Liam Jones is now a Bulldog again. (Photo: AFL; Design: Will Cuckson)

Defender Liam Jones will be returning to where it all began, joining the Western Bulldogs for the 2023 AFL season.

The move comes after Jones retired back in November 2021 due to the AFL’s COVID vaccine mandate. Now that the mandate has been dropped, Jones is ready to make his return to AFL football.

Before his year out of the game, Jones played 161 games across both the Bulldogs and Carlton. Starting out as a forward, he made the career saving move down into defence later in his career at Carlton.

Jones, who will be 32 before the next season commences, has signed a three-year deal as an unrestricted free agent at the Whitten Oval.

The signing brings much needed support to the Bulldogs backline, as they continually struggled defensively across 2022.

Can Jones get back to his best?

Prior to his departure from the AFL system at the end of 2021, Jones was taking some of the competition’s best forwards, and was in the conversation for an All-Australian selection at points during the season.

However, a year is a long time in football, and there have been a few questions surrounding Jones, and whether he can reach that 2021 form after a year out of the game.

Jones was strong in his time in the QAFL, playing for Palm Beach Currumbin where he was a key pillar in the side’s defence, but the jump from QAFL back to AFL will be a big one.

It will be a big pre-season for Jones, looking to regain any match fitness lost during the time out of the AFL system.

There is an element of confidence that with a full pre-season under his belt and with the work he’s done out of the game, he’ll be able to get back to a place where he can cement a spot in the Bulldogs best 22.

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How does Jones fit in at the Kennel?

It’s no secret that the Bulldogs lacked strength in the defensive end this season, often unable to contain key forwards or allowing teams to get a scoring run across periods of games.

Jones will add another tall defender into the mix in a much-needed boost for the Bulldogs list. He will be joining the likes of Alex Keath and Ryan Gardner as the side’s tall defenders.

Gardner had a career best season in 2022, having finished in the top 10 of the Bulldogs’ best and fairest and getting the role on some of the competition’s best forwards.

Zaine Cordy’s future at the Kennel is still up in the air, with the tall yet to sign a new deal to remain at the Whitten Oval. Tim O’Brien failed to break into the Bulldogs best 22 during the season, only playing 11 games in the red, white, and blue in 2022.

Sam Darcy could also be another one spending time down in defence after proving that he can play at both ends of the ground.

Jones can play as either a lockdown defender or an intercept marking type player, with his strength being his mark overhead. The intercept role was one the Bulldogs lacked in 2022, after the retirement of premiership captain Easton Wood.

In his final season at the Blues, Jones averaged 5.53 marks a game. While sometimes Jones didn’t rack up the big numbers in terms of disposals, he does the little things well, averaging 8.26 one percenters in 2021.

The addition certainty won’t hurt the Bulldogs, with the move not costing the club anything from a picks perspective with Jones classed as an unrestricted free agent.

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