For a few heart-stopping moments during Saturday night’s 53-point win over Brisbane it seemed the Western Bulldogs’ injury curse had struck again, this time claiming Matt Suckling.
Still adjusting to life without long-term absentees Bob Murphy and Jason Johannisen, the Dogs could ill afford to lose Suckling, whose right leg twisted horribly under him in a marking contest in the first quarter at Etihad Stadium.
The former Hawk hobbled off the ground favouring his right knee, the one he had reconstructed after rupturing an anterior cruciate ligament in 2013.
He managed to return to the field, albeit with his knee heavily strapped, in the second term but didn’t re-emerge after halftime.
Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge allayed fears Suckling had done serious damage but conceded he was in doubt for Friday night’s top-of-the-table clash against North Melbourne.
“He wrenched his ankle and his knee … he was a bit concerned initially because that’s the knee that he’s had reconstructed,” Beveridge said.
“But he’s just tweaked his medial ligament a little bit, but it was more the ankle that we were concerned (about), so we took him out of business and sat him down because we need him for a lot longer than just tonight.
“We’ll see how he comes up. He might be in doubt for next Friday night, but there’s no significant structural damage – he’s just going to be sore in the knee and the ankle.”
Suckling’s injury was one of few negatives in the Bulldogs’ clinical 17.18 (120) to 10.7 (67) disposal of Brisbane.
Koby Stevens and Mitch Wallis were impressive for the Dogs with 34 and 33 possessions respectively and they had 10 goal kickers, Jake Stringer leading the way with three.
The Bulldogs smashed the Lions around the stoppages, collecting 51 more contested possessions, and went inside attacking 50 on 71 occasions to Brisbane’s meagre 31.
Mitch Robinson (27 disposals) was at his combative best for the Lions, with Tom Rockliff, Dayne Zorko and Daniel Merrett among their side’s best players.
Young Lion Tom Cutler suffered an elbow injury that ended his game in the first quarter, and he was joined by Allen Christensen in the second after the former Cat suffered a concussion.
As industrious as the Lions were early, the Bulldogs always looked to have their measure and duly broke the game open with five unanswered goals setting up a 34-point halftime lead.
Down to two fit men on the bench, Brisbane looked set for a fearful hiding as the margin blew out to 54 points late in the third quarter – though, promisingly for coach Justin Leppitsch, his players at least didn’t throw in the towel.