When the rumours surfaced last year that ‘Bevo’ was being poached by a rival AFL club, none of us wanted to even imagine what it would be like to not have him as our senior coach anymore.

Personally, I suppose at the back of my mind, I kind of expected that Bevo’s name would get mentioned at some stage as there were a number of senior coaching vacancies in the game during the middle of last season and any AFL club would be silly not to ask the question to him.

I’m obviously conflicted in my opinion, but in my eyes he is the best coach in the game.

Clearly, news and rumours travel fast in our game and he made it a point during one of our team meetings, to address what many of us were hearing from various people around the league.

‘Bevo’ couldn’t have been any more emphatic in his message: “Boys, don’t believe a word of it. I’m not going anywhere,” he asserted.

Excluding draft day, making my debut for the club and winning the 2016 premiership alongside my Bulldogs brothers, that team meeting marks one of my favourite days in footy.

Hearing ‘Bevo’ talk so passionately about his reasons for wanting to stay and reiterating the significance of what we are in the process of building at ‘The Kennel’, made me fall in love with the club all over again.

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Anyone who is involved at a footy club, be it grassroots, amateur or at AFL level, know there are people who, without necessarily their desire in doing so, become the fabric and backbone of your organisation.

It is no secret that ‘Bevo’ has become that person for us.

Throughout the various levels that I have played this great game, I’ve never met or come across anybody who remotely resembles Luke Beveridge.

His approach to coaching and leadership is unlike anything I have ever seen before; ‘Bevo’ is a relationships man and while it isn’t the norm to do so, he prioritises you as a “person” over you as the “footballer”, which in essence only makes you want to play even harder for him.

Despite being at the club for five years now, I still haven’t quite worked out just how he does it.

Marcus Bontempelli is probably my closest mate at the club and we speak on it all the time, the influence and belief he is able to instill in his team of 22 each week.

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Never disappoints

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I reckon, what ‘Bevo’ worked out a long time ago was the influence he could actually have on the playing group, away from the training facility.

I’ve personally enjoyed all the coffees that he and I have shared together, even just in my short time in the game. We’ve had conversations on end, with many of them being totally non-footy related.

During the summer of 2018, I remember sitting down with him in his office and discussing the midfield role that he saw me playing in 2019.

Obviously, prior to that, my primary position was playing as a high half-forward, having the ability to move up the ground but having more of a focus on forward pressure and creating scoring opportunities.

I was fairly confident that I could make the transition and compliment the likes of Jack Macrae, Lachie Hunter and of course Marcus around the stoppages.

But having Bevo in my ear, he really helped me understand how I could focus on my own game and in doing so benefit the team as a whole.

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He has a great way of conveying to us the importance of performing our role for the team, while also not holding back on the team through hesitation or fear of messing up team structures.

It isn’t so much confidence, but rather trust that he has for us, as it relates to how he wants us to play the game.

I certainly know that approach and style helped me become the footballer I am today.

It’s why I wouldn’t want to play for anyone else and am glad that for the foreseeable future I won’t be.

I honestly believe that in 50 years from now, the Western Bulldogs fraternity will look back and celebrate ‘Bevo’ as being one of the greatest figures in the club’s history.

For now, we value what he brings to our football club and certainly don’t take him for granted.