AFL grand final: Tom Liberatore admits different build-up for fresh Bulldogs flag tilt

Ben SmithThe West Australian
Tom Liberatore looms large ahead of Saturday.
Camera IconTom Liberatore looms large ahead of Saturday. Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos/AFL Photos via Getty Images

Western Bulldogs workhorse Tom Liberatore says the build-up to Perth’s once in a lifetime grand final has been a markedly different experience from his side’s previous flag tilt.

This year’s Perth grand final week has been a world away from the festivities usually taking place in Melbourne in the lead-up to the big game, including the AFL’s decision to not hold its Friday parade.

Additionally, both sides were given a week’s respite from finals footy, with the AFL opting to hold this year’s grand final a full fortnight after the preliminary finals.

With the two Victorian sides robbed of a traditional grand final week in their home state due to the pandemic, Liberatore admitted the build-up had been different to the one the Dogs experienced on their way to a drought-breaking premiership win in 2016.

“It hasn’t been as intense because we’re away from home. I think it’s been a little bit more unnerving, having an extra week off, being away from all the support back home, but I think it will start to ramp up a bit the next couple of days,” he said.

MORE AFL:

With just eight players remaining from that faithful Footscray outfit that won in 2016, Liberatore said the more experienced players were encouraging the younger members of the team to enjoy the experience.

“It’s been a really good atmosphere that last four weeks since we travelled and that’s certainly helped us bond really well together and get used to something we haven’t faced before,” he said.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 01: Tom Liberatore of the Bulldogs shares a beer with his dad Tony Liberatore during the 2016 Toyota AFL Grand Final match between the Sydney Swans and the Western Bulldogs at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on October 01, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media)
Camera IconTom Liberatore of the Bulldogs shares a beer with his dad Tony after the 2016 flag win. Credit: Adam Trafford/AFL Media

The Bulldogs and the Demons split their two match-ups in the home-and-away season, and Saturday’s clash promises to be a tight affair.

With the respective sides’ much-vaunted midfields set to be one of the key factors in the game, Liberatore said he was anticipating another tight encounter between the two engine rooms.

“We’ve had a couple of good battles this year. We’ve had one apiece,” he said.

“It’ll be a great challenge for both teams and it will certainly go down to the wire.”

Bulldogs skipper Marcus Bontempelli came within a whisker of winning his first Brownlow Medal on Sunday, but Liberatore said it was unlikely to affect his captain come grand final day.

“As soon as it was announced, we all got around him and he had a smile on his face anyway. We’re just really proud of what he’s done this year, not only as a player but as a captain,” he said.

“He shrugged it off pretty easily, so he’s all focused for Saturday.”

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails