Morris ready for fullback switch
Bulldogs players say they will support Will Hopoate if he decides to sit out any finals matches should the team be drawn to play on a Sunday.
The Bulldogs fullback has made himself unavailable on the Sabbath day on religious grounds and has already missed three matches this season as a result.
Should the Broncos and Cowboys win their respective Round 26 fixtures, the Bulldogs will either finish sixth or seventh on the Telstra Premiership ladder and face a showdown with the Panthers in a repeat of the 2014 preliminary final.
Both teams would ordinarily be slated to play their finals matches at ANZ Stadium, but scheduling clashes have thrown several spanners in the works for next week.
The Olympic Stadium is set to host an AFL finals match on the Saturday, while Suncorp Stadium is unavailable because of the Rugby Championship.
Given the Panthers play the Sea Eagles in a Sunday night Round 26 match-up, they are unlikely to have to back up on the Friday night, meaning Sunday looms as the only viable option unless a double-header at Allianz Stadium is considered.
The possibility of upsets this weekend means there is no guarantee that Canterbury-Bankstown will play their Week One finals match next Sunday, but if they finish sixth or seventh then history suggests that's when they'll play.
Brett Morris – who played fullback for the blue and whites in 2015 and looms as Hopoate's replacement – said the players would respect their teammate's decision even if it meant he missed a finals match.
"I've got no idea. That's something that's out of our control. That's between Dessie (Bulldogs coach Des Hasler) and Will, and whatever the decision is, the boys will support it 100 per cent," Morris said.
"That's the great thing about Will, his faith. He's just such a humble guy and a great guy to have around the club. He has our support no matter what."
Fellow Bulldog Michael Lichaa said matters of religion were solely up to the individual.
"I'd love him to play but it's up to him. It's between him and Des and whatever happens, happens," Lichaa said.
"It's not up to us to sway him. It's really his decision. I haven't really spoken to him too much about it [because] it's not really my business. It's a subject that's pretty hard to talk about because I don't really know the ins and outs of it all.
"He's a good mate of mine and I'll back him whatever he does."
The Bulldogs hooker said the club had a readymade replacement should Hopoate make himself unavailable, and backed Morris to handle the shift to the back if called upon.
"We'll get on with it because we've got some other blokes that can play fullback," he continued.
"B-Moz is pretty handy there so if it does come to that then I'm sure he'll handle it well. You saw what he did last year when he was back there and he was unbelievable.
"Obviously we want Hoppa to play, but then again we respect his religion and what he's doing."
Should Hopoate sit out, Morris will likely step in to don the No.1 jersey. It's a position he's played 46 times, including both of Canterbury's finals matches in 2015.
The 30-year-old said he had been spending some time at the back at training and would be ready to fill the void if called upon.
"I've played a lot of footy there so it's not an issue," Morris said.
"The thing with most clubs is guys will train in a variety of positions. You're not just accustomed to playing one position, so a lot of guys in the team have trained in a lot of positions for worst case scenarios if blokes get injured."