The disappointment at the end of 2020 remains fresh in the mind of Luke Beveridge, but the seeds of optimism around next year have already started to grow.
A brave final-quarter fightback left the Bulldogs’ senior coach thinking what could have been, after his side’s one-kick elimination final loss to St Kilda.
But another year of development, the retention of Josh Dunkley and a trade period that brought star midfielder Adam Treloar, experienced ruckman Stefan Martin and crafty forward Mitch Hannan to the Kennel has Beveridge buoyant about his side’s 2021 prospects.
“I feel we’re well placed,” Beveridge told SEN Breakfast on Wednesday morning.
“We’re another year on, we’re going to be a little more mature and we’ve got some strong players coming in.
“It’d be hard to fit the names onto a 22-player template at the moment.”
“We’ve identified along the way what the things were that circumvented our opportunity to beat some of those top four sides (in 2020). It wasn’t a lot on the scoreboard for most of them, they’re just key things and we know the things we can get right to do that.
“Our players are well aware of what those things are that will take us to the next level.”
Those areas for improvement are the difference between potentially being a top-four side and a side that scrapes into the lower part of the eight.
The Bulldogs have fought hard to be the latter the past two years, before being handed exits in week one of the finals.
“Finishing top four – stating the obvious – helps your ultimate chances of pulling the whole thing off,” Beveridge said.
“We’ve come away from this year disappointed again, beaten by under a goal in an elimination final. Our performance was too far below par – (but) it was a step up from the previous year where we got bullied by GWS.
“But we come away from the year, as much as it was extremely challenging circumstances for everyone, we endured, we were strong enough to weather the storm and get to the finals series and come late again.
“The margin between being a team that wins enough games to be in the top four or in the lower part of the eight, it seems small but it’s significant.”