There are few bigger glamour teams coming into season 2020. Having stormed home last season into the finals, they were bundled out (and physically beaten up) by the Giants, ending what looked to be a promising tilt at the flag. This year they come in of the back of a strong offseason where they picked up a key forward in Bruce and key back in Keath.

It’s two great ins for the club, filling holes that they had in the team, whilst not losing anyone of note. They will be keen to improve on their first-round final loss, and many expect them too, being one of the favorites for the flag this season. Just about everyone is tipping them to be the big improvers and it’s hard to disagree. They have one of the strongest midfields in the game and if Naughton can continue to improve and gel with Josh Bruce, they will be dangerous up forward as well.

It would be hard to not be excited if you’re a doggie’s fan, as everything points to a strong season in the making. It will be interesting to see if they can justify the hype

In: Josh Bruce (St Kilda), Alex Keath (Adelaide Crows), Cody Weightman, Louis Butler, Riley Garcia (Draft)

Out: Tom Boyd (retired), Liam Picken (retired), Dale Morris (retired), Fletcher Roberts (delisted), Lukas Webb (delisted)

THE DRAW (assuming 22-week season)
Starts off with a challenging first month, as whilst they get 4 games at Marvel, they do cop Collingwood, GWS, North Melbourne and Brisbane during that time. If they can get through that it will really set up their season, however last year they showed they don’t need a good start when they flew home to make it.

Post bye, they will get to largely stay home, with just a trip the SCG to play the Swans in this time. Do cop the Tigers in round 19 and the Eagles in round 23 which will give them a good indication of where they sit.
They have arguably the best draw of last years finalists so will have no excuse come late August/September about where they sit.

1: Can the Bont elevate himself to be the best player in the game?
Hard to argue why not, based on age, games played and the fact he’s already one of the best current midfielders, it’s not s stretch to think he can do it. Whilst Martin or Fyfe holds the title now (depending on how you judge it), the Bont has all the tools to make it his. Has probably lacked that consistency over a 22 game season that others have had, but he’s strong in the contest, good skills around the ground, can go forward and become dangerous (needs to kick straighter) and he can do the freakish. We’ll see by season end of he is, but there’s no reason as to why he can’t.

2: Who kicks more goals, Bruce or Naughton?
I’ll probably be hearing dogs’ fans screaming ‘who cares??’ but it’s an interesting question. Naughton had 32 last year in a breakout year for the dogs, Bruce had 36 for the Saints. Naughton looks set to establish himself as one of the best young forwards in the game, Bruce wants to stamp himself in a final’s contender. I’m tipping Naughton as I reckon Bruce’s kicking can go a bit wonky, but I have a feeling the duel between these two will be fun to watch.

3: Tim English, year to shine?
He’s entering his 4th season and has built himself up nicely. Previously, he’s been pushed around too much by the bigger ruckman, but now weighing in at 93kgs, he’s finally starting to get some meat on the bones and will be able to hold his ground better. There is talk of him being ‘the new Grundy’, which is high expectations, but he’s mobile enough, can go forward in need and now looks to have the confidence in himself to compete, I think we are going to see a new player this year.

4: Can they erase the memory of GWS’s beating?
It’s a sub-plot to their year and I guess we’ll see in round 3 when they travel up to Sydney to take them on, returning to the scene of the crime. In that game the Giants, who had limped into finals, took on a much more aggressive approach, both at the ball and the player, and seemingly looked to target Bontempelli, who was certainly roughed up. It would annoy those players somewhat that no one ‘flew the flag’ and helped him out. They really need to ensure they compete and compete strongly with the Giants, as another loss could start to grow doubts in the minds of the players.

5: Why hasn’t Bailey Smith signed, and should they be concerned?
So, it seems they young gun recruit from last year, Bailey Smith, has yet to put pen to paper on a new deal that will keep him at the Dogs for the foreseeable future. I’m sure it’s in the works, especially after he played every game in his debut season. However the Dogs might be starting to see a squeeze on their cap, as their midfield would be on decent money, Bruce and Keath have just come across, Tim English will want a good contract in the coming years so it will be interesting to see how they balance it. Either way, I’d expect him to sign soon, but if it’s midseason and it’s still not signed, I’d be starting to worry

B: Easton Wood, Alex Keath, Hayden Crozier
HB: Matt Suckling, Zaine Cordy, Jason Johanissen
C: Lachie Hunter, Marcus Bontempelli, Ed Richards
HF: Sam Lloyd, Josh Schache, Bailey Smith
F: Bailey dale, Josh Bruce, Toby McLean
Foll: Tim English, Josh Dunkley, Jack Macrae
Int: Taylor Dureya, Patrick Lipinski, Caleb Daniel, Roarke Smith

In my opinion, the Dogs are one of the favorites for the flag this year. They have recruited well for need, bringing in a proven forward in Josh Bruce, and a key defender in Keath. Their midfield is amongst the best in the game and they are extremely well coached.

Their defence is one of the most attacking in the game, with players like Suckling, Crozier and Daniels damaging by foot, Johanissen provides superb run whilst Wood and Keath off intercepting options. They are multi-pronged, with players like Dureya and Richards able to go back and support and Zaine Cordy has developed into a quality tall defender.

In the middle they are stacked with riches. Bontempelli is a gun, Macrae is somehow still underrated whilst Josh Dunkley really announced himself to the competition last year. Lachie Hunter is often forgotten on the wing but can rack up big numbers whilst Toby McLean has been pushed back to the second wave, yet was superb just 2yrs ago. Tim English is the key here, as if he can start to get his hands to the ball in the middle more and start to give these guys some service, then it will go a long way to them pushing for top 4 and beyond.

Up forward, I’m most looking forward to the continued improvement of Naughton. 32 goals for a guy that had only been moved forward last year was great to watch, whilst he has proven himself to be one of the best contested marks in the game. Bruce arrived with little fanfare, despite the fact his career stats are better than Joe Daniher, who the Bombers were wanting the earth for. Sam Lloyd lead their goal-kicking last year and was a great get from Richmond whilst Dale is a talented 3rd tall.

For me, the hype on the Dogs is real. They are a challenger for sure and have a strong group of players that knows what it takes to climb the mountain. For me, certain finalists, possible top 4 and every chance to win it.