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The new breed

Rewind | Welcome to the Kennel Go inside a team meeting at VU Whitten Oval as Senior Coach Luke Beveridge welcomes the newest draftees to the Club.

With five new pups making their AFL debut in 2018, westernbulldogs.com.au takes a look at the Dogs’ next crop of young stars.

Aaron Naughton

Rewarded with a long awaited NAB AFL Rising Star nomination after a narrow loss to Richmond in Round 22, Aaron Naughton enjoyed a promising first season in the red, white and blue.

Making his debut in Round One, Naughton’s intercept marking ability was quickly the talk amongst the Bulldog faithful, the young defender garnering Rising Star buzz from day one.

Handed the task of playing on Lance Franklin in the Dog’s Round 5 loss to Sydney, the then fifth gamer told AFL.com.au that the veteran had acknowledged his exceptional defensive efforts.

"I was running back, and Buddy said, 'Well done, you'll have a future in the game', so that was one moment that's stuck out for the year.”

Falling to an ankle injury during the Round Eight win over Brisbane, the 18-year-old was forced to miss four games, however still managed to top the Club’s overall contested marks (27) and intercept possessions (6.2 avg) in his first season.

Naughton’s versatility was on display when he returned from injury in Round 14, moving into the forward line and kicking two goals in a nail-biting loss to North Melbourne.

Re-signing in June, Naughton will remain at the Bulldogs until at least the end of the 2020 season.

Billy Gowers

Selected with the ninth pick overall in the 2017 AFL rookie draft after a standout year with the Footscray Bulldogs, Billy Gowers quickly became a key figure in the Dogs’ forward line.

Booting at least one goal in each of his first eight appearances, the 22-year-old brought a competitive edge and was rewarded with a two-year contract extension at the end of his maiden season.

An outstanding performance against North Melbourne in Round 14 saw Gowers kick three goals from 12 marks and 22 disposals – all career highs.

Topping the Dogs’ goal kicking leaderboard in 2018, Gowers joins the likes of Melbourne’s Jesse Hogan, Greater Western Sydney’s Jeremy Cameron and Freedom in a Cage favourite Allen Jakovich, as players to top their Club’s goal kicking tally in their first year.

Ed Richards

Selected with the Club’s second pick at the 2017 NAB AFL Draft, 18-year-old Ed Richards fast became a fan favourite at VU Whitten Oval.

Debuting in the Dogs’ Round Two clash against West Coast, Richards looked like he belonged from his first senior performance - gathering 11 disposals and six marks against the Eagles - ultimately securing his spot in the best 22 for the remainder of the season.

Similar to Naughton, Richards showed his versatility with a move to the forward line in Round 13, where he slammed on three third quarter goals in a loss to Port Adelaide.

From then on, Richards continued to shine in multiple roles – earning him a NAB Rising Star nomination for his Round 10 performance against Collingwood, where he gathered a career-high 23 disposals (10 contested), eight intercept possessions and five inside 50s.

Richards put pen to paper on a contract extension earlier this season, keeping him at the Club until at least the end of the 2021 season.

Brad Lynch

Making his AFL debut in a thrilling win over Geelong during Round 15, then 20-year-old Brad Lynch enjoyed a solid performance on the Etihad Stadium turf, collecting 18 disposals, three marks and two tackles.

Playing every game for the remainder of the season, the Mandurah-bred speedster submitted a number of encouraging performances, including his outstanding Round 16 showing against Hawthorn where he gathered 23 disposals and five marks – all in his second senior appearance.

If Dogs fans weren’t already excited over Lynch’s performance, one quirky stat got them buzzing.

Of all the Brownlow Medal winners this century, only Richmond’s Dustin Martin managed to gather more disposals in his first three AFL games than Brad Lynch, who gathered 57 disposals in Round’s 15-17.

Fergus Greene

After showing strong form in the VFL, 20-year-old Fergus Greene earned his first AFL opportunity on Ballarat’s Mars Stadium against Port Adelaide in Round 19.

Settling the nerves with a second quarter goal, Greene looked comfortable in the forward line – laying five tackles and collecting two marks against the dominant Power.

Booting a goal in all five senior appearances, the developing forward enjoyed a promising performance in his second game, collecting 14 disposals, four tackles and six marks in the side’s 25-point victory over St Kilda.

Showing his potential in the latter half of the season, Greene was rewarded with a contract extension – keeping him at the Club until at least the end of the 2019 season.