Dogs back Keath’s return for grand final
Western Bulldogs medical staff are ‘optimistic’ Alex Keath will be given the all clear to return from a hamstring injury in next week’s AFL grand final against Melbourne.
Livewire small forward Cody Weightman is available for selection after missing the preliminary-final thrashing of Port Adelaide under the league’s concussion protocols.
But Keath and Laitham Vandermeer both face fitness tests on their hamstring issues next week.
Key defender Keath pulled up tight late in the semi-final win over Brisbane and missed the preliminary final, but has made progress in recent days.
The week off before the grand final will give him time to prove his fitness ahead of a looming battle with Melbourne talls Ben Brown, Tom McDonald and Luke Jackson.
‘We didn’t want to take any risks, so he didn’t play on the weekend,’ Bulldogs head of medical services Chris Bell said.
‘Alex is now clear of symptoms and we are currently reloading his speed.
‘He will look to full train next week and we remain optimistic that he will be pulling the jumper on for the grand final.’
Keath’s increasingly likely return means 2016 premiership player Zaine Cordy could be this year’s hard-luck story after his impressive shutdown role on Port Adelaide’s Todd Marshall last week.
Vandermeer was substituted out of the preliminary final during the third quarter but is a chance to retain his place in the side.
The 22-year-old has played all five matches since breaking back into the senior team in round 22 after overcoming a knee injury that sidelined him for three months.
‘Laitham received a knock to his gluteal area (against Port Adelaide) which caused some associated hamstring fatigue,’ Bell said.
‘Scans have since cleared him of any structural hamstring damage, so we’ll look to re-integrate Laitham back into full training at the end of this week.’
Second-year forward Weightman has kicked 26 goals from 15 games in a breakout campaign.
The spring-heeled 20-year-old has become an important cog in the Bulldogs’ forward structure during the second half of the season.
‘He has now passed all of his concussion tests and will look to reintegrate back into contact training at the end of this week,’ Bell said.
Weightman was replaced in the starting 22 against Port Adelaide by Jason Johannisen, who was the medical substitute a week earlier.
Anthony Scott filled the sub role in the preliminary final and could be squeezed out.