JACK Macrae has backed under-fire teammate Adam Treloar to return to form after several quiet performances and a role change since returning from injury.
The prized Bulldogs recruit was criticised by Matthew Lloyd on AFL.com.au’s Access All Areas for poor body language and defensive efforts in his team's one-point semi-final triumph over Brisbane.
Lloyd said Treloar looked like a player who didn't enjoy his current role, that he needed to "suck it up" and urged coach Luke Beveridge to talk to the midfielder about his body language.
The Bulldogs have the deepest midfield in the competition, and Treloar has found it difficult to build minutes at centre stoppages since returning from an 11-week layoff with a syndesmosis injury.
He is averaging 19.0 disposals and 3.4 centre bounce attendances since returning to the side (down from 25.0 and 12.1 pre-injury), and recorded just 10 touches and zero clearances against the Lions.
"There's (only) so many spots in the midfield, and the form he was in in the first 10 weeks of the season before he hurt his ankle was some of the best footy I think he's ever played," Macrae said.
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"He was just amazing for our team. I'm backing him in to get back into that form and he's been a class player his whole career, so you don't just lose that overnight. So I'm going to back him in, we're all going to back him in to get back to his best and hopefully that comes on Saturday night.
"He's a very experienced player and has been a terrific player his whole career, so it's probably not one for me to worry about or focus on."
Superstar skipper Marcus Bontempelli has escaped structural damage to his knee after sustaining a knock late in the nail-biting semi-final, but is no certainty to take his place against Port Adelaide.
"We've got training today (Tuesday) and Thursday, so we'll see how the week pans out. It's still quite a long way away from the game on Saturday night. 'Bonty' is a true professional and he'll give himself every chance to get up and play," Macrae said.
"He hasn't missed a game in four years, he's one of the most professional players I've ever seen, so he's going to give himself every chance.
"A 50 per cent Bont is probably better than most of the competition anyway, if we're being honest. We'll wait and see, it's still a long time to play out and we're not going to take any silly risks if it's not right. We'll give him every chance."
Macrae suggested medi-sub Jason Johannisen may be promoted to the starting 22 as cover for the concussed Cody Weightman, and backed Tim English to play increased time in the ruck against Port's powerful combination of Scott Lycett and Peter Ladhams.