Veteran Martin hoping to spark Bulldogs
The Western Bulldogs have recalled veteran ruckman Stefan Martin after a three-month absence in the hope he can be the AFL's new Mr September.
Martin, who will be 35 in November, has dealt with shoulder, groin and achilles issues since arriving at Whitten Oval from the Brisbane Lions during the off-season.
But Martin played seriously well early in the season and the Bulldogs have struggled in the ruck without him.
Coach Luke Beveridge has hesitated in picking Martin in recent weeks, despite being constantly asked about the possibility at his press conferences.
But the Bulldogs' season will now either end with a defeat against Port Adelaide in Saturday night's preliminary final, or they will earn a week off before the grand final at Perth's Optus Stadium on September 25.
"I just didn't think he'd be able to get through the work to come back," Beveridge said of Martin.
"When I was talking about emergency break glass, it was can we get him to the stoppages only and minimise his game-time and hopefully get him through the game.
"The last couple of weeks he has put back-to-back sessions in and trained again strongly (on Thursday).
"What you want from your players is just that desire to play in such a big occasion.
"(Martin) gave us enormous stability at the start of the year and him and Timmy (English) worked extremely well together so if we can get any sort of combination that looks a little bit familiar to the first half a dozen rounds then that's really going to help us."
Injury-plagued ruckmen have a history of influencing crunch finals, with Brisbane's Clark Keating a prime example of that during the Lions' premiership three-peat between 2001 and 2003.
Keating missed huge chunks of the 2002 and 2003 seasons, before starring in grand final victories over Collingwood.
The Bulldogs were badly exposed in the ruck the last time they met Port in round 23, with Power big man Scott Lycett dominating Lewis Young as Beveridge opted to use English as a key forward.
"It's going to be a great match-up because we know the supply is going to be really important to that midfield," Port coach Ken Hinkley said.
"We have got a really strong midfield, they have got a really strong midfield, the game is often won around the ball."