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No premiership hangover for Dogs, skipper insists

Football

Western Bulldogs skipper Bob Murphy insists the reigning AFL premiers aren’t far from reaching their best form despite a mixed start to the season.

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The Bulldogs are clinging to their spot in the top eight after consecutive losses to West Coast and Geelong took their record to 5-4.

They have also endured some near-misses, snatching single-digit victories over North Melbourne and Richmond.

Murphy, nonetheless, believes there were some positives to take out of last Friday’s 23-point loss to the Cats in which they squandered a three-quarter time lead.

“It was probably our best footy for the year, the third quarter,” he told SEN radio yesterday.

“It left us just as quickly. That was the really disappointing bit – the last quarter, the Cats were too good.

“I still think we’re one of the best sides in the comp.

“We show up every week and whilst we have little patches, we play it out and we go right to the line.

“Our best is as good as anyone’s, but there is also that inherent wariness that we are 5-4 and we’ve got a lot of work to do.

“We need to start winning more games.”

Coach Luke Beveridge has shown no hesitation to swing the axe, with highly-rated midfielders Tom Liberatore and Caleb Daniel among eight premiership players dropped to the VFL throughout the season.

Beveridge had alluded to Liberatore being out of shape but Murphy denied any of his teammates were suffering from a premiership hangover.

“A guy like Libba, he’s gone through a flat patch. I don’t necessarily buy in to ‘oh, that’s because of last year’,” Murphy said.

“He may not have come back in absolute tip-top nick but, by this stage, I would have thought he was fit enough.

“I’m not so surprised that we have whipped through a few changes.

“We’re still really young. We’ve got a few who are really old but our list is actually really young.”

The Dogs will face St Kilda at Etihad Stadium on Saturday and could be bolstered by forward Jake Stringer’s return from a knee injury.

Liberatore, Shane Biggs and Toby McLean are among those in the mix to reclaim their spots after solid performances in the VFL.

-AAP

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