The Western Bulldogs are hopeful of climbing the ladder in 2019 following two seasons of missing the finals after their 2016 premiership, according to coach Luke Beveridge.
And the Bulldogs coach also said he holds out "some hope" that one of his premiership players Luke Dahlhaus will remain at the club despite offers from rival clubs, one of those understood to be Geelong.
The Dogs have won eight games in a difficult 2018, three of those in the last three weeks. Their season has been marred by injuries to senior players like Dahlhaus, Tom Liberatore, Easton Wood, Liam Picken and Jackson Trengove, however recent wins over North Melbourne, St Kilda and Carlton have provided hope.
"We don't want to go on a long progressive cycle of climbing again," Beveridge told media on Friday morning ahead of the Dogs round 23 clash with Richmond.
"We want to climb quickly so the great thing is there's some good indication in this last sort of month that we can climb quickly. So we need to complement our current group with some new players over the off season and get some players back from injury and who knows what can happen next year."
Marcus Bontempelli, Caleb Daniel, Lachie Hunter, Jack Macrae, Dale Morris and Jason Johannisen have been shining lights in the recent wins, supported by less experienced players like Aaron Naughton, Ed Richards, Billy Gowers, Josh Schache and Josh Dunkley.
It looks likely Liberatore - who injured his ACL in round one - will sign a new contract and be ready for 2019 pre-season. His addition to the team, along with Dahlhaus if he re-signs and the consistent inclusions of the experienced players mentioned above, if fit, will be a boost for the Bulldogs' attempts at climbing the ladder.
"Luke [Dahlhaus] is a restricted free agent so hopefully, you know, things will work out there," Beveridge said. "We know that there is interest in the competition for our free agents so as I said earlier in the year we really value all of those lads and it'll all play out but still some hope he might be here, we see how it goes."
Picken has missed the whole season due to concussion concerns but Beveridge said the club would "nurture him through" his 2019 return.
"Yeah it [Picken's decision not to retire] is [a great story]," the coach said. "Time will tell, we hope that Picko will be back and we can get him somewhere near the levels that he has played in the past and he will be an enormous inclusion if that can happen."
The Dogs haven't played Richmond since they became an AFL powerhouse, making them the only side in that boat. Their last encounter, in round seven 2017, resulted in a five-point win to the Bulldogs.
"They were climbing last year when we had a narrow victory," Beveridge said. "I don't think they'd really totally adjusted and changed their composition until a bit later in the year in 2016 and so they've become a very, very successful and powerful team.
"What we will get out of this one is some outcomes against the benchmark in the competition and seeing how we stack up against that and into next year, the team that runs out tomorrow against Richmond won't be the same as the one that runs out in 2019 so things will change again but it's just re-enforcement and a little bit of bedding down understanding and belief in what we do in our program and how we can get it right."
Beveridge said Bontempelli was right to play despite struggling with a back injury the past few weeks.