Bulldogs primed for last AFL finals hurdle

Ruckman Tim English (C) will return from illness for the in-form Bulldogs against Adelaide.
Ruckman Tim English (C) will return from illness for the in-form Bulldogs against Adelaide.

Coach Luke Beveridge might be keeping a lid on it but the Western Bulldogs and their die-hard fans are riding a wave of momentum to the AFL finals.

Having won seven of their past 10 games, the Bulldogs are strong favourites to defeat Adelaide and secure tickets to September for the first time in three years.

The Dogs could still qualify if they lose Sunday's clash in Ballarat but Hawthorn, Port Adelaide and the Crows are also jostling for the final top-eight spot.

"We've got to win this week - we don't want it to be in the hands of the gods where we lose and hope for percentage," Beveridge told reporters on Thursday.

"The feeling around the place is we've come this far and it'd be a bloody shame (not to qualify).

"We need to keep our heads in it and just focus on beating Adelaide.

"I've had to calm one or two of supporters down on the fence - 'just cool your jets, we're not there yet'."

The excitement in Melbourne's western suburbs was off the charts in 2016, when the Dogs came from the clouds to win their first flag in 62 years.

There's plenty still to play out this season but it's not hard to imagine the Bulldogs making a deep September run on their current form.

In recent weeks, they have smashed GWS, Essendon and Fremantle and scored more than 100 points each time.

Beveridge has been loath to make comparisons to 2016 but declared the offensive side of their game was the best it had been under his tenure.

The fifth-year coach had always been bullish about his revamped team's potential but said it had taken a while for his players to find that belief.

"When you've got such a different mix and they haven't played a lot of footy together, it takes them a little while to develop a trust in the team as much as anything," he said.

"Once you start to generate that commitment to the little things in the game ... you know you've got something pretty exciting happening.

"Now the big focus is continuing to value that ... there's a lot of off-ball stuff that's absolutely critical to the way we play."

Beveridge said ruckman Tim English would return from illness on Sunday, adding that Mitch Wallis (ankle) was unlikely to return this season.

Australian Associated Press