MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 04: Jack Macrae of the Bulldogs celebrates after kicking a goal during the round 20 AFL match between the St Kilda Saints and the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium on August 4, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Last Season

After winning four of their first eight games, the Bulldogs went on a six-game skid before earning win number five in round 15.

The Dogs were plagued by some high-profile injuries in 2019 with eight players suffering season-ending injuries, including captain Easton Wood and star midfielder Tom Liberatore.

An inability to hit the scoreboard was a major issue, topping 100 points just four times last season as several premiership players fell out of favour with coach Luke Beveridge.

Due to injuries and selection, the Bulldogs were forced to field 38 players across the season.

Jack Macrae’s emergence as an elite player in the competition and the development of Josh Dunkley in the midfield were bright spots for the club.

Meanwhile, recruit Billy Gowers impressed up forward and led the club’s goalkicking with 26, a further indication of their attacking struggles.

Ed Richards, son of Collingwood great Lou, established himself in the Dogs best-22 in his debut season and earned a Rising Star nomination.

Off-season grade

In: Taylor Duryea (Hawthorn), Sam Lloyd (Richmond), Bailey Smith (Pick 7, Sandringham Dragons), Rhylee West (Pick 26, Calder Cannons), Laitham Vandermeer (Pick 37, Murray Bushrangers), Ben Cavarra (Pick 45, Williamstown), Will Hayes (Pick 78, Footscray VFL), Lachie Young (Rookie, Dandenong Stingrays), Jordon Sweet (Rookie, North Adelaide)

Out: Jordan Roughead (Collingwood), Marcus Adams (Brisbane), Luke Dahlhaus (Geelong), Tom Campbell (North Melbourne), Kieran Collins (delisted), Mitch Honeychurch (delisted), Nathan Mullenger-McHugh (delisted), Clay Smith (retired), Jack Redpath (retired), Shane Biggs (retired)

Offseason grade: C

There was nothing spectacular about what the Bulldogs did in the off-season, showing that they are invested in the talent that they have now.

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Bailey Smith was a significant pick up at number seven in the draft. The onballer is one of the hardest working players to ever be drafted.

Dedicated to his training and diet from a young age, Smith has shown a drive to succeed at the top level that is matched by few others and he will undoubtedly be a part of the Bulldogs team throughout the year.

The signings of Sam Lloyd and Taylor Duryea, while not outstanding, add depth to the Bulldogs side and also brings in experience to assist the younger, developing players adapt to the AFL level.

Defining period

The start of the season provides the Bulldogs an opportunist to see how they match up against some of the leagues stronger sides mixed in with games they would expect to win.

They face Sydney (H), Hawthorn (A), Gold Coast (H), Collingwood (A) and Carlton (H) in the opening five rounds and would be hoping to come out with at least three wins in order to set up their season.

However, if they were to come up short against the likes of Hawthorn and Sydney it would set the stage for another underwhelming season for the Dogs.

Best 22

FB: Hayden Crozier, Dale Morris, Ed Richards

HB: Easton Wood, Aaron Naughton, Jason Johannisen

C: Lachie Hunter, Marcus Bontempelli, Josh Dunkley

HF: Toby McLean, Josh Schache, Mitch Wallis

FF: Billy Gowers, Tom Boyd, Sam Lloyd

R: Jackson Trengove, Jack Macrae, Tom Liberatore

I/C: Caleb Daniel, Matt Suckling, Bailey Smith, Bailey Williams

Strengths and Weaknesses

The Bulldogs have a very strong midfield led by superstar duo Marcus Bontempelli and Macrae.

The Dogs midfield is not only talented but deep as well. The likes of Dunkley, Daniel and draftee Bailey Smith will spend a lot of time in the middle of the ground working with known ball-winners like Macrae and Lachie Hunter.

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Their weakness lies up forward. They have a lack of goalscoring firepower displayed by the fact none of their players managed to hit 30 goals last season.

The potential is there with Josh Schache and Tom Boyd both under 24 and showing promise during their short careers so far.

If those two, along with the likes of Mitch Wallis and Gowers, can grow and kick multiple goals with consistency then the Dogs will have a chance to more competitive than they have been in the past two years.

Prediction

15th

While the Bulldogs have by no means become a worse team, the sides around them in the table have added much more to their ranks this off-season than the 2016 premiers.

The talent is certainly there for the Dogs. Bontempelli is a generational player that just needs the right supporting cast around him in order to lead them to the finals.

The likes of Boyd (23), Dunkley (22) and Toby McLean (23) will need to step up and become strong contributors week in and week out.

At the same time, this could be a make or break season for Liberatore and new recruits Lloyd and Duryea as they look to show their worth at the AFL level.

The Bulldogs have the talent needed to compete for the finals, but need to grow their young stars. Expect a season similar to Brisbane’s last year – full of promise, but underwhelming overall.