Western Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli says the adductor injury that hampered him in recent weeks “wasn’t as bad” as made out and he’ll be at close to full capacity for next week’s elimination final against Fremantle.
Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge has been laying a case for Bontempelli being not at his all-conquering best in recent weeks, declaring his captain has been troubled by “a niggle or two”.
The coach and his star player met with medical boss Chris Bell earlier this month to plot a course towards September that included Bontempelli playing the last two rounds of the home-and-away season.
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The pre-finals bye, which has been maligned by fans, has also worked in Bontempelli’s favour, giving him the chance to take a break from training to ensure he’ll be primed for next weekend’s clash with Fremantle at Optus Stadium as the Bulldogs again look to pull off a miracle run from outside the top four.
“It wasn’t as bad as what was put out … it was more of an overload result from a corkie the previous week,” Bontempelli said on Friday.
“He (Beveridge) was correct in the fact that we had a bit of a sit down and a chat about it.
“I know where my body’s at, so it was a good discussion around it, but I’m feeling pretty good and I’m definitely over the adductor stuff now, which is good.
“I’ve found, like every year, you’re dealing with different things and probably everyone is across the league at this point.
“The pre-finals bye does present that opportunity to freshen your mind and your body up and get set to go for another finals series.”
The Bulldogs made the grand final last season after finishing fifth, and famously won the 2016 premiership after finishing seventh – an indication they can overcome the disadvantage of every final being an elimination game.
But while Bontempelli will play against Fremantle, teammate Jason Johannisen faces a race against time to be passed fit having missed the last three rounds of the home-and-away season with an ankle issue.
Outside of Johannisen, however, the Bulldogs are close to full strength for their finals campaign.
“He’s tracking well and I think he has one or two speed-based parameters to tick off, but the good thing is we’ve got the time for that,” Bontempelli said of Johannisen.
“I think he’ll definitely be in the window to hopefully play.
“He’s an experienced player, so it just adds that layer of maturity and he’s a pretty dynamic player.”
FYFE SET TO BE FIRING FOR ELIMINATION FINAL
Nat Fyfe had his second worst game for the Dockers as he made his return from a hamstring injury against GWS last weekend.
The two-time Brownlow Medallist was held to just nine disposals – his worst output without injury since his second AFL game.
The Dockers have opted against putting Fyfe into the WAFL this weekend while the AFL squad enjoys the pre-finals bye.
Fremantle head of football operations Robert Murphy said he was confident Fyfe didn’t need the extra match minutes.
“Nat has had a really solid month of training, he’s got a game in,” Murphy told SEN.
“It’s different to his other injuries where he has had a really solid block (of training). He’ll get a big hit-out today and tomorrow, so that should have him primed.
“He didn’t have a huge game in terms of stats last week, but just to my eye, it was one of those almost games and he looked to be moving freely and he was flying for the footy. It looked like it wasn’t too far away at all for the superstar.”
Fyfe has endured a tough 2022 campaign after complications with his off-season shoulder surgery led to infection. He also suffered an early injury before a serious back complaint saw him miss the first 12 rounds.
But Murphy said players like Fyfe couldn’t be counted out.
“That adage of don’t underestimate a champion, this next phase of Nat’s career being a bit of an exploration of what’s possible and clearly he’ll spend more time forward,” he said.
“How would you feel lining up with your magnet under Fyfe in a big final at Optus Stadium?
“You’d be a little nervous wouldn’t you. Such a physically dominant player and while he’s been there before and he’s experienced, he’s as driven as an athlete as I’ve ever come across in my time in footy.”
Dockers CEO Simon Garlick said it was also good news for Griffin Logue and Rory Lobb on the injury front.
“Griff was very close in Canberra against the Giants and Lobby wasn’t quite there,” he said on SEN.
“As long as there’s nothing untoward from here to there, both will be a lock for the final.”
Garlick said forward Matt Taberner was also pushing to return in the do-or-die final against the Western Bulldogs.
“I think there’s a real opportunity for him to press his case too.”
Taberner hasn’t played since suffering a calf injury in the Round 21 win over the Dogs in Melbourne.
CATS CONFIDENT CAMERON GETS UP
Jeremy Cameron sent a scare through the Cats camp when he failed to finish out the Round 22 match against the Suns.
He missed the win over West Coast with a hamstring injury, but coach Chris Scott is confident his star forward will be right to go against Collingwood in eight days’ time.
Cameron was out on the training track for the Cats on Friday and impressed with his range of movement.
“That would’ve given you a pretty good indication as to how good he is,” Scott said speaking post-training.
“Without overplaying it, I suspect he would be available if we were playing tomorrow.
“Cameron will play, (Rhys) Stanley will play, Mitch Duncan will play and Cam Guthrie had a little bit of a shoulder, but he’s fine.”
Guthrie was subbed out of the win over the Eagles with a shoulder injury from some friendly fire with teammate Patrick Dangerfield.