Bulldogs happy with results of AFL tall timber test

Shayne Hope |

The Western Bulldogs are on the verge of unleashing one of the tallest forward lines in AFL history when they renew their rivalry with Melbourne in round one.

Coach Luke Beveridge tested the waters in the Bulldogs’ only practice match of the pre-season, playing recruit Rory Lobb (207cm) and versatile young gun Sam Darcy (208cm) in attack alongside spearhead Aaron Naughton (196cm) and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (197cm).

Assistant coach Rohan Smith rated the results “pretty positive” as all four tall targets hit the scoreboard, with the Bulldogs piling on 22 goals in a 58-point thumping of North Melbourne on Saturday.

It gave the Dogs’ coaching unit something to ponder as they seek to stretch a Melbourne back-line led by All-Australian defensive duo Steven May and Jake Lever at the MCG on March 18.

“The four talls really played well,” Smith told reporters after the comfortable win over the Kangaroos.

“At times we looked really dominant in the air, which is a great sign for us. They worked really well together, as well.

“There was a couple of times where they flew against each other, but that’s terrific.

“It shows their competitiveness and willingness to fly in the air, but the synergy and cohesiveness that they had in our forward line was outstanding.”

Smith stopped short of committing to the Bulldogs playing all four talls in attack against Melbourne.

“We’ll have a look at it during the week … but just off the game (against North Melbourne) it was a pretty positive sign,” Smith said.

At the other end, with defensive mainstay Ryan Gardner sidelined with an elbow injury, Liam Jones will slot straight into the Bulldogs’ back six on his comeback after a year out of the game.

Ex-Carlton defender Jones has impressed with his speed and competitiveness over the pre-season.

He finished with nine intercept marks in a strong display against North Melbourne, working well with Alex Keath and Bailey Dale.

“(Jones) read the cues of the kicker really well and he comes forward and is always looking to help out a teammate,” Smith said.

“It’s obviously really handy for us (to have him).”

The Bulldogs lost Taylor Duryea (neck), Hayden Crozier (dislocated finger) and Ed Richards (corked quad) to injuries during the practice match but expect all of them to be available for selection in round one.

Keath was cleared of concussion after a head clash with Lobb and while Cody Weightman didn’t play because of an ongoing adductor injury, the livewire forward is tipped to return against Melbourne.