Matthew Boyd wishes nothing but the best for his old mate Adam Cooney, but those sentiments will be put on hold on Sunday when the Western Bulldogs take on Essendon.
The Etihad Stadium clash will be the last of Cooney’s career, and also that of former Geelong premiership player Mathew Stokes, with the decorated pair retiring after 250 and 200 AFL games respectively.
Boyd, who played alongside Cooney for more than a decade before he switched to the Bombers at the end of 2014, is not alone in his feelings for the retiring Brownlow medallist.
“We’ve got a healthy respect for Coons and what he’s been able to achieve in his career,” Boyd told AAP.
“He had a huge impact as a Bulldog, winning a Brownlow and playing a lot of finals for us … he was a great player for us for a long time.
“But obviously, we’re going to try and spoil his party somewhat.”
The seventh-placed Dogs need a win to maintain their push for a top-four finish, while the Bombers, one game adrift of last spot on the ladder, are playing for pride only.
With just two games until the finals, Dogs coach Luke Beveridge pulled a selection surprise when he dropped out-of-form full forward Jake Stringer.
Toby McLean and Roarke Smith were brought back into the side that squeezed past Collingwood last week, while Matt Suckling is out with an achilles issue.
Injuries to key players has been an unfortunate, recurring theme this year for the Bulldogs.
“We’ve been able to play a lot of players, not only because of our injuries, but also because of the form our younger blokes have shown in the VFL,” Boyd said.
“So we’re still learning and trying to hone areas of our game to get better, but the great thing is that we’ve been able to win games along the way (despite that injury toll).
“We’ve been able to win close games as well and I think that builds confidence and belief within the group.”
The Bombers brought in Darcy Parish, Kyle Langford and Mark Jamar as they looked to record their third win of the season.