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Trading Stringer seems a sign of coaching stubbornness

An injured Jake Stringer on the bench in round 22 against Port Adelaide, a game which appears to have been his last for the Bulldogs. Photo: AFL MEDIA

Trading Stringer seems a sign of coaching stubbornness

Luke Michael    

In the aftermath of Jake Stringer’s dazzling performance against Fremantle in round one of last season, he was compared to Gary Ablett senior for his explosive power and ability to turn a game at a moment’s notice.

Against Fremantle, Stringer burst through packs, flew for towering marks and showed an uncanny goal sense, finishing with five goals. Bulldog fans saw in Stringer a 21-year-old All-Australian superstar, who would in tandem with Marcus Bontempelli dominate opposition sides for years to come.

But while the round one win against the Dockers would mark the beginning of the Bulldogs’ stunning premiership run, for Stringer it was the beginning of the end.

His stocks have since fallen so far that Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge believes a trade involving the premiership forward is now probably in the best interests of both parties.

“Jake’s management and the club got together and both agreed we’d explore alternatives to him playing at the club and explore what’s right for his long-term future and the club’s,’’ Beveridge told the Herald Sun.

“When it comes to the point where both parties are saying maybe it’s best to explore somewhere else, it means then it’s right for that individual, but it’s also right for the group he’s going to leave behind.”

Yet as indifferent as has been both Stringer’s form and at times conduct since his All-Australian 2015 season, trading him would seem a huge risk for the club.

Stringer is only 23 and about to enter the prime of his career. He has an undoubted X-factor and is a natural goalkicker with explosive speed. Those aren’t qualities AFL teams should be willingly parting with.

For all the criticism he cops, the fact remains that Stringer is a premiership player, an All-Australian and has been the club’s leading goalkicker the last three seasons.

If he goes, who will kick the Bulldogs’ goals next year? Their forward line sans Stringer comprises an aging Tory Dickson and Liam Picken, a perpetually injured/suspended Jack Redpath, and Tom Boyd, who currently spends more time in the ruck than as a forward.

Two other forwards, Stewart Crameri and Travis Cloke, seem to be on the outer and are no guarantees to even be on the list next season.

The Bulldogs already struggle to score as it is, ranked 15th for points in 2017. With no Stringer (who has kicked 122 goals the last three seasons), their forward woes will likely continue.

Critics of Stringer point to his downward trend of form, lack of professionalism and reported behavioural issues.

But as a young father, who has endured numerous personal issues and a bad run of injuries, this is somewhat understandable.

Indeed Beveridge, who has been lauded for his personal rapport with players and supportive man management style, could surely reconcile his differences with Stringer.

Even the best coaches have flaws which lurk underneath the surface. Is Beveridge’s stubbornness?

Who could forget the Michael Talia saga in 2015? It saw Beveridge turn his back on the defender, after suspicions were raised that he leaked team information to his Adelaide-playing brother Daniel, for the Dogs’ elimination final clash with the Crows.

While this is not comparable to the Stringer situation, it highlights that once Beveridge has lost faith in one of his players, it appears there’s little coming back.

Another downside to losing Stringer is his reduced trade value. Given clubs are aware the Bulldogs don’t want him, and his indifferent form over the last two seasons, it becomes clear the club won’t get an adequate return on their investment.

Stringer, a former pick 5 who has a proven ability to kick goals and dominate games, will likely only command a draft pick between 10 and 25 this year.

It seems a grossly unfair price for a player who has promised so much, but will leave the club with so much talent yet unfulfilled.

In some ways, this trade resembles the club’s off-loading of a favourite in Adam Cooney at the end of 2014. The Brownlow medallist was another pushed out because of what the club saw as the best option going forward.

However while Cooney was a veteran leaving in the midst of a rebuild, Stringer will depart entering the prime of his career, only one year after helping the club win a drought-breaking premiership.

If Stringer turns things around, which is more than likely given his age and capabilities, the Bulldogs will be left to rue what could have been.

And for Dogs’ fans, while seeing Stringer burst through a pack of Bulldogs defenders to kick a miraculous goal will be a difficult sight, it is one they may simply have to get used to.

  1. An early Christmas present for some club this year

  2. Would let him go for nothing.

    If you have watched his effort and attitude over the last 12 months you would hold the same view.

  3. Stringer would be a welcome addition at Essendon next year. Would likely take Pick 11 to him though, which I’m not sure I would like to part with considering his inconsistent form and discipline issues. Maybe a second round both this year and next.

  4. As a Bulldogs member for many years I am loathe to see him go. It’s the history of the club over the last 40 years to let go of players not fulfilling their talent only to watch them go on to stellar careers at other clubs. Given that history, i’d be backing Stringer to win a brownlow.

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