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It’s hard being top dog

Wednesday, 28th March, 2012

PREMIERS: The Bulldogs celebrate their victory in 2011. PREMIERS: The Bulldogs celebrate their victory in 2011.

The new footy season is about to begin with the Lightning Cup this weekend heralding the start of the season proper. Before what is shaping up as an exciting year of footy, the BDT spoke to each of the four clubs about the season ahead. Today sports writer Graham Ball looks at North.

The Bulldogs will head into the 2012 season not only as the reigning premiers, but with the expectations of its supporters to claim its 36th premiership and go back to back, a task that is difficult at the best of times. 

The off season has been a little rocky for the Bulldogs. After claiming the 2011 premiership coach David Ruddock tended his resignation due to work commitments and the search was on for a new coach.

After an extensive process the North Football Club announced Karl Berryman as its senior coach for the 2012 season. Berryman had a distinguished playing career with the Bulldogs. 

He played over 200 games before taking on a assistant coaching role in ‘08 and 09. 

Berryman’s philosophy to coaching is simple, especially after a premiership year; just to build on what is already working, improve in the areas that he feels need improving, and build on the standards that are already in place.

Since the beginning of pre-season training the numbers have been excellent, said Berryman, with over 40 players committing to the rigors of pre-season. 

He also noted that he was impressed with the commitment the juniors had shown over summer with the likes of Jordan Vella who has played a handful of reserves grade games along with Ethan Thomas and Zac Borlace.

Berryman also said he was impressed with the senior players such as Matt Fenton who has returned to pre-season with a desire to succeed. 

Brenton Oldsen also looks in tip top shape and Berryman also expects Quinton Beaven to build on last year’s exceptional form. And Anthony Henderson has returned with a point to prove after injury cut short his 2011.

Like all clubs, North will gain and lose players from one season to another and this off season is no different with the departure of Ashley Bates and Davin Bates who have moved away, and young forward Kayle Grundy who moved to further his education.

But the biggest loss is Tom Billings who is now working in town but has chosen to play in Adelaide. Not only is Billings a huge loss for the Bulldogs but also a huge loss for the combined side. His experience at AAMI Stadium would have been invaluable. 

The Bulldogs have regained Pat White after missing nearly two years with a knee injury. His size will help them up forward and they have gained the services of Jay McCormack from the Boulder City Football Club who looks like he can play up forward.

Can the Bulldogs repeat the success they had in 2011? It will be a big task considering the losses. Fringe players will have to stand and shoulder more of the load. While White will be eased back into the action he could be a big plus up forward. 

But they will be thereabouts in September either in the number one spot or the number two.

Players to watch in 2012
Anthony Henderson, Quinton Beaven, Matt Fenton, Brenton Oldsen
Best and Fairest - Codie Howard
Best Junior - Jed Watson
Leading goalkicker - Anthony Henderson
Johnston Medal - Jayden Kelly
Mail Medal - Jayden Kelly
Best Backman - Matt Dempster
Premierships - League
Wins 16 - Losses 3
Highest Score - 23.18 (156)
Lowest Score - 7.8 (50\)
Goals kicked - 281
Behinds Kicked - 238
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