Dale Morris eager to be old Dog among pups.

DMORRISSo much has changed since the last time Dale Morris played an AFL game. Rodney Eade was coaching, the Western Bulldogs were coming towards the end of a significant chapter in the club’s history, and even the way sides played the game was different.

As he contemplates playing again for the Bulldogs for the first time in 18 months, the defender looks back on round 21 of the 2011 season like it was from another era.

”Even in just a year the game has definitely changed and got quicker,” Morris said on Saturday.

”Now all teams are adopting a similar game plan, whereas when I got injured only some teams used a zone and got players up the ground. Now everybody does it. Just the speed and how skilful you have to be to pierce the zones … it will definitely take me time to adjust.

”You can only do so much during training but I can’t wait to get out there and see how I go.”

Morris broke his leg badly late in the 2011 season (below). He is confident he can make his comeback in the NAB Cup matches against Essendon and Collingwood on Friday.

The 151-game backman has taken part in full training since Christmas and has tested the strength and stability of the leg in full-scale match practice.

While he had initial worries when he took knocks to the leg, he is certain he still has the speed, agility and versatility that earned him All-Australian honours in 2008.

”It feels like what it was up to pre-injury,” he said.

”There’s no problems turning and cutting and accelerating and everything. The more you do it in training the more confidence you feel that’s everything going well.”

That’s not so say Morris has not done it tough. He was confined to a wheelchair, bed or the couch for the first month after he had the tibia and fibula reset. It was wretched timing given that his wife, Gemma, was pregnant at the time with the couple’s second son, Charlie.

Morris described as torturous the days when he could not help his wife look after the newborn or the toddler, Riley. ”It was like she had three kids,” he said.

He described as devastating the day he had his comeback last year aborted because of stress fractures after just one quarter in the VFL.

”To get moving again and get close to coming back, and then to play a quarter and have the setback, it was the highest of highs and then the lowest of lows,” he said.

”But I’m surrounded daily by great people at home and at the club. They’ve really helped and they were there for the bad times, but they’ll be there for the good times too.”

Morris is thankful for the external support he received from the likes of Garry Lyon and Michael Barlow – who know all about serious leg injuries – and is equally bullish about looking forward.

”We’ve got a young defensive group and I’m really excited to see how these guys will go.

”With Brian [Lake] going [to Hawthorn] it provides a massive opportunity for someone like [Jordan] Roughead, [Michael] Talia, [Mark] Austin and [Lukas] Markovic, these type of guys, to show what they’ve got in that position.

”It’s exciting with the young guys there to … form a solid back six like the one that I was fortunate to play in early in my career.”

For the age.com