Low-key pre-season suits Bulldogs - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Low-key pre-season suits Bulldogs

Roger Vaughan 19/03/2011 01:47:00 PM Comments (0)

The Western Bulldogs are a classic example of why it is perilous and pointless to read too much into AFL pre-season form.

Last year's NAB Cup winners were knocked out in the first round this time and North Melbourne ran over the top of them in their last pre-season game a week ago.

But injuries ravaged the 'Dogs late last year and they are still easing several key players back to full fitness ahead of the start of the real games.

All Australian defender Brian Lake remains in some doubt for round one, while Brownlow Medallist Adam Cooney has only just returned to playing.

The Bulldogs also did not need to do well this pre-season - their focus is now solely on September.

After three-straight preliminary final losses - and with coach Rodney Eade in the last year of his contract - they need to reach the grand final.

"We've just really stuck to our plan and going deep into the NAB Cup series last year, at times we may have gone away from our plans because of the intensity of games - having to modify guys' training loads through that period," said new Bulldogs captain Matthew Boyd.

"This year, the modifications really came through the game times, which we were able to do a bit better.

"We think we've prepared as well as we could have this pre-season."

Boyd dismissed talk about what the Bulldogs must achieve this season and brushed aside the inevitable speculation about Eade's future.

"We think we've improved in the off-season and that's really what we're all about, getting that constant improvement and building a platform for sustained success," he said.

"Obviously with 'Rocket' out of contract, it's going to create a bit of hype in the media, but if we're winning games of footy, that gets put to bed pretty quickly."

Lake's potential absence for round one creates a weakness Essendon could exploit on Sunday week.

Bombers key forward Michael Hurley was superb in the NAB Cup final, while Scott Gumbleton could return and Essendon can rotate ruckmen David Hille and Paddy Ryder through the forward line to devastating effect.

But Boyd said Easton Wood, Brennan Stack, Tom Williams, Dale Morris and star utility Rob Murphy gave them plenty of defensive options.

"The depth is pretty good, we have good guys who can roll through there," Boyd said.

While Eade's future at the Bulldogs is uncertain beyond this season, he was confirmed this week as the new Australian coach for the International Rules games against Ireland.

"I thought my time might have been up in the Australian colours, but hopefully I will get Rocket a few coffees through the year and try to butter him up a little bit," Boyd said.

"Tactically he's quite clever, he reads games and picks things up very quickly - adjusting to a new game, he'll do it really well."

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