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Josh Bruce to return to defence, Rory Lobb trade from Fremantle, Liam Jones

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He may be in the back of supporters’ minds after a massive boost to the club’s key position stocks, but Josh Bruce wants to become a mainstay in the Western Bulldogs’ defence this season.

The 30-year-old, who struggled last season in his return from an ACL injury, said he wanted to “get ahead of the curve” and raised discussions of a switch to defence with coaches when he heard rumours Fremantle big man Rory Lobb was on his way to Whitten Oval.

Bruce managed only one goal in his five home-and-away games after returning in Round 18, with the Bulldogs dropping him for their elimination final and instead opting to deploy Sam Darcy in attack.

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“It was probably my idea towards the end of last year … coming back from my knee injury, I certainly wasn’t playing the way that I was capable of and didn’t have the confidence in my body when I was coming back and playing forward,” Bruce said.

“I had a chat in my exit meeting to the coaches about potentially doing some of pre-season down back and learning my craft down there.

Josh Bruce said he had enjoyed competing with the Bulldogs’ key forwards, including Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (right) during match simulation over the pre-season. Picture: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

“It’s been a good summer down there, I’m really enjoying the change up – it’s been really refreshing.”

Bruce plied his trade as a defender for GWS in 2012 and 2013 before he was recruited to St Kilda and thrown forward. He said he was bemused to find himself partnering Liam Jones in the Bulldogs’ backline over the pre-season.

“Liam Jones has come in and we’ve had some incredible battles throughout the years … I initially played back on him when he was forward, and then he played back on me when I was forward,” he said.

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“And now we’re back playing for the same team and in the same backline which is great, we’ve got a great partnership coming through.”

Bruce is likely to compete with Ryan Gardner and Alex Keath for one key defensive spot alongside Jones and 19-year-old Darcy, who he said was not only impressing on the track but in the ocean during the Bulldogs’ pre-season training camp on the Mornington Peninsula.

“Sam Darcy is built for the water, he’s a machine in there,” Bruce said after the team went swimming on Tuesday.

“There’s not much he can’t do the young fella. He’s got some serious talent, and I just can’t believe how tall they are getting these days … the key position players are 210(cm) and not 194 anymore or 197 like me.”

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