Murphy reveals how close he came to retirement

iFrameResize({resizedCallback : function(messageData){}},’#pez_iframe_afl_video’); ‘They’ll get better’: Bulldogs season preview

Days away from his first AFL game in almost a year, Bob Murphy has made his motivations clear, confirming there was “not a chance” he would have played on in 2017 had he played in the Western Bulldogs’ drought-breaking grand final victory.

Murphy is set to return to the MCG on Friday night as the Bulldogs open their premiership defence against Collingwood. It will mark the Dogs captain’s first bona fide game since tearing his ACL in the round three loss to Hawthorn at Etihad Stadium in April last year.

Murphy, 34, contemplated retirement after the injury but eventually re-signed with the Dogs mid-season.

He watched from the sidelines as Luke Beveridge’s side mounted its improbable climb to the summit, which culminated with a grand final win over Sydney, and emotional scenes as Beveridge handed his premiership medallion to the injured skipper.

As the Dogs prepare to challenge for back-to-back flags, Murphy says he would not be playing had he been part of the 2016 premiership team.

“Not a chance,” Murphy told Fairfax Media.

“If I played last year I would never have played again.”

The dual All-n is one of several players from outside the grand final 22 poised to play important roles in the premiership tilt. Key forward Travis Cloke arrived from the Magpies during last October’s trade period in a bid to bolster the Dogs’ middling attack. Lin Jong, Matt Suckling, Jack Redpath, Mitch Wallis and Stewart Crameri also missed the decider through a mixture of injury, form and suspension, but are also likely to figure at senior level to varying degrees this year. Murphy said that when he looked around the club’s change rooms he realised that there was a fight looming for spots at AFL level. “We’ve got a lot of depth at our footy club, and that’s such a positive for all of us, but also guys are territorial,” he said. iFrameResize({resizedCallback : function(messageData){}},’#pez_iframe_afl_video’);

“It gets tougher every year to get a game. Our training standard in the last five years is a lot better than it was five years before.” Podcast: Footy from a fresh perspective

However, Murphy said he didn’t think either incumbents or those who missed out last year should be given preferential treatment in the event of tight selection calls. “If you start trying to second-guess selection with different theories I think you’ll make a rod for your back.

“What’s the old cricket analogy, just play each ball on its merits? I think you’ve just got to judge each spot on its merits, and whoever’s got themselves in the best position before round one, well that’s who you go with.”

Murphy said both Wallis and Redpath were tracking well in their recovery from season-ending injuries suffered against St Kilda last July. Wallis broke his leg while Redpath required a knee reconstruction, but Murphy tipped both would be playing again before too long. “They’re both training hard and they look good. More than anything when they’re moving they just look good, and they look fit. So we expect to see them pretty soon.”

He also looked forward to the return of luckless rookie half-back Josh Prudden, who went through rehabilitation with Murphy after tearing his ACL days after the skipper’s injury. “His knee’s great, he’s just had a few little hiccups. But he’s back, he’s in full training and I’d love to see Josh out there, he deserves a crack at it.”

Overall Murphy said he was excited to again take the field in the season proper. “It’s hard not to get swept up in the optimism of a new year. [I] just can’t wait to get out there and be one of the boys again and get the season rolling. There’s nothing quite like getting into it.” iFrameResize({resizedCallback : function(messageData){}},’#pez_iframe_afl_tiles’);