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Rise of the Dogs

Here at TipBetPro, we want to take an in-depth look at those great exponents of “sexy football”, the Western Bulldogs. At the start of the 2015 season the Dogs were in disarray. They had lost their captain, coach and best player (Tom Liberatore) to injury in a tumultuous off-season and many were predicting they would be wooden spoon contenders. Certainly the TipBetPro model was no different, with our 2015 pre-season projections having the Dogs in a lowly 17th place. Yet here we are, barely 12 months later, and the Dogs are coming off a 2015 finals appearance and a stunning Round 1 humiliation of the 2015 minor premiers Fremantle. So how did it all change so quickly – was this foreseeable and are any other teams well placed to replicate the Dogs success? The Dogs Youth

The Dogs had promise at the end of 2014 – they had a group of youngsters that were out-performing their cohort and there were certainly signs of more promising times to come. However with very few players in their prime (100-200 games and below 30 years of age), the Dogs youngsters were asked to step up and play key roles ahead of their development. They thrived … spectacularly! TipBetPro player rankings are derived from a combination of key three factors – optimal experience, “medium-long” term player performance (taken over a 2 year period) and current form (derived largely from SuperCoach scores). The Bulldogs youngsters are absolutely dominating the TipBetPro Player Rankings against their cohort. Looking at players with less than 60 games experience, the Dogs boast the top 3 rated players.

If we extend this analysis to sub 100 game players, the Dogs boast four of the top 8 sub 100 game players (Easton Wood, Tom Liberatore and Luke Dahlhaus joining Bontempelli). In addition the Dogs have a competition high eight players rated by TipBetPro as significantly above average (at least 15% superior performance compared to their fellow inexperienced cohort) – Stringer, Macrae, Mitch Wallis and Tory Dickson added to the above group. Make no performance this revitalisation was driven by one of the most impressive group of young players coming through together that we have seen in a long time. The Dogs Veterans

The Dogs youth has no doubt been the driving force behind their stunning rise up the ladder and is the reason why supporters can be optimistic that the success can be sustained. However, experience has always rated highly in the TipBetPro model algorithm and inevitably at season end those sides still alive at the pointy end of the season have boasted experienced, high performing teams. Although experience, is invaluable, there does come a point in a player’s career where performance begins to head into decline – typically this is post 200 games and/or post 30 years of age. The Dogs had three players in 2015 that belonged in this category – Bob Murphy, Matthew Boyd and Dale Morris. However instead of performance decline – we saw Morris hold his performance levels constant whilst Murphy and Boyd actually exceeded their output from the previous seasons. By season end Murphy was a Top 40 ranked player by TipBetPro and Boyd was Top 60 – an outstanding season by the veterans. So whilst all the attention will rightly be placed on the Dogs impressive stable of young guns, one cannot underestimate the importance of the Dogs veterans in their ascension up the ladder. Who’s next?

So which team, if any, can repeat the Dogs success? Well whilst others are jumping off Gold Coast with the exodus of top-class talent in recent years, we at TipBetPro remain bullish on the Suns. Looking at the 40 games or under group, TipBetPro have identified four Gold Coast Suns that we rate significantly above average – Tom Nicholls, Kade Kolodjashnij, Touk Miller and Adam Saad. The only other teams with multiple above average performers are Melbourne (Jesse Hogan and Max Gawn) and Port Adelaide (Sam Gray and Jake Neade). Does this mean that the Suns are going to replicate the Dogs success and rapid rise up the ladder? Of course not – a promising start to a career is no guarantee that players will become the game-changers of the likes of Bontempelli and Stringer. However, it’s not a bad base to start from and when combined with some handy senior players (one in particular!), TipBetPro would not be surprised if it is the Suns that replicate the Dogs stunning rise from bottom 4 to finals contender in season 2016.

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