Bulldogs analysis: All you need to know about the Dogs in 2023

    Stay tuned for more AFL deep dives to come. WESTERN BULLDOGSCoach: Luke Beveridge Captain: Marcus BontempelliWhat happened in 2022?Things went awry from the start when Luke Beveridge went bananas at a reporter for reporting some correct team information. As it happened, Lachie Hunter sought a trade to Melbourne after falling out of favour and taking some personal leave throughout the year. But the bigger issues were exposed on the defensive front as rivals continued to score heavily against the Dogs. It is why Luke Beveridge must completely program the team’s defensive systems, including the way the midfield operates. Clearly, there will be a big adjustment after losing the team’s best defensive midfielder and best and fairest winner Josh Dunkley. Adam Treloar may come in to help replace him but accountability is a concern and Treloar will start pre-season slow after ankle surgery. Marcus Bontempelli was hobbled more than he let on last year with an ankle issue and has a big role to play recapturing his best form in 2023. But perhaps the most exciting part of the disappointing season came late in the year when Jamarra Ugle-Hagan produced the best footy of his career in attack and then Sam Darcy looked completely at home plucking intercept marks in defence. The two pillars look ready to take more steps up in 2023. Where do they finish in 2023?Last year was a head-scratcher, but it’s hard to see the club having two terrible seasons in a row. Considering the star-studded list and the two big additions at either end in Rory Lobb and Liam Jones, the Dogs should be aiming for a top-four berth. But the draw is extremely difficult and with a heap of 50-50s in the first six weeks, the pressure will be on early. Mostly, the team needs better balance in the way that it plays as the ball-hunters in the midfield can leave its back line exposed when they don’t have the footy. The Cats showed in 2022 significant style changes can be made quickly, and for that reason it will be a big summer at the kennel bedding down those tweaks. But there is still so much quality in the midfield and Darcy and Ugle-Hagan can be anything. The first month will be interesting as a couple of upset losses will quickly turn up the blowtorch on a team which should be in flat-out premiership mode after making the Grand Final in 2021.Biggest improver in 2022Sam Darcy is the one. The No. 2 draft pick made a careful recovery from a foot problem and showed his class as soon as he broke through for his AFL debut late in the season. The Dogs seem content to keep him down back but the truth is Darcy has shown throughout his junior career that he could offer even more as a key forward — ruck. That’s an enormous amount of quality key forward depth when you add Aaron Naughton, Lobb, Ugle-Hagan, Tim English, plus Josh Bruce as back-up. There was lots of recognition for Sam De Koning’s breakthrough year at Geelong last season but Darcy looks like he is on a similar trajectory. Will be one of the best talls in the game when he physically matures.X-factorBailey Smith set the 2021 finals series alight kicking eight goals in three games heading into the grand final. But last season didn’t quite go according to plan as he missed some of the pre-season for personal leave, apologised for the illicit drugs video, and missed out on the top-10 of the best and fairest. After signing a new contract extension, Smith can become one of the best midfielders in the competition and add an electrifying avenue forward. When he’s on, the Dogs look dangerous. But it won’t be all on his terms in 2023 as the Dogs have made it clear their midfielders need to run two ways next season to help put the clamps on opposition scoring. Can he become a complete midfielder? He has all the weapons. Lookout for first-year Charlie Clarke too. Bet he slots in quickly and becomes a fan favourite with his hardworking and clever forward craft. Coach statusLuke Beveridge secured a contract extension until the end of the 2025 season. The club was keen to find ways to support him more and Brendon Lade clearly adds some expertise and experience to an assistantcoaching staff which felt the losses of Ash Hansen to Carlton and Steven King to Gold Coast. The Dogs have been known to makesome left-field team selections and there is no reason to think that won’t continue in 2023. Western Bulldogs best 23 Who is in last year of contract?Alex Keath, Anthony Scott, Arthur Jones, Bailey Williams, Buku Khamis, Cody Raak, Dominic Bedendo, Ed Richards, Hayden Crozier, Jordon Sweet, Josh Bruce, Lachlan McNeil, Latham Vandermeer, Luke Cleary, Mitch Hannan, Roarke Smith, Robbie McComb, Ryan Gardner, Sam Darcy, Taylor Duryea, Tom Liberatore, Tim O’Brien, Toby McLeanOuts from 2022Josh Dunkley (traded to Brisbane), Lachie Hunter (traded to Melbourne), Josh Schache (traded to Melbourne), Zaine Cordy (Free agency move to St Kilda), Louis Butler (delisted), Charlie Parker (delisted), Mitch Wallis (delisted), Stef Martin (retired) Ins for 2023Rory Lobb (Fremantle), Liam Jones (Carlton), Oskar Baker (Melbourne), Jedd Busslinger (pick no. 13), Charlie Clarke (pick no. 24), Harvey Gallagher (pick no. 39) Western Bulldogs 2023 first six Watch every match of every round of the 2023 Toyota AFL Premiership Season LIVE on Kayo Sports. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >

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