Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge understands that to stand still is AFL death.
For that reason he’s been forced into difficult conversations with his 2016 grand final winners, with “one or two” to be dropped as they begin another premiership assault.
On Thursday morning, Beveridge confirmed Bob Murphy, Matthew Suckling, Travis Cloke and, most likely, Stewart Crameri would all come into the side to play Collingwood in their season-opener on Friday night.
That’s a minimum four changes from their grand final side, with only Joel Hamling (traded), Jordan Roughead (hamstring) and Tory Dickson (groin) assured of missing out.
Such is the fast-paced nature of the sport, Beveridge says he’s putting more faith in the Bulldogs’ pre-season matches than last year’s decider.
“All coaches and managers have a sense of loyalty and a pretty vivid memory of the recent past,” he said.
“There’s going to be one or two players miss out that played in last year’s premiership side. That’s a difficult conversation to have.
“But we’re focused on this year, we’ve picked our side based on what’s transpired in the pre-season and that’s always the way its got to be.”
While Bulldogs fans will save their loudest cheers for the returning skipper Murphy, both sets of supporters will have their eyes on Cloke.
The 2010 premiership winner and four-time leading Collingwood goalkicker will debut for the Bulldogs against his former side.
Beveridge said he’d be utilised in the ruck, with Roughead sidelined, as well as inside the forward 50.
“I imagine he’s pretty nervous (but) he’s determined to do well,” he said.
The Dogs coach said Cloke was expecting both support and jeers from Magpies either side of the fence.
“He’s a decorated player, a premiership player and I’m sure they’ll remember that … but once you hit the turf and it’s us against them, I’m sure they’ll remind him.”
Despite the mix of old and new in his 22 for Friday night, Beveridge said there’d be no excuses for his players at the MCG, with the biggest factor being hunger.
“It’s always a challenge that the drive and appetite for hard work, for what’s required to be a successful outfit, is there,” he said.
“We’ve got some momentum off the JLT3 game against the Gold Coast. We feel we’re cherry ripe.”