AFL – Have the Dogs lost their bite?

Grand finalists in 2021, a lacklustre Western Bulldogs have plenty of work to do if they want to feature at the pointy end of this AFL season.

From the moment they were 19 points up in the 2021 AFL Grand Final, you could argue things have gone downhill, at pace, for the Western Bulldogs. Completely overrun in the big dance by a scarcely believable 74 points, 2022 has hardly provided any solace for Dogs fans. And to make matters worse, they’ve now got the yips. Registering a more-than-shaky 15.36 in the last fortnight (an accuracy rate of just 42%) , the Dogs have slumped to 1-3. Starting the season as $6.50 second-favourites for the AFL Premiership with Palmerbet, Luke Beveridge’s side are one of the competition’s biggest sliders in the first month of footy, already out to $14.

Lack of big men a ‘massive issue’

While it’s by no means a new concern, a cited reason for their lack of bite is the absence of key big men at either end of the ground. Against Carlton, the Dogs couldn’t stop the likes of Charlie Curnow and Harry Mckay, who combined for nine goals. And while there’s little doubting their midfield, which remains one of (if not the) best in the AFL, the dearth of key position players is hurting.

“They’re 1-3 for that reason,” Port Adelaide great Kane Cornes said on afl.com.au recently. “Tim English is in the ruck, but there’s nothing behind him at the moment – at times (Marcus) Bontempelli was rucking, what a disaster that is. Tim O’Brien comes back in, he didn’t really have an influence, he’s not that big defender – they don’t have a big defender.” Given the trade period is a long way away, they’re going to have to find a solution quickly.

Will Top 4 go begging again?

The fact the Dogs made the Grand Final last season was an achievement in itself after kissing goodbye to what seemed a locked-in Top 4 position. Virtually unbackable to make the double-chance spots, Beveridge’s inexplicably side lost their last three games to give up the coveted position. But after starting the season at $1.91 in that AFL market (bettered only by Melbourne at $1.62), history could well repeat itself. After their shaky start, the Dogs are already out to $3.10.

This week

All hope isn’t lost for the Dogs, however. One could argue that their opening month of footy was tougher than any other clubs, facing at least three (and arguably four) Top 8-bound clubs in the first four rounds. The next month presents a far more straightforward equation.

And, all things being equal, the Dogs should register their second win of the season in AFL Round 5. Coming up against the (equally) lowly North Melbourne, Beveridge’s men will be buoyed by their dominant recent record against the Kangaroos. In fact, the Dogs have won their last three clashes by an average of 69 points. All three of these were at Marvel Stadium, too, the venue of Good Friday’s encounter. They start that clash as $1.17 favourites.

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