Front and Centre: Bulldogs royalty place Bob Murphy in pantheon

A pack of Western Bulldogs royalty has crowned captain Bob Murphy a member of the club's "Magnificent Seven", as the cult figure gets set to play his 300th game on Saturday.

Murphy's foot skills, resilience and character have been applauded by three club legends, each of them telling ESPN the much-loved skipper deserved a place in the club's pantheon of greats.

"He's probably in the best two or three 'both-sided players' the club has ever produced that I can remember, and that includes Aker [Jason Akermanis] and Leon Cameron," Bulldogs icon Doug Hawkins told ESPN.

"He can stop on a five cent piece and change direction and kick it either side to a target short or long. Not many blokes can do it. There are seven guys that have now played 300. You want to call it the 'Magnificent Seven', we can call it that.

"To be at the age of 34 and to have a knee reconstruction, you don't normally come back.

"When I did mine it took me a good two years to find some touch - and I was 26. He's come back and hasn't missed a beat and he's still got that change of direction. He goes in the high brackets of one of the Footscray greats, there's no doubt about it."

Charlie Sutton Medal winner Brad Hardie hopes Murphy will be remembered for his bravery on the field, not for last year's heart-breaking season-ending knee injury that saw him miss the club's fairytale premiership victory.

"[He'll be remembered] glowingly. It shouldn't, but his knee's probably going to define his career," Hardie told ESPN. "You mention Bob Murphy and someone will go, 'Argh poor bugger to miss the Grand Final', but it shouldn't be that way.

"I think there's only one Dougie Hawkins and only one Ted Whitten. Those guys are at the top of the queue. He's universally loved by not only Bulldogs supports, but all supporters."

Brownlow Medal winner Tony Liberatore echoed the sentiments of his former teammates, and quipped that the club should look at taking him on as a historian upon his retirement.

"He's up there, that's for sure as one of the club's greats," Liberatore told ESPN. "To play 300 games is a big effort.

"I hope the club keep him in some sort of capacity. He's some such a great servant of the footy club. You couldn't get anyone more loyal than Bob. He loves the club and the people within it. He's such a great story-teller and reminds the young kids of the club's history. He could be the next historian."

Murphy will play his milestone match against Brisbane at Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

Why doesn't Brad Scott blood youngsters?

Murmurings are emerging from North Melbourne, where we hear not everyone is delighted with coach Brad Scott's communication skills -- especially with his young players on the periphery of senior selection.

It transpires that Scott gives very little, if any, feedback or encouragement to those on the cusp of selection. Too often, we're told, the players have to approach Scott to ask what areas they need to improve to get a game.

In late January, two months after being drafted, some first-year players were heard to say they had yet to have a conversation with their coach.

Scott's loyalty to his senior players has always been strong. He stuck by the likes of Nick Dal Santo and Drew Petrie last season when they could barely muster a gallop. Same this year with former skipper Andrew Swallow and Sam Gibson, whose sub-par skills and turnovers repeatedly kill forward thrusts.

In a supposed rebuilding year, there's a mob of young Kangaroos wondering why Scott persists in playing these old warriors when they are itching for a chance to prove themselves.

In the past two seasons, Scott has blooded just three rookies -- Trent Dumont (in 2015), Corey Wagner and Ryan Clarke -- while giving game-time to recycled journeymen such as Robin Nahas and Farren Ray.

Clarke and Wagner were among eight players taken by the Roos in the 2014 and 2015 national drafts, but they played a total of 10 games between them -- the fewest in the competition. The Western Bulldogs, by contrast, pumped 128 games into their draftees over those two years.

In November 2015, Scott was granted a two-year contract extension, which took him through to the end of 2018 -- when he'll have been at the club for nine years. But it was not a unanimous board decision.

One director is believed to have stood up at the end of the meeting and declared that the board had just made a big mistake. In fact, he went one step further and said he would be very, very unhappy if the club ended up having to get rid of Scott and pay out his contract. And this is a guy you really don't want to annoy.

Demons counting cost of stupidity

The stupidity of Melbourne pair Jordan Lewis and Jesse Hogan in getting suspended three weeks ago -- for totally unnecessary off-the-ball incidents against Carlton -- has come back to haunt the Dees, big-time.

Instead of being 4-0 after four rounds, Melbourne now sit mid-table on 2-2, with zero momentum, and an important clash against the in-form Richmond at the MCG on Monday.

Until that pair's ridiculous attempts at playing the tough guy -- which Lewis later tried to justify by saying Melbourne had traditionally been viewed as soft, and this was an attempt to dispel that notion -- the Dees had started the season in scorching fashion.

But without their full-forward, and key midfield general, they managed to throw away games against Geelong and Fremantle. Yes, the Cats ended up winning by 29 points -- on the face of it, a comfortable margin -- but Melbourne outplayed them for the best part of three quarters, their efforts only stymied by appalling conversion and lack of leadership in the midfield.

One noted former coach told ESPN this week that the indiscipline of Lewis and Hogan could mean the difference between a Demons' berth in the top eight and an early holiday, such is the hot competition between the mid-table teams.

Ruck rule earns praise of big man

The contentious banning of the third man up in ruck contests has won praise from some of the game's big men.

The rule, swiftly introduced this season, allows only two opposing players to compete for the ball at stoppages. Additional players who impact the contest are penalised.

The rule change has been condemned as fast-tracking the destruction of the traditional ruckman, given the unique tactics introduced by some clubs, like letting the rival tall attack the stoppage unopposed.

But Gold Coast's Jarrod Witts has hailed the controversial rule, saying it could see an influx of bigger bodied, traditional-sized rucks in years to come.

"I quite like the rule. I think there are a few clubs trying to exploit it at the moment. [But] I'm sure that will sort itself out in the coming weeks," Witts told ESPN. "I really enjoy competing just one-on-one. I reckon it's great for the big guys. It's really important for us and gives us a better chance to show off our skills.

"I think it increases the importance on the bigger blokes."

ESPN has been told the rule was mooted a few years back to protect the dominant -- and taller -- ruckman, such as West Coast star Nic Naitanui and Fremantle's Aaron Sandilands. It wasn't endorsed by the then-rules committee, but has been constantly supported by sections of AFL coaches.

Jakovich hurt by fall of Ben Cousins

West Coast legend Glen Jakovich says he is hurt by the tragic decline of some of the club's greats who have spiralled into ruin through drug abuse.

As Brownlow Medal winner Ben Cousins serves a jail sentence for repeated intervention order breaches and drug possession offences, Jakovich is pained to see the lives of Eagles greats unravel before him.

"Ben [Cousins] went straight from school, straight to the West Coast Eagles and within a blink of an eye lid he was a megastar. And rightfully so. He was a handsome, good looking young bloke, he had the charisma, he had the play, he had everything," Jakovich says on SEN's This Is Your Sporting Life, set to air this week.

"Unfortunately now, he's at the bottom of the scrapheap. It hurts us, it hurts me, it hurts the club. It hurts me when I hear the commentary."

A host of former players during the 2000s have struggled since retirement.

Club champion Chris Mainwaring died from a cocaine overdose, while ex-midfielder Chad Fletcher miraculously survived a near-death experience when he flat-lined during a notorious trip to Las Vegas during 2006 premiership celebrations.

Three members of that flag-winning side -- Daniel Kerr, Daniel Chick and Adam Hunter -- have also had highly publicised downfalls.

Jakovich, an AFL Hall of Fame member, believes employment has helped rehabilitate Kerr, who is working while playing footy at grassroots level.

"Daniel's going OK by the looks of things, which is good," he said. "He's back working. The biggest thing is you've got to get back into mainstream life. That's the biggest hurdle."

This Is Your Sporting Life, hosted by Peter Donegan and featuring Jakovich, will air on Melbourne's SEN on Sunday, April 23, at 7am (AEST).