Hamilton-born Bulldog faces tough grand final test

THAT GRINNING FEELING: Hamilton's Liam Picken is excited and relieved to be playing in the AFL grand final this weekend. Picture: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

THAT GRINNING FEELING: Hamilton's Liam Picken is excited and relieved to be playing in the AFL grand final this weekend. Picture: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

BULLDOGS hard-nut Liam Picken is adamant his club won’t be swept up in the highly-charged emotions surrounding its first AFL grand final in 55 years.

Picken, who honed his skills with the Hamilton Magpies in the Western Border league, has morphed into one of the Western Bulldogs’ most crucial cogs  as a run-with midfielder.

He is expected to line up alongside Camperdown export Easton Wood for Saturday’s AFL decider after a 21-disposal and six tackle game against Greater Western Sydney in the preliminary final.

Picken, a former tagger who has re-invented his game under new coach Luke Beveridge, said an overriding feeling of relief and excitement had swept through the senior side after the final siren in the preliminary final.

“To be able to get over the line was very special, and even just singing the song in the rooms… But we know we have to come back down to focus on this week fairly quickly,” he told The Standard.

“A lot of things like injuries and whatnot have created a really strong bond between all of us.

“It’s brought the group closer together. It makes things like this (grand final) more special.”

The 30-year-old, who was selected with pick 30 in the 2009 rookie draft as a mature-age recruit, has played in all 25 of the Western Bulldogs’ games this season – their most successful in the past five decades.

He said the chance to play on the grandest stage of football was the realisation of a childhood dream.

Picken said even though the Bulldogs experienced a tough patch prior to the 2015 season – which included the departure of coach Brendan McCartney and captain Ryan Griffen – belief always existed at the club.

“Every kid plays footy to hopefully one day win a premiership and that’s a childhood thing I had,” he said.

The Western Bulldogs will face off against the Sydney Swans at the MCG on Saturday.

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