Western Bulldogs captain Ryan Griffen is confident he will return from a back injury for next week's intraclub game and then be declared fit for round one against West Coast.

Griffen didn't play a NAB Challenge fixture and will miss today's practice match against Carlton at Visy Park.

He averaged 29 possessions through the midfield last season, earning All-Australian selection and his second best-and-fairest award.

The 27-year-old's deeds led to him succeeding Matthew Boyd as captain.

Griffen gathered 30 disposals against West Coast in round 18 last year and said the club had taken a conservative approach in order to have him ready for round one.

"I'm really confident. It's just a niggling back issue at the moment," Griffen said.

"We're just being really cautious with the medical staff at the moment. But we've got an intraclub next week and I'm hoping to play that. Then I think I'll be fully fit for round one.

"It's just something I've got to manage but I'm not worried at all. I did all the pre-season until four weeks ago when it flared up.

"I've still got two weeks so I've got a lot of time."

The Dogs are tipped to be big improvers this season after winning four of their last six games in 2013.

Second-year midfielder Jack Macrae has had an impressive pre-season, following the lead of Tom Liberatore, Mitch Wallis, Luke Dahlhaus and Jordan Roughead.

Griffen said Liberatore was set to take his game to an even higher level this year.

"He is a freak, the way he goes about it and the way he trains," Griffen said. "He's running more than ever, he gets to contests and he's a leader. It's scary what he could become."

Griffen said confidence was high after the strong finish to last season.

"Watching those young guys come through was pretty exciting for an older fella," he said.

The West Australian

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