Numerous bolters in the mix as Bulldogs battle

from SEN

There’s plenty going on this pre-season at the Western Bulldogs, who could feature a best 22 vastly different from last year’s.

Rory Lobb and Liam Jones were the trade period additions to a squad that saw four players depart at the same time, one of which was Josh Dunkley.

Dunkley’s absence leaves a hole in Luke Beveridge’s lineup that is undoubtedly hard to plug.

That problem grows plenty with revelations Adam Treloar is yet to hit the training track since undergoing ankle surgery in September.

“Adam Treloar is the concern for the Dogs, he’s the main injury concern and hasn’t trained all pre-season,” AFL Media’s Josh Gabelich told SEN Mornings.

“He had ankle surgery in September last year, he had a niggle all the second half of last year and they addressed that.

“There was a belief he’d be back to full training after Christmas but its just lingered. We’re nearly in February and it just continues to be a concern every time they up his load, he still has a bit of pain.

“So they’re confident with (more than six weeks) until Round 1 he will be there against Melbourne but the fact that he hasn’t trained yet with the main group is a concern.”

Dunkley played 22 games last year before blindsiding the Bulldogs with a trade request to Brisbane, while Treloar made 21 appearances.

The duo’s absence from Beveridge’s Round 1 side would be a major blow for the Dogs, however, the club was buoyed by Bailey Smith’s return to the training track on Monday for the first time in January.

The star 22-year-old had reported soreness after returning to pre-season training, Gabelich revealed.

As for how to fill the potential void, Beveridge may need to spin the magnets to maximise his best 22.

Gabelich believes the 2016 premiership mentor has already started experimenting.

“Cody Weightman is a player I think they’ll look to get inside a bit, I think he’ll pinch-hit across this season,” Gabelich, who’s currently with the Dogs on a pre-season camp in Portsea, said.

“He’s someone that brings a fair bit of speed which if you look at the demographic of their midfield, they probably don’t have a lot of speed.

“So he’s one they’ll look to play a bit more midfield this year

“Caleb Daniel is another one. All-Australian small defender of course, he’s got a little bit of a niggle at the moment but he spent a fair bit of match sim playing in the middle, so I think we’ll see him playing inside a little bit more.”

On Daniel’s pending part-time move into the midfield, Gabelich added: “I think it’s a real sign of the growth of Ed Richards last year.

“I think they see him playing with more confidence and responsibility this year.

“They do have a lot of options down back in terms of Taylor Duryea, Bailey Dale is an All-Australian… they’ve recruited a kid called Harvey Gallagher, who’s also showing quite a bit and could play and make a debut early in the season.

“They do have a lot of options down back, it is the midfield that is causing them a little bit of grief ahead of Round 1.”

Gallagher was the Bulldogs’ third pick in the 2022 National Draft, taken at no.38 behind Jedd Busslinger (13) and Charlie Clark (24).

However, the changes may not stop there.

While Oskar Baker’s career seemed on the scrap heap when delisted by Melbourne with 15 AFL games to his name through five seasons, a lifeline was granted by the Bulldogs.

The 24-year-old has since been training the house down at Whitten Oval and could be rewarded with a Round 1 gig.

“On the outside, one to keep an eye on, we’ll get a better indication during match sim… but Oskar Baker,” Gabelich noted.

“Someone they signed as an SSP at the start of this window back in December, they identified him as soon as Melbourne delisted him.

“(Western Bulldogs list manager) Sam Power has been a fan for some time. When you think that Melbourne went and got another wingman (Lachie Hunter from the Dogs), it’ll be interesting to see if a wingman they delisted plays for another team in Round 1.

“I think he (Baker) is in calculations at this stage. It’s only the end of January… but he hasn’t put a foot wrong since he turned up at the start of December.

“He's definitely mounting a case for an early season spot and I can see him playing a lot of senior football which is remarkable when you think he was delisted by a contender at the end of last year.”

The Western Bulldogs are yet to lock in a practice match ahead of Round 1, but will line up for a 2021 Grand Final rematch with the Demons on March 18 to kick off the season proper.