Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge has never been afraid to make the hard call.

He lives and dies by his sword.

But as a side not travelling well despite the high hopes heading into 2024, an air of change is near.

The week-to-week narrative of 'will they, or won't they?' surrounding the Bulldogs continues to rear its ugly head and last Friday's performance against Essendon shot fuel further into the fire.

Its disappointing 2-3 start (with wins only coming from matches with West Coast and Gold Coast) has Beveridge answering a host of questions about the harmony of the club.

And what's made matters worse, his strange selection calls come match day has reportedly ruffled a few feathers.

"I can only speak on what's happening here and it's a total fiction (disharmony)," Beveridge said on Tuesday.

"The senior boys who have missed out, understand. They get it and their attitude has been unbelievable."

Caleb Daniel, James Harmes, Riley Garcia and Rory Lobb played VFL on the weekend.

BALLARAT, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 24: Caleb Daniel of the Bulldogs warms up before the 2024 AFL Round 02 match between the Western Bulldogs and the Gold Coast SUNS at Mars Stadium on March 24, 2024 in Ballarat, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Jack Macrae has only recently forced his way into the side while Bailey Dale started as the sub.

In a time when you need to win games, you need players that you trust to do the roles.

But Beveridge's open admission that players are being played out of position doesn't provide any faith to the supporters about the current direction of the club.

"Now you're seeing guys playing subtly different roles or maybe completely different roles.

"And we're hoping there's not too much pain in that.

"I've mentioned we're on this journey of wanting to establish ourselves as a formidable team and until you're reassured with consistent performances, you're always weary of where we're at.

"There's a firm belief within our club that we're more than capable... and it's not like we start again because the templates there.

"I've never been a coach who's tried to leverage his time, I've always been a coach for the now and believe in our group.

"So each week we're trying to win the game, and that's what's important and critical and that's what we're after."

So where does this club sit?

In 2021, the Bulldogs made the grand final and were every chance to claim its second flag in six years, until they met a rampaging Melbourne outfit.

2021 2024
Clearances 1st (39.8) 7th (37)
Contested Possession 3rd (143.3) 10th (131.6)
Inside 50s 3rd (54.8) 9th (52.2)
Marks I50 1st (12.9) 5th (13.6)
One percenters 2nd (53.6) 11th (42.8)


That year, the club was dominant across the COVID-impacted season and was deservedly one-half of the make-up of the grand final.

Comparing that impressive campaign to 2024, all key metrics indicate where the club has dropped off in terms of its standing in the competition.

With some numbers relatively similar, this means the Western Bulldogs aren't as effective in their output as their rivals.

And it shows.

So where to now?

For starters, Beveridge has confirmed that Daniel will be recalled for Thursday's crunch clash with St Kilda at Marvel Stadium.

Youngsters Rylee Sanders and Harvey Gallagher might need a week off while a change in Aaron Naughton's position should still be up for discussion.

Tom Liberatore's concussion and subsequent absence from Thursday opens the door to Macrae playing midfield full-time.

Dale returns to the half-back line while Harmes comes in to add some aggression through the centre.

Bailey Dale during the 2022 AFL Round 1 match between Melbourne and Western Bulldogs (Photo by Cameron Grimes / Zero Digital Media)

With one eye on the now and one on the future, coaches will tend to get it wrong at times.

But Beveridge has a host of talent at his disposal, that for some reason has opted not to use.

Despite the long season, if the Dogs notch another loss on their belt this Thursday, it'll make it hard to get some "momentum" going.