Premiership captain Easton Wood and key ruckman Stefan Martin will need to get through training at Whitten Oval on Wednesday before being declared fit to play for the Western Bulldogs in Friday night’s clash against fellow top-four side Geelong.
Seeking to end an 18-year run of outs at the venue now known as GMHBA Stadium, the Dogs say they are hopeful both Wood and Martin will be given the all-clear to take the field at the empty Cattery.
Important intercepting defender Wood hasn’t played since hurting his hamstring in the round nine win over Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval, but has been building up his training loads in recent weeks and is back in full training. The club said on Tuesday that provided Wood gets through Wednesday’s session he is expected to be available for selection. His inclusion would bolster an at-times vulnerable backline which this week comes up against the Cats’ red-hot tall forward trio of Tom Hawkins, Jeremy Cameron and Gary Rohan.
Having started the season strongly at his third AFL club, Martin, 34, has played just one match since round seven after struggling with an Achilles tendon issue. He returned for the pre-bye date with Fremantle in round 12 but was substituted out of that game with a shoulder injury.
But having been on lighter duties last week, Martin is pressing to be available against the Cats with the Dogs saying they expected him to train on Wednesday.
The Bulldogs are yet to lose a game in which Martin has played alongside fellow ruckman Tim English, who has become more of a forward threat this year with the veteran able to absorb significant ruck minutes.
Back-up ruckman Jordon Sweet – who has had a taste of AFL football this year – would come into the frame if the Dogs wanted to play two ruckmen even if Martin is not given the green light to take on the Cats, whose own ruck situation has been a regular source of intrigue.
The combination of Mark Blicavs and Esava Ratugolea was preferred ahead of Rhys Stanley in Geelong’s win over Port last Thursday night at Adelaide Oval.