Dogs bullish on Dale Morris

Western Bulldogs coach Brendan McCartney is confident Dale Morris can still return from the broken leg that robbed him of his entire 2012 season.

Morris, 29, badly broke both bones in his leg in round 21 last year in a collision with teammate Easton Wood when the Dogs were playing Essendon.

He escaped initial surgery but his recovery included spending a month in a wheelchair.

Morris made a return in the VFL reserves in April this year but suffered a setback and required an operation to repair a stress fracture.

He was placed on the long-term injury list in June and failed to return to the field this season.

McCartney said the Dogs believed he could play a part in their 2013 campaign.

“He was making good steps towards the end of the year but we thought it was probably better to wait until next year,” McCartney told SEN.

“There’s still a little bit of work to do with him being able to run at a good speed on a harder surface and being able to deal with it, but we’ve been patient.

“He’s incredibly important, but we know there’s going to be some adjustment.

“What we were able to find through that this year [is] a couple of young defenders who are going to take us forward too, which is really important to the club.”

The Bulldogs “have an eye” on looking for a key forward in the pre-season but will approach the next few months with focus on the NAB AFL Draft in November rather than free agency.

They also have ambition to bolster the midfield.

“I don’t think we’ll do too much [with free agency]. We have enough picks to stockpile some great young talent but also lever those picks to maybe bring some people into the system who have played two or three years,” he said.

“[Players] who have been through the tough first 18 months of footy where you’re just so tired you can’t function properly and they’re ready to maybe absorb more work.

“It’s going to be interesting, I think, once the ducks start to move in the next few weeks. A fair bit might open up.”

McCartney described the first half of the Bulldogs’ season as “very progressive” before the team fell away.

They failed to record a win after round 12 and finished 15th.

“In the second half, we struggled to deal with our opposition and the demands of the game on a young group and a big injury list,” he said.

McCartney said he believed the current list of 38 players plus rookies needed extension to cope with sore players, and liked the idea of an “expanded rookie list”.

“It could maybe be a rookie list where they’re not all available to be on your primary list but you could have your governance and keep an eye on them and bring them along,” he said.

“When they do progress, you can move them onto the next stage of the rookie list and then up onto the primary list.”

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have announced they will field a stand-alone team in the VFL from 2014, ending their alignment with Williamstown a year early.

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