AFL: Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge has revealed some key players will be returning for the Bulldogs clash with the Sydney Swans
THE Western Bulldogs are tempted to abort Jason Johannisen’s planned VFL return and instead unleash the damaging defender against Sydney on Saturday.
The blistering backman has not played since tearing a hamstring tendon 11 weeks ago but coach Luke Beveridge said Johannisen could make a surprise AFL return alongside returning acting captain Easton Wood (hamstring).
And Beveridge dispelled the myth that power forward Jack Redpath was keeping Tom Boyd at bay, instead excited at their imminent pairing.
Boyd shared ruck duties before injuring his shoulder in Round 4 and Beveridge said he would resume the same role when selected, likely to be at the expense of Tom Campbell or Jordan Roughead.
Beveridge also forecast the return of forgotten big man Will Minson in coming weeks, possibly against the Swans at the SCG.
The Dogs are likely to start the crunch match in eighth position but a repeat of last year’s upset win would bring them to 10-4 and equal second on the ladder.
The tandem Roughead-Campbell act has beaten several of the AFL’s best ruckmen but Beveridge was unsure if it could take the Dogs to “the next level”.
Koby Stevens (abdominal) is also fit but set to return via Footscray.
Beveridge said the Dogs would play it safe with Stevens after he “wasn’t much good” after quarter-time in his Round 9 return.
“We’re sort of once bitten a little bit, and we’ll need to make sure we’re totally sure with Tommy (Boyd) as well,” Beveridge said.
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“We can’t have any episodes early in games and lose a player.”
The second-year coach said Boyd and Redpath would “definitely” fit in the same forward line.
“As far as roles go there’s an argument to say those two aren’t even competing against each other,” Beveridge said.
“We’re not playing Jack in the ruck, he’s mostly playing as a permanent forward.
“Those two will definitely play hopefully quite a bit of footy together up forward.
“We’re looking forward to that opportunity once we feel Tommy is totally ready to go.”
Johannisen ran at top speed at Whitten Oval and hit career-best form before breaking down in Round 4.
Star midfielder Lachie Hunter, who plays his 50th game on Saturday, said Johannisen was the most crucial player still to come off the Dogs’ injury list given the absence of creative captain Bob Murphy (knee).
“I said a couple of weeks ago that JJ would more than likely play at VFL level,” Beveridge said.
“But the more we think about it he’s done everything conceivably possible. During the rehab periods from these hamstring lay-offs with tendon (injuries) you do everything you can to almost break them down.
“Our medical staff and our conditioning staff have worked really hard with JJ, he’s really applied himself.”
The Dogs will make a final call at match committee tomorrow.
Swans defenders Ted Richards and Jeremy Laidler completed light duties yesterday but could both return against the Dogs.
That would place selection pressure on George Hewett and Aliir Aliir.