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Brendan McCartney insists there's plenty of fight in the Dogs

Brendan McCartney briefs his team during the game against Fremantle.

Brendan McCartney briefs his team during the game against Fremantle. Photo: Getty Images

In his rising three years as Western Bulldogs coach, Brendan McCartney has preached a consistent narrative: we will work hard, we will get better, it will not happen overnight. He has never made the conversation about him.

Which made his response on Wednesday to questioning of the club's ''relevance'' – and the ability of its figureheads to keep the Bulldogs interesting through the drudgery of a major rebuild – notable.

''I'm probably not as quiet and easy-going as people realise,'' McCartney said. ''We've got enough intensity here. There's plenty of fight here too, don't worry. There's plenty of fight in this place. I've been in a club before where it didn't matter what happened, the wheels kept whirring internally, we kept working as a group, we kept working on our players. And the wheel turned. And I've got a feeling it'll happen again here.''

That club, Geelong, lives on the upper rungs of the ''relevance ladder'', which a Fairfax Media report placed the Bulldogs at the foot of among Victorian clubs. McCartney said a coach was ''a fool if you don't hear feedback'', but an even bigger fool if it became a distraction.

He defied recent opponents Fremantle, Gold Coast for a half, the Melbourne outfit they defeated before the bye, or Adelaide and Essendon, who beat the Dogs in close games, to have found his team ''invisible''. In the fine print of last Sunday's 38-point loss to the Dockers, he read progress.

''I just urge people to have a look at a lot of these young people who we're playing, who are now starting to get more comfortable on an AFL ground,'' McCartney said. ''There were bits of play out there last Sunday where three or four of our younger players were around the ball, and they had experienced players around the ball, and we beat them. We're gunna be OK here. The 'relevance ladder' will take care of itself I guess.''

Half of the Bulldogs' eight wins in 2013 came in their last six games, a stretch McCartney reflected had made the club ''pretty flavourable'', but three from 10 this season has had a souring effect. The coach noted lulls within games had come at critical times, but insisted: ''People probably think we aren't progressing but we are.''

Within Whitten Oval there is similar deep resolve. One official blanched at criticism of McCartney and captain Ryan Griffen's lack of profile; for the work he does beyond the playing group with supporters, sponsors and the like, the coach is considered one of the club's best communication assets. Not giving journalists a headline won't mark him down from the inside.

As the AFL announced a new competitive balance policy in the wake of equalisation measures that have been championed by Bulldogs president Peter Gordon, McCartney reiterated the club's pledge made early in his tenure as coach to ''win'' the west of Melbourne and make the area its heartland, and to win games of football. ''And every minute of every day that's what we chip away at.''

Of Gordon he said: ''I loved our president fighting for us, it made me feel pretty good actually to know that our leader's prepared to fight to make it a fair landscape.'' 

McCartney also took up the baton in defence of Griffen, the first-year captain who was kept to just 10 touches by Ryan Crowley last weekend, predicting an immediate and telling response.

''He'll play well. With due respect to his opponent, he was brilliant at what he did. All great players have a couple of days a year where they can't exert the influence they want on the game. The sort of person Ryan is, he'll bounce back, and his teammates will help.

''He's much loved and respected in here. And he's most loved because of his humility and his decency and his deep love of the club. No one tries harder here than him.''

6 comments so far

  • Good on you Brendan, anyone with half a brain can see FFC are building a team of big midfielders (like Geelong did/getting 100 games into the kids quickly) and will be good in the not too distant future. That article Lloyd wrote on the weekend was crap, fancy having a go at the bulldogs forward line when the bombers top goal kicker for the last 3 years has won with totals in the low 30s. Look forward to him writing an article about what a rabble the dons are (eg: paying someone $700k per year to live in France whilst asking the fans to donate 5 million towards the new digs) & still crap after nine years of top 10 picks that have never developed (Ryder et al)

    Date and time
    June 04, 2014, 1:59PM
    • Ah, all power to ya blerg, I'm all for the way the doggies are building and wish them success. I might remind you though that the the key dons forward you seem so critical of is now your key forward. Also, I would contend that, as one of the better rucks going around, ryder gets a pass on development. Also, while I can think of a number of successful transitions of VFL players, what I really want to know is, who are these supposed 9 top ten picks essendon have failed to develop over the last ten years? Unlike dogs, we don't have a tendency to bottom out...

      Date and time
      June 04, 2014, 4:05PM
  • +1 well said!

    Date and time
    June 04, 2014, 3:10PM
    • In the 60 years since the Bulldogs won a premiership - my lifetime - Hawthorn won its first premiership then 8 or 9 more. Every Melbourne club plus Sydney, Brisbane, West Coast, Adelaide and Port has won a premiership since the Dogs won theirs. John Elliot was right to observe the Bulldogs' 'tragic history'. What has prevented the Dogs winning a flag these last 60 years? What has to be done to win a flag sometime in the next 60? Do Gordon and McCartney have the answers?

      Date and time
      June 04, 2014, 4:02PM
      • I'm a dogs fan but I don't necessarily share the vision. I see some big flaws, you look at the likes of hawthorn who I can count on one hand the amount of players who can not use the ball with precision skills. The bulldogs on the other hand I can count on one hand those that can use the ball with precision skills (i'm talking 50m passes). Being competitive and winning the contest is something the bulldogs are already good at, but they don't have the skill or finishing to make it count. I'm running out of words so I'll let someone else talk about the forward line. Next draft = skills

        Date and time
        June 04, 2014, 8:31PM
        • I think that most bulldog supporters know and understand that there are a lot of young players out on the ground during most games. However frustration is an easy thing to acquire and I like a lot of people who go to watch them play couldn't care less about statistics especially when you keep being told we won the inside fifties, we had more tackles etc etc , but the one statistic that counts who kicked the most goals is missing .from the list.. Its time to be up front and tell supporters what the hell went wrong out there. Maybe its time to name names and say ie if player B had of kicked the ball to player G instead of to a contest then player G may have kicked a goal. Everyone around me could see the obvious choice to make and were yelling at player B to kick it to player G. And why the hell is the ball kicked out to a contest when 9 times out of 10 there is a loose player standing all alone on the members side of the ground it really doesn't take much thought to have a look around to see what the options are Yes we supporters can see where the lack of decision making is costing us fans a chance to be proud of our team.

          Date and time
          June 04, 2014, 11:04PM

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