Reinvented Bulldog feeling AFL finals love

Demon Josh Schache did a great job on Aliir Aliir and now has a big part to play in the grand final.
Demon Josh Schache did a great job on Aliir Aliir and now has a big part to play in the grand final.

Josh Schache is finally feeling the love and coach Luke Beveridge is backing the Western Bulldogs swingman to play a critical AFL grand-final role.

Schache has looked a new man since his round-19 recall after struggling to get a game for much of the past two seasons.

Having orchestrated a brilliant preliminary-final shutdown of Port Adelaide interceptor Aliir Aliir, Schache looks set to play a similar defensive forward role in Saturday's premiership decider against Melbourne at Optus Stadium.

The No.2 draft pick in 2015, Schache has at times looked lost in a career which has yielded just 63 games in six seasons for Brisbane and the Bulldogs.

Now, much to Beveridge's delight, the 201cm big man shapes as a genuine threat at either end of the ground.

"I love the way (the media has) given him a lot of credit after the Port Adelaide game because he did play a significant role last week against the opposition's key interceptors," Beveridge said on Friday.

"So he's got an absolutely critical role tomorrow. He's seems to be really enjoying it and loving the fact that probably for the first time in his career, he's getting some love and he's the centre of attention around the influence that he's having on the field."

Melbourne's athletic All-Australian defender Jake Lever looms as a potential match-up for Schache as the Bulldogs look to disrupt the Demons' intercept marking.

His selfless preliminary-final role prevented Aliir from having any significant influence while also clearing space for Bulldogs spearhead Aaron Naughton.

Back in round 19 when the Bulldogs and Demons last faced off, Schache was summoned to the backline to cover for the injured Alex Keath and Ryan Gardner.

"He was a legitimate key defender that night," Beveridge said.

"With him out and Alex going down, we needed Josh to stand up as a defender and he was tremendous for a few weeks.

"Now he's in probably more of a familiar role of playing that key forward post.

"We probably in recent times haven't had anyone who we've swung either end and 'Schach' can do that, so he becomes that utility that we haven't had."

Australian Associated Press