If recent outings are anything to go by, Liam Picken will be in his element on AFL grand final day.
The aerially gifted Western Bulldogs utility has already pressed his case for best player of the finals with game-changing displays against early-September scalps West Coast and Hawthorn.
Picken was again influential in Saturday’s scintillating six-point preliminary-final triumph over Greater Western Sydney, making a crucial smother with three minutes remaining to set up Jack Macrae’s match-winning goal.
It’s becoming standard fare for the 30-year-old former tagger, who has been reincarnated since Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge let him off the leash in a more attacking role.
His endurance and sky-high marking this month has turned heads and drawn comparisons with the 1970s and ’80s finals exploits of his father, Collingwood VFL legend Billy Picken.
Beveridge, in turn, has been quick to praise his quietly spoken charge as a big-game performer, someone who thrives on high-stakes footy and will do practically anything to win.
“He is one of those players whose game really relates to big finals,” Beveridge said last week.
“He doesn’t shy away from anything.”
The question now is what impact will he have at the MCG in the hunt for the Dogs’ first premiership in 62 years?
Pitted against a Sydney side boasting oodles more grand-final nous, the comparatively inexperienced Bulldogs players say they draw confidence from Picken’s mix of fearlessness and reliability.
Stand-in captain Easton Wood has even likened his game to that of North Melbourne great Wayne Carey.
But less than a week before making his own grand-final debut, Picken himself is more concerned with lauding his team’s even spread of contributors.
He backed the close-knit squad to make it count on the biggest stage of all on Saturday.
“The team is really tight and sticks together – we’re a very unique group,” Picken said.
“It’s great momentum at the moment and the boys are playing really well. We’re really gelling.
“To get the chance to play in a grand final is just amazing.”