Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge feels spirits at the AFL club have lifted and players have processed Mitch Wallis’ horrific injury.
But the fact an emotional Beveridge was close to tears at Tuesday’s media conference revealed plenty about the preceding two days.
“The way they care about each other, that’s something that tugs at the heartstrings,” a drained Beveridge said, detailing how players had reacted to Wallis breaking both bones in his left leg during the weekend loss to St Kilda.
“But it’s my prerogative and my responsibility to be strong, which I’m not being now.
“I haven’t been like this with the group. They’ve been quite resilient when they’ve been around each other and they were all in good spirits at lunch today … we’ve picked ourselves up.”
Beveridge, captain Bob Murphy and team psychologist Lisa Stevens have all counselled players in recent days.
Wallis, forward Jack Redpath (ACL) and defender Dale Morris (hamstring) last weekend became the latest Bulldogs to suffer injuries in what had been a luckless season for the club.
Beveridge was unsure what mental state his undermanned side would be in on Friday, when they tackled the Cats in Geelong.
But the second-year coach will not lower his expectations, insisting the Bulldogs can be a force this year.
“We still believe we can beat anyone,” Beveridge said.
“We’re trying to stay in the now and what is possible this year. We believe there’s still quite a bit to achieve.
“We won’t know the true outcome until we play Friday night and beyond but we feel like we’re preparing well.”
Morris trained on Tuesday and could yet face the Cats, while Jake Stringer and Luke Dahlhaus are both set to return on Friday from injury.
“There’s another positive,” Beveridge said, noting it was key to stay upbeat while addressing his charges.
“You talk about the positives, talk about a little bit of recent history and some of the great wins we’ve had.
“Talk about how resilient they’ve been .. there’s so many things we’ve done well up against the odds and we’re up against it again.”
That is the case especially in defence.
“We’re a chance to pick a player who will be the 20th player to play in our back line this year,” Beveridge said.
“Which is unheard of really … for us to be where we are in terms of defensive statistics, it’s a real credit to our players.”
Beveridge expected Wallis wouldn’t be back for at least a year.
“We’ll do everything we can to make sure Mitch is totally stable and strong and not compromising his long-term future,” he said.