Sam Darcy and Rory Lobb. Pictures: AFL Photos

THERE'S a big selection call looming for the Western Bulldogs ahead of round one, with young gun Sam Darcy and fellow tall Rory Lobb locked in an intriguing battle for a spot in the Bulldogs' best 23.

That's the opinion of reporter Josh Gabelich, who has been keeping a close eye on the Bulldogs over summer and attended their pre-season camp earlier this month. 

After testing out a four-pronged tall attack at the start of last season, the Bulldogs look to have shelved that structure and will instead opt for three talls up forward in 2024.

That's seemingly left Darcy and Lobb fighting it out for just one spot in Luke Beveridge's side, with pair battling to be the back-up ruck to All-Australian Tim English and the third key forward alongside Aaron Naughton and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan.

Speaking on the AFL Daily podcast on Tuesday, Gabelich said it's a watch and see ahead of the Bulldogs' round one clash against Melbourne.

"There's a selection narrative at the Western Bulldogs that's going under the radar a little bit at the moment. [Darcy's] up against Rory Lobb for the final spot in that forward line alongside Aaron Naughton and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and behind Tim English in the ruck," he said.

"They won't be going with four (talls), as far as I can tell at this point. So there's a big watch on that selection."

Darcy, taken with pick No.2 in the 2021 Draft, has managed only seven senior appearances due to a nightmare injury run that started with a stress fracture in his foot, and has since included a hole in his lung, a fractured jaw and a significant corked quad. 

However, the 20-year-old has laid the foundations for a breakout year after completing the full pre-season program and starring in the Bulldogs' match sim against Hawthorn last week.

Darcy sent a timely selection statement against the Hawks, splitting his time between ruck and inside 50 to finish with three goals. 

"He's banked the full pre-season (after) coming off a nightmare start to his AFL career," Gabelich said. "When you factor in he's only played the seven AFL games - he arrived with a stress fracture in his foot (in his debut season) and showed so much at the back end of 2022, but never really got going last year.

"He kicked three goals in the match sim against Hawthorn last Friday and he's got another audition against Hawthorn in Launceston on Saturday. This is going to be a big watch - does he take a spot off Rory Lobb?"


Lobb is entering his second season with the Bulldogs after being traded from Fremantle at the end of 2022.

After a career-best season in 2022 when he kicked 36 goals from 21 appearances, he kicked 24 goals and played 20 of a possible 23 games in his debut season as a Bulldog.

The Dogs have their final pre-season hitout in Saturday night's AAMI Community Series match against Hawthorn at University of Tasmania Stadium before starting their season against the Dees on March 17.