Football clubs go on about youth and how important it is. We hear players and coaches laud their young players and how they invigorate a club and the atmosphere. At the end of last year, there was little to get excited about with the Bulldogs. After 3 successive preliminary finals, it looked like a bleak few years on the horizon.
The loss of Barry Hall to retirement was compounded when Rodney Eade was given his marching orders. Add to that the injuries to Brian Lake and Dale Morris and Bulldog supporters were thinking they were in for a long 2012.
Yet when it all looked lost, competitive performances against Collingwood and Geelong, last year’s Grand Finalists and wins against the Kangaroos and the Gold Coast in the middle have given the club and fans a reason to get excited and think about playing off in finals series sooner rather than later.
The rejuvenation in the club under new coach Brendan McCartney coincides with the performances of two promising kids; Mitchell Wallis and Tom Liberatore.
The father son duo have sparked renewed faith back into the boys from the west and along with Boyd, Griffin, Cross and Picken, the midfield is starting to gain much needed depth.
Wallis has played seven of nine games this year after missing the first two and sits favourite for this year’s Rising Star award. His nomination in Round 4 was no surprise, as the Bulldogs got their much needed first win of the season against Melbourne. A prolific ball winner, Wallis is averaging 21 disposals and sits second behind Picken in average tackles with 5.
The blond headed son of Bulldogs champion Stephen Wallis also has the daunting task of carrying on the legendary No.3, worn by legends including Chris Grant, Doug Hawkins and EJ Whitten.
As for Liberatore, it is a lot less fancy. The shaggy headed son of legend Tony, Tom received an early Rising Star nomination last year, yet never got shown the faith by Eade that many of the supporters were hoping. However under the guidance of McCartney, Liberatore has stepped his game up another level.
With Matthew Boyd as a role model, it is quite easy to see why people inside the kennel have earmarked Liberatore as a future leader. In eight games this year, he sits behind Boyd in clearances, an area which was a problem for them last year.
However it is his no nonsense approach and in and under work that makes bulldogs supporters think that there is something good around the corner.
Against Geelong, the two youngsters were in their best five players, something that pleased McCartney and many of the supporters.
This week they face possibly their biggest challenge against a Sydney team known for their in-tight contested winning ability and clearance machines in Kennedy, Bolton, Jack and Parker.
However, it seems nothing will stop the two sons of legends, paving the way for their own successful and great careers.
It is not unrealistic that we could see three generations of Bulldog champions in the years to come?
Image courtesy of Slattery Media