AFL finals nothing to fear for Bulldogs

Stand-in skipper Easton Wood says the Western Bulldogs must avoid buying into the mystique surrounding September specialists Hawthorn ahead of Friday’s AFL semi-final.

With three consecutive premierships under their belt, the Hawks will go into the MCG clash as favourites despite losing to Geelong in last week’s qualifying final.

No side has been better than Hawthorn in recent times at conjuring victories out of thin air, the two-point loss to the Cats an exception that proved the rule.

And the physical Hawks have more big-game performers – led by captain Luke Hodge and prime movers Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis – than any team in the competition.

So it’s no surprise senior Bulldogs defender Wood will look to keep things simple when he speaks to his young teammates ahead of the game.

“I think the main thing with that is it’s just business as usual,” he said.

“As much as putting an arm around them or having a word here and there, it’s just keeping an even emotional level yourself and making sure that when guys are having a look around and seeing you, you’re being that stable person.

“They’ve obviously got some really experienced players. Whether or not they try and impose that physicality, it’s nothing we haven’t come up against during the season and nothing that we haven’t been able to deal with.

“Just like any other week, we focus on what we’re doing more than what the opposition does or what they bring.”

Wood will line up against Hawthorn despite managing ongoing soreness after hurting his ankle in round 22.

The 27-year-old was one of four players who returned from injury to play in the Bulldogs’ 47-point elimination final drubbing of West Coast, with the bye week providing extra time for him to prepare his body.

“I don’t know how many guys during this time of the year are fully 100 per cent,” he said.

“There’s probably a little amount of discomfort but that’s nothing I haven’t played with before.”

An All-Australian in 2015, Wood has stepped up his leadership at Whitten Oval since captain Bob Murphy tore his ACL during the Bulldogs’ three-point loss to Hawthorn in round three.

He says the Bulldogs will look to use their speed to outrun the veteran Hawks on the wide expanses of the MCG.

“There’s certainly some players in our group who have got that ace up their sleeve and they’ll be looking to exploit that as much as they can,” he said.

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