LUKE Beveridge says an early-season loss to Melbourne still lives fresh in the memories of the Western Bulldogs as they push towards a fairytale top-four berth.
The Dogs went down to the Demons by 39 points at the MCG in round eight in a performance Beveridge described as the only game this season his young outfit hasn't brought its best effort.
But now, sitting in fifth spot and with the chance to jump back ahead of the Sydney Swans, the Dogs will use that defeat as a warning to take nothing for granted at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
"They were really good that day the Demons. We keep trying to look forward, but there's no doubt that that's in the memory banks a little bit," Beveridge said.
"Which is great, because it will really keep us on the edge to help us understand going into this game on Sunday that the Demons' best footy's been very, very good.
"It was probably the one game we felt like we didn't get an even contribution from our boys – and they know that.
"You can't afford to have too many down. Some of that was forced by Melbourne's really good play and their pressure. So they get most of the credit, but we felt like we were slightly off."
That loss was the end of a three-game slide for the Bulldogs, who have since recovered by winning eight of their past 10 games to surge into top-four calculations.
But Beveridge has consistently said he won't even talk finals until the Dogs are locked in for post-season action.
"As I said last week, we're still a mathematical chance to miss out on the whole lot, the whole shooting match," he said.
"So we are doing our best not to (talk about it). Everyone's thinking about it, it's just there as I've said. But we want to chalk up win after win to make sure we're in there."
Melbourne forward Jesse Hogan looms as the Dogs' major stumbling block this weekend, with the NAB AFL Rising Star favourite booting three goals last time the teams met and four in a dominant effort last round against North Melbourne.
"I watched him last week against the Kangaroos and he was really impressive, up high in between the arcs but deep as well," Beveridge said.
"He's probably the biggest scoring threat, especially from an aerial point-of-view, but at ground level, (Jeff) Garlett's dangerous and there's others that are dangerous and their mids can kick goals, so we need to prepare for that."
But in the Dogs' favour this time is their home ground advantage at Etihad Stadium – coupled with Melbourne's hoodoo at the Docklands venue.
Beveridge's outfit has won seven-straight under the roof, where the Demons have been beaten in their past 21 outings stretching back to round 19, 2007.
The Dogs have also welcomed back skipper Bob Murphy after he was rested last week while, in more good news, vice-captain Jordan Roughead (foot) and fellow key defender Fletcher Roberts (ankle) return from stints on the sidelines in the VFL.
The Dogs had 39 players on the track this week and have managed their list so that only two players – Tory Dickson and Luke Dahlhaus – have appeared in every AFL game.
Beveridge believes his side can maintain their manic playing style in the run home and has his fingers crossed they remain healthy.
"We feel like the weather will turn soon and that puts a spring in your step, so we feel like if we can get there, we're in good shape," he said.
"But we've got to get there first."