Welcome to the 2022 Free Agency & Trade Period analysis series. Over the next fortnight, the plan is to look at every player heading to a new club. It’s not going to be a ‘who won the trade’ series, but rather a look at how players fit into existing setups, or what changes they may force.
There’s an undoubted positive for the Western Bulldogs in acquiring Rory Lobb.
There’s also a potential negative which is impossible to accurately predict right now.
Which one will win out?
Based on the team that finished 2022, Josh Bruce is the likeliest to make way for Lobb, who will take up the role as a forward-second ruck in theory … at least, as much as you can be sure about these things with Luke Beveridge as a coach.
It’s an upgrade based on exposed form, not to mention the unknown of what level Bruce can get back to after an uninterrupted pre-season.
It should – again, in theory – simplify the Bulldogs’ forward half rotations. English is the first ruck, when he rests Lobb moves on-ball, rinse and repeat.
Clearly there was little trust in the rotating crew behind English, with all of Martin, Sweet, Schache, Bruce, Cordy, Darcy and Khamis having a crack at the second ruck position in 2022. That issue is solved now.
It also gives the Dogs another contested target up forward. Too often this year it was Naughton or bust, and at this point of his career Ugle-Hagan is better suited to roaming and moving into space rather than bash and crash.
Although there are games where Lobb will be completely ineffective on the stats sheet, he’s still enough of a presence for opposition defenders to respect his leading patterns – based on Bruce’s rustiness on return from injury this year, he wasn’t getting that type of attention for too much longer.
That’s the positive. The Bulldogs will be a better team next year for Lobb’s addition. It’s the bit after that which intrigues me.
If you’ve missed any of the Free Agency & Trade Analysis posts, here’s where to catch up:
Karl Amon, Hawthorn
Josh Corbett, Fremantle
Tanner Bruhn, Geelong
Aaron Francis, Sydney | Sam Weideman, Essendon | Lachie Hunter & Josh Schache, Melbourne | Tom Mitchell, Collingwood | Ollie Henry, Geelong | Cooper Stephens and Lloyd Meek, Hawthorn | Josh Dunkley, Brisbane | Jaeger O’Meara, Fremantle
When talking about the Bulldogs’ starting 2023 forward line, the name I didn’t mention was Sam Darcy.
As it stands, the easiest way for Darcy to get games is as a key defender*, which is where he debuted last year before moving forward.
(*There is the chance they can play all of Darcy, Naughton, Ugle-Hagan and Lobb forward, but I struggle to see it unless this rumoured fifth interchange spot comes to life)
The early years for a key position player are so vital for their development. Get it wrong and you’re losing the most valuable time to mould a player, and based on limited data it seemed Darcy was more natural in the front half.
Maybe this ends up being the reverse of the Naughton situation, when I was the last person to realise I was wrong on the ‘should play back’ bandwagon, and Darcy grows into life as a key defender alongside Liam Jones.
If he does it’s actually solved a big issue for the Bulldogs, suddenly owning two strong one-on-one key defenders in addition to Keath as a complementary piece.
But – and you knew that word was coming – I’ve got a lingering feeling that with the Bulldogs picking up Lobb, it’s forcing Darcy out of his best position. If I’m right (large if), we won’t know the opportunity cost until further down the road.
In case you missed it, the Look Back/Look Ahead series recently wrapped.
Every team’s list was analysed in depth, with a key question picked out for 2023. In some ways the posts work hand-in-hand with these individual analyses, understanding needs and priorities.
Here are all the links to catch up on:
|North Melbourne||Read||West Coast||Read|
|Gold Coast||Read||Port Adelaide||Read|