Fear nobody, change nothing, you are ready.
That will be the message from Western Bulldogs captain Bob Murphy to his young teammates ahead of their breakout AFL finals series.
After finishing 14th last season, the Bulldogs are sixth and will tune up for the finals with Saturday’s away match against bottom side Brisbane.
The Bulldogs should host an elimination final and the team will most likely feature only six survivors from their last match at the business end of the season, the 2010 preliminary final loss to St Kilda.
“The thing I will be telling the guys is they’re ready,” said Murphy, who played in the 2010 preliminary final.
“The training they’ve done, the way we’ve played has prepared them for the finals – not that it’s got them to the doorstop of the finals and now we have to invent something.
“They’re ready, they’re good enough and give it your best, it will be as basic as that.”
Murphy said far from being overawed, the Bulldogs pups are driving the team’s stunning success this season.
“They’re ambitious. We’re ambitious. But I say ‘they’ because the energy source does feel like it comes from this younger group and the older guys … are trying to be a guiding influence,” he said.
“Really, they’re the guys who are firing up the engines.
“Like young kids, they just love to play and that’s infectious.
“But what I will add to that is the coin toss won’t do itself and they need to know which way they’re kicking.”
Asked if this season’s success had been a surprise, Murphy said: “Not as much as outside people would suspect.
“Even over summer, I felt like it was going to be a pretty special year.
“I can’t put my finger on why that (was) – having said that, I have had a couple of other times in my career and we’ve finished last.
“But I had a sneaking suspicion.”
While some players are being rested before the finals, Murphy said he would play against the Lions and doubts the Bulldogs will make many changes.
He also has no problem if their elimination final is played at the MCG, rather than Etihad Stadium, where the Bulldogs have a strong record.
“Honestly … I’d be happy to play out at Western Park at Warragul, having missed out on the finals for four years,” he said.
“The spring weather, it is a time of optimism.
“When you’re a footballer and you’re not in and you’re finished, it’s a really horrible time in some ways.”