Mitch Wallis will be a big player in the Bulldogs' rebuild
Photo: Getty Images
How much of a hole will Brian Lake leave?
There is no doubt the Dogs did the best thing by the club in shipping star defender Lake off to Hawthorn in return for a second-round draft pick. Had he stayed for the final year of his contract in 2013, he could have left as a free agent, with the Bulldogs no certainties of receiving compensation.
Although the Bulldogs had planned to play him up forward for big parts of 2013, he will still leave a significant hole. Lukas Markovic has been promising when not injured and the same goes for Tom Williams, who can provide the necessary physical presence. Easton Wood is a smart player with good pace, but he can't play on the gorillas. Outside that trio, the options are limited. Jordan Roughead has the size and athleticism to play down back, but he is still an unknown quantity in that role.
The Dogs will need to hope that at least two of Markovic, Williams and Wood are present for every game, otherwise they will find themselves caught short against teams with two or more quality tall forwards.
Who is the Bulldogs' next star?
Good question. The club was blessed by an era of rare talent, even if they didn't quite deliver the ultimate prize to Whitten Oval. Think Brad Johnson, Rohan Smith, Scott West, Chris Grant and then 2008 Brownlow Medallist Adam Cooney. But with Cooney limited by his chronic knee problems and Ryan Griffen's lack of long-term consistency keeping him just a rung below the very best, the Dogs need some star quality as they embark on their rebuild.
Mitch Wallis looks a gun midfielder in the making, but while he is prolific enough, there are some queries about the class of his disposal. Tom Liberatore has a lot of ground to make up after his drug-possession incident on King Street last year, while Clay Smith is just a second-year player coming off a tough debut season.
In terms of raw talent, the Bulldogs' first pick in the 2012 draft might be their best bet. Jake Stringer is a forward-midfielder with the rare combination of size (191cm), strength (91kg) and talent (he kicked nine goals in his under-18 comeback from a badly broken leg). He won a bench spot in the TAC Cup's team of the year as a tall utility, having played all over the ground to highlight his versatility. Stringer admits he will need time to build AFL-level fitness after a leg injury hampered his training in 2012, but he has all the tools to be the Dogs' next pin-up boy.
Will they ever find a key forward?
We wrote about this last year and, unfortunately, the Dogs look no closer to finding a genuine big target to lead their attack. They pursued both Chris Dawes and Scott Gumbleton in the off-season, only for Dawes to choose Melbourne and Gumbleton to stick with the Bombers. That leaves Liam Jones, Jarrad Grant and perhaps one of Ayce Cordy or Jordan Roughead to share the key forward role in attack - and based on 2012, that won't go so well. They booted a collective total of 29 goals from a combined 37 games, while mid-sized forwards Daniel Giansiracusa (28), Tory Dickson (23) and Shaun Higgins (22) led the charge.
The aforementioned Stringer could well play a third-tall role this season as he develops, and Giansiracusa and Higgins will be useful again, but decent teams need reliable tall forwards, and struggling teams need them even more. When a midfield is breaking even at best, a strong marking target in attack gives them an easy get-out option when under pressure. Unless one of Jones, Grant or Cordy can improve dramatically, it looks like another dire year in the Bulldogs' forward 50.
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of BigPond Sport.
Follow BigPond Sport on Twitter: @bigpondsport