The Western Bulldogs are set to regain a swag of AFL stars for Friday night’s match against Geelong, with Bob Murphy, Travis Cloke and Mitch Wallis all in the mix to return.
Star recruit Cloke hasn’t played since round four, while Jordan Roughead and Wallis are yet to feature this year for the reigning premiers.
The fifth-placed Cats host the eighth-placed Bulldogs in a pivotal match that will shape the top eight, with the defending premiers last beating the Cats in 2009 and not having won in Geelong since 2003.
While the Bulldogs will be bolstered by those key personnel, they have lost forward Stewart Crameri, who will undergo surgery on his injured hip and will be sidelined for at least a month.
“It’s just a little bit of a clean out, as it’s just been impeding him a little bit and giving him a fraction of grief,” Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said.
“Hopefully, that will help free him up and, in the back end of the year, he’ll find (his) best form.”
All Australian defender Dale Morris is almost a certainty after recovering from a broken leg suffered in round one, while Wallis should also front up at Simonds Stadium after impressing in three VFL matches since his badly broken leg.
Cloke has been out with broken ribs since the Bulldogs’ Good Friday win over North Melbourne.
Ruckman Roughead (hamstring) is likely to spend another week in the VFL as he builds up his match fitness.
“It’s probably the most (fit players) we’ve had for a quite a while,” Beveridge said.
“It’s always a trade off with boys coming back – have they got the match fitness? Are they re-acclimatising to the level, especially players who have been out for a while like Dale?
“So we need to make studious and informed decisions around selection to make sure we go in fit and healthy and ready to be at our best,” Beveridge said.
While the Bulldogs fell last round to West Coast, Geelong were disappointed with their opening three quarters which resulted in a shock loss to Essendon.
Beveridge said he expected them to be at their best at home as the Cats tried to continue their dominance over his side.
“I imagine they will be stinging a bit,” Beveridge said of the Bombers loss.
“We’ve been on the end of their very best for a long period of time now and they’ve found it within them to beat us nine out of the last 10 times so there’s (a) challenge … to finally beat them.”