Matt Suckling has left the Hawks as an unrestricted free agent, going across to the Bulldogs on a 3-year deal.


There were rumours throughout the season of Suckling heading up to Queensland, with both the Suns and the Bulldogs interested in the left-footer. The interest from the Bulldogs has only become public in recent days, with the deal wrapped up nice and quickly for all parties. The link with coach Luke Beveridge, who worked closely with Suckling as backline coach at Hawthorn, played its part in the move, according to the player himself. As for the ‘Dogs, the inclusion of Suckling signals a want to bring in more experienced players, having played this season with a very young list. The two-time premiership player also brings in vital finals experience, which will no doubt help the younger players develop a strong September mindset.


Suckling is a damaging half-back flanker. In 2011, he averaged over 21 disposals a match at 78% efficiency, six marks and four rebound 50s a game. He played a vital role in Hawthorn’s ability to move the ball quickly and he looked to be on an upward curve until an ACL injury ruined his 2013 season. 2015 has seen a more versatile Suckling, which he said would be one of his strengths in his first press conference as a Bulldog. Much has been made of his precision kicking, giving him the ability to pierce through the strongest of defences.


While he receives plaudits for his kicking, it can be erratic at times. Direct turnovers deep in defensive 50 have crept into his game on occasions, which magnify the errors and lower the perception of him being truly reliable with ball in hand. His defensive work has never been strong either, rarely spending time locked onto an opponent. When he has, he often comes out second best. Beveridge is smart, however, and fully understands Suckling’s strengths and weaknesses, which will hopefully bring the best out of him.


As stated earlier, Suckling highlighted his versatility at his press conference. He has made a name for himself off half-back and on the wing, before playing across half-forward at the end of 2015. The Bulldogs have a fairly strong core group of running defenders, which puts a cloud over his role. Ideally, he would rotate off half-back and on a wing with Jason Johannisen, whose speed and disposal would be suited to playing higher up the ground at times. It’s hard to see Suckling spending too much time up forward, however his move may see captain Robert Murphy return to his former role in attack throughout 2016.


This move has some similarities to Nick Malceski going to Gold Coast. The idea was for the Suns to get some experience and class in defence. Malceski struggled, however, as he played in a seriously depleted team, and his defensive struggles were highlighted throughout the season. Like the former Swan, Suckling is known purely for his left boot and is better suited to a rebounding role. The link to coach Beveridge, however, is crucial. Having spent so much time together at Hawthorn, one feels that he would not have chased Suckling if he didn’t know exactly what he wanted from him. Expect Suckling and Malceski to be compared pre-season before the former Hawk shines in 2016.