Forget Saturday night’s match, Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge says he’s facing an off-field battle replying to all his well-wishes ahead of his AFL coaching debut.
Beveridge moved from an assistant role with premiers Hawthorn in the off-season and leads his team, along with first-time captain Bob Murphy, against West Coast in round one.
The 44-year-old said he was overwhelmed by the support but had his head above water.
“Everyone’s been so supportive, whether it’s friends or family … since I’ve been at the club, everyone’s been unbelievable,” he said.
“I got a lot last night, people getting in early, and I thanked them all.
“I’ve just got to make sure they don’t bank up so I can clear them before tomorrow.”
When his phone’s not beeping, Beveridge is trying to mastermind a first-up victory for the Dogs.
Pre-season predictions have the Bulldogs heading for the bottom four, and the Eagles are strongly favoured in their Etihad Stadium meeting.
While others might be happy with a meritorious defeat, Beveridge says the Bulldogs will be hell-bent on grabbing the four points.
He says his players are really well prepared ahead of the clash, and on edge “because they can’t wait to get into it”.
“We’re really keen to win,” Beveridge said.
“We’re expecting a fierce contest in round one and all everyone wants to do is give a good show and good account of themselves and establish something early for the fans to hang their hat on.
“All the predictions say that we’re the underdogs but we believe we’re going to challenge most sides this year and we’re looking to get off on that foot tomorrow.”
For a developing side, it perhaps comes a surprise that the Bulldogs have just one new face in their team to face the Eagles.
Even the Eagles have more, with 2014 draft picks Tom Lamb and Jackson Nelson to debut.
But the Bulldogs inclusion is a big one.
Teenager Tom Boyd makes his debut for the club after an expensive move from GWS, with Beveridge reiterating the key forward would spend his fair share in the ruck.
Another Bulldog forward is breathing a sigh of relief at the not guilty verdict from the AFL anti-doping tribunal on Tuesday.
Stewart Crameri and VFL-listed Brent Prismall are among the 34 Essendon players that were under investigation.
Beveridge said the pair had been terrific supports for each other at Whitten Oval, and backed Crameri to have a top season with “that weight off his shoulders”.
“It would have been an enormous burden on all the players,” he said.
“It’s been really difficult for Crammers … we’re really relieved and over the moon that Stewie can get on with his AFL career.”