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Dogs need more hands to make light work of Pies

3 minute read

Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs are trying to cope with having key players sidelined by injuries heading into their AFL clash in round 12.

 LUKE BEVERIDGE. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge wants his troops to spread the scoring load in a bid to overcome the loss of leading goal-kicker Aaron Naughton for their AFL clash with Collingwood.

Naughton will miss at least a month with a knee injury, joining fellow dangerous forward Cody Weightman (elbow) on the sidelines in a significant blow to the Bulldogs' finals hopes.

But the 11th-placed Dogs (5-6) will fancy their chances at Marvel Stadium on Friday night against a Magpies outfit that has been hit even harder by injury in recent weeks.

Beveridge has ruled out using captain Marcus Bontempelli as a full-time forward, recalling Rory Lobb to replace Naughton alongside young focal points Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Sam Darcy in attack.

"If you ask them, they'll whisper in your ear that they can take on anyone - in a modest way," Beveridge said of Ugle-Hagan and Darcy.

"They'll always come out and have that inner belief, it's just the way that they're built.

"But ultimately, without Naughts and Cody - who were our two leading goal-kickers in our forward line - we need to spread the load.

"To beat the Pies we're probably going to need nine or 10 goal-kickers, at least, and so we'll encourage them to share the ball and find a way through."

Injury-riddled Collingwood have provided a blueprint for the Bulldogs in attack over recent weeks.

The Magpies are in a more dire situation when it comes to their forward mix, without sidelined attackers Brody Mihocek, Jamie Elliott, Mason Cox, Will Hoskin-Elliott and Dan McStay.

Star trio Jordan De Goey, Tom Mitchell and Scott Pendlebury are also out of a depleted midfield unit with short-term injuries.

Coach Craig McRae admitted his makeshift side was "swimming against the tide" when it comes to personnel, but has backed them to keep getting the job done.

The Magpies (6-3-2) sit seventh and are unbeaten in their last eight matches despite having only Mihocek (16) in the competition's top 30 goal-kickers this season.

McRae has recalled Ash Johnson to play in attack against the Bulldogs after finishing the last two games without any fit talls forward of centre.

"We're just going to have to keep evolving and opportunities have presented some really good signs for us," McRae said.

"We're finding ways to score and we haven't relied on someone to kick multiple goals for us week after week.

"It's been a collective and that won't change."

Jeremy Howe (groin) and Jack Bytel (concussion) return for Collingwood, with Oleg Markov and Finlay Macrae also back. Last round's debutant Ed Allan has been left out.

As well as Naughton, the Bulldogs have lost Ed Richards and Anthony Scott (both concussion).

James O'Donell, Lachlan McNeil and Lobb take their places.

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