Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge hopes a trio of young pups can step up to cover the absence for two Dogs set to miss their AFL elimination final against Adelaide.
Key man Jordan Roughead (finger) and running defender Jason Johannisen (calf) will miss Saturday’s eliminator, leaving a hole in the club’s plans for their first final in five years.
Beveridge revealed his vice-captain carried an injury into the weekend’s surprise loss against Brisbane, giving him a “one per cent” chance to play.
“He ripped a tendon off the bone on one of his fingers against the Kangaroos,” Beveridge said on Tuesday before pondering his replacement.
“Between Will (Minson), Tommy Campbell, Tommy Boyd and Ayce Cordy, we’ll need another ruckman and we’ll make that decision later in the week.”
Thankfully, the Bulldogs have excelled this season at stepping up in the absence of key players.
Only forwards Luke Dahlhaus and Tory Dickson have played all 22 games as the Dogs recorded 14 wins, ahead of all expectations.
On Sunday, Beveridge said it was time for emerging players Marcus Bontempelli, Jackson Macrae and Jake Stringer to leave their mark.
“In the back-end of the year they’ve really grown in stature (and) they seem like they’re equipped to play a big final,” he said.
“We’ve seen some heroics in recent history from some of the great sides, some individuals.
“I think as time goes by they’ll hopefully be remembered for their heroics on the big stage.
“Those three they’ll need their mates to play well, but they’re gearing up for big games.”
Captain Bob Murphy is one of just a handful of Bulldogs left at the club that played in their last final, a 2010 preliminary final loss to St Kilda.
He admitted “a little bit of nerves, like the night before Christmas kind of nerves” as they headed towards the match.
“In some ways it feels like yesterday in other ways it just feels so long ago,” he said.
“I haven’t thought about it too much, I’ve just thought about how exciting it is for the boys that have been here the last three or four years and have done it hard.
“You build up quite an appetite in four seasons.
“This year has been quite magical … it’d be a shame if it only lasted this week, I think we deserve a bit more.”
Murphy said he felt fine to play after missing last week’s loss to the Lions with a groin niggle.
No one at the club is dwelling on the AFL’s decision to schedule their final at the MCG and not Etihad Stadium – where they’re on a nine-game winning run.
“It’s a fair deck, it’s almost the best in the world and that’s what we look forward to,” Beveridge said.
“When the AFL made the decision … all we could do is look forward to playing in the big cauldron and the big crowd.”