The Bulldogs are approaching an unwanted trend. Picture: Getty Images
The Bulldogs are approaching an unwanted trend. Picture: Getty Images

Robinson: Clubs with most at stake in AFL restart

Can you make an assessment of a team after just one match?
What about two?
Surely, three's evidence after three.

In the hit TV show, Aussie Gold Hunters, if you dig up three gold nuggets it's a patch.
In football, if you lose three successive matches it's a trend.
The Western Bulldogs are a) not a patch on themselves and b) one defeat away from being accused of having a softish mentality.

That's an unwelcome trend.
In the much anticipated return of the competition, the Bulldogs play St Kilda in the new, prime Sunday-night slot and defeat can't be an option.

Another loss and the Bulldogs will be 0-2. That's horrid enough in a regular season of 22 matches and, remember, this season is condensed to just 17 rounds.

The Bulldogs were bullied by Collingwood in Round 1 and in the match before that, the elimination final of 2019, were munched by Greater Western Sydney.
You might not think the Giants loss matters, but try to telling that to the St Kilda coaching department.
It would've heavily reviewed the Magpies win and dissected the Giants win.
The numbers are readily available.

 

All facets of their game have failed in the past two matches. They couldn't win the ball, couldn't move the ball in the face of pressure and couldn't stop the opposition from scoring.

So, the Bulldogs have had a serious self assessment and the Saints have had a serious assessment of them.
The Bulldogs already are the mystery team in what shapes as a season of mystery.
Take last year. They won seven of their last nine matches and, before the loss in the final, were one of the spruik teams of the competition.'

They played the Giants in Round 22, remember, and won by 10 goals.
In that game, they were +20 contested possessions, +31 disposals, +22 tackles and +24 inside 50s.
Mechanically, they had 28 chains from defensive 50 and for three inside 50s.

 

The Bulldogs finished 2019 with a bang. Picture: Mark Stewart
The Bulldogs finished 2019 with a bang. Picture: Mark Stewart

What's happened to the Dogs?
What's their identity?
Always, it's how you play. In Round 1, Geelong lost to the Giants, but their intent and attitude was commendable, The Bulldogs were beaten up by Collingwood and it was lamentable.
Coach Luke Beveridge knows that.

After the match, Beveridge was pointed about the restrictions on players, such as high-fiving and shared drink bottles, and it was reported he was annoyed he had to address his players on the extreme hygiene measures.
He would've - or should've - been far more annoyed by the mentality of his players post his pre-match speech.
You'd think he would have far greater priorities at this weekend's pre-match.

Collingwood's pressure rating in Round 1 was 0.202 and anything with two in front of it is maniacal. If the Saints bring the same heat, serious questions will be asked of the Dogs, if they aren't already.
It is a huge game. They play three games in 12 days - St Kilda, Greater Western Sydney and then Sydney on the road.

If they lose to the Saints, their day or reckoning will surely come against the Giants.
Of course, they are not the only team who are presented with questions.

The Saints need a win after folding to North Melbourne in Round 1 and the Saturday afternoon clash between Melbourne and Carlton will be a beauty, and the fans of the losing team will shake their heads with a here-we-go-again mentality.


Surely, it's the Blues that have to be coming.
The spotlight will be on the response from Brisbane, and the productivity from Essendon after their forward line was hit by injury.

What will the hub teams produce, particularly West Coast and Port Adelaide? If one of those teams win the premiership, it would magnificent - and stuff your asterisk.
How will not having fans at the games influence teams and players? That can't be an excuse. It didn't effect Richmond, Collingwood, Port Adelaide, Hawthorn, Sydney and the other winners in Round 1.
There are queries about styles of play in these reduced quarters and what type of player will excel in response.

A loss will see the Saints start the season 0-2. Picture: AAP Image/Scott Barbour
A loss will see the Saints start the season 0-2. Picture: AAP Image/Scott Barbour


Premiership player and former coach Terry Wallace: "I think the dynamic players are coming into their own even more so with the shortened quarters. They can get on, use their burst of energy and then get off .. where it becomes less of an endurance game and more of a burst game of football.

"I'm talking about Toby Greene, Jordan De Goey and Christian Petracca.''
Maybe the great players will still be great players, never mind the change, such as Dustin Martin, Nat Fyfe, Patrick Dangerfield, Patrick Cripps and Marcus Bontempelli as offensive midfielders, and Dylan Grimes, Jeremy McGovern, Harris Andrews, Tom Stewart and Bachar Houli as defenders.


Or will it be the smart, experienced players who will continue to thrive, such as Ablett, Burgoyne, Hurn, Kennedy, Shaw and Simpson.
Maybe it's Gazza's last dance and maybe it's Harley Bennell's final chance.

It's both exciting and intriguing to see which teams and which players handle 2020 (Mark II)
For the fans, the season started under an umbrella of fear, uncertainty and denied access, and recent announcements that members/corporates would be allowed in to matches this weekend and increasingly so over the coming weeks, is a silver lining.

The sport itself without supporters at games is unpalatable, and we all saw that in Round 1.
Clearly, the return of football is a significant milestone, but only when fans are allowed back to fill all stadiums will football be truly back on track.
In the meantime, cheer your hearts out in your living room.

 

 

Originally published as Robbo: Clubs with most at stake in restart

Will Dustin Martin go to another level in 2020? Picture: AAP Image/Michael Dodge
Will Dustin Martin go to another level in 2020? Picture: AAP Image/Michael Dodge

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