FORMER Western Bulldogs captain Brad Johnson is confident his old side will be competitive earlier than many observers believe, and he expects plenty of improvement next season.
''The future is going to be extremely bright,'' Johnson said.
''The number of players who have debuted for the club over the past two years would give supporters a lot of confidence that the Bulldogs in a couple of years' time will be a strength again, no question.''
The Bulldogs slipped outside the eight in 2011 after losing preliminary finals in 2008, 2009 and 2010. They fell further down the ladder last season, finishing 15th.
But Johnson expects the club's fortunes to change as early as next season. He said the club would recruit strongly, with six picks in the top 50 of ''what is considered a very strong draft''.
And he saw moments of brilliance from the side's younger players, who he said would benefit from another pre-season.
''Then the pressure will come, they'll get games and they'll need to improve and that's where the likes of [coach] Brendan McCartney and the rest of the coaching staff, which are very skilled down there, will make sure they will go to the next level,'' Johnson said.
''Then you've got the excitement of Shaun Higgins and Ryan Griffen through the midfield that add a fair bit of spark, especially Griffy's game.
''His season this year was outstanding. So you'd expect them to grow and help develop these young guys coming through.''
Johnson praised the Bulldogs trading two-time All Australian Brian Lake to Hawthorn for draft picks 21 and 41, saying it would help shore up their future.
''He was sensational for the Bulldogs throughout his time there in terms of his ability and playing against some of the best forwards in the competition,'' he said.
''It was a move that both Brian and the club were positive about, so that makes things obviously very smooth in the transition.''
Bulldogs list manager Jason McCartney said the rule allowing GWS to amass so many draft picks ''is what it is'' and the club would ''get around it''.
Earlier this week he said the Dogs would have to manage the ''exiting'' of several senior players in the next few seasons and could not afford to have too many leave at once, or they would be stuck with too many high draft picks and ''end up picking players at 120 [in the national draft]''.
GWS list manager Stephen Silvagni yesterday moved to ease the alarm surrounding his club's potential future dominance.
The Giants expect rival clubs to target players gained from their stockpile of first-round picks in the coming years. Silvagni admitted GWS probably could not keep all of them if they wanted to go.
He revealed the Giants would be willing to offer any of their five first-round picks in this year's draft - other than No. 1 - if a deal for the right player came along.
With MATT MURNANE