Point Cook Bulldogs need top troops

Injured star Julian Mandahl is important to Point Cook’s forward structure. Picture: Damjan Janevski

Injury-hit Point Cook faces a race against time to be at full strength for the Victorian Amateur Football Association’s division 4 finals.

The Bulldogs have suffered from a lengthy casualty list in recent weeks and their results have been negatively effected.

The Dogs have fallen out of the comfort of second place, which they occupied from rounds three to 10, to third in the past two weeks.

It’s only one spot in the standings but it is significant, as second place offers a double chance in the finals, while third means a cut- throat elimination final.

Bulldogs coach Ian Denny told Star Weekly his club’s injury list should be cut dramatically in the next three weeks.

“We’ve got five games to go, so, hopefully, we’ll get a few players back from injury over the next two or three weeks,” he said.

“We’ll work hard over the next three weeks and get a bit of an understanding of who is going to be in our team.

“We’ll play our best team in the lead-up to the finals to try to finalise things.”

The trouble for Point Cook is that the star players are the ones who have been unavailable.

Julian Mandahl, the side’s centre-half forward, left a massive void after having surgery on a broken finger.

“He’s been a big loss to us,” Denny said. “He’s probably the best centre-half forward in the competition.”

The Bulldogs have also missed the dash of the Auciello boys, Phil and Andrew.

Andrew, the 2013 club best and fairest, is on the verge of returning from working in Denmark, while Phil is coming back to match fitness through the reserves.

The X-factor at the Dogs may well be Pierce Dawson, a recent signing from WAFL side Peel Thunder.

Dawson, a utility with exquisite skills on both sides of the body, has been restricted with a thigh injury.

“Take away your centre-half forward, a key on-baller and a couple of quicks and it hurts,” Denny said.

Others have stepped up for Point Cook in their absence.

Dawson’s brother, William, is the Bulldogs’ leading goalkicker, with 28.

And Ben Cox, third in last year’s best-and-fairest count, has excelled in new positions at wing and half-back.

Jed Eastwood has shown his versatility to play both back and on-ball, while full back Matt Rocco has nullified the best forwards in the competition.

With the return of the injured players in the coming weeks, Denny is confident his side can give the premiership a shake, even though the sky-high percentages of top-two Canterbury and Westbourne Grammarians suggests those are the teams to beat.

“We really believe we’re a genuine chance if we get everyone on deck,” he said.

The Bulldogs will be fresh for Saturday’s road trip to Parkside after a bye last weekend for the VAFA representative games. It will be the first in a line of games running into the finals against sides below them on the ladder.

“We play all teams below us, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll win them,” Denny cautioned.

“The expectation is we should win most of them, if not all, knowing the fact we’re going to get some of our players back.”