With the midfield depth the Bulldogs possessed and plenty of promising and experienced talent on the list, the Bulldogs were expected to take a giant leap up the ladder in 2020, but their season didn't start the way they had hoped.
The Doggies' 2020 season begun in disastrous fashion, looking well behind the pace in their first two games. The Dogs were able to then get their season rolling, winning their next three in a row before a number of inconsistent performances followed.
The Bulldogs did just enough in the back end of the season to finish 7th on the ladder and earn another finals appearance. But, their post-season shot at the premiership was short lived after going down by three points to St Kilda in their elimination final.
The Bulldogs have since acquired some experienced talent in the trade period and AFL draft that will hold them in good stead for another push in 2021, including star midfielder Adam Treloar, experienced ruckman Stefan Martin, lively forward Mitch Hannan and highly touted forward and number 1 pick in the 2020 draft, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan.
Round 7 vs Essendon: After a disappointing loss the week prior at the hands of Carlton, the Bulldogs would be looking to bounce back against Essendon, who themselves were coming off two wins in a row and looking to build some momentum.
After a tight first half which saw the Bulldogs lead by 13 points at half-time, the Dogs took complete control in the second half, slamming home 8.5 to Essendon's 3.3 and taking out a 42-point win. This game was a taste of just how good the Bulldogs can be when they were on and was one of their more commanding performances of the season.
Tim English had a career best game in this one, with 22 disposals, seven marks, six clearances, eight score involvements and a goal. Jack Macrae collected 29 disposals, while Lachie Hunter also chimed in with 26 disposals himself. Mitch Wallis was also a handy contributor for the Dogs here, booting three goals.
Round 1 vs Collingwood: With plenty of anticipation of what the Bulldogs could achieve in 2020, their play in Round 1 against the Magpies didn't live up to the hype.
The Dogs were completely dominated from the outset and were soundly beaten around the ground, in particular, the midfield.
The Pies jumped out to a 26-point lead at quarter time and extended that to a 30-point lead at half time, before a 5.2 to 1.4 second half saw the Pies run away with a comfortable 52-point win that put a dampen on the Bulldogs' start to the season.
Bailey Smith was a shining light in this one, notching up 23 disposals and providing plenty of run, while Lachie Hunter and Jack Macrae collected 22 disposals each.
Caleb Daniel: Daniel has been known for his brilliant ability to consistently hit a target by foot and is the player the Bulldogs look to get the ball moving forward from the back half.
His vast array of skills but in particular, his kicking, was on full display during 2020, and it saw himself earn a maiden Charles Sutton Medal and his first All-Australian selection.
In 2020, Daniel played all 18 games for Bulldogs, averaging 20.2 disposals per game at 82.1% efficiency. Daniel also averaged 3.8 rebound 50's per game, proving he was arguably the most important member in the Bulldogs' backline.
The 24-year old will look to get even better in 2021 and continue to be the spark off the back-third for the Bulldogs.
Bailey Smith: Lightning quick off the mark and strong around the contest, the second-year gun took big strides in 2021 and earned more midfield time as a result.
In 2020, Smith averaged 21.2 disposals per game, including 7.3 contested possessions, far exceeding his 2019 output. Smith also showed his fantastic ability to run, carry and open the game, averaging 301.6 metres per game.
Smith will look to build on his game even more in his third season next year and will further establish himself in the heart of the Bulldogs midfield.
NEEDS TO LIFT
Josh Bruce: Bruce was the big recruit for the Bulldogs that was supposed to be the answer to their key forward struggles.
Despite kicking six goals in his side's Round 5 clash against North Melbourne, Bruce was never able to fully impose himself up forward in the way the Bulldogs had hoped for, leaving far more questions than answers as to whether he is the right man for the job.
Bruce played 17 games in 2020, kicking just the 14 goals for the season in a disappointing year for the key forward.
He will be looking to improve in a big way in 2021 to show the Bulldogs why they picked him up in the first place.
INS AND OUTS
Mitch Hannan (FWD, traded from Melbourne)
Stefan Martin (RUCK, traded from Brisbane)
Adam Treloar (MID, traded from Collingwood)
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (FWD, Oakleigh Chargers/Next Generation Academy, Pick 1, 2020 Draft)
Dominic Bedendo (Murray Bushrangers, Pick 55, 2020 Draft)
Lachlan McNeil (MID, Woodville-West Torrens, Pick 11, 2020 Rookie Draft)
Roarke Smith (UTIL, Pick 26, 2020 Rookie Draft)
Ben Cavarra (delisted)
Tory Dickson (retired)
Billy Gowers (delisted)
Fergus Greene (delisted)
Will Hayes (delisted)
Brad Lynch (delisted)
Callum Porter (delisted)
Matthew Suckling (retired)
Jackson Trengove (retired)
Lachie Young (traded to North Melbourne)
2021 CRYSTAL BALL
The Bulldogs are one of the trickier teams to pick as they have so much talent, but don't always consistently meet those expectations.
With the acquisitions the Bulldogs were able to conjure up in the trade period, mixed with gaining arguably the best talent in the 2020 AFL draft, the Bulldogs have built the perfect platform for a push up the ladder in 2021.
The storyline that could cause some serious background noise for the club though is Josh Dunkley, who recently requested a trade to Essendon but was not granted the move. Should things transpire in a bad direction for the Dogs, those talks will only grow as the year progresses, so it could be a real 'watch this space' situation.
The Dogs will be looking for a far more consistent 2021 and if they can achieve that, especially with the talent they possess, a top 4 finish could be on the cards. Another finals appearance will be the pass mark for the Bulldogs, which should be the case.