New pups all set for Western Bulldogs’ campaign

Will Hayes. Picture Shawn Smits.

By Lance Jenkinson

The kennel will be full of exciting new pups for the Western Bulldogs this pre-season.

The Bulldogs have continued their rebuild after missing finals the past two seasons by bringing in eight new players over the draft period.

There was a variety of avenues available to Bulldogs national recruiting manager Nick Austin and general manager of list and recruiting Sam Power in their search for talent.

They sourced players from the TAC Cup, VFL and SANFL and took advantage of the father-son rule and the Next Generation Academy.

It was a thorough process for the Bulldogs in the hope of getting the best available talent to the club.

With their first pick in the national draft, the Bulldogs selected Bailey Smith, one of the highest rated midfielders in the draft, out of the Sandringham Dragons. Although only 17, he is expected to be knocking down the door of the selectors in his rookie season.

Smith will bolster the midfield, but can also swing forward and hit the scoreboard.

The Bulldogs’ next pick was the most anticipated.

Rhylee West, the son of seven-time Charles Sutton Medal winner Scott, landed at the Bulldogs under the father-son rule.

West was bid on by Melbourne at pick 26, but the Bulldogs had the chance to match the bid and did so in a heartbeat.

The 18-year-old from the Calder Cannons is an inside midfielder with a hard edge, not too dissimilar to his father.

With their third pick, 37th overall, the Bulldogs drafted speedy half-back Laitham Vandermeer, out of the Murray Bushrangers.

Vandermeer played for the Bushrangers under the 19-year-old rule in the TAC Cup this season.

It was not only his quick wheels that garnered the attention of the Bulldogs, but also his testing at the draft combine, where he ranked equal second in the standing vertical jump.

The Bulldogs rounded out their draft by picking up local prospects Ben Cavarra, from Williamstown in the VFL, and Will Hayes, from their own VFL side Footscray.

In the rookie draft, the Bulldogs brought in Lachie Young, who played in the Dandenong Stingrays premiership this season, and Jordon Sweet, a mature aged ruckman who featured in North Adelaide’s SANFL premiership.

Buku Khamis, a local player from St Albans and the Western Jets, arrived as a pre-selected Next Generation Academy player.