The Western Bulldogs have probably had the strangest decade in the AFL out of any other team.

They went from being an average side to an exciting young team that won a flag in 2016, to becoming an average side once again before making another push for glory in 2021, making the Grand Final and at one point having a strong grip on the cup.

Whilst the Dogs still possess loads of talent, they're likely to endure a significant drop in 2023.

Luke Beveridge's side had an extremely disappointing end to the 2022 season, blowing a 42-3 lead against the Dockers in the Elimination Final after just sneaking into the eight.

Since then, the Bulldogs' list team has been forced to make changes over the off-season.

Despite the additions of key forward Rory Lobb and exiled key defender Liam Jones, the Footscray-based side has lost their best and fairest from 2022 in Josh Dunkley whilst also losing premiership winger Lachie Hunter to the Dees.

With that all said, we discuss why the Dogs may be in for a poor year and one that could see them as low as the bottom six.

The Beveridge bother

Luke Beveridge will forever be known for bringing together a group of seemingly underaged players to glory in 2016.

However, since then, he has generally had a hard time of it as coach, often criticised for poor decisions on the field.

Even more critically, Beveridge and his coaching staff have found it difficult to retain star players.

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Over the last few years alone, the Dogs have lost premiership players Josh Dunkley, Luke Dahlhaus, Jake Stringer and Lachie Hunter, with questions raised over the relationships they had with their coach.

Cultural complications

As aforementioned, poor relationships between some players and the coach are likely to eventually trickle down to players.

And based on what past players have mentioned, there seems to be a significant issue at Whitten Oval.

With culture now such a significant part of a football club and a huge indicator of success, a poor culture is the last thing Luke Beveridge and his side needs.

Elucidating the importance of culture was the Richmond dynasty from 2017-2020, where players were often seen laughing and messing about before games and hanging out as friends off the field.

The Dunkley dilemma

Whilst Dunkley's comments about the culture at Whitten Oval are concerning, perhaps an even greater concern is the fact that the Dogs have lost their best player last year.

On a side that has always been a strong contested ball and clearance team, losing one of their best hard-ball players could have a major impact on Luke Beveridge's system.

AFL Rd 4 - Western Bulldogs v Brisbane
BALLARAT, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 10: Josh Dunkley of the Bulldogs in action during the 2021 AFL Round 04 match between the Western Bulldogs and the Brisbane Lions at Mars Stadium on April 10, 2021 in Ballarat, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

One area that was a major weakness for the Bulldogs last year was their tackling, an area where they ranked 14th in the competition.

For a team that has a relatively poor backline, a lack of pressure means easier entries into the opposition's forward 50 and hence more goals.

Most pivotally, Dunkley was by far the best tackler for the Western Bulldogs last season, averaging in excess of six tackles a game, ranking 11th in the entire competition.

Whilst there are plenty of other star midfielders in their team, they don't have someone with the same tenacity or presence that Dunkley has.

Filling in the gaps

Unfortunately for Beveridge and his side, the Bulldogs have far too many positions where they have a limited amount of stock on offer.

The most glaring of these is their batch of small defenders, which appears far too aggressive.

Caleb Daniel, Bailey Dale and Ed Richards are all magnificent ball users but can be defensively liable.

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

In fact, their backline as a whole looks a bit shaky despite the addition of Liam Jones, who was great for the Blues but hasn't played professional football for close to 18 months.

Without him last year, the Bulldogs conceded the most points out of any side in the top 11 and at times were unable to stop surges of goals at a time.

Tough Start

With a lot of change in and around the club, the last thing that Beveridge and his side will be wanting is a poor start to the season.

However, with their first six games against the Demons (A), St Kilda (H), Brisbane (H), Richmond (A), Port Adelaide (A) and Fremantle (in Adelaide), a subpar beginning to the season looks well and truly on the cards.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 04: Adam Treloar of the Bulldogs and Robbie McComb of the Bulldogs look dejected after a loss during the 2022 AFL Community Series match between the Western Bulldogs and the Brisbane Lions at Marvel Stadium on March 4, 2022 In Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

In fact, of those, the Bulldogs are likely to go in as underdogs in five of those six games and are by no means a certainty against the Saints.

With an allegedly clicky culture and the potential for a really poor start, the Dogs look to be vulnerable in 2023.