The Western Bulldogs’ resurgence is providing a thrilling end to the season as they charge towards the eight, and coach Luke Beveridge has no doubt that Josh Dunkley is a big part of the story.
Sunday’s 10.14 (74) to 9.12 (66) win over Melbourne at Marvel Stadium lifted the Dogs to 10th on the ladder, four points shy of sixth-placed Greater Western Sydney.
Dunkley was dominant from the start, racking up 39 disposals (24 contested) and 15 tackles while also booting two goals.
“He’s having an outstanding year,” Beveridge said.
“Earlier in the year, we felt like we needed an adjustment and it was Josh’s time to spend more time in (the midfield), and he just hasn’t looked back.”
Not so the Demons, who were touted for big things in 2019 but now sit 16th on the ladder and next face premiers West Coast on the rebound in Alice Springs.
Pendlebury and that finals finger
Just as Collingwood regained some form, skipper Scott Pendlebury will miss Saturday’s crucial match having suffered a broken finger that requires surgery.
It is unclear how long the five-time club best-and-fairest will be out of action. But he’ll likely be joined on the sidelines by key defender Darcy Moore, who still has a hamstring injury.
Still, with the win over the Eagles solidifying the Magpies chance at a top-two finish, getting Pendlebury right for the finals could well be key to a successful flag tilt.
Hardwick’s biggest problem is a good one to have
GWS has more injury woes with the worrisome loss of Stephen Coniglio to a knee injury during its 27-point loss to Richmond on Sunday, but the Tigers have no such problems.
Richmond pushed to fifth on the ladder, with six more MCG matches to close out the season and stars like Jack Riewoldt and Toby Nankervis will bolster their finals stocks.
Indeed, things are looking so good that coach Damien Hardwick said selection headaches were his biggest worry over the next few weeks.
“We’ve found some players who are going to be really, really good,” Hardwick said.
I sat there and watched our ‘twos’ (reserves) today and I’m (thinking) ‘Gee, I’d like to play him, I’d like to play him (and) I’d like to play him’.
“We’re in a good place at the moment with personnel coming back.”
Sun setting on Gold Coast dream
While Leigh Matthews has given a damning assessment of the Gold Coast Suns list, their coach Stuart Dew has dismissed any suggestion that a priority pick would be the magic bullet.
“If they don’t get the priority pick, then no one’s going to get the priority pick,” Matthews told Channel Seven’s Game Day.
“Clearly their list is nowhere good enough to think they’re going to get anywhere with the current group of players.
“They need to get the best 18-year-olds – good ability, strong character – but they have to get a bit of experience somehow in there as well.
“It’s a really bad place – that footy club, at the moment, given what’s happened over its seven or eight-year existence, I would have thought [is in] its worst place now, than ever [before].”
The Suns backed up their 92-point hiding by Richmond last weekend with a 95-point shellacking by Adelaide on Saturday, but Dew says he won’t be relying on a talented 18-year-old to be the club’s saviour.
“It’s not the answer,” Dew said.
“That’s an ongoing process, but the priority pick is not the answer, flat out.
“Like every other club you’ve got to work as hard as you can. You’ve got to improve your list through draft and trade, that’s the answer.
“By and large through the season we’ve shown development and improvement. The challenge is to not let these two weeks define us.”