Western Bulldogs’ luckless AFL season continued on Sunday, when stand-in skipper Easton Wood hurt his leg in a 40-point win over Essendon.
Wood grimaced with pain after flying for a loose ball and landing on his left leg, prompting worried teammates to call for assistance during the third term at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
He limped off with the help of trainers and failed to emerge from the rooms at three-quarter time.
The 26-year-old finished the game on crutches and with ice strapped to his ankle, becoming the latest injury concern for coach Luke Beveridge ahead of finals.
Beveridge flashed a look of disbelief following the incident and comforted players on the bench at three-quarter time but his side re-focused to triumph 14.9 (93) to 7.11 (53).
The Bulldogs opened up a 30-point lead at quarter-time and were never headed, thanks largely to midfielders Liam Picken, Lachie Hunter, Lin Jong, Marcus Bontempelli and Jason Johannisen.
Some praise-worthy pressure and persistence from the Bombers ensured the margin never blew out.
Young forward Joe Daniher clutched a couple of screamers but finished with 2.3 as Essendon cursed their inaccurate goal-kicking for the umpteenth time this season.
Essendon midfielder Adam Cooney, who announced his retirement earlier this week, celebrated his 250th game with a second-quarter goal and was applauded by the entire crowd.
Cooney was chaired off the field and given a guard of honour by the two clubs he represented.
Wood was leading the Bulldogs in the absence of injured veteran Bob Murphy, one of many high-profile players at the club to suffer a serious injury this season.
Murphy, Dale Morris, Matt Suckling and Marcus Adams all missed the clash with Essendon because of injuries, stretching the Bulldogs’ inexperienced defence.
Beveridge also opted for a rejigged forward line, dropping star Jake Stringer after a couple of quiet games.
Tory Dickson booted three goals and Tom Boyd clutched a couple of strong marks but neither forward was able to bust the game wide open for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs banked their 15th win of the season but remain in a tight race to host a final.
The seventh-placed Bulldogs will only clamber up the ladder if they defeat Fremantle in the final game of the regular season – and one of West Coast, Greater Western Sydney and Hawthorn lose.
The Bulldogs must also bridge a small percentage gap if they’re to rise above the Hawks.