Naughton to face Magpies as Bulldogs vow to play ‘hard’ ball

Western Bulldogs star Aaron Naughton insists he is ready to face Collingwood on Friday night, having overcome knee surgery through the pre-season.

Naughton had arthroscopic surgery last month on a cartilage concern with his right knee – the opposite knee to the lateral ligament injury he sustained at the end of 2019.

Aaron Naughton is confident he is over a knee problem that hampered him in the pre-season.Credit:AAP

Naughton, whom Beveridge described as an "amazing swimmer", has played 41 games with the Bulldogs, booting 32 goals last year as a key forward and earning a reputation as a superb mark.

The Bulldogs have been tipped to be a legitimate premiership threat, having secured former Saint Josh Bruce and former Crow Alex Keath, in their bid to reprise the breakthrough flag of 2016.

Midfielder Tom Liberatore (knee) is still regaining fitness but forward Bruce and key defender Keath, who has impressed with his intercept marking, have given the Bulldogs the bookends they had been missing in recent seasons.

"That is exciting for us and our supporters to see the difference they may make. In our key position areas, we have a little bit more depth. Our team will present out on the park differently to what it has in the past couple of years," Beveridge said.

The Bulldogs hope ruckman Tim English can become an elite player, and he also impressed through the Marsh Community Series. It wasn't lost on Beveridge that Magpies ruckman Brodie Grundy has polled a maximum six Brownlow Medal votes in the past two matches between the clubs, and he wants English to halt that surge.

"He has shown a hell of a lot of promise … you can run the superlatives but I don't want to put the pressure on Tim," Beveridge said.

"Grundy, the last two times we have played Collingwood, has accumulated six Brownlow votes. Tim will have support in the ruck … I imagine on Friday night Tim will give a better account of himself."

Beveridge said the Bulldogs had taken "encouragement" from their strong finish to the 2019 home-and-away season and were physically ready to be a "hard and disciplined" side and handle opponents that tested them after they were targeted and crunched by Greater Western Sydney in an elimination final.

"As far as confronting anything that is outside the spirit of the game, we will just continue to play a hard brand of footy and, if we are not, we will need to address it," he said.

There has been much for players and coaches to adjust to through the coronavirus pandemic. This now includes no crowd support at matches, although Beveridge said he had enjoyed the relative silence when years ago he played in the seconds as a player, and also shortened 16-minute quarters, plus time on. He said selection would not be impacted by the change in game time.

"There is always an argument and a counter-argument. If there is a shorter game, do players that may not have that great speed and endurance mix, do they have more of an opportunity to just be really punchy in their performance and play extremely well?" he said.

"Alternatively, the old throwaway (line), harder for longer, or stronger for longer, I think that remains. You are just trying to play your best footy in the 25 minutes rather than the 30. I don't think it will have much of an impact on selection."

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