Squad Breakdown: Western Bulldogs SC roster analysis

We take an in-depth look at the Western Bulldogs SuperCoach credentials heading into the 2022 AFL season.

AFL Pre Season Squad Breakdown

The grand final runners-up will be looking to avenge their disappointing performance on the big stage in 2021 and they appear well placed to be a contender again.

Their core group of players are in the prime of their careers and on paper they have a lot of the pieces needed to be a premiership team.

Looking at the Bulldogs through a SuperCoach lens, coach Luke Beveridge has been known to spin the magnets often, which can make picking ‘breakout’ or rookie players challenging as their role in the team isn’t always assured.

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The flipside is they have a number of gun players who will deliver week in, week out, so there are some top tier types you can pick with confidence.

Their injury list has a couple of players worth noting, Josh Bruce and Toby McLean are both currently rehabbing ACL injuries and draftee Sam Darcy has also been sidelined with a foot stress fracture.

The injury to Bruce may open up some opportunity in the forward line for the Dogs, which I’ll touch on a little later.

In terms of drafting, they took Darcy at pick 2 as a father-son selection, but I suspect the Bulldogs will not rush him back onto the field as they take a long-term view of his development.

They topped up with some later picks as well, but I don’t think those players will figure in the senior side early on, if at all during the 2022 season.

Best 22 (Injured players omitted)

FB: R. Gardner, A. Keath, T. Duryea
HB: C. Daniel, Z. Cordy, B. Dale
C: B. Smith, T. Liberatore, A. Treloar
HF: L. Hunter, A. Naughton, J. Dunkley
FF: J. Ugle-Hagan, T. English, C. Weightman
R: S. Martin, M. Bontempelli, J. Macrae
IC: B. Williams, J. Schache, T. O’Brien, L. Vandermeer

EMG: E. Richards, A. Scott, M. Wallis, H. Crozier

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Top Price Guns

Jack Macrae // $699,900 // MID // 2021 Ave: 128.6

Macrae has been a SuperCoach God over the last four seasons, averaging north of 120 since the start of 2018.

Amazingly his lowest score last year was 97, his only double figure score for 2021.

He’s a proven VC/C player week in, week out and you’d be a brave SuperCoach to not start him in your team.

The one query is that you’re paying an eyewatering $700K and history has shown that even the very best midfielders typically don’t stay above $650K for very long because their breakevens are so volatile.

If he throws in an early score of 90 for example, his breakeven will skyrocket and you’ll likely be able to pick him up cheaper later in the season.

The gamble is you might miss out on his big scores and if you start with him then his price changes are irrelevant. He’s a lock as far as I’m concerned.

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Marcus Bontempelli // $651,700 // MID // 2021 Ave: 119.7

I’m not a Bulldogs fan, but I love watching this guy play. He can do it all, he wins his own footy, he’s got great skills, he’s a goal-kicker and fittingly he’s ascended to the captaincy of this team in the last couple of years.

The Bont has also improved his SuperCoach average year-on-year since 2018, so is this the year he breaks the magical 120 PPG mark? The only question is will you have room for him in your starting team, given he’s in the same price bracket as Macrae, Steele, Oliver, Miller and co.

It’s essentially a question of who you prefer and perhaps which player’s bye round works better in your structure, but you can’t go wrong with Bontempelli this year. Should be good for a 115 average at least.

Tom Liberatore // $561,700 // MID // 2021 Ave: 103.2

Libba has strung together a couple of excellent seasons, pushing out three-figure averages in 2020 and 2021.

The role he plays in this team means he’s essentially untaggable because he’s such an in-and-under player, but he’s also competing for points in a stacked midfield alongside Macrae and Bont who take up the lion’s share of points.

He’s definitely worth a look as a late round pick in a draft competition, but when you see that Lachie Neale is cheaper than Libba to start 2022, I think there are more relevant options for classic teams.

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Josh Dunkley // $558,200 // MID-FWD // 2021 Ave: 100.0

Dunkley started the 2021 season like a house on fire, averaging 129 from the first six rounds before cooking his shoulder and missing a big chunk of the home and away fixtures.

He returned late in the year, but it looked like he was a bit gun shy with his shoulder and his role had also changed to more time in the forward line, again I think in an effort to nurse him into the finals.

If he can show in the remainder of the pre-season that he’s over that shoulder injury, then we know what a capable SuperCoach player he is.

I do have a slight question mark on his role in the team given what happened when he returned from injury, but if there’s more midfield time on offer I think Dunkley is an appealing forward line pick.

Bailey Dale // $518,300 // DEF // 2021 Ave: 95.2

Dale had a breakout season in 2021, using his elite kicking off the half back line and providing some serious run and carry for the Dogs.

He also lifted his SC average considerably to finish the season as the ninth best scoring defender.

The main query I have with Dale is his ceiling given there’s so many other big dogs (pardon the pun) in this team who will likely be taking points off him week to week. Probably more of a draft option at this stage.

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Caleb Daniel // $510,900 // DEF // 2021 Ave: 93.9

Daniel was a bit up and down last year, mixing four scores of 66 or less (including an injury-affected 19 in Round 4) with 11 scores of 100+.

He’ll naturally attract SC points for his elite ball use, but the man we just spoke about in Bailey Dale has also been used in that half back distributor, so Daniel may not have the ceiling that we saw in 2020 where he averaged north of 100 SC PPG.

I’ve got to put a line through some of these defensive options and Daniel is one that I’m just not sold on.

Adam Treloar // $483,200 // MID-FWD // 2021 Ave: 88.8

I’ll keep the summary on Treloar pretty short as I don’t think he’s all that relevant from a SC perspective in his current role.

He’s become more of that traditional outside wingman at the Bulldogs and doesn’t see much centre bounce action.

For that reason I’m happy to leave him out and bring him in as a trade in option down the track if needed. Being a DPP option this year is handy.

Tim English // $482,600 // RUCK-FWD // 2021 Ave: 88.7

English could be another useful late-season trade in if someone like Rowan Marshall for example was to become a dual-position player, which would open up a swing between the two.

Outside of that I just don’t think his role from last year will translate into big SC scores so I don’t think he should come anywhere near your starting teams.

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Bargain Bin Buys

Ed Richards // $261,300 // MID-FWD // 2021 Ave: 60.0

Richards has reportedly impressed in recent match simulations with his run and precise ball use. The knock on him from a SC point of view is that his job security isn’t assured with the depth that the Bulldogs have and I can see him being a candidate for that medical sub role.

If he was at another club where he was clearly best 22, I would be much more interested.

There are a handful of other players that I could list here like Mitch Hannan, Josh Schache, Laitham Vandermeer and Stefan Martin, but the reality is that there are question marks on all of them in terms of their role in the team and also their SuperCoach output.

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Rookie Gems

Jamarra Ugle-Hagan // $230,200 // FWD // 2021 Ave: 47.0

The former number one draft pick didn’t get much of a look in last season, playing just the five games and being made to bide his time in the VFL.

From what I’ve read over the pre-season he’s come back to the club with an improved mindset and I think that will hold him in good stead.

With Bruce injured there is now a spot for him in the team if he wants it and I think he can improve his SC scoring as well given the Dogs should be winning more games than they lose.

But if you’re looking at someone like Charlie Curnow from Carlton, you probably can’t pick both at over $200K each.

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Outside of JUH it’ll be a tough season for young players to break into the team I suspect, with the Dogs’ having nearly 30 players capable of playing senior football.

Sam Darcy is a player for the future but I’d be surprised if we see him at AFL level in 2022.

Rhylee West is another who could make a case for a senior spot, but I wouldn’t be picking him with any great confidence. Like a lot of things down at the kennel, rookies are a lottery week-to-week.

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