The Bulldogs have lost their mojo. Picture: Michael Klein
The Bulldogs have lost their mojo. Picture: Michael Klein

How many fed-up Dogs members will demand refunds?

Western Bulldogs heavy-hitters marched into their meeting with Channel 7 boss Lewis Martin last October armed with a dossier of compelling statistics and football trends.

In the second half of 2019 the Bulldogs ranked No.1 in attack. Their blistering ball movement had blossomed into a work of art and they won seven of the last nine games to storm into September.

Chief executive officer Ameet Bains and chief commercial officer Nick Truelson argued it was time their sexy gamestyle entertained football fans in prime time.

And it worked, as Seven and the AFL booked the razzle dazzle Bulldogs for five Friday games in 2020.

If that fixture wasn't torn up due to COVID-19, Martin would be feeling ripped off right now, as if he had paid top dollar for an expensive watch only to unwrap a cheap knock off.

He might still, given the Dogs now roll into Broadway with a Friday night game against GWS and then a Thursday night game against Sydney.

Quite simply, the Bulldogs have lost their mojo. Other than the jumpers little else resembles what Martin and the AFL were sold in that TV pitch.

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Marcus Bontempelli tried hard in the loss to St Kilda. Picture: Michael Klein
Marcus Bontempelli tried hard in the loss to St Kilda. Picture: Michael Klein

 

Bashed and bullied by GWS in an elimination final, torn apart by Collingwood's midfield in Round 1 and now out-run and opened up by St Kilda in Round 2.

They had six months to stew on the GWS loss and then 12 weeks to stew on the Collingwood loss and not much changed.

Now they have just five days to regroup for a rematch against the Giants, which they will enter from 18th on the ladder

If the spark doesn't return you wonder how many fed-up members would consider asking for a refund.

Bizarrely, these Bulldogs can no longer score. They've gone from ballistic to busted.

In the final six home-and-away games last year they monstered sides by averaging 111 points per game, ranked No.1 in the AFL.

In the three games since they've averaged 46 points per game, ranked last in the AFL.

They're 0-3 in that run with an average losing margin of 49.7 points, which isn't surprising when almost 12 goals gets sucked out of you.

Mitch Wallis leads this year's tally with 2.0. He is the club's only multiple goalkicker.

In Round 1 it wasn't even the forward line's fault.

 

Coach Luke Beveridge needs to find a way for his team to kick more goals. Picture: Getty
Coach Luke Beveridge needs to find a way for his team to kick more goals. Picture: Getty

 

The Dogs lost contested possession by 30 and Collingwood's post-clearance pressure short-circuited their supply.

At one stage the Magpies led 8.6 (54) to 1.0 (6) on the scoreboard and 24-2 on the inside 50 count.

There were no spectators in the Marvel Stadium stands but there were a few playing in front of the ball.

The Dogs finished with just 22 entries against Collingwood, the fourth-fewest in Champion Data history.

Against the Saints the inside 50s were split 40-40 and yet the scoreboard remained painfully similar.

This time it was the Dogs' defence that was opened up like a can of tomatoes as the match played like the same horror movie only with a reworked script.

Last year the Saints' goalkicking accuracy of 49.8 per cent was the worst on Champion Data's record.

But against the Dogs they threaded 14.4, the first time in two years they've kicked less than five behinds.

 

The Bulldogs have lost their mojo. Picture: Michael Klein
The Bulldogs have lost their mojo. Picture: Michael Klein

 

That was because the golden and fast-paced entries generated simple shots. The Saints goaled from, 40 per cent of their inside 50s, compared to the Dogs' 17.5 per cent.

"(St Kilda) just got too much bang for their back," Dogs coach Luke Beveridge said.

"They scored a lot of goals from turnover possession gains in open field from our blatant skill errors.

"We gave the ball back to them quite blatantly."

Those basic errors were committed under a closed roof and without screaming fans inflating the pressure.

Jack Billings' eyes lit up when a Marcus Bontempelli kick from his non-preferred right foot wobbled straight to him in front of goal. Since when does the Bont do that?

It's a big week for the 24-year-old as he confronts the scrutiny of a sluggish 0-2 start rolled into a rematch with his old foes at the Giants, in just his third game as captain.

While Bontempelli was beaten by Jack Steele, his 12.4km topped the match GPS numbers in a testament to his workrate.

That Billings goal helped St Kilda amass 55 points from turnovers (No.3 in Round 2), which was 31 more than the Dogs.

 

Aaron Naughton is only 20 years old and trying to carry the Bulldogs’ forward line. Picture: Getty
Aaron Naughton is only 20 years old and trying to carry the Bulldogs’ forward line. Picture: Getty

 

Five St Kilda goals originated from the backline. At times it was as if they were out for a Sunday night stroll, such was the ease with which they took the ball from one end to the other.

For example, comeback kid Lin Jong should've been lining up to cut the margin to just 11 points in the second term.

But Ryan Gardner's kick to Jong - a simple 20m pass - missed him, and moments later Dan Butler was running into an open goal to make it a 23-point game.

Beveridge praised Gardner's foot skills post-game. Perhaps he was just a little rusty, as that clanger was his only kick for the half.

Gardner the rookie got the nod over Zaine Cordy the premiership player, leaving just five Bulldogs from the 2016 flag in the team.

That led the growing frustration voiced by the supporters, although selection rage can often be misguided when it comes from outside the inner sanctum.

The Dogs have an abundance of medium forwards and, based on this year's team sheets, it appears Billy Gowers, Ben Cavarra, Will Hayes, Pat Lipinski and debutant Laitham Vandermeer have all leapfrogged premiership player Toby McLean.

 

The Bulldogs are being cautious with Tom Liberatore’s return from injury.
The Bulldogs are being cautious with Tom Liberatore’s return from injury.

 

Jackson Trengove also remains well out of favour, despite his $500,000 contract, and Josh Schache, who is into his fifth season but out of the team, hasn't been seen since a quiet pre-season game in Whyalla.

The Dogs are also playing it ultra-cautious with midfield heartbeat Tom Liberatore, who wants to play and is fully fit … but not match fit.

One interesting observation came from the media box in the final quarter, when Jack Macrae waltzed out of the backline only to be run down by Billings.

Several of Macrae's teammates were nearby however none appeared to bother yelling at him that Billings was approaching.

Against the Saints the Dogs' best patch left as quickly as it came.

Early in the first quarter Brownlow Medallist Adam Cooney declared: "You can tell the Dogs are on here".

Youngsters Pat Lipinski and Josh Dunkley were getting their hands dirty and the tackling was relentless.

But Sam Lloyd, Macrae and Vandermeer all wasted their shots and by the 20-minute mark the Dogs had begun to lose their bark.

If only Daniel Giansiracusa could've swapped the runner's outfit for his No.13 and started delivering goals instead of messages.

 

Josh Schache hasn’t been sighted since a quiet pre-season match earlier this year. Picture: Getty
Josh Schache hasn’t been sighted since a quiet pre-season match earlier this year. Picture: Getty

 

Even Saints coach Brett Ratten thought his side should've trailed by four goals instead of four points.

It was a good day for Ratten, who threw captain Jarryn Geary forward to douse defensive firecracker Jason Johannisen (14 disposals).

Beveridge appeared weary post-game, although he was understandably determined to stay positive.

It is only Round 2, albeit in a 17-round season, and the Dogs reached the finals from 2-4 last year.

They also fielded the second-youngest Round 2 team, behind Gold Coast, and their talent-loaded list widely viewed as premiership material pre-season has not changed.

Aaron Naughton is trying to hold together a forward line at the tender age of 20 while teenager Bailey Smith has been probably the best in both games.

Ruckman Tim English is still only 22 and 31 games into his journey, although the midfield's focus on sharking opposition hit-outs suggests the Dogs think patience is required.

One possible problem that can be crossed off the list is the compromised preparation. Beveridge guaranteed that the Dogs were fit enough and had trained hard.

 

 

Instead teething problems, according to Beveridge, are still the primary issue.

"There's some change sweeping through our side," he said.

"Alex Keath and Josh Bruce have just joined us. We've just got to remain glass half full."

Mind you, St Kilda's five trade additions plus Round 1 debutant Max King all sang the song and didn't seem lost for chemistry.

"We can't get ourselves into a position where we're that concerned about how we're going that we can't break the shackles quickly," Beveridge said.

"We can't play paranoid footy. We have to have a positive outlook no matter what our situation."

When Beveridge arrived in 2015 it took him just 49 games to scale football's highest mountain.

But in 69 head-scratching games since that 2016 Grand Final the Dogs have crashed from first to last on ladder.

The Whitten Oval rollercoaster ride continues.

MORE NEWS:

 

Dogs get one-star review in Saints show

 

The Tackle: Have Bombers finally found midfield dynamic duo?

 

'This can lead to long-term brain damage'

 

Originally published as How many fed-up Dogs members will demand refunds?

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