The Pre-Season is upon us: The Hunt for Back to Back Begins

Jake Rachwalski

The Western Bulldogs, the current premiers. Has that sunk in yet? Not only AFL, but VFL premiers, while our women are currently hunting for glory for the club to concurrently hold all three trophies possible.

Four months has gone quick, and after one of the most enjoyable off-seasons ever, twenty-seventeen is upon us.

The first big move of the off-season was the acquisition of experienced Collingwood forward, Travis Cloke to further strengthen the already impressive forward line at the kennel.

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2016 Premiers, The Footscray/Western Bulldogs

Ruck prospect Tim English was the Bulldogs first selection in the National Draft, as life-long dogs fan Patrick Lipinski was also drafted. Other off-season ins included Fergus Greene, Lewis Young, Nathan Mullenger-McHugh and Tristan Tweedie.

Former All-Australian and twenty-sixteen VFL premiership player Will Minson was the most notable departure, being de-listed, while Joel Hamling was traded to Fremantle, Nathan Hrovat to North Melbourne and Koby Stevens to St. Kilda. More importantly for the dogs, Norm Goss Medalist Lin Jong re-signed after persistent rumours throughout the twenty-sixteen season he’d leave the club.

After multiple players received post-season surgeries, there has been a relatively unscathed pre-season at Whitten Oval, with spiritual leader Robert Murphy set to play the first pre-season game against Melbourne.  Marcus Adams and Stewart Crameri will also return.

The only injured players of note are Matthew Suckling with an achillies problem, Liam Picken with a minor facial injury, and Mitch Wallis and Jack Redpath who are still recovering from last season’s horrific injuries against St. Kilda.

The opening game for the Western Bulldogs will be against an up and coming Melbourne at Whitten Oval, then Brisbane at Docklands and Gold Coast up north. Although wins aren’t important in the pre-season, form from returning players is.

What will help the dogs is immense depth, as multiple players will be fighting it out for positions in the round one side for the Friday night blockbuster against Collingwood at the MCG. Stewart Crameri and Toby McLean, Travis Cloke and Tom Boyd, Fletcher Roberts and Zaine Cordy, are some of the players that could be fighting for the same spot in the side; just what you want to see coming off a premiership season.

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Former Collingwood Forward Travis Cloke at training with his new club, as coach Luke Beveridge looks on.

The confidence super coach Luke Beveridge instils into his players will put them in good stead to adjust to any new or tinkered game plan, as other sides will try and break the Bulldogs. The successful handball game you’d assume won’t be substituted from their game, as it’s an efficient way for players to dispose of the ball when they’re on their wrong kicking foot.

Each year a young player emerges from the clouds, in twenty-fourteen it was Marcus Bontempelli, twenty-fifteen it was Jake Stringer, twenty-sixteen it was the recently re-signed Caleb Daniel, so who will it be this season? Josh Dunkley, Toby McLean, Zaine Cordy?  They are all possibilities as well as any of the new recruits – Luke Beveridge has brought out the best in every footballer, and as a dogs supporter I’ve learnt it’s best to sit back, enjoy the ride and never be surprised at the next turn. With Bevo at the helm, anything’s possible.

Western Bulldogs (JLT Community Series) Pre-Season Fixture:

Vs Melbourne Saturday 18th February 2017 4:40pm, Whitten Oval.

Vs Brisbane Thursday 2nd March 2017 7:40pm, Etihad Stadium.

Vs Gold Coast Thurday 9th March 2017 5:50pm, Metricon Stadium.

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