Tom Liberatore (left) is seen post-match during round five, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

WESTERN Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge has explained he had half an eye on the future when selecting his side ahead of the Dogs' 29-point loss against Essendon on Friday night.

The Dogs pushed Geelong all the way to the end last week, but couldn't summon nearly the same intensity, polish and composure against the Bombers, with the margin blowing out to 43 points in the final term.

The Bulldogs threw a few selection curveballs in the mix this week, dropping senior player Caleb Daniel and relegating Bailey Dale to the starting substitute.


"[Dale] is just a form thing. We've been a little bit on edge about Liam Jones and Buku Khamis shouldering that key defensive load, and without another tall to really play on keys, it's meant Ed Richards and Bailey to a degree, and sometimes Taylor Duryea, have had to really fight out of their weight range in the air," Beveridge said post-game.

"Because 'Dig's been just a bit off with his influence in games, we thought it was a good week to bring James (O'Donnell) in. James is going to be a really good player for us in the future. You don't pick the side two weeks ahead, but understanding what we've got coming up in the Saints and a bit of a taller forward line, we'll definitely need someone like James in the team.

"[Daniel] is just similar to Bailey Dale. As far as influence goes, and as I've said in the past and I think you guys and girls totally understand, there's a finite amount of minutes midfielders can play.

"'CD' – we've moved away from picking him as a half-back at the moment, so it comes down to who plays the other roles and we had others ahead of him this week."

BULLDOGS v BOMBERS Full match coverage and stats

Post-match, the broadcast showed behind-the-goals vision of star midfielder Tom Liberatore stumbling to the ground, much to the alarm of opponent Darcy Parish, who immediately signalled for trainers.

"He's fine. For some reason, he lost his footing and stumbled, but he's fine. He's been looked after and there's no concussion or anything like that," Beveridge said of Liberatore.

"We were coming in just making sure he's okay, and apparently he's fine."

Beveridge said the club would work through draftee Ryley Sanders' visible frustration with being subbed off for the second time in his five-game career, recording eight disposals and five tackles before he was pulled halfway through the third.

"We’ll process it with him post-game. It’s always difficult, not many of us really enjoy the sub factor, especially the subbing out factor. But it’s a steep learning curve for 'Sando'," Beveridge said.

"He’s going to be such an important player for the football club, and he’s learning all the time, and part of that is understanding from time to time he may be that guy who comes off the ground. We’ll work through it with him."

Ryley Sanders in action during round five, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Essendon coach Brad Scott was thrilled with the response of his side after a 69-point loss to Port Adelaide last week.

"When things are going well for you, you get positive reinforcement of when things are working, but I've always been a believer you learn the most from your losses, I was really pleased with the work our coaching group did," Scott said.

"It's a big call – we've got some good, experienced players (in the midfield), but the big roles went to (Sam) Durham and (Jye) Caldwell. You learn a lot from those opportunities, but I thought they stood up really well, they were really important for us, both of them.

"I feel a bit like an under-12s coach, but it was a good, team effort for us tonight. I could go through all of the players and all the roles, some will be recognised externally and some won't, but all will be recognised internally."


Scott said Jye Menzie (shoulder) would have been right to play out the game, but was subbed out as Nick Hind was a perfect forward replacement.

He also confirmed Dylan Shiel made a successful return from a long-term foot injury (and subsequent oblique issue) "and looked really sharp" in the VFL earlier on Friday night, and is a chance to return to AFL level either next week or the game after.