Western Bulldogs head coach Luke Beveridge has dropped his strongest hint yet that his lineup to face Melbourne in Round 1 will differ from the one that fell 74-points short in the 2021 AFL Grand Final.
Following his side's open training session on Saturday, the now moustachioed steward broke his silence after last September's heartbreak and delineated that there would be changes afoot for the season opener against the Demons.
“I haven’t spoken too much post the grand final, but in victory or defeat, you have to move on,” Beveridge told NCA NewsWire's, Marc McGowan.
“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.”
While renowned for his, at times, zany choices at the selection table, the lone living Bulldogs premiership coach was still keeping his cards close to his chest.
Yet, with new recruits Rob McComb and Arthur Jones seeing action against Essendon during last week's practice match, and former first-round draftee Ed Richards impressing off half-back, a set of options have become apparent.
What is known is that Beveridge will be made to do without fellow newcomers to the Kennel in Tim O'Brien and Sam Darcy as the pair of talls battle respective hamstring and foot complaints.
Although the 51-year-old was prepared to offer senior experience to 41 different names from his roster last season, the returns of finals hero Bailey Smith from a groin injury and key defender Alex Keath should provide a semblance of familiarity.
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“Today’s a really good sign. We’ve got probably three dozen players out here training,” Beveridge said of the weekend hitout before a healthy crowd at Whitten Oval.
“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."
Despite this same fortune evading his side during the decider in Perth nearly five months ago, the dual AFLCA Coach of the Year claimed that Bulldogs fans could expect a competitive side to take the field this weekend.
“It will be timed perfectly into the Melbourne game. We’ll field a strong side against Brisbane next Friday night," he added.
“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.”
Beveridge and the Bulldogs will use their AAMI Community Series date with the Lions to tune-up before turning their eyes towards Simon Goodwin's side on Wednesday, March 11 at the MCG.