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Ryder's loss to unsettle opposition: Westhoff

Harry Thring  February 9, 2016 1:02 PM

AFL 2015 Rd 19 - Western Bulldogs v Port Adelaide

Justin Westhoff says Patrick Ryder's loss for the season may unsettle opposition teams

JUSTIN Westhoff is happy to back up Matthew Lobbe in the ruck this year, and says the loss of Patrick Ryder could help Port Adelaide unsettle opposition midfields.

The Power fielded one of the more unpredictable ruck combinations in 2014 before Ryder arrived from Essendon, with Lobbe, Westhoff and key defender Jackson Trengove all sharing responsibility at various stages.

While coach Ken Hinkley would undoubtedly have preferred to enter 2016 with a one-two combination of Lobbe and Ryder, the former Don's absence will force the club to rethink its approach.

But Westhoff said the silver lining of Ryder's suspension might be the side's unpredictability in the ruck department.

"I'm happy to play a ruck role, and probably 'Jacko' a little bit as well," Westhoff said.

"It kind of changes the dynamics for us through the midfield and I think that's always a plus for us.

"It's a different look … mixes it up from what other teams have seen in the past."

Recruit Charlie Dixon is another who will likely spend some time in the ruck, although skipper Travis Boak recently suggested he'd likely spend the bulk of games in attack.

Dixon will then look to form a tight bond with Westhoff as the Power's two tallest forwards.

Their on-field synergy took a hit last week, though, when Dixon underwent minor knee surgery.

The operation could rule Dixon out of the NAB Challenge, robbing the pair of invaluable on-field time in which to jel.

Westhoff said they had already made strides towards forming a partnership, but added he was keen to see how they worked together in matches. 

"We've probably [been building that relationship] over the past three months anyway, but it's obviously a different vibe when you play alongside of him in an actual game," he said.

"He'll be around late NAB [Challenge] or even round one, so definitely looking forward to playing with him."