THE BULLDOGS BOAST THE LONGEST CURRENT FINALS DROUGHT, WILL THEY BREAK THE 10-YEAR HOODOO?
The Bulldogs were one of the success stories in 2018.
They lost 23 players over the off-season and were expected to battle for the wooden spoon, but managed six wins.
First-year coach Zac Fulford and his players were outstanding, but the next step looks beyond them.
WILL TOM JOHNSON REGAIN HIS EARLY 2017 FORM?
If Wodonga is to play finals, he will need to be even better.
Johnson suffered a horror dislocated ankle and broken leg in round seven and then spent last year with Tallangatta, where he finished third in the best and fairest.
He said at the time the injury was a major reason for the move to the lower-level league, so he knows how much he will need to have done to compete.
Johnson has returned to solve the Bulldogs' scoring woes.
They averaged just 59 points last season, five goals below fifth-placed Lavington.
Nick Beattie was terrific, kicking 36 goals from 16 games, so if Johnson can regain top form, the Bulldogs will have a more dangerous attack.
WHY HAS WODONGA STRUGGLED TO LAND PROFILE PLAYERS IN THE PAST 10 YEARS?
The simple answer is they haven't played finals for 10 years and it's hard to recruit guns in that instance.
However, Corowa-Rutherglen has also struggled and they've just signed a VFL best and fairest, who another recruit bumped into at the races.
So much of it comes down to money and success. If Team A, which played finals, offers you around the same as Wodonga, you're always going to take the former.
Q&A WITH REED JACKSON
Q: You did your knee in mid-2017, did you feel you were really starting to make an impact?
A: Yeah, I was feeling really confident with where I was at. It put me down a bit when I got injured and made my confidence go down a bit, hopefully I can get back up there where I was and I think I'm nearly back there.
Q: Your game is built on pace, have you lost any?
A: I think my pace has slowed down a bit, but it's probably all in the head.
Q: Most players battle the mental demons after a serious injury, how did you cope when you played those five games towards the end of last year?
A: At the start I was nervous, but after that first touch I was alright. Fitness was the key, when I got back the match fitness is completely different to normal fitness.
Q: The three teams below you last season out of the top five - Myrtleford, Corowa-Rutherglen and Wangaratta Rovers - have all picked up higher profile players, why do you think you can hold them off and jump into the top five?
A: We've gained a few mature age players, so they'll bring in some knowledge and I think we've really gelled, so we can only get better from here.
Tom Heagney, Chris Lewis (Caulfield Bears), Tom Johnson, Bob Russell, Bailey McKimmie (Tallangatta), Marshal Macauley (Coolamon), Zac Burhop (year off), Will Stefani (Dederang- Mt Beauty), Connor Baker (year off), Clayton Bosman (Border Walwa).
Hudson Garoni (Werribee VFL), Brett Doswell (Thurgoona), Sam Maher (retired), Rory Quinn, George Haynes, Trent Williamson, Hamish Hallahan, Paddy McCormack, Mitchell White (Melbourne and Geelong university)
B: Daniel Wortmann, McKye Turner, Jackson Heagney-Steart
HB: Bob Russell, Connor Brodie, Dylan Beattie
C: Shaun Flanigan, Josh Hicks, Ben McPherson
HF: Marshal Macauley, Tom Johnson, Khyle Goodman
F: Jack Russell, Nick Beatttie, Ollie Greenhill
Foll: Harry Pole, Jacob Barber, Chris Lewis
Int: Joel Heiner, Reed Jackson, Tom Heagney
R1: Lavington (h)
R2: Myrtleford (a)
R3: Albury (h)
R4: Wodonga Raiders (a)
R5: Yarrawonga (a)
R6: North Albury (h)
R7: Wangaratta (a)
R8: Corowa-Rutherglen (h)
R9: Wangaratta Rovers (a)
R10: Myrtleford (h)
R11: Lavington (a)
R12: Albury (a)
R13: Wodonga Raiders (h)
R14: North Albury (a)
R15: Yarrawonga (h)
R16: Wangaratta Rovers (h)
R17: Corowa-Rutherglen (a)
R18: Wangaratta (h)
2018 BEST & FAIREST
1st: Josh Hicks
2nd: McKye Turner
3rd: Jacob Barber
2018 MOST GOALS
1st: Nick Beattie 36
2nd: Hamish Hallahan 17
3rd: Ben McPherson, Brett Doswell 12
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