Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge admits there is an element of risk in recalling underdone midfielders Tom Liberatore and Jack Macrae for an AFL elimination final.
But it’s a risk that Beveridge seems likely to take, with the second-year coach vowing to be bold as he mulls the best 22 for Thursday night’s knockout clash with West Coast.
Liberatore (ankle) and Macrae (hamstring) have been on the sidelines since round 19 of the regular season but are both fit and “pretty close to being selected”, according to Beveridge.
Stand-in skipper Easton Wood (ankle) and mobile ruckman Jordan Roughead (calf) missed a final-round loss to Fremantle but are also expected to return.
Jake Stringer, who was dumped to the VFL following round 21, will travel to Perth and rounds out a total of five changes that Beveridge appears likely to make.
“Probably, there’s a tipping point somewhere,” Beveridge said, when asked if there was a limit on how many changes you can make for a final.
“With a tendon injury like he (Macrae) had you can still run, you just can’t run at speed.
“Tom was a little bit different. He had surgery. He was a little bit more behind at the start but he’s worked really hard.
“They’re probably the two risks. Everyone else has really done the work and played a lot of footy.
“But in big finals you need to be bold and go all out – there’s no tomorrow after Thursday if it doesn’t happen for us.”
Wood has already made the trip to Western Australia as part of an advance party.
“We’ve picked him and we expect him to play,” Beveridge said.
Beveridge confirmed Tom Boyd, who hurt his ankle in a last-start loss to the Dockers, would be fit to face the Eagles.
Liberatore and Macrae have also been passed fit but Beveridge acknowledged that didn’t make it a simple decision.
“They haven’t played for quite a while now. Their training form has been good but training and playing are two separate things,” he said.
“We need to make sure we pick our strongest side.
“We still think there’s a lot of improvement. Some of that comes with players who are maybe a little bit more prepared … more experienced or … a bit more ready to possibly play a big final.”
Beveridge admitted the pre-finals bye could hardly have come at a better time for his club.
“It definitely suits us. If we had to pick a team going into last week we would have been fortunate to have 27 or 28 players available,” he said.