Stringer out to lift ahead of AFL finals

Western Bulldogs young gun Jake Stringer is learning to deal with more attention – both on and off the AFL field.

Since returning from a shoulder injury in round 19, Stringer has been well below his best.

The star forward, who was named in last year’s All-Australian side, kicked only one goal against each of Collingwood, North Melbourne and Geelong.

Hawthorn great Dermott Brereton recently criticised the 22-year-old for wanting to “play his footy without suffering any body punishment” and pulling out of contests.

“Dermy was an amazing player and if anyone has got the credits on the board to make that judgment, it’s probably him,” Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said.

“Derm’s opinion really matters, (but) whether Jake’s read that I don’t know.

“Whether or not he sees it as accurate, I don’t know.

“That commentary is always going to be there and it’s just something our players need to deal with.”

Beveridge added there is no doubt the Bulldogs are searching for Stringer’s best form, with just two games to play before finals.

“All we can worry about is looking at Jake’s game and looking at the areas of improvement and honing in on his strengths to bring the best out of him,” he said.

“He’s a really young player. He’s an All-Australian in the very early stages of his career, so what happens from week to week is that he gets a lot attention.

“He’ll be the first to admit he needs to get a bit more out of himself.”

Beveridge could understand if Stringer felt restricted by his shoulder injury against the Cats but said that is no longer an excuse.

The seventh-placed Bulldogs face Essendon at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

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