The West

Western Bulldogs captain Ryan Griffen is facing an uphill battle to prove his fitness for Sunday's clash with West Coast at Patersons Stadium after failing to train yesterday.

Griffen did not manage a game during the pre-season because of a back injury.

The All-Australian midfielder had been confident he would play in the Bulldogs' intraclub match last week, but sat on the sidelines.

Western Bulldogs coach Brendan McCartney said Griffen was close to being declared available before training yesterday, but the skipper then walked laps as his teammates trained.

"Ryan's fitness is gaining daily momentum," McCartney said.

"He's doing more and more training. More importantly he's recovering from that training and he's very, very close to playing.

"He has to train and run fast and jump and fall over and kick the ball and not get sore. He's very, very close to doing that."

Griffen's leadership is crucial for the Bulldogs, who have struggled interstate in recent years.

Sunday's team will be boosted by the inclusion of veteran Robert Murphy for his 250th game. Murphy was expected to miss the start of the year after badly injuring his right elbow last month, but he has recovered faster than predicted.

"He's just a great man to have in your club. He's just a brilliant person to coach," McCartney said.

The West Australian

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