the six games he’s played for the club. Promoted rookie, 20-year-old Jason Johannisen has also been serviceable, averaging 15.4 disposals, 2.6 marks and 1.3 tackles in his seven games this year.
At the other end of the ground, the Bulldogs’ first draft pick Jake Stringer shows considerable promise. At 19 years of age and weighing in at 92kg, Stringer has kicked seven goals in his four games this season, and had a career high 19 disposals and three goals in the loss to the Suns on the weekend.
The Bulldogs have nine players who have played over 100 games, of those Daniel Giarnsiracusa, Robert Murphy, Matthew Boyd and Daniel Cross have played over 200, and probably all have at least one more season in them. In the tier below are Adam Cooney, Ryan Griffen, Dale Morris, Will Minson and Shaun Higgins. Brownlow medallist Cooney and ruckman Minson are in arguably the best form they have seen in years, and aside from Morris, all have at least three solid years of playing, barring any serious injuries, left.
Midfielder Nick Lower who was given a third chance at AFL after the Bulldogs picked him up as a delisted free agent at the end of 2012 is a fantastic midfield recruit, who has worked well as a tagger in 2013. The advantage of Lower’s stop start career is that he’s only just reached his 50th game at 25 years of age, so he has a mature body that has not suffered the rigours of a solid football career at the highest level.
Add into the selection mix the exciting crop of youngsters who have played under 50 games; Liam Jones, Thomas Liberatore, Luke Dalhaus, Mitchell Wallis, Patrick Veszpremi, Clay Smith, Koby Stevens, Ayce Cordy and it is impossible to argue that the Western Bulldogs have a poor list. Yes, it is a developing list, but one that shows massive potential and has already shown marked improvement in the 2013 season.
While the Bulldogs might not be on the way to a finals campaign this year, the club is moving in the right direction, they are ranked 8th for tackles (compared to 15th in 2012) and 3rd for Hitouts (6th in 2012). The Bulldogs still struggle to regularly score, but give Jake Stringer, Ayce Cordy, Tory Dickinson, Jarrad Grant and Jack Redpath time and games, and they will hone their craft.
There is no denying that there is still plenty of work ahead of the Western Bulldogs, but to call for the sacking of McCartney and a complete overhaul of a football department that has only just received the biggest funding injection in the Western Bulldog’s history is utterly reactionary.