Graham's punt on 'Bulldogs way'

Graham's punt on 'Bulldogs way'

IT HAS been dubbed the ''Bulldogs Way'', a plan coach Brendan McCartney and his backroom staff hope will eventually guide the club to its second premiership.

The philosophy encompasses recruiting and development, with McCartney already leaving his imprint in terms of the manner in which he wants his men to play - ferociously and with intent to win the hard ball.

Brendan McCartney wants his wards to play ferociously and with intent to win the hard ball.

Brendan McCartney wants his wards to play ferociously and with intent to win the hard ball.

Photo: Getty Images

Fresh from eight years as a punter in the NFL, former Geelong captain Ben Graham has reunited with McCartney, a former Cats assistant, in a strategic operations role. He has only been at the Whitten Oval for three weeks but is impressed with what the club has implemented and the work of high-performance manager Graham Lowe.

''The way they have changed their recruiting process and development matrix, it's now deemed the 'Bulldogs Way','' Graham said.

''[It's] the way we recruit and develop talent and that ties in with our own VFL team in 2014. It will help accelerate that process.''


Part of Graham's wide-ranging brief is to develop the Bulldogs' stand-alone VFL team, which is likely to be called Footscray. This should help appease a small band of supporters still upset with the AFL name change in 1996.

He will work closely on off-field issues with general manager of football, James Fantasia, while also dealing with on-field issues.

Graham has heard all the talk about the Bulldogs being a rebuilding team, but has cautioned that can be detrimental as winning must remain paramount.

That's an easier philosophy to embrace in the NFL because it is all about winning.

''The NFL is win at all costs,'' he said. ''There is no development. The players that come out of college are ready-made players. Everything put around them is for them to succeed on the field.

''Here, it is a fine balance between the development side and winning.''

While some coaches talk about ''premiership windows'', sometimes to justify poor performances, Graham, the first Australian to feature in a Super Bowl, does not adhere to such a mantra.

''You won't be hearing any predictions coming out of me,'' he said. ''I am not a fan of premiership windows or cycles or those types of things.

''There are 18 teams in the competition. You want the chance to win next year. Just because you are in a perceived development side it doesn't mean you can't win it.''

''Of course, you have to keep an eye on the future and develop players and set up winning football programs that are sustainable, but you still need to keep an eye on the prize right now.''

The Bulldogs are not expected to challenge for the flag in 2013 but there are similarities between this list and Graham's rebuilding Geelong teams of 2001-03.

Those teams would morph into one of the best of all time. No doubt Graham hopes to have a hand in a similar rise for the Bulldogs.

Jon Pierik

Jon Pierik is a sports writer with The Age, focusing primarily on AFL football, cricket and basketball. He has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.

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