Time is running out for the Western Bulldogs to show what they are capable of according to coach Luke Beveridge, who thinks his team can cut it with the premiership contenders.
Ahead of yet another must-win showdown against tour-four aspirants West Coast on Sunday, Beveridge said the two losses to open 2020 were continuing to shadow his side as the end of the home and away season loomed.
The Bulldogs have won seven of 12 games since that poor start and led Geelong for three quarters last week before injuries left Beveridge’s team down on manpower and energy, allowing the Cats to steal a 10-point victory.
That loss left the Dogs 10th on the ladder and they now sit a game outside the eight. Beveridge said he didn’t need any reminder that a loss to the Eagles could spell the end of their campaign.
“I don’t think the urgency changes. After we dropped the first two games we’ve been trying to re-establish ourselves and what we are capable of,” he said on Friday.
“We feel like against the better teams we have just had lapses in games that have really cost us. We’re a rung off the better teams at the moment.
“I believe we can bridge the gap quickly, but time is running out on the year. We’ve got no room to move, if we want to be there (in the finals), we’ve got to win.”
Beveridge said midfielder Tom Liberatore would play against the Eagles despite pulling up “ginger” after the loss to the Saints.
Zaine Cordy looms as the likely inclusion for injured defender Easton Wood.
The Bulldogs have raised eyebrows with their ruck choices in recent weeks too, with Josh Dunkley the back-up around the ground to Tim English.
But Beveridge said it was unlikely anyone other than English, or Josh Bruce, would go up against giant Eagle ruckman Nic Naitanui, if he plays, on Sunday.
“We won’t send Josh Dunkley into the centre bounce against Nic,” Beveridge said.
“We turn up at centre bounces largely not expecting to win the hitout. We go in there with strong method and collective mindset.”
While welcoming an eight-day break between games, and the chance to “freshen up”, Beveridge said the next challenge would be for his players to hit their “peak level of intensity” straight away against West Coast.