Dingos back in the mix
Sep 15, 2009
As the siren sounded, most Dingos breathed a sigh of relief. The horror season that was 2008 was over. As they walked off the ground after their final round 74-pt smashing by the Eagles, the team was left facing an uncertain and shaky future.
Since the glory era of 2003-2005 there has been some big Canadian holes to fill. Bryan Wells gone. Chris Ritchie. Andrew Nisker. Cam Saylor. Brad Herd. Mike Butcher. All gone too. That's six players; one quarter of the team.
It was the end of an era which saw most of these players contribute more than seven seasons to the club. It was time to move on.
During that period of three straight premierships, the Dingos boasted an incredible record; 43 wins from 48 matches in three seasons, including a perfect season of 17-0.
Much of that success can be attributed to the solid Canadian stock. The Dingos still have Yoni Moussadji, Chris Buczkowski, Bob Clarke, Danny McIlravey and Rick Kromkamp from that crop.
But success never lasts forever in sport. Rarely, anyway.
Between 2006 and 2008 the Dingos spiralled into a decline. Sure, they made the finals in '06 and '07, but they struggled to make any significant impact against the inform Roos and Eagles. And their record reflected it - 20 wins from 43 matches.
Last year the club failed to reach the finals with an ailing 4-9 record. Their average losing margin; a staggering 47.0 points. They suffered one of their clubs worst defeats in history; 115 pts vs Eagles. Excuses can be made, like only 13 players took the field, but the fact was the Dingos were in big trouble half way through last season with a thin playing list.
Last year Australian Dingo stalwarts, Craig Stewart, Stu Wallis and Tim Shaw were possibly thinking retirement, raising families. They've been the heart and soul of the club for a decade. It was hard times for a club that, only a few years prior, won three flags in a row.
It's amazing though how things can change in the space of 12 months.
This time last year after the final round, the Dingos had some soul searching to do. No finals appearance, an Eagles defeat close to 100 pts and they barley scraped together four wins. This year, the Dingos finished their last game with a 140-pt thrashing over the improving Swans and will play the Blues this Saturday in the first Elimination final.
There has been many things to like about the Dingos this year who finished the home and away season in third place.
They have claimed some big scalps; The hard and tough Hawks, the quick and skill full Blues and the fit and strong Gargoyles. These were big tests for the Dingos. Last year, they didn't win these games. The most recent game against the Roos, they put in a strong performance and suffered a heart-breaking loss to the biggest '09 improver - the Wildcats.
This year, the Dingos record shows 9-5. Better than the last three years, and a massive improvement on the four wins from last year.
Tom Bell, Steve Lanning, JV Arnaldo are all first year Canadians that have played in key positions this year. Tom in the ruck; Steve as a utility and JV as a midfielder. All three are key players now.
James Duggan, the 18-year old small forward has taken small steps toward becoming a great footballer. He is still only a kid - in football terms - playing amongst men. He's quick and knows where the goals are. He kicked five goals last round against the Swans.
Throw in Mike Karas (All-Star team Centre-half back), Kevin Bartolacci and Andrew Anderson. They are Canadians and have shown epic improvement over the past two years - especially this year.
Coach Mick McFarlane has done a great job in providing the group with direction and leadership on and off the field. He made the All-Star team as an assistant coach alongside Emile who took the Roos to an undefeated season. But it's McFarlane's emphasis on fitness and the "team game" that has got the Dingos playing quick, unselfish football.
While they have made the cut for finals this year, the Dingos are still a work in progress. It takes more than just three or four fresh faces to win a premiership and remember, they hit a massive low last year. It will take time.
But one thing is for certain, the Dingos are back in the finals mix this year. We'll find out in a few weeks just how much they've improved when the finals are over. But in the dim of winter, when this season is well and truly over, the Dingos executive will sit back, reflect - whatever the finals outcome - and breathe a sigh of relief.
The Dingos are on the right track towards a premiership.