THE Western Bulldogs have received a massive boost with boom youngster Aaron Naughton cleared to play their AFL season opener against Collingwood on Friday night.
Naughton had minor knee surgery in late February and coach Luke Beveridge said the Bulldogs had taken a “cautious” approach to his recovery, but the 20-year- old was ready to play.
“Aaron’s fit, he’ll play. We’ll name the side this afternoon but Aaron’s in the 22,” Beveridge said.
“He’s really important – not just for the now. We hope as time goes by he keeps getting better and better.
“(We were) a little bit uncertain as to whether he’d front up round one. He’s had that surgery on not a major injury at the end of last year and then recently he’s had a little bit of a clean-up and after about a week he seemed fine.
“So he’s come through (with) flying colours and he’ll take his spot in the team Friday night.”
Recruits Alex Keath and Josh Bruce will both suit up against the Pies but Tom Liberatore, who is on the comeback trail from off-season knee surgery, will not.
Beveridge conceded the postponement of the VFL season, amid the coronavirus outbreak, would make it hard for players to push for selection.
“We need Tommy to play some games and he’s not going to be able to,” he said.
“So we need to somehow orchestrate that on the training track and get a sense of whether or not he gets through four quarters and work out whether or not we can pick him.
“So I can’t exactly tell you – he’s training pretty well but I think if we were playing state league games in a practice match form, then he’d play over the course of the next two weeks – but we’re not.”
Ruckman Tim English has been floated as a potential breakout player but will face a stern test against incumbent All-Australian Brodie Grundy.
“I don’t want to put pressure on Tim. I think Grundy, the last two times we’ve played Collingwood, has accumulated six Brownlow votes,” Beveridge said.
“Tim will have support in the ruck and sometimes those Brownlow votes come from not just hitouts, it’s around the footy and who’s helping.
“And we’ve been close in those games but I imagine Friday night, Tim will give a better account of himself.”
© AAP 2020