The Western Bulldogs midfield shape was exposed once again in 2024 during last night's seven-goal loss to the Lions at home.

If not for some early-match efficiency in front of goal in contrast with Brisbane's inaccuracy, the result could have been decided far earlier.

"It was a bit like that Fremantle game earlier in the year when we went over to Perth. We were torched at the source numbers-wise," coach Luke Beveridge conceded post-match

"There were some efficiencies in the first quarter that allowed us to keep our head above water."

Opting for some inexperienced talent to matchup with Brisbane at many centre-bounces and around the ground stoppages, stars Lachie Neale, Hugh McCluggage and Josh Dunkley were able to prey on the Bulldogs' susceptibility and weaknesses at the coal-face all night long.

Centre-bounce attendees such as Riley Garcia, Rhylee West and Ryley Sanders are either better suited to different roles, or not blooded with enough midfield minutes at the AFL level to inflict the damage or provide the presence to quell Brisbane's stars.

Amplified by the heavy tag applied to skipper Marcus Bontempelli by Jarrod Berry, the Bulldogs were left without answers through the middle.

"It was a bit of a challenge, huge challenge actually, with the make-up of our brigade in there, we just didn't negate their influence."

"Difficult to win with the landslide of clearance wins that they had."

"(We're) a victim, sometimes, of what we provide to the opposition, and we take our medicine there."

A clear issue is just how effective the Bontempelli tag was at putting the midfield and according territory battle into Brisbane ascendency. While the skipper responded as champions do by moving forward to inflict maximum impact per touch, the damage had already been done.

They may be hampered by Ed Richards' absence after his newfound emergence as a high IQ presence with some offensive flare, though welcoming Tom Liberatore back to the side should have helped.

"As Marcus does, he perseveres," Beveridge remarked.

"(We) looked at some variations with some other players going inside at different times and Marcus going forward."

"We didn't have enough winners."

Complacency may have been a factor in the team performance at stoppages, coming off a mauling of their own against Collingwood last week, whose depleted side struggled to find any impact from clearance outside of Nick Daicos.

Clearly Brisbane's 2024 struggles don't remove the fact that their midfield is stacked, and any crop of midfielders would struggle to match the collective influence of Neale, Dunkley, McCluggage and Berry with their backs against the wall and fresh off a bye.

Neale was the most prolific with 38 disposals, 10 clearances and two goals for the night.

The dominance of their their sustained pressure and hunt for first possession all night actually had Beveridge seeing some light in the final scoreboard, which read as a 43-point defeat.

GEELONG, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 26: Buldogs senior coach, Luke Beveridge speaks to Rory Lobb of the Bulldogs during the round 24 AFL match between Geelong Cats and Western Bulldogs at GMHBA Stadium, on August 26, 2023, in Geelong, Australia. (Photo by Morgan Hancock/Getty Images)

"With the resolve that they've had coming off a break they just had the weight of numbers in the end," Beveridge noted.

"For us to score 70 points tonight, in the end that's the encouraging thing. We couldn't have been beaten more convincingly."

On top of their midfield inferiority, fault also lies with the Bulldogs collective shape in live play.

Beveridge shined the torch on his front half players for failing to apply pressure on rebounding Lions well enough to slow down their forward transition.

"The main thing that was a concern other than the clearance game... the goals they got out the back, close to goal, we haven't really been giving up many of those," he acknowledged.

"That starts from your forward line, through the high-lows of your midfield that allow it to get through and put our backs in precarious positions.

"They'd be pretty happy with some of their quick transition out of those contests. Difficult to beat the Lions when they're playing like that."

They'll be in for a similar battle next week, facing a side that similarly torched them in Round seven, led by Caleb Serong, Andrew Brayshaw, Nat Fyfe and the potent ruck combination of Luke Jackson and Sean Darcy.

 2024-06-15T03:45:00Z 
Bulldogs WON BY 67 POINTS
Marvel Stadium
WB   
149
FT
82
   FRE

A side-note to the match was Beveridge's thoughts on the AFL's revised interpretation of holding the ball, which has seen a quicker whistle blown in most contests, establishing a risk for the ball-winner who fails to dispose the footy.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 25: Luke Beveridge, Senior Coach of the Bulldogs is seen during the 2023 AFL Round 02 match between the Western Bulldogs and the St Kilda Saints at Marvel Stadium on March 25, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Beveridge's qualm is with the adapted reading of 'prior opportunity', which has forced players to release the ball quicker, naturally hindering the Bulldogs' handball-happy method of clearance work.

"What's happened is, now the game has evolved and changed in the space of two weeks, and it's risky now, and a concern if we're not looking after the ball-winner."

"If you've got players who are hesitant to go in and win it, (as a competition) we don't want to be there. The AFL's got a challenge on their hands."