Western Bulldogs' Hooper facing the axe - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Western Bulldogs' Hooper facing the axe

By Greg Buckle 14/09/2010 06:32:57 PM Comments (0)

Tiny Western Bulldogs debutant Andrew Hooper could be facing the axe as courageous defender Dale Morris prepares to return from injury for Saturday's AFL preliminary final.

Morris suffered what was thought to be a season-ending fracture to his back in the round-21 loss to the Swans at the SCG last month.

However the 2008 All-Australian trained strongly with the Bulldogs at Whitten Oval on Tuesday and assistant coach Paul Williams said Morris was a good chance to play against St Kilda at the MCG.

Hooper, 19, kicked a vital goal on debut to help spark the Bulldogs' comeback win over Sydney in their cut-throat semi-final last Saturday night.

But the 172cm forward could be the player to make way for the much-loved Morris, who was third in the club's best and fairest award in 2009.

"Following a review with a specialist this afternoon, defender Dale Morris has been cleared to continue training and remains in contention for Saturday night's preliminary final," Bulldogs football general manager James Fantasia said on Tuesday.

"Dale will most likely be named in this week's side but a final decision will not be made until after Friday's training session."

Williams said Morris was "champing at the bit".

"He's not the best of spectators," Williams said.

"He's just really looking forward to having a crack at the Saints on Saturday night.

Williams said Hooper's place in the side would be "up for debate".

"Little Hoops played a role for us. He kicked an important goal," Williams said.

"Yes somebody is going to miss out if Dale Morris comes up.

"Whoever that may be, they're going to be disappointed."

Williams described Morris as a very important player and a likely opponent for Saints skipper and star forward Nick Riewoldt.

"He's also very important the way he sets up in our back half," Williams said.

"He instructs a lot of people and he's in our leadership group, a very important player."

The Bulldogs would look at rotating several defenders on Riewoldt.

"Nick's in really good form again coming back from his hammy and he's moving across the ground as good as he ever has," Williams said.

Small forward Shaun Higgins, who was overlooked last week as he continues to battle an energy-sapping thyroid complaint, trained on Tuesday but is unlikely to play.

"His levels haven't come down sufficiently as yet," Williams said.

Williams says he's in a tug-of-war at the selection table this week over Robert Murphy's role against the Saints.

The Bulldogs need to have quick ball movement against the St Kilda defence, and Murphy could be the key to that after his lively performance when moved forward last week.

"We've got the luxury of having someone like Bob Murphy in our side where we can use him in defence and he gives us an enormous amount of run," Williams said.

"But also with his speed across half-forward he was instrumental for us getting back in and getting control of the game on Saturday night.

"Me being forwards coach, I want him in the forward line.

"But Peter Dean (backs coach) wants him in the backline."

Ruckman Jordan Roughead is pushing for a recall after getting through last week's game for VFL side Williamstown without any shoulder problems.

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