Matthew Boyd will welcome the return of his successor as captain with open arms this weekend, but says the Western Bulldogs know it is what they do as a collective rather than any inspiration Ryan Griffen can provide that will dictate how they respond to their opening-round disappointment.
The Bulldogs were given a 65-point jolt by West Coast at Patersons Stadium last weekend. Boyd said they were beaten at their own contested-ball game. He sat down with Griffen on Tuesday to plot a swift response, and said all at Whitten Oval were acutely aware of what is required against North Melbourne on Sunday.
"When your captain comes back into the side, and such a great player for us, so important, it gives guys a lift," Boyd said of Griffen's imminent return from a back complaint. "But we can't rely on just injecting the side with talent to get us back to playing the sort of footy we want.
"[That] isn't based around skill or talent, it's based around the desire to work and to work for each other. Griff adds to that, no doubt about that, but we've all got to pick up the slack."
Boyd, who had 31 possessions and was among the Dogs' best last Sunday in his first game after three seasons as captain, said he knew the helplessness Griffen felt last weekend, having himself missed the first three games of 2013 with a calf injury. "[You feel] in some ways like you're letting your teammates down by not being out there."
But he was adamant only a united and concerted response would bring the desired result against the Kangaroos, a team he regards as a top-four contender despite its own round-one defeat against Essendon.
"It's been a pretty honest appraisal from coaches and players, that's the pleasing thing – we're not trying to sugar-coat anything or hide behind travel, heat, the timeslot, all those things. The intensity and the endeavour wasn't there at the required standard, and it's now the responsibility of the players to fix it.
"You've got to be really resilient to play AFL footy and to be any good. I think our resilience is growing – the time before disappointment and getting back on the wagon and back into the next contest is getting shorter, and I think that shows a sign of a maturing team."
The 31-year-old veteran of 221 games said the major deficiency against the Eagles, who won the contested possession count 160-125, was "a fixable problem to have, because we know we're good at it and we know we can get back to doing it".
He said his own role in picking the team up was no different to when he was captain. "As a senior player and senior figure around the footy club, like it or not, you're the first person who gets looked to,'' he said.
"We all look to Macca [coach Brendan McCartney] to see how he responds and how he turns up on Tuesday to the footy club, and from there players look to senior people in the playing group. If we're dragging our bums behind us walking in on Tuesday and today, that sets the tone for the footy club, and you can't afford to do that.
"I think we showed some pretty good form over the pre-season and showed some real improvement, so the opportunity this week is that we get to go back out there and play the Bulldog way, and show ourselves that we can do it and the footy world that the style of footy we play will hold up and be really competitive. That's a great opportunity."
The story Matthew Boyd says it will take more than return of Ryan Griffen to lift Bulldogs first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.