The Western Bulldogs are prepared to risk some short-term pain for medium-term gain by resting skipper Bob Murphy for Saturday’s AFL season-defining clash with Port Adelaide.
Murphy has been in career-best form in 2015 with his decisive run off half-back, but a long campaign has taken a physical toll on the 33-year-old.
Still looking to cement a position in the top eight, coach Luke Beveridge said the club had read the “writing on the wall” with their captain.
Beveridge is expecting a fast, entertaining game against Port Adelaide at Etihad Stadium – just the sort of encounter where Murphy would be expected to excel.
“It won’t do him any harm, he has toiled hard and his performances have been outstanding,” Beveridge said on Friday.
“We just need someone to pick up the slack.
“He is genuinely sore and we try not to take risks with any of our players, hence there are only three who have played every game to this stage.”
Fellow defender Jordan Roughead failed to complete training on Thursday and was also not considered at selection.
“He can run and he can do lots of things but we are just taking a really cautious approach with him,” said Beveridge.
“We need him as the year gets towards the end and we just want to make sure he is available.”
Sam Darley comes in for his first game this year, with Lin Jong the other inclusion.
Despite indifferent form and injuries this year, Beveridge said the 12th-placed Power had started to “find a way” to win.
“We have no doubts that we are going to face a really strong, powerful and strong Port Adelaide side tomorrow,” he said.
Beveridge would not concede a win on Saturday would secure the Dogs’ first finals berth since 2010.
Nor would the first-year coach be tempted by suggestions the fifth-ranked Bulldogs could finish the home and away season in the top four.
“Every week we have tried to climb and end up in the best position that we can, and nothing changes,” he said.
“If that mean we can get there that would be sensational – but if it means we don’t quite get to where we need to be, we just have to deal with it.”