Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge acknowledged that the reigning premiers’ destiny in 2017 was out of their hands after the Dogs conceded the last five goals of the game in a 17-point loss to Port Adelaide in Ballarat on Saturday.
The result meant Beveridge’s side had to wait to see how Essendon and Melbourne fared in the rest of round 22, after the Eagles helped by losing to GWS, before knowing if they had a chance of making the final eight ahead of their final round clash with Hawthorn at Etihad Stadium on Friday night.
“It was a tight struggle there for a while and then they got the better of us in the end,” Beveridge said.
“It’s in the lap of the gods. We need teams to lose to make it. We’ll know by the end of Sunday whether or not we’re in the mix.”
The match against the Hawks seems likely to be the final senior appearance for captain Bob Murphy, and possibly for fellow retiree Matthew Boyd, who played in the VFL on Saturday. Beveridge hinted that Boyd could return for a farewell game if the Dogs knew it was their last match of the season.
“If come the end of the week we can’t make it then the whole complexion of the week changes for us because we’ve got a couple of players who are going to finish up if that’s the case,” Beveridge said.
The Dogs’ task on Saturday was made harder by a hamstring injury suffered by Jake Stringer in the first quarter. While Beveridge wasn’t sure of the severity of the injury, the forward, who had only recently returned from a hamstring ailment, appears likely to have played his final game of the season.
Positively for the Bulldogs, Tom Boyd kicked three goals for Footscray against Essendon in what was his first game back after two months on the sidelines because of a mental health issue. However, Beveridge implied the big man would probably need more time in the VFL before a senior return, meaning Boyd appears unlikely to play again in the AFL this year.
Meanwhile, both coaches played down an off-the-ball incident in the third quarter in which Port’s Tom Jonas appeared to elbow Bulldog Luke Dahlhaus in the face. Jonas is no stranger to match review panel attention, having copped a six-match suspension last season for a blow to West Coast’s Andrew Gaff.
However, with Dahlhaus playing out the match, Beveridge suggested Jonas should be in the clear. “I think everyone has come to realise it’s an outcome-based penalty or sanction,” he said. “If a player gets up and they’re fine then the perpetrator is probably OK. I’d imagine Tom Jonas is probably fine because Luke is OK.”
Beveridge declined to say whether he thought the MRP needed to change following a week in which Dogs forward Jack Redpath was suspended for three matches for striking the Giants’ Phil Davis, but said the system created confusion.
“[It] changes when it comes to the fist. It doesn’t matter if the player is OK or not. It’s just the action.
“That’s the confusing part for everyone. But I’d imagine because Dahl is fine, regardless of the action, that Tom is probably fine.”
Port coach Ken Hinkley said he hadn’t seen the incident, but agreed Jonas should be in the clear. “Knowing Tommy and knowing Tommy’s history it would have been, I would have thought, in-play fair enough type of play,” Hinkley said.
Hinkley confirmed Power pair Chad Wingard (calf) and Dan Houston (shoulder) were both OK despite injury concerns during the game.
Port have booked their place in the top eight, and will be in the top four on Sunday morning, although they will be dislodged by Richmond if the Tigers beat Fremantlle in Perth on Sunday.
The Power’s home and away season ends next Saturday night against Gold Coast at Adelaide Oval.