Sharp Libba has Doggies barking
WESTERN Bulldogs midfielder Tom Liberatore is making good on a pre-season pledge his club hopes can see him return to his best football.
Liberatore, a free agent at the end of 2018, has been among the eye catchers over the summer at Whitten Oval after an indifferent 2017.
Liberatore returned to pre-season early after being among a number of high-profile Bulldogs to endure form woes last year, the 25-year-old dumped mid-season as his club looked for ways to turn around their year.
But Bulldogs assistant Ashley Hansen said the pre-season signs pointed to the tackling machine rebounding from his last year's up-and-down season.
"He's been fantastic, working really hard," Hansen told the AFL website.
"We've started to really see what he's capable of on a consistent basis, week to week, which is exciting.
"It is an important time of the year, and certainly Tom's put in the work so far to set himself up for a strong season in 2018."
After a slow start last season, Liberatore was dropped after his team's Round 8 loss to West Coast after having just one kick among eight touches.
He returned in Round 13, enjoying one of his best games of the season, but his form mirrored his team as the Dogs battled to regain their premiership-winning mojo.
Liberatore's manager, Tom Williams, ruled out a potential move post-season as 'Libba' returned to training early in a bid to prepare for 2018.
Hansen said there was a hunger among the Bulldogs, with Liberatore and fellow free agent Luke Dahlhaus not the only ones impressing.
"Certainly the way the players have presented themselves and the way they're training at the moment, we couldn't be happier," he said.
"And we were expecting a response because they're all really proud footballers, highly competitive, and they want to turn it around as much as anyone.
"Our younger guys, that middle bracket of Bailey Dale, Toby McLean and Caleb Daniel are starting to take their training to a new level which has been really exciting."
Hansen, in charge of the forwards under Luke Beveridge, said there'd be no armchair ride for new recruit and former no.2 draft pick Josh Schache.
"If he's in our best six (forwards) come Round 1, he'll play," Hansen said.
"We're still in the process of trying to find the best combination, and that'll change throughout the course of the year and could change over that fortnight of the JLT (Series)."