Top Dog set to play, Ugle-Hagan in the frame

Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge expects skipper Marcus Bontempelli to face Carlton and says No.1 draft pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan is in the frame for a round-two recall.

Bontempelli proved he had overcome an ankle injury at training, Beveridge said, and the club is confident the issue will not be one which dogs him through the season.

“It was just in that lateral area, usually players can get over those pretty quickly, so hopefully it doesn’t hang around too long,” Beveridge said on Wednesday morning.

A week after the controversy over Lachie Hunter’s place in the 22, Beveridge kept his cards close regarding selection but foreshadowed two changes to the side which was beaten by Melbourne last week.

Ugle-Hagan is in contention for a recall, possibly at the expense of Josh Schache, who had a night to forget against the Demons.

A key forward, Ugle-Hagan has played five games since topping the 2020 draft class as the Dogs look to balance their short-term goal of remaining near the top against their long-term aspirations for the youngster.

The Bulldogs expect Marcus Bontempelli to play against Carlton.Credit:Getty

“It’s a good question because, you know, you come off the back of last year where you want to be at the end of the home and away, and you’re continuing to ask yourself, who’s ready to take your team to the next level,” Beveridge said.

“[Jamarra] plays in probably one of the hardest positions on the ground, is he ready? That’s a question and the honest answer is he’s probably not going to propel the team into the upper echelon on his own and through his own steam, but we’ve got to help him.

“We’ve got to nurture him and we’ve got to give him that exposure where we can, so we’ve got to pick the side a little bit for the future where we can and it’ll depend on availability here and there, but also on how he’s going at the lower level.”

After a quiet practice game against Essendon last month, Ugle-Hagan impressed Beveridge in the seconds last week.

“So he’s definitely in the mix, based on the form lines and what we’re after but as I’ve pleaded and asked we’re not expecting him to go out and be second in the Coleman after around two,” Beveridge said.

“But we just need to make sure that he plays a role that he’s asked to do and see his natural talents come out but he’s a chance.”

Beveridge said ball-winner Tom Liberatore, coming off a preseason interrupted by injury, may get more time in the midfield against the Blues after playing predominantly out of the centre square in round one.

Liberatore’s reduced minutes in the middle has raised some eyebrows, but the Dogs achieved one of their aims by winning centre-bounce clearances, by 18-9.

“Our primary focus was to make sure that we won centre bounce which we did quite considerably,” Beveridge said. “We compare that to last time, it was a bit of a horror show, so everything around the stoppage really worked and Tom he did play a bit of a different role and his role will continue to evolve week to week.

“He might play more midfield minutes on Thursday night, but we’ll wait and see.”

Meanwhile, Hawthorn coach Sam Mitchell confirmed skipper Ben McEvoy and forward Luke Breust will return for Saturday’s clash against the Power in Adelaide.

McEvoy and the goal-kicking Breust missed Sunday’s impressive win over North Melbourne because they were in health-and-safety protocols. However, ruckman Max Lynch will miss because of concussion.

“Poor old Lynchy, I know he has had a few concussions already. To have another one wasn’t ideal for him in his first opportunity in the brown and gold but we get Ben McEvoy back in our program,” Mitchell said.

“If he gets through the next couple of days of training, he will be available. It’s always good to have the captain back. He has recovered well and is feeling good.”

All-Australian forward Jack Gunston was superb in his return game from back surgery, booting 3.4 from 18 disposals and eight marks, while defender James Sicily excelled, having missed last season because of a knee injury.

“Hopefully, we don’t rely on individual players too much. They both played really well last week,” Mitchell said.

“Round two is always a challenge. You come off a win … you know you have to reload again and we go over to Adelaide to play a Port Adelaide side that will be hurting physically [from their loss to Brisbane] but also they are going to want to play well on their home deck in round two.”

Mitchell said Will Day was “very close” to a return to the senior line up, having impressed with limited game time in a VFL practice match over the weekend. Day has been on the mend from ankle surgery and was expected to have missed the opening month of the season.

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