Stringer thankful to be in AFL grand final
Photo Source: AAP
Barely a month ago, Western Bulldogs star Jake Stringer was plying his trade in front of a few hundred VFL supporters in suburban Werribee.
Now the 22-year-old is preparing to line up in front of 100,000 fans at the MCG in Saturday's AFL grand final.
The powerfully-built forward was dropped to the seconds after a series of lacklustre performances which belied his undeniable talent and prompted criticism from some of the game's greats.
"He's a powerful beast but to me, he's looking for maximum reward from minimum effort and minimum contact to him," Hawthorn legend Dermott Brereton told SEN radio at the time.
Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge was, realistically, never going to exile a player of Stringer's talent for too long, especially leading into the AFL finals.
But Stringer took his medicine, put in the hard yards and earned a call-up for the Bulldogs' elimination final win over West Coast, going on to boot three goals the following week against Hawthorn.
"Just workrate. That was literally the only thing," Stringer said of Beveridge's feedback.
"Get back and work hard, and I'll get my spot back. That was pretty much what I did.
"I went back, worked hard, got a couple of kicks in the VFL, which was nice, and had a run on-ball. And I was lucky enough to get back in."
An All-Australian in 2015 after booting 56 goals, Stringer has had less impact this year but still looms as one of the most important players in the Bulldogs' 22 with his ability to impose himself on games.
With former Hawthorn premiership defender Matthew Suckling the only player on the Bulldogs list to have played a grand final, Stringer reckons the magnitude of the week hasn't quite sunk in yet.
But come Saturday, he's confident of making his mark on the game's biggest stage.
"You hope so," he said.
"There's a lot of water to go under the bridge (before) then.
"We'll just go about this week normally, train hard on Tuesday and Thursday and get ready for Saturday."