Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge conceded his players “seized up” in the face of must-win games to play finals after back-to-back losses left his team needing to end a two-decade losing streak at Geelong to reach the post-season.
But in the face of critics suggesting the premiership winner had lost his connection with his players, Beveridge said he had “no concerns” his message was no longer getting through after nine seasons in charge.
Having worked through the fallout of last week‘s shock loss to West Coast that tipped his team out of the top eight, Beveridge said “you can’t go out and sing kumbaya” and play carefree footy with so much on the line.
But he said he would go to the emotional well with his players to highlight that they were “still a chance” to keep their season going with a victory against the severely undermanned Cats at Geelong, where the Bulldogs haven’t won since 2003.
“I coach with a lot of passion, there’s a lot of emotion that comes thorough in my journey with the teams I have coached,” Beveridge said on Friday.
“This week it’s only really Marcus (Bontempelli) and Tom (Liberatore) who started with me nine years ago. We’ve had dramatic change all around me from a list point of view and a staff point of view and you are searching for the chemistry to reconcile with the emotion and the headspace that you are after.
“I’ve got no concerns that my messaging doesn’t resonate with the group. I covet and am fortunate to be in the position I am in.
“But it’s my challenge to continue to prod and explore what the right recipe is week to week and year to year.”
This week that prodding will include imploring his players to realise the “power in the room” to take down a Geelong side without a host of premiership stars, including key forwards Jeremy Cameron and Tom Hawkins.
The Bulldogs will also be without midfield stars Bailey Smith, who is ill, and Jack Macrae through concussion.
Beveridge said he would implore his players to move away from the “playing to not lose” mentality that plagued them in losses first to Hawthorn and then the Eagles that have left them in such a perilous position.
“The opportunity to play finals is a carrot right in front of you and sometimes I think, depending on the individual, you can seize up a bit around the prospect of a loss rather than the prospect of a win,” he said.
“So maybe we‘ve seized up a little but in that regards and you can’t go out and sing kumbaya and break free and play a brand of footy that isn’t accountable, but you have to stork a balance.
“We’ve internalised a lot over the years and found the power and the strength and the inspiration in the room. It’s still there.
“I’ll look at the boys … and I’ll identify the power in the room and I’ll urge them to as well. There will be a little bit of emotion there, no doubt.
“(Geelong) will come out with a nothing to lose approach and in a similar vein we will come out with that approach as well.”
Originally published as Luke Beveridge calls for emotional response from players in last chance to make finals