By JC Clapham
What do you do after reaching the top of the mountain, taking a short breather to enjoy the view, but then sliding down the rocky hillside, free-falling like a pinball in a tilted machine?
You reload, of course. And prepare for yet another launch into the hurly-burly.
The 2017 AFL season was one of bumps, bruises, and ultimately, disappointment, for our Western Bulldogs. After reaching the top and holding the club’s long-dreamed of second premiership cup aloft, the Dogs fell short of the chance to defend their flag and missed the finals, the first team to do so since Hawthorn in 2009.
A number of factors contributed to the slip. Some real, some speculated.
Some players didn’t hit the same form. Injuries cruelled others’ years. Expectations, which were modest just a hear before, weighed heavier, and the romantic goal of ‘winning one with Bob’ was on the minds of supporters and footy lovers across the league.
But it wasn’t to be.
And at the end of the 2017 season, former captains and heroes Bob Murphy and Matthew Boyd retired, as did Travis Cloke, after the one-season experiment didn’t pan out for either party.
The Package was traded out and whatever the full story is, it’s clear that coach Luke Beveridge won’t accept being a part of the 2016 flag as a free pass for anyone.
And rightly so; sustained success is built on ever-higher goals and continuing to evolve.
With a line drawn under last season, some new players of promise, and the return of others, offered some hope to Dogs fans.
Easton Wood was appointed captain, and Bont his deputy.
Word began to spread of Libba being back to his best, and spirits lifted.
Highly-rated young forward Josh Schache was traded in from Brisbane. Now back home and settled in Victoria, Schache could be the extra key forward that Cloke wasn’t. He has a decade ahead of him and with support and time, will go a long way.
Jackson Trengove left Port Adelaide and joined the kennel as another key position player and ruck.
Medium forward Hayden Crozier crossed from Fremantle.
And promising draftee Aaron Naughton, a key defender, has already impressed in pre-season games.
But perhaps the final words on the upcoming season should be left to the great man himself. Speaking at the recent season launch, Bevo said,
“Last year seems like an eternity ago, and two or three years ago seems like a lifetime ago.
“I’m not going to urge you to be patient, I won’t urge you to be excited. I won’t urge you to be supportive or even optimistic.
“What I can guarantee is that we will be all of those things. We’ll be patient, we’ll be excited, and we’ll be supportive.
“We’ll always be optimistic. We’ll always try and break the mould.”
Former Bulldogs mascot Sid passed away at the end of February, just shy of his tenth birthday and only a week after his sister Rosie.
Sid was the official club mascot from 2010 until his retirement in early 2017, and a favourite of players and fans, attending many home games and training sessions.
Sid’s final game as mascot was the 2016 premiership, before he was given a motorcade farewell and handed the mascot reins to his replacement, Caesar.