Joel Freijah in action during Footscray's clash against Casey in round two of the VFL on March 30, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

THE WESTERN Bulldogs will unveil their fourth debutant of the season in Saturday night's clash against Richmond, with first-year winger Joel Freijah set to earn his chance at the MCG.

Freijah, a hard-running 191cm winger, has enjoyed an impressive VFL season after being recruited to the Whitten Oval with the No.45 pick in last year's national draft out of the Greater Western Victoria Rebels program.

The teenager has averaged 22.2 disposals and 7.4 marks per game to earn his opportunity and join Harvey Gallagher, Ryley Sanders and Charlie Clarke as the fourth Dogs debutant this season.

Freijah was told the news on Thursday morning and will look to inspire a Western Bulldogs outfit that has made a disappointing 3-5 start to the campaign.


Speaking on Thursday, Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge insisted he was not feeling any more pressure than he has in the past, and instead feels supported by the club.

The heat was turned up on the Bulldogs and their 2016 premiership coach after Sunday's loss to Hawthorn condemned them to a 3-5 start to the season, and their fourth defeat in five games.

Luke Beveridge addresses his players during the round six match between St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium, April 18, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

"I'm probably blind or oblivious to it (criticism) a little bit," Beveridge said.

"What I do notice is how many supportive and great people come my way to express their care and their love sometimes, and I think it’s during times like these where you appreciate the goodness of people.

"I sort of get an inkling that I'm the centre of attention through how many messages and phone calls I get. 

"But part of my coping technique is to just keep my head in the game and what I can control and focus on making sure everyone here knows that I'm in the right place.

"The pressure's always there. I don't feel it any less or any more."

Club president Kylie Watson-Wheeler told ABC radio it was too early in the season for the Bulldogs to "panic" or "make rash decisions" regarding their coach, contracted until the end of 2025.

On Wednesday football boss Matthew Egan expressed his dismay at "aggressive and personal" attacks on the senior coach, while midfielder Adam Treloar also defended Beveridge.

When asked if criticism had crossed the line, Beveridge said: "I don't tend to worry about it too much these days. 

"It's just really important that I don't pay much attention to that.


"The opinions and the scrutiny of what I do within the football club is most important to me, and the messaging and the care and love for me and the journey we're on has been really strong and I'm really grateful for that."

Beveridge has spoken with Watson-Wheeler, Egan, chief executive Ameet Bains and some players, including injured young gun Cody Weightman, who called to check in on him.

"I love the fact that people want to do that, but I don't necessarily need it," he said.

"I say to my closest friends, 'don't text me, don't call me, I'm OK', but they're always concerned. 

"But ultimately, I'm in a really good place and really looking forward to this next challenge."

The Bulldogs changed up their routine by heading to St Kilda Sea Baths on Tuesday rather than conducting a standard review.

Beveridge conceded blocking out scrutiny would naturally be harder for his players.

Marcus Bontempelli looks dejected after the round eight match between the Western Bulldogs and Hawthorn at Marvel Stadium, May 5, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

"We'd be telling porky pies if we said that the players weren't affected by the outside noise," he said.

"The critical thing in today's day and age is that the players don't come into the club feeling like they're under the same kind of scrutiny as they are externally. 

"This has got to be a safe place. It's somewhere that they can come and feel like they belong and work together and that's really evident. The players are really close. 

"And as much as we haven't won as many games as we would've liked to at this stage of the year, their approach and commitment hasn't wavered."