Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge has warned his team it cannot afford to “trip up too many times”, as the Dogs consider recalling Travis Cloke for Saturday’s clash against Gold Coast in Cairns.
Cloke has played six matches and booted six goals this season but has not been seen at senior level since round 12. He played his second straight game in the VFL on Saturday night, having returned from time off last month to deal with mental health issues.
As the Dogs step up preparations for what could be their final “home” clash up north – they signed a one-year extension last year – Beveridge said the former Collingwood spearhead was a chance to return in place of the injured Jake Stringer but it was too early to make a call.
“He played pretty well, though. It’s two back for him – he definitely will be considered. Obviously, there is one spot there with Jake. We’ll need to work through that, though – it’s a bit early to declare it,” he said.
“He didn’t miss much training. I don’t think that’s a big concern. It’s more about the process of feeling good in the mind and body. He appears to have enjoyed the last two weeks. He didn’t have much of lay-off because he is stayed in the training loop.”
Stringer is expected to miss up to three weeks, having strained his hamstring during Sunday’s 20-point win over Carlton at the MCG.
Beveridge said Jack Redpath, who had scans earlier in the week, must prove his fitness, while Tory Dickson, having impressed in the VFL, will also be in the mix. Veteran half-back Matthew Boyd will need to prove he has overcome an Achilles issue.
The Dogs have won all three of their matches at Cazaly’s Stadium against the Suns, including by 48 points last year. This time they are not in the same form as round 17 last year and need a win to remain in touch with the top eight.
“We are, obviously, trying to improve like everyone else and we are well aware of what is before us. I don’t think we can trip up too many times before we are just making up the numbers, or not making up the numbers at all. We need to continue to win,” Beveridge said.
The Dogs, with eight wins, are in 11th spot and probably need to win at least four, if not five, of their remaining six matches to make the top eight. The Kangaroos held on to eighth spot last year with 12 wins.
Beveridge was effusive about youngsters Bailey Williams and Lewis Young, the latter’s debut, with 21 disposals and nine marks, prompting suggestions the Bulldogs have a ready-made, aggressive defender and did not need to pursue Adelaide’s off-contract star Jake Lever.
“We are still linked to Jake, are we? I said the other week, we were linked to everyone last year, so it’s no surprise clubs are linked to Jake. He is a very, very good player,” he said.
“That is a pretty strong debut, isn’t it, for an 18-year-old? He played as good a game as he has all year, even at VFL level. That’s really encouraging for him and our coaches and all of our staff who have been working with him.”
Beveridge also praised rebounding half-back Jason Johannisen, declaring he had become a better player for the experience of being targeted by rival forwards. Johannisen, fresh from signing a five-year contract, began to regain his groove against the Blues with 23 disposals.
“He’s learned what we want from him from a team perspective as well,” Beveridge said.
Opponents have been obvious in their desire to physically harass Johannisen but Beveridge did not have an issue with the tactic – as long as it was all legal.