THE WESTERN Bulldogs are sweating on the fitness of star skipper Marcus Bontempelli ahead of next week’s preliminary final against Port Adelaide, after he limped from the field on Saturday night with a worrying knee injury.
Bontempelli hurt his knee in the dying stages of the side’s thrilling one-point victory over Brisbane in the semi-final at the Gabba, unable to return to the contest despite the match being in the balance with just seconds remaining.
It added a tinge of concern to the elation of the Dogs’ dramatic late win, with emerging star Cody Weightman also ruled out of the game at half-time after suffering a head knock in a collision with Brisbane defender Marcus Adams.
The Dogs are still investigating whether Weightman suffered a concussion that will force the young forward into the AFL’s 12-day protocols, meaning he would definitely miss next week’s preliminary final against the Power.
They are also unaware as to whether Bontempelli will be available for the crucial clash, the side’s most significant since it claimed the 2016 premiership, with this season’s AFLPA Most Valuable Player set to undergo scans in the coming days.
“He just copped a knock to the back of his knee,” Beveridge said of Bontempelli afterwards.
“It’s difficult to know the extent of any injury. He’s obviously a little bit sore, but we’ll have a little bit of time before we can assess it. We’ll probably get a scan once we get to Perth and see if there’s any damage in there.”
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The Western Bulldogs will fly from Queensland to Western Australia on Sunday, where it will stay for the majority of the week before heading to South Australia on Friday to play Port Adelaide on Saturday night.
Amid the travel, the club will seek clarity on Weightman’s status after he was forced to be replaced by medical substitute Jason Johannisen at half-time following a head knock in an off-the-ball incident with Adams.
“I haven’t got the detail and I’d rather not make any statements around it,” Beveridge said.
“I’m not sure. I’ll have to catch up with (the club’s chief medical officer) Greg Clugston and see what’s happening. I’d say it’s likely that he won’t be available.”
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The Western Bulldogs have used a League-high 41 players across the 2021 season, with Beveridge claiming the club’s highly debated rotation policy will become crucial when choosing a replacement for Weightman.
“Cody’s been tremendous in recent times,” Beveridge said.
“When you say ‘suitable replacement’, we’re not going to get another Cody Weightman. His game now … when we play West Coast, we give out Liam Ryan because he’s such a terrific aerialist for a small forward. He’s got great speed and he’s so clean at ground level.
“Cody is moving into that area where he’s very, very difficult to defend because he’s got an air and a ground game.
“This is what happens, with most of our list playing some AFL footy this year. Our boys have done an outstanding job and we’ve had critical role players contribute to really important victories. We’ll need to call on a handful of those boys to play in a preliminary final.
“The great thing is, they’ll come into the team and feel like they’ve contributed in the past. We’ll have a different player to replace Cody, who will bring a difficult skill set. But there are some lads waiting in the wings who will come in and be an important part of our make-up.”
The Western Bulldogs progressed to the preliminary final following a remarkable final few minutes on Saturday night, with the side fighting from 18 points down late in the third term to somehow scrape over the line.
Bailey Smith had seemingly kicked the match-winning goal for the Dogs with barely two minutes remaining on the clock, only for Zac Bailey to produce a dramatic leveller virtually straight from the game’s restart.
However, Dogs youngster Laitham Vandermeer forced a rushed behind over the line with just seconds to go to secure a thrilling one-point win and set up a blockbuster preliminary final against Port Adelaide next week.
“There were times in the last quarter when we were trying to remember the detail in the email from the AFL about what happens if it’s a draw. That comes through and you think, ‘do I need to read that?'” Beveridge laughed.
“The struggle of the whole thing, it reminded me a little bit of the 2016 preliminary final against Greater Western Sydney in terms of how tense it was and how the game was in the balance.
“We were down and fought back, as did Brisbane. I saw Chris Fagan on the boundary line at the end. Sometimes this game is really cruel and sometimes it’s beautiful. We were the lucky ones to feel the emotions of the latter.”