The Western Bulldogs’ ruck stocks have taken a hit with Will Minson in doubt for round one of the AFL season with a hamstring injury.
Minson, the 2013 All-Australian ruckman and veteran of 189 games, fell out of favour at Whitten Oval last year, playing just 10 games, but coach Luke Beveridge said the 30-year-old had worked back into his thinking after a strong pre-season.
“It isn’t great timing, he’s had a strong pre-season,” Beveridge said.
“Some of the things we asked Will to improve on we’ve seen some great signs in his performances not just in the NAB Challenge but in our intra-club stuff.
“He was right in the mix, so it’s terrible timing for him and us because he’s been going pretty well.”
Beveridge preferred more versatile ruck options Tom Campbell and Jordan Roughead in the second half of 2015 but the coach said that decreased interchange rotations and the scrapping of the substitute could work in Minson’s favour at the selection table.
“Tactically the change to the sub rule is going to open up a Pandora’s box for everyone,” he said.
“It’s obviously got us all thinking and how it plays out is going to be extremely intriguing.”
The Bulldogs take on Collingwood at Etihad Stadium on Saturday, with both clubs naming strong squads for their final hit-out of the NAB Challenge.
The corresponding fixture last year proved pivotal for Beveridge’s side, with a 61-point smashing of the Pies propelling them into a barnstorming season that ended in a surprise finals berth.
Beveridge is hoping lightning strikes twice.
“We’ve had almost exactly the same build-up as we did last year,” he said.
“We’ve picked our strongest 24 and we’ll go into this weekend with the same intention – to play our best and give us peace of mind going into round one.
“It’s always important to win. We’re not playing for sheep stations, we know that, but we still want to win.
“This is like a round one team so right here and now if no one gets injured and everyone plays well then almost the same outfit will trot out in round one.”