K rock Football

New Dogs belong on GF stage

(Sports Media Image/Marcel Berens)

FIVE years after the Western Bulldogs broke their premiership drought, coach Luke Beveridge says this time around his charges feel like they genuinely belong on the AFL’s biggest stage.

Nine players from the surprise 2016 breakthrough flag will feature in Saturday’s AFL grand final against Melbourne at Optus Stadium, but Beveridge says there is more expectation now.

“The overriding emotion that I could detect on our players’ faces after we won it in ’16 was, was surprise,” Beveridge told reporters on Friday.

“If you look at their faces, how wide-eyed they were, it was almost like every one of them was saying to each other ‘did that just happen?’

“Whereas I think this year, and in the lead-up to this game, we’re different.

“We’d been in the top two for a fair period of the year, we believe that we belong there, we obviously fell out of it – stating the obvious – at the end of the year.

“But it hasn’t been that sort of meteoric-type rise, it has been a team that’s been consistent all year and so our expectations have been a little bit different.”

Marcus Bontempelli was a 20-year-old sensation in 2016 and is now captain and a bonafide superstar.

“The responsibility’s probably a little bit different. You try your best to … guide your teammates, give them as much insight as you can but there is a large part of it that is just exploratory I guess,” he said.

“You do experience the build-up and obviously this one is unique with the week off in between, it is a little bit longer and you do your best to manage your emotions and still enjoy every bit of it.

“That was our focus the last time we got an opportunity like this was to enjoy the ride – you never know when your next opportunity might be.”

Beveridge said defender Alex Keath “may have been able to play” last week if required but the pre-grand final bye had given him an “extra buffer” to prove his fitness.

(C) AAP 2021