AFL: Bevo forecasts new-look Dogs

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Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge is never afraid to experiment and vows to play a “different” looking team in Round 1

Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge plans to send out a fresh-looking team for their season-opening grand final rematch with Melbourne as he urges his players to “move on”.

Beveridge has kept a low profile since the Demons snatched last year’s premiership cup from his Bulldogs with an extraordinary 12-goal, second-half burst.

But his disappointment at a narrow practice match loss to Essendon on Wednesday illustrated his lofty expectations this year.

“We expected to win the game. We were three goals up and got beaten by a goal,” Beveridge said.

“What I said to the players was we got some things out of it we liked, but ultimately, whether it’s a practice match or not, it’s a winning culture (we are after).

“We want to win every game, and that was the disappointment coming out of it. It was a very turnover-heavy game … we just need to do a little more right.”

Beveridge didn’t drop any hints as to what would be “different” about his squad for the March 16 date with the Demons, but was pleased to give time to the likes of Robbie McComb and Arthur Jones on Wednesday.

Much was made of the Bulldogs’ 74-point grand final defeat, as well as the spiteful aftermath between the clubs, and the AFL fixture bosses made sure fans wouldn’t have to wait long for their next clash.

“I haven’t spoken too much post the grand final, but in victory or defeat, you have to move on,” he said.

“There is change taking place all the time. It’s a new season, new opportunity and it will be a different team, subtly, when we bowl out onto the MCG on that Wednesday night.

“That freshness at this time of year is important, because that can really mean you can play some of your most creative and fluent football, so we’re looking forward to seeing what that looks like.”

Beveridge is pleased with the health of his playing list, with Bailey Smith (groin) and Alex Keath (back) set to return for Friday night’s Community Series clash with Brisbane.

Anthony Scott (eye) is on track for Round 1 but recruit Tim O’Brien (hamstring) is in doubt, while Riley Garcia (syndesmosis) and Louis Butler (hamstring) are aiming to return early in the season.

Sam Darcy (foot) and Toby McLean and Josh Bruce (both ACL) are the longer-term injuries.

“Today’s a really good sign. We’ve got probably three dozen players out here training,” Beveridge said.

“Usually at the end of January, we’ve had 38 to 40 players who were fit and healthy playing match practice.

“But nowadays, with the three weeks off over New Year’s and with what’s happened with Covid, we’ve had a bit of an interrupted progression, which every club would have, so it seems to be coming good all at the right time.

“It will (hopefully) be timed perfectly into the Melbourne game. We’ll field a strong side against Brisbane next Friday night.

“There are one or two boys who have had some injures in recent times and will be back in about a month but, by and large, we’re in pretty good order.”

The Dogs have crashed through 40,000 members in February for the first time in their history, and Beveridge said the goal was to one day have double as many to compete with the AFL’s powerhouse clubs.

Originally published as AFL: Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge forecasts changes for Round 1 grand final rematch with Melbourne


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