The Western Bulldogs were prepared for the worst but confirmation Bob Murphy has torn an ACL has still hit the club hard.
Everything about the incident that occurred with just over a minute to go in the Dogs’ three-point loss to Hawthorn suggested the worst-case scenario but that didn’t make it easier to digest.
The popular figure must now consider his surgical options – either ligament augmentation reconstruction system (LARS) surgery that could see him return later this year or a traditional reconstruction that would rule him out until 2017.
However, Murphy has also sustained medial ligament damage and it is unclear whether that could limit his options with LARS surgery.
At 33, the injury would appear to place Murphy’s career in jeopardy but he was non-committal about his future on Monday.
“I’ve got a lot going through my mind at the moment and I want to take the next few days to make a considered decision,” Murphy said.
“I’m just letting it all wash over me at the moment but it’s been a pretty heartbreaking 24 hours.”
Coach Luke Beveridge made it clear he feels Murphy, who he described as his club’s best last year, can extend his career well beyond this season.
“In recent times Bob and I have been talking about his future,” Beveridge said.
“He’s been really keen to keep playing beyond this year and I’ve been really keen for him to keep playing for another couple of years … maybe even three.
“I’m hopeful that once it all settles down … Bob still has a bright future as a player and captain of our football club.
“He’s still playing great footy and his attention to detail and his preparation all point towards the prospect of him continuing.
“I see him as a 33-year-old, 27-year-old.”
The Bulldogs and preferred orthopaedic surgeon David Young have shown an aversion to LARS surgery in the past but Beveridge said all options would be considered.
Murphy, last year’s All Australian captain, will leave a significant leadership void.
Vice-captain Easton Wood, currently out with a hamstring strain, will step into the role with support from leadership group members Matthew Boyd, Dale Morris and Marcus Bontempelli.
While Murphy’s leadership will be sorely missed on the field, the Dogs at least have options when considering his replacement in the 22.
Like Hawthorn mentor Alastair Clarkson, Beveridge will take a `one soldier out, one soldier in’ approach as he prepares the team to face Carlton on Saturday night.
Wood will miss one more match before resuming but former Brisbane skipper Jed Adcock and youngsters Lukas Webb and Bailey Dale are all currently playing in the VFL.
Beveridge said it was important his players personally come to deal with the loss of Murphy – a situation the club has encountered before when Chris Grant was injured in 2003.
Grant, who was also captain at the time, suffered a torn ACL in the first game of the season as the Dogs ultimately went on to collect the wooden spoon.
“It just flattened the group,” retired Bulldogs great Brad Johnson told RSN radio on Monday.