1. The belief is there
Many scribes wrote the Bulldogs off at the bye.
How many teams could go from 15th to seventh in the space of nine weeks?
Not many, if any.
Bevo’s Bulldogs were the form side of the heading into the finals, and there’s no doubt the ingredients for a successful team are at VU Whitten Oval.
After Saturday’s elimination final loss, the Bulldogs will have an even bigger point to prove next season.
2. Forward line development
The question at the start of the year, was where will the goals come from.
It was answered definitively by the end of the season.
Averaging 128 points per game in their last three home-and-away games to beat Essendon, GWS Giants and Adelaide, the Bulldogs’ forward structure clicked into gear.
Aaron Naughton and Josh Schache proved themselves as long-term key position players.
Sam Lloyd was one of the recruits of the year, leading the Dogs’ goal-kicking with 38 majors, while young gun Bailey Dale established himself as a forward threat in the last six weeks of the year.
In a year where the Bulldogs featured in September, five players also started their AFL careers.
Bailey Smith, Rhylee West, Will Hayes, Lachie Young and Ryan Gardner all pulled on the red, white and blue at the highest level for the first time.
Smith, the Bulldogs’ first-round draft pick last year, remarkably played all 23 games in 2019.
He was one of nine players to do so for the Bulldogs, averaging 17.7 disposals per game to earn a fourth-placed finish in the NAB AFL Rising Star Award.
Hayes (nine games) and West (three) also played a final, with Young (six) and Gardner (two) also showing positive signs.
4. The midfield
The Bulldogs’ midfield is among the best the competition.
They had their colours lowered against the Giants on Saturday, but it’s clear this is a group that will continue to improve.
You would argue that All Australian stars Marcus Bontempelli and Jack Macrae have yet to hit their best, at 23 and 25 years of age respectively.
One of the competition’s most improved players, Josh Dunkley, is just 22 years old, while reigning Sutton Medallist Lachie Hunter is only 24.
Then there’s the likes of Smith (18), Pat Lipinski (21) and rising ruckman Tim English (22).
Plus the impending returns of experienced heads Tom Liberatore and Mitch Wallis.
5. Locked in
A quick look at the Bulldogs’ elimination final team says there is plenty to like.
And thanks to Sam Power and his list management team, Bulldogs fans can breathe a sigh of relief this off-season – because all 22 are locked in at VU Whitten Oval for 2020 or beyond.
There will be list changes in the off-season, as always.
But fifteen players have re-signed with the Bulldogs in 2019, plus coach Luke Beveridge.
The Bulldogs fielded the youngest team in the competition in the first week of finals, and round 23 compared to all 18 teams.
In terms of games played, they were the least experienced team in the first week of finals.
There’s reason to be excited about what the future holds.