As we hit the bye rounds in the AFL season, The Inner Sanctum will be conducting our mid-season reviews of all 18 clubs and assessing the first half of the season and what fortunes may lie ahead.
Up next, Western Bulldogs .
The Bulldogs put themselves on the map as genuine premiership contenders with their impressive start to the 2021 season. The side currently has a 10-2 record going into the bye week with wins over Port Adelaide and Brisbane highlighting the Dogs as ones to watch going into September.
Before the likes of Josh Dunkley and Adam Treloar went down with injuries, the flexibility and depth of the Bulldogs midfield was a real strength. By adding Treloar into the mix, it meant that if a midfielder had an off game there was enough A-grade talent for someone else to be able to pick up the slack.
Bringing in Stefan Martin has worked wonders for the Dogs. Although he’s been out with injury over the past few weeks having that dual ruck combination with developing star Tim English which allows time for English to develop his craft without the full-time ruck responsibilities and spend more time up forward.
It’s been evident over the last fortnight that the Dogs’ goalkicking as good as they were at the start of the season, with some wasteful attempts at goal and some rushed entries into the forward fifty. In the game against Melbourne, the Demons only had three more scoring shots than the Bulldogs. While in the Dogs loss against the Tigers, Richmond only had two more scoring shots than the Dogs but the Dogs just couldn’t kick straight.
If the Dogs want to go deep into September they need to be less wasteful in front of goal and start to apply more scoreboard pressure.
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Charles Sutton Medal ( Best and Fairest) contenders:
Marcus Bontempelli is in contention to claim his fourth Charlie Sutton Medal after a stellar first half to the 2021 season. Bontempelli’s ability to lead from the front and help his side lift when they need to has been stellar.
Prolific Ball winner Jack Macrae is also in contention of claiming his first Charles Sutton Medal after a stellar start to the season. Macrae hasn’t dropped under 30 disposals for season 2021 and is another key piece in the Bulldogs midfield puzzle.
Who needs to lift?
While Aaron Naughton has been good around the ground and assisting in getting the ball up forward, his goal kicking isn’t up to scratch. In the match against Fremantle on Sunday night, he kicked five behinds where most of them have been in a reasonably easy position. The high-flying Bulldog has kicked 26 behinds total this season, adding to just over a 50 percent accuracy at goal for the season.
Another player that needs to find his way into the senior lineup is Vice Captain Mitch Wallis. Wallis hasn’t featured at AFL level since round two against the West Coast Eagles after being dropped from the side to find form in the reserves. Unfortunately, Wallis hasn’t been able to put together a decent string of performances to warrant a call-up to the senior side with the likes of Mitch Hannan starting to cement their spot in the Bulldogs’ best 22. In 2020 he was prolific in front of goal, being named the Bulldogs leading goalkicker with 25 goals, and would be a great asset to the dogs forward line if he can get back to that form.
Expectations for 2nd half of the season:
With the dogs set to regain the likes of Dunkley and Treloar coming into the latter half of the season as well as Premiership Skipper Easton Wood set to come back in the coming weeks, the dogs are looking to continue their fine form going into the second half of the season.
It won’t come without its challenges with the Dogs primed to take on the Cats, Eagles Dees again, and Port Adelaide all in the 2nd half of the season.