Dogs' defensive 'chief' eyes finals debut

Alex Keath's maiden AFL season at the Western Bulldogs has been a success for player and club.
Alex Keath's maiden AFL season at the Western Bulldogs has been a success for player and club.

It didn't take long for Alex Keath to find his feet at the Western Bulldogs.

The former Adelaide backman arrived at Whitten Oval in last year's AFL trade period and quickly made an impression around his new club - then on the field.

Despite arriving at the Bulldogs off the back of lower leg surgery, Keath worked his way through pre-season, debuted in round one and played every game of a truncated home and away season.

On Saturday, the key defender is poised to make his finals debut against St Kilda - another milestone in a unique, challenging first season at the Bulldogs.

"Unique's the right word, its been really different and in a lot of ways," Keath told AAP.

"But definitely the positive out of it as a new player has been spending more time with the players around games and away from footy.

"So I think that's been a real benefit for guys like myself and Josh Bruce in terms of settling in and making a few friends."

There's been an adjustment on the field, too.

Keath made his mark at the Crows as an interceptor - using his smarts and athleticism to cut off opposition attacks before they even arrived.

At the Bulldogs he has had the responsibility of handling the competition's key forwards.

It's a challenge the 28-year-old has embraced.

"I have enjoyed it," Keath said.

"It's been a slightly different role but I think every one of our defenders can be flexible in the way they play, to be able to get the ball but also defend hard when it's your turn.

"... In the backline there's a nice mix of youth and excitement and a bit of maturity and experience.

"So we've got some decent chemistry back there, we tend to support each other and we're looking forward to playing our first final together."

A former cricketer who didn't make his AFL debut until the age of 25, Keath's transformation into a defensive stalwart and organiser has earned the respect of his teammates.

"He's got an absolute cool, calm, collected head and that reliability," Easton Wood told AAP.

"We call him 'The Chief' because we just know that Chief's behind us and he's got it sorted.

"He's been awesome, he's been a fantastic addition to the club on the field and off as well.

"He's become much-loved by the boys in a very, very quick time, which is a testament to the man.

"I love having him right behind me."

Australian Associated Press