New Bulldogs coach eager to continue to build strong culture at draft table

AFTER a tumultuous off-season, the Western Bulldogs have a healthy hand of picks coming into the NAB AFLW Draft on October 22.

And no one is in a better position to know the young talent coming through than new coach Nathan Burke, who led an undefeated Vic Metro side at this year's NAB AFLW under-18 championships.

As it stands, the Bulldogs have picks one, six, eight, nine, 47, 48, 62 and 90.

It's come at a cost, with the 2018 premiers having lost co-captain Katie Brennan and best and fairest Monique Conti to Richmond, and defenders Libby Birch, Tiarna Ernst and Emma Mackie to Melbourne, Gold Coast and St Kilda respectively.

Currently, two of the top three draft prospects – winger Georgia Patrikios (pictured above) and the versatile Gabby Newton – are Vic Metro products, with Lucy McEvoy having played for Vic Country.

"One thing I've spoken to Debbie (Lee, Bulldogs' head of women's footy) about, with that Vic Metro group in particular, we don't have to worry about the character box," Burke told womens.afl.

"Even in the wider group of 30 who was in my squad, there honestly wasn't one player who would be a red flag or something you're unsure of.

"Every single one of them is of outstanding character. We've got that covered. Now we just need to make sure we choose the right footballing talent to complement the list we've got."

Nathan Burke coaching Vic Metro at the NAB AFLW Under-18 Championship

Burke said despite the short nature of the AFLW season, clubs have a juggling act in building their lists for the long term.

"To be totally honest, the depth of next year's group probably exceeds this year's talent. We have to take that into mind as well, the number of midfielders, forwards and defenders," he said.

"What's coming through may sway what we choose this year, but there's a lot of nuances that Mick (Sandry, list manager) and the recruiting guys have been right across that.

"They've got their ideas and I'll hopefully come in and complement what they're thinking, rather than change it, which I don't intend to do as they're experts at it.

"It's an exciting time, we've got a good hand, but we need to make sure we use it."

After winning the flag in 2018, the Bulldogs finished last in a strong Conference A in 2019, winning the first two matches but losing their last five by an average of 17 points.

Star forward Isabel Huntington, who previously had reconstructions on both knees, had an arthroscope to repair damaged cartilage in her left knee in June but should be ready for the start of pre-season in November.

Her left was reconstructed before she was taken with the No.1 pick in the 2017 NAB AFLW Draft, and is not the same knee that caused issues during the 2019 pre-season.

Star Dogs forward Isabel Huntington in action against Melbourne during the 2019 season

Burke said despite the departures during the off-season, there's a good mix of young and experienced talent remaining.

"Even though the competition's only three years old, the Bulldogs have a really strong tradition in women's football," he said.

"Under 'Grovesy' (former coach Paul Groves), they were fantastic and won a flag, which was great. We're only 12 months down the track, and senior players have left, the hand we've got at the draft means we'll get some really quality young players in. 

"Eleanor Brown is only 19, Izzy Huntington is 20, there's a real mix of experience, some players new to the game who've come from overseas (including American rookie Danielle Marshall) and these young ones coming through.

"You look at the list and think if we can jell the list together, they can achieve some really great things, which was another reason I applied for the job."