Premiership coach Luke Beveridge knows anything can happen in September and has declared the Western Bulldogs’ best football is good enough to make them a serious AFL contender.
The Bulldogs have been on a hot streak since their mid-season bye, building upon victories over Carlton and Port Adelaide and a tight loss to Collingwood with an impressive 16-point win over ladder-leaders Geelong last week.
While the Dogs sit 12th on the ladder, they are just four points shy of seventh-placed Port with seven rounds remaining.
Sunday’s clash with Melbourne at Marvel Stadium presents another opportunity for the Bulldogs to continue their hot form, although important midfielder Tom Liberatore’s knee injury will keep him sidelined for another week.
Beveridge says the renewed energy among his players since the bye has been obvious and isn’t keeping a lid on what they can achieve.
“Every club who’s got a bit of a sniff of what’s up ahead finds themselves at times preoccupied with what the possibility is,” Beveridge said on Thursday.
“We’re no different to that.
“Whether I take the boring ‘just focus on this week’ line or not, the opportunity is there. We’re playing good enough footy to be one of those teams but time will tell.
“Some of our form and our games have been really encouraging in that first half of the year. And the opportunities in the back half await the teams that endure and persevere and are prepared to dig deep.”
The Bulldogs famously won the flag in 2016 from seventh on the ladder and Beveridge said there was no reason why a team couldn’t repeat that effort.
“I think the way that the rounds are unfolding, you’re seeing new teams produce different things and one or two teams who have established themselves at the top of the ladder start to feel the pinch here and there as far as their wins and losses,” he said.
“Who knows over the ensuing rounds what’s going to happen. But there’s no doubt that once we get to the end of the year, whoever’s in that top eight I think they’ll all consider themselves a genuine chance to be there on that last day.”
Veteran Dale Morris will spend another week in the VFL while Liberatore is expected to be available next week.
“He’s going well. It’s not really conservative, it’s just common sense,” Beveridge said of Liberatore.
“He should be right to go next week but this week he’d be rushing it.”