Coach Burke proud of his “versatile group”

AS he spoke after his side’s win over Carlton last night, you could see the emotion of the last few moments of the game all over coach Nathan Burke’s face. His side had just booked its first finals berth since 2018.

“I can’t feel the heart to be totally honest,” he said with a laugh. “A tad excited towards the end, but all good now. 24 hours or so I might calm down a little bit.”

On the question of whether he feels forever indebted to Ellie Blackburn after what she pulled off in the last few minutes, Burke spoke glowingly of his skipper.

“You can’t love a person and a footballer more than that,” he said. “[You] don’t know the sort of issues that she’s had on a physical level over the last couple of weeks that she has been dealing with. Her particular condition isn’t helped by flying, so we flew to Perth and back last week, and I honestly didn’t think she was going to play today. So to come out and do that, that’s special.”

Burke touched on how his team had ticked off a few milestones in the match, and the relief of the Bulldogs being back in finals for the first time since 2018.

“We ticked off a couple of milestones in the rooms,” he said. “Three in a row is a milestone, and then making finals is a milestone as well, so I have to buy two cakes this week it looks like, [I’m} happy to do that. “You’ve got to be in it to win it and we’re in it so we’ll see what happens.”

Burke also spoke of the versatility in his group, after a number of players were made to adjust to relatively new roles last night.

“We’ve always said as a coaching staff our team at the start of the year won’t be the team at the end of the year and part of that is to keep the team fresh a little bit,” he said. “We always knew ‘Lizzie‘ (Elizabeth Georgostathis) could go back, we always knew Elle Bennetts could go back. We wanted to change up the look of the midfield, so Dee Berry and ‘Browny‘ (Eleanor Brown) have come into the middle and Sarah Hartwig’s gone forward. So there’s five changes, which is 25 per cent of the team or over.

“One, it freshens up those players, the other players see them doing well so it freshens the up and gives us a bit of a different look. So the fact is that all those players have really grasped that opportunity and then we can still change them around. They’re a really versatile lot, and no matter what I throw at them they take to it and give it a crack.”

Having booked their finals ticket, the Bulldogs now face a wait to find out who they will lock horns with in week one of finals. Currently sixth, they could realistically come up against Collingwood, North Melbourne, or Geelong depending on results.

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