AFL grand final: Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge on the tactics he’ll need to combat Max Gawn

Russell GouldNCA NewsWire
Max Gawn is so influential for Melbourne. Michael Klein
Camera IconMax Gawn is so influential for Melbourne. Michael Klein Credit: News Corp Australia

Western Bulldogs ruckman Stefan Martin came through his preliminary final return better than coach Luke Beveridge could have hoped, bolstering the plan to take down “extraordinary” Melbourne captain Max Gawn in the grand final.

Selection issues for the Bulldogs should be limited to who makes was way for defender Alex Keath and livewire forward Cody Weightman after positive injury news for Laitham Vandermeer.

Keath, who missed the preliminary final win over Port Adelaide with a hamstring issue, still has “a few parameters” to tick off but is set to play. Vandermeer, who was subbed off against Port with hamstring soreness, is also “looking good” according to Beveridge.

Planning for the grand final is in full swing for Beveridge and his coaching staff who won’t mirror the Demons preparations and do match simulation on Saturday.

“Saturday will be a risk mitigation type day. We will definitely work hard … it won’t be a practice match,” Beveridge said on Thursday.

Melbourne v Western Bulldogs
Camera IconThe Bulldogs will have to contain Max Gawn (left). Michael Klein Credit: News Corp Australia

Instead, the Bulldogs coach will focus on developing the tactics his team needs to not only stop Gawn, who destroyed Geelong with five preliminary final goals, as well as trying to “extinguish the intercept operation” of key Melbourne defenders Jake Lever and Steven May.

Beveridge said the Bulldogs would try a plan similar to that used in round 19, when they kicked 13 goals to defeat the Demons by 20 points, albeit with different personnel. He said Josh Schache, who helped quell Port’s All-Australian defender Aliir Aliir last week, could be called on to play a similar role against Melbourne.

“We had young Marra (Jamarra Ugle-Hagan) playing that day and Josh Bruce, between those two, Mitch Hannan and Aaron Naughton, they did an outstanding job in providing some avenues to goal but also making sure we extinguish the intercept operation of the Melbourne backline,” he said.

“We can’t do it like that because the personnel has changed. (Schache) did a great job last week … it was really important in the scheme of things.

“We have a plan there but we have to nail exactly what it looks like. Even when we played Melbourne last time, we needed him to stand up as a defender, which he did. We’ll need something.

“As much as we have some offensive threats in our forward line, and they did an outstanding job against Port, we’ll need to balance up our approach.”

Beveridge said Martin, who didn’t play in Round 19 and was first-up since round 12 against Port, would influence their strategies in a big way after Gawn’s stunning preliminary final performance.

“He (Gawn) played an extraordinary game. He’s such an influential player,” he said.

“Last time we lost Alex Keath in the first 10 minutes … we had to change our original game plan.

“This time around, Stef has played against Max over the journey … he’s nowhere near as tall as Max, but there’ a strength in Stef’s game we’ll call on that will be important in that battle.

“He came through (the preliminary final) better than what I anticipated. He felt like he had a little bit of gas left in the tank.

“We planned for 80 off minutes (game time) and that’s what we got. He could probably play some more minutes in this next one if we need him to.”

Beveridge said the Bulldogs would have been “well prepared” for a grand final this weekend had they not had the bye and having many at the club who had been through the 2016 premiership campaign was a benefit for this year’s decider.

Originally published as AFL grand final: Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge on the tactics he’ll need to combat Max Gawn

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