The Western Bulldogs are upbeat stand-in skipper Easton Wood will return from injury this year, but it’s likely to depend on how far they progress in the AFL finals.
The Bulldogs’ luckless season continued on Sunday when Wood hurt his ankle in their 40-point win over Essendon at Etihad Stadium.
Wood, who has captained the club and marshalled their defence in the absence of injured veteran Bob Murphy, grimaced with pain after flying for a loose ball and landing on his left leg.
The 26-year-old was sent to hospital for scans and is the latest player on a long list of injury concerns for coach Luke Beveridge.
“We’ll know a bit more tomorrow … I don’t think he’s too flash,” Beveridge said of Wood, who was on crutches after the blow.
“Hopefully it’s not too bad and even if we lose him for a week or two, hopefully we can go a bit deeper and he might be able to rejoin us.”
The Bulldogs re-focused after the third-quarter setback to triumph 14.9 (93) to 7.11 (53).
Beveridge flashed a look of disbelief following the incident and comforted players on the bench at three-quarter time.
Murphy, Dale Morris, Matt Suckling and Marcus Adams missed the clash with Essendon because of injuries, which stretched the Bulldogs’ inexperienced defence.
“I did have a bit of a ‘not again’ moment,” Beveridge said.
“But we should get Dale (Morris) back for the Fremantle game .. (Suckling) might be a chance.
“I’ve said time and time again (after each injury), you just have to give all our players credit for coming and playing critical roles.”
The Bulldogs were ahead by 30 points at quarter time and never lost their lead, although pressure from the Bombers ensured the margin never blew out.
Beveridge’s side 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 West Coast, Greater Western Sydney or Hawthorn lose.
If the Eagles, GWS and Hawks go down then the Bulldogs could sneak into the top four.
“How do we finish top four? I haven’t really done the numbers,” Beveridge said.
“Whether that’s a reach or not, I don’t know. Who knows, stranger things have happened.”
Essendon midfielder Adam Cooney, who announced his retirement last 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.
Worsfold praised Cooney and his squad for how hard they’ve worked this season in the absence of 12 banned players.
“People have acknowledged that Essendon haven’t been easy to play against,” Worsfold said.
“That’s about what I would have expected or hoped for.”