Luke Beveridge during the Western Bulldogs' game against Geelong in Gather Round, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

ANOTHER week, another round of questions about Aaron Naughton for Luke Beveridge to answer.

The 24-year-old Naughton signed an eight-year contract extension at the end of last season after kicking 44 goals in 2023, following 51 in 2022 and 47 in a breakout campaign in 2021, but has only kicked four goals in four games this year, playing a different role.

The injection of Sam Darcy, who won the round four Rising Star nomination after kicking three goals on Saturday night, the rise of former No.1 pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and the form of Cody Weightman, who has kicked 11 goals to sit equal fourth on the Coleman Medal leaderboard after round four, has led to Naughton playing higher up the ground.

Aaron Naughton during the Western Bulldogs' game against North Melbourne in R14, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

As a result, the West Australian is averaging career-highs for disposals (14.3), score involvements (7.5) – he had a career-high four goal assists against West Coast – and inside 50s (3.3) – he had six against West Coast and five against Geelong.

But the role tweak to accommodate Darcy in the same 22 as Ugle-Hagan has meant Naughton has been targeted inside 50 the same number of times as half-forward Rhylee West (10), well behind Ugle-Hagan (27) and even less than Weightman (11).

Speaking inside the Western Bulldogs' new facility at Mission Whitten Oval on Thursday morning, Beveridge explained how the shift in role has been part of the evolution of the club's forward set-up.

"The previous two weeks he was in our best players. (He was) high on score involvements, played on some pretty good key backs in [Tom] Barrass and [Sam] Collins. His work up between the arcs was outstanding, contested marks, worked his tail off," Beveridge said ahead of Friday night’s game against Essendon.

Cody Weightman and Aaron Naughton celebrate a goal for Western Bulldogs against Gold Coast in R2, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

"Sometimes who gets on the end of it is circumstantial. When you play three big guys on the ground, a divide-and-conquer aspect is important. Aaron is a really selfless Western Bulldogs player. I thought he was just outstanding against West Coast and Gold Coast he was just outstanding. Last week, he worked hard and didn't necessarily got on the end of it.

"We don't judge his games on how many times he kicks it between the big sticks. We'd love him to be kicking more for his own sake, but when the team has averaged over 100 points in the last three rounds, no one is happier as a leader and team player than Aaron Naughton. I think the best teams and the ones that challenge at the end of the year are the ones that have multiple goal kickers who share and spread that responsibly. We want to be one of those teams; we don't expect Aaron to kick four or five goals every week.

"I mentioned last week the influence of Cody and Rhylee West and Laitham Vandermeer. The contributions of the small-to-mediums continues to adjust. Cody is a significant threat for us and when he plays a little bit deeper, that displaces one of the keys. I'm sure in the games coming up he is going to kick multiples and hit the scoreboard. As far as forcing a tweak, it has been part of the evolution of how we’re playing."

Caleb Daniel's spot in the Bulldogs' best 23 is up in the air after the 2020 All-Australian and Charles Sutton Medal winner was substituted out of last Saturday night's narrow loss to Geelong at Adelaide Oval.

Beveridge said Daniel's form has suffered from being moved around the ground across the pre-season and early stages of the year and might result in some time at VFL level to settle in one spot and help him regain form.

David Swallow chases Caleb Daniel during Gold Coast's clash against the Western Bulldogs in round two, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

"There is no absolute need to do anything. When we think about Caleb and the role he might play week to week, he has been pretty adept at playing all over the ground across the journey. He is one of those players that doesn't necessarily settle in one area," Beveridge said.

"I suppose the team needs have come before Caleb's to a degree and that's always hard for a player to process and deal with. He is such a great character with great integrity, he will always process things in accordance with what's best for the team.

"He will probably spend a bit of time at half-back. If he plays State League then maybe he spends some time there. It just depends on who is playing well at different areas at AFL level and where he in the end gets his claws into the competition again. We've got no doubt that will happen."

Three-time All-Australian Jack Macrae replaced Daniel late in the third quarter on the weekend after starting as the substitute in his second game back in the senior side, following a month in the VFL.

Jack Macrae looks dejected after the Western Bulldogs' loss to Greater Western Sydney in round 20, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Beveridge is confident the Victorian can ignite his season in the not too distant future after dealing with an interrupted pre-season, where he missed the February block of training after injuring his hamstring on the club's pre-season camp on the Sunshine Coast.

"Like Caleb, Jack will have a significant influence at some stage and could be this week. We don't discount that. Jack will play (at some level), but as far as formalising where that will be, we will probably have to wait until Friday night," he said.

The Dogs will meet Essendon in the 30th anniversary of the EJ Whitten Cup on Friday night, dating back to 1995 when the club was still called Footscray.

Beveridge's side has won nine of the past ten encounters between the two sides, with seven of those victories coming under the roof at Marvel Stadium.