THE WESTERN Bulldogs will resist blooding top pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan despite his five-goal haul in last week's VFL practice game, with the key forward set to be given more time to build his fitness.
And 2016 premiership skipper Easton Wood also looks set to miss selection for the Bulldogs' clash with West Coast on Sunday despite returning from his hamstring strain last week.
Ugle-Hagan, the Dogs' prized selection from last year's NAB AFL Draft, was a standout in their lead-up game last week against Collingwood's VFL but coach Luke Beveridge said there were still aspects of the 18-year-old's game that would need to improve as he pushes for a much-anticipated debut.
"He kicked five, which is fantastic and to see some of his specific gifts and traits come out that allowed him to rise to the top of that draft order was really exciting for all of us to see," Beveridge said on Tuesday.
>> WATCH Jamarra Ugle-Hagan will be on Yokayi Footy on AFL.com.au and NITV from 8pm AEDT on Wednesday, March 24
"He's still got a fair way to go, 'Marra', and we've got to make sure that he's ready and to be productive in winning games of footy for us. It was a step in the right direction but he definitely won't be in the team this week."
Beveridge said the rule change in the VFL this season also meant it was harder for young key-position players to build their match conditioning which could delay Ugle-Hagan's first appearance at senior level for the club.
The VFL this season is trialling zones for stoppages, with a minimum of three players from each team needing to be stationed inside 50 – including a pair in the goalsquare – at all kick-ins, boundary throw-ins and ball-ups.
In Friday's practice game, there were several times where the resumption of play was stopped as umpires reorganised players to ensure they were correctly zoned.
Beveridge said it was a "spanner in the works" when deciding on team selection with a variation of rules for his players across both squads.
A WHOLE SERIES OF HEADACHES Bevo slams sub rule
"Even in this game Jamarra didn't run anywhere near like he's going to be required to run in an AFL game so it's actually going to hold a player like Jamarra back because we can't get that match conditioning that he needs at AFL level," he said.
The Eagles' trio of tall forwards – Oscar Allen, Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling – present as a big challenge for the Bulldogs as they aim to start their campaign 2-0.
Beveridge said the Dogs' defensive effort in restricting the Magpies to seven goals in round one made it difficult to push Wood back into the line-up after his return from a pre-season hamstring tear.
"He's missed a bit of footy and sometimes it's hard to change a winning side, and the back end were particularly good. One of our objectives this year is to be better defensively. We still want to score as much as anyone like any team but to keep Collingwood to the lowest score of the round was a big win for us and the back seven were a critical part of that," he said.
"It will be difficult to change that and Easton's aware of that. He got through the game which was really important after he'd had a couple of hiccups so we'll see but he might spend another week or two playing state league and getting cherry ripe for his return."