Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge marvels at how far his side has come.
The group that threatened to fall apart in 2014, when captain Ryan Griffen and coach Brendan McCartney walked out the door, adopted a team-first mentality under Beveridge that has carried them all the way to their first AFL grand final in 55 years.
Midfielder Caleb Daniel described the side as 22 players who would run through a brick wall if asked, and it showed in the Bulldogs’ finals wins over last year’s grand finalists – West Coast and Hawthorn – and young powerhouse Greater Western Sydney.
Plenty of the credit will go to Beveridge, who was on Tuesday evening named by his peers as coach of the season for a second consecutive year.
But the former Hawthorn assistant says it has taken something remarkable from his players to get to where they are.
“Once you teach a system, you can bring different personnel through that and they can adapt and they can roll with the punches,” he said at the AFL Coaches Association awards.
“You can take them all the way if they’re willing to learn (but) they have to buy in. That was the rare thing.
“I’m thanking everyone who’s supported my role but the most important people at the football club are the players and what they’ve been able to do, for a pretty young group … they’ve saved some of their absolute best for now.”
For Bulldogs fans old enough to remember the team’s only flag won back in 1954 – and those who have dreamed of themselves witnessing a grand final win – Saturday’s grand final against Sydney couldn’t be a bigger occasion.
But Beveridge is not planning any grand speeches to motivate his troops before they run out onto the MCG.
“This group have provided their own source of inspiration for a period of time now,” he said.
“There’ll be some messaging around different things but it’s important that we don’t go too obscure.
“There won’t be anything that makes them think ‘what the hell are you talking about’ or ‘Bevo is actually anxious and has half-lost it’. We’ll be pretty level.”