‘Lot of heart’: Dogs’ celebrations answer criticism

AFL Rd 9 -  Richmond v Western Bulldogs
James Harmes booted an equal career-high four goals from 26 disposals in the Western Bulldogs’ 91-point drubbing of Richmond. Picture: Quinn Rooney / Getty Images

Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge says younger players added layers to their individual games in a dominant 91-point win over Richmond he thought was “full of heart”.

The coach praised his players for “keeping their heads” following a week of intense scrutiny in the wake of the shock round 8 loss to Hawthorn, as he said he was rapt by the contributions of young players including debutant Joel Freijah.

The No. 45 pick in last year’s draft had a nervy start to the game at halfback but eventually settled to gather 17 disposals, including five intercepts, at 82 per cent efficiency.

“I won’t say we weren’t worried about Joel early in the game, but we just thought he steadied,” Beveridge said with a smile.

“He showed a really mature head for such a young fella. When we put him back into the backline where he has been playing at state league level, I thought he was tremendous … really encouraging for him and us to see that.

Richmond vs Western Bulldogs
Western Bulldogs debutant Joel Freijah earnt a chance in defence and played well after a difficult first quarter to finish with 17 disposals and five intercepts. Picture: Michael Klein

“Throughout the course of the night, the boys didn’t waver, and it was good to see some of the growth in some of the boys who probably added layers to the outcomes in their games, whether it be offensive or defensive involvements.

“That’s important for the club, to see some of the younger guys who haven’t played a lot of games do that, and our experienced (players) were really influential.”

After he said on Thursday he was “blind’ to the criticism of his coaching that swirled following the Hawks loss, Beveridge said there had also been no pointed attempt to prove that the Bulldogs were playing for each other following criticism of the players’ body language.

Four-time Hawthorn premiership player Jordan Lewis told AFL360 that Bulldogs players were guilty of being too focused on their own individual games.

Richmond vs Western Bulldogs
All 17 Bulldogs players on the field celebrated with Melbourne recruit James Harmes after he kicked his first goal for the club during the 91-point win over Richmond. Picture: Michael Klein

“I don’t see that with the Bulldogs. I don’t see them celebrate together, I don’t see them pick players up off the ground, I don’t see them block for each other on a regular basis,” he said before the Tigers clash.

The Bulldogs celebrated goals vigorously all night and mobbed James Harmes when he kicked his first for the club in the second term, but Beveridge denied it was in response to the criticism.

“Not specifically, no – it’s not something that I talked about. It might be perceived as a week within the football club where the cauldron’s pretty hot, and how do you get through it? We knew exactly what we left out there the week before … everyone kept their heads, really composed, there were some great signs of leadership from some of the players,” he said.

“I just thought that everyone really kept their heads. There’s a lot of heart in tonight, and that might be what you’re talking about.

“The spirit among the players was strong, and now the maintenance of that and the progression of it going into a really challenging game against GWS will be really important.”.