Dogs to host Suns on Mars

March 21, 2024 BY

AFL back in Ballarat: The Western Bulldogs and Gold Coast Suns have met before at Mars Stadium.

EARLIER this week, Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge was unsure whether Jack Macrae would be called on to face Gold Coast at Mars Stadium in Ballarat this weekend.

The experienced midfielder was left out of the Doggies’ opening loss to Melbourne.

Three-time All-Australian Macrae was omitted from Sunday’s 45-point defeat at the MCG after an interrupted pre-season, despite playing two VFL practice matches. Fellow senior Bulldog Caleb Daniel was named substitute.

“With Jacko, he had a stress-related, through his femur, concern over the pre-season – he worked really hard over his off-season,” Beveridge said.

“And then he had that hamstring that he went down with and he missed quite a bit of training and running and his capacity to cover the ground needs to be there.

“I felt like their [Melbourne’s] midfield were able to do that better than us today.

“So, we’ll just wait until Jack’s totally ready to perform at his absolute best with the ground cover. So, he’s not far away.”

When asked if Macrae, who has dropped down the midfield pecking order in recent years, could feature in Ballarat against the Suns this Sunday 24 March, Beveridge said: “Too early – we’ll work through that during the week.”

Daniel was overlooked for a starting role behind recruits James Harmes, Nick Coffield and debutant Harvey Gallagher.

The 27-year-old replaced Ryley Sanders late in the third quarter and had 12 disposals – more than eight other Bulldogs.

Beveridge said Daniel typically played his “roles and responsibilities…pretty well”, but he had been omitted in light of the strong pre-seasons of several teammates, although many of those will have been “frustrated” with their performances on Sunday.

When asked whether Daniel could start against the Suns, Beveridge said earlier in the week: “Too early. We’ll process that during the week.”

No.6 draft pick Sanders had been a revelation during the week and had collected 15 touches before being hooked.

“He’s fine. At that point in time, he was one of a handful that could have come off for experience and stability in the team,” Beveridge said.

“Ryley’s going really well. He’s going to be a tremendous player for the club and he’s still learning. But he was the one.”

Gold Coast’s finely tuned running power can be the club’s greatest strength under Damien Hardwick, co-captain Jarrod Witts said.

The Suns are 2-0 ahead of Sunday’s Ballarat AFL clash with the Bulldogs after beginning the Hardwick reign with wins against Richmond and Adelaide.

Crows coach Matthew Nicks said the Suns’ work-rate and scramble was “as good as I’ve seen for a while in that space” after his men were outplayed in the first three quarters on Saturday night.

Ruckman Witts said the Suns’ brutal pre-seasons in the Queensland heat were starting to pay dividends, and that new coach Hardwick’s approach would make the most of the team’s conditioning.

The Western Bulldogs play the Gold Coast Suns this Sunday at Mars Stadium with the bounce at 1pm.