MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 18: Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge is seen during the round 13 AFL match between the Western Bulldogs and the Melbourne Demons at Etihad Stadium on June 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Essendon champion Tim Watson believes the Western Bulldogs aren’t in the top eight teams in the competition at the moment, and will struggle to play finals this season if they continue playing as they are.

The reigning premiers have lost four of their past five games and have fallen to ninth on the ladder through 13 rounds.

A 57-point smashing at the hands of Melbourne on Sunday signaled just how poor Luke Beveridge’s side has been, and Watson said on SEN Breakfast on Monday morning the Dogs have been “outworked” in almost every contest this year.

“They’re not in the eight best teams at the moment,” Watson said on SEN radio.

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“Last year when you watched the Bulldogs play, even when they got beat, you would rarely say a side was more aggressive than them or outworked them around the contest. You can say that almost every game this year that they’ve been outworked and sides have been harder and tougher at the ball than what they have.

“They benchmarked that last year. Maybe it’s too hard to come up a year after that when you play that type of football when you’ve got others challenging you the way teams are now.

“They’re still trying to play the same game they played last year. Everyone’s caught them. Everyone’s got their handball clubs up and running. They haven’t moved on in any way. There’s nothing new or different about the way they’re playing.”

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No premier has missed the finals the following season since Hawthorn did in 2009, and the Bulldogs will be looking to get back in the winner’s circle on Saturday night against North Melbourne.