WESTERN Bulldogs ruckman Will Minson is in doubt for round one of the season after straining a hamstring "out of the blue" on Thursday.
Ahead of his side's final NAB Challenge hit-out on Saturday against Collingwood, Dogs coach Luke Beveridge lamented the loss of the 30-year-old veteran, who played just 10 senior games in 2015.
"It's terrible timing for him, and us, because he's been going pretty well," Beveridge said.
The Bulldogs have named Tom Campbell and versatile big man Jordan Roughead for the clash with the Magpies along with key forwards Tom Boyd and Jack Redpath, who might well be fighting for the same spot.
Beveridge says the Dogs will treat their final NAB Challenge game as "a full dress rehearsal for round one".
In the corresponding NAB Challenge clash at Etihad Stadium last year, the Bulldogs gave the first indication they had made significant progress under then new coach Beveridge by belting the Magpies by 61 points, showcasing what has since become their signature high-octane brand of football.
Beveridge plans to build similar momentum this time around after selecting a full-strength squad that, he said, might change little for their season-opener against Fremantle at the same venue on Sunday March 27.
"We've had almost exactly the same build-up as we did last year and we've picked our strongest 24, and we'll go into this weekend with the same intention: to play our best and give us peace of mind going into round one," Beveridge said.
"You always want to win. We're not playing for sheep stations, but you still want to win."
Beveridge said the banishment the substitute rule and the return to four interchange players potentially opened up an opportunity for teams to play another big man, saying it had "opened up a Pandora's box" that had "got us all thinking", and how it played would be "extremely intriguing".
'We went smaller at the back end of last year but (it) changes our thinking a little," he said.
"There's definitely one more spot (for a big man) week to week …
"It depends on whether you want to bring two pure ruckmen in that aren't adept at playing the forward roles, or whether or not you want to mix that up with someone who has a bit of a hybrid approach to things.
"For clubs that have a standout ruckman that spends a lot of time in there, they face their own challenges around whether or not that guy can continue to do that for the whole game. But it might play into their hands because they're used to staying out there that long."
Beveridge suggested some clubs might choose to split the ruckwork evenly between two players and "quarantine" them on the bench to force durable big men like North Melbourne star Todd Goldstein to contend with two fresher opponents.
"There's lots of different connotations and … tomorrow's our first real look at it," he said.
Beveridge said he would prefer to be competing for a prize to add more meaning to the pre-season competition.
A member of St Kilda's 1996 night premiership, he said such achievements can increase momentum and belief.
He would also prefer to play two NAB Challenge games rather than three, and was reluctant to comment on Richmond's unsuccessful bid to have its clash with Port Adelaide prematurely halted because of a heavy injury toll.