Welcome to the top four. We are in the endgame now.
Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge says he is more optimistic on the prospect of captain Marcus Bontempelli proving his fitness for their AFL preliminary final than he was at the time of the injury.
The Bulldogs superstar hurt his right knee in an awkward landing from a marking contest in last Saturday’s dramatic semi-final win over Brisbane.
Scans cleared Bontempelli of any structural damage but Thursday’s main training session will be crucial to his hopes of facing Port Adelaide on Saturday.
However, key defender Alex Keath is reportedly in doubt for Saturday night’s do-or-die clash with the Power with a hamstring niggle.
Beveridge said a decision on Bontempelli came down to the risk of his injury forcing him out of the preliminary final early in the game, but the fact it wasn’t a soft-tissue concern gave more confidence his body would hold up.
“With things like joints and some soreness and some bone bruising and some things that a player may be able to overcome – and the soft tissue aspect isn’t there – then it gives you a level of confidence that you’re going to be able to play the four quarters,” he told SEN.
“We’ll see how he trains today and how he goes about his work and we’re really hopeful that he’s going to be okay.
“If he isn’t then we’re just going to have to, as we have all year, spread the load and fill his role with someone else and believe we can get the job done.
“But he’s an amazing player and leader and he’d be a huge loss if he doesn’t come up.”
Beveridge said he’d consistently had a “level of confidence” Bontempelli would be okay after Saturday’s game but was feeling more optimistic five days down the track.
“When the scans came back and there wasn’t anything dramatic wrong with his knee, obviously we all breathed a sigh of relief,” he said.
“But yeah, I’m probably more glass half-full now than I was when it happened.”
Keath missed the Bulldogs’ first Thursday afternoon training session and “only completed run-throughs with Cody Weightman”, according to SEN’s Sam Edmund. Weightman has already been ruled out of the preliminary final after suffering a concussion against the Lions.
THERE'S a fitness concern over Alex Keath. The Dogs defender has only completed run-throughs with Cody Weightman at training today. Keath has since left the track as the team gets into main training. Might still play, but a hamstring the issue I believe. Bont looks good tho.
— Sam Edmund (@Sammy__Edmund) September 9, 2021
Keath has won acclaim for holding Lions star Joe Daniher to just one goal and six disposals in the Dogs’ semi-final thriller. He also held Port spearhead Charlie Dixon goalless when the two teams last locked horns in Round 23.
Meanwhile, the Power have opted against re-calling young forward Mitch Georgiades, ruling that he hadn’t recovered sufficiently from a hamstring injury suffered in Round 23 against the Bulldogs to be picked.