THE CONCERNS surrounding an impending injury crisis at the Western Bulldogs are set to be eased, with star midfielder Lachie Hunter almost guaranteed to return this week from a four-match suspension for an alleged drink-driving incident.
The Bulldogs, who are among the form teams in the competition after winning three successive matches, could be forced into four changes for this week's clash with Carlton after a bruising battle against North Melbourne last Saturday night.
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Lin Jong is expected to miss the next two months due to a syndesmosis injury suffered in the convincing 49-point win, while young duo Bailey Smith and Laitham Vandermeer are both unlikely to play after sustaining concussions.
Impressive defender Hayden Crozier will also be unavailable, having failed to overturn a one-match suspension for a dangerous tackle on Kangaroos youngster Jack Mahoney at the AFL Tribunal on Tuesday night.
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However, the Dogs' midfield will be bolstered by Hunter's return, with the prolific onballer having served his four-match suspension for an alleged drink driving incident during the game's shutdown period.
Hunter was alleged to have crashed into four parked cars while more than two times over the legal blood-alcohol limit.
He was stripped of his vice-captaincy, as well as being slapped with a four-match ban and a $20,000 fine ($15,000 suspended) for the misdemeanour.
He was hit with four charges for the incident by Victoria Police last month, while he was also handed a $1652 penalty notice for breaching COVID-19 laws that were in place at the time of the offence.
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"I've got no doubt it would have changed him and he'll learn from it … I think it'll improve his outlook and who he is as a young man," Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge told radio station RSN on Wednesday.
"He's very fit and strong and he's ready to play. It's probably difficult coming back from that period away, after letting yourself down and you still know you've got four weeks to serve.
"But he's focused on his work and he hasn't taken his eye off the ball with trying to help others.
"We'll consider him for selection this week, and with 'Jongy' going down there's a spot there. And with Crozier being suspended, there's another spot. So, we'll consider him. He's definitely ready to go."