THIS is the scenario Luke Beveridge has planned for all year.
With a head knock ruling out star forward Cody Weightman from Saturday night's preliminary final against Port Adelaide, the Dogs' options to replace the second-year gun are plentiful.
Weightman's void will not be an easy one to fill. Such has been his remarkable improvement since emerging in this Bulldogs outfit in round nine, the 20-year-old is already one of the team's most influential figures in attack.
Able to mark above his head, in addition to crumbing and applying pressure as a small forward option, Beveridge conceded after the weekend's victory over Brisbane that there would be no like-for-like replacement for Weightman.
But the Bulldogs have groomed a number of options to come into the team and contribute effectively, using a League-high 41 players across the course of the 2021 season. It will make for an interesting selection conundrum later this week.
"This is what happens with most of our list playing some AFL footy this year," Beveridge said after his side's thrilling one-point win at the Gabba on Saturday night.
"Our boys have done an outstanding job and we've had critical role players contribute to really important victories. We'll need to call on a handful of those boys to play in a preliminary final.
"The great thing is, they'll come into the team and feel like they've contributed in the past. We'll have a different player to replace Cody, who will bring a difficult skill set. But there are some lads waiting in the wings who will come in and be an important part of our make-up."
Who are those players? AFL.com.au looks at the options.
STICK WITH A SMALL?
Although Weightman provides an effective marking option in the air, the Bulldogs appear likely to stick with Aaron Naughton and Tim English as their focal points in attack and opt for a small forward against Port Adelaide. Jason Johannisen provided a real threat with his speed when he entered the game for Weightman as the medical substitute last week and would seem as though he is the most ready-made candidate to take his place in the starting 22. His seven second-half disposals included one goal and five score involvements. Anthony Scott has played 20 games this season, earning a two-year contract extension as a result of his impressive form, but has started only two of the side's last eight games and appears on the fringes of the team. Mitch Wallis is another option after he was named as an emergency last week. He perhaps best embodies Weightman's dual-threat qualities, as he can mark above his head, but has played only six times all year. Lachie McNeil has featured at senior level in 13 games this year, kicking seven goals, but hasn't played since July.
MIX IT UP AND GO TALL?
Given the Bulldogs have lacked marking options since Josh Bruce's ACL injury, and considering Weightman provided the side with a rare target through his aerial prowess, there is a chance Beveridge opts for a taller replacement. Could this be No.1 pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan's time to shine? Ugle-Hagan kicked seven goals from his last four games, though the chances of him returning to the senior line-up appear slim after dropping out of the side in round 22. Beveridge said last week that the teenager probably wouldn't return this year, given the buffer that Bruce had previously provided for him is no longer available.
THE OUTSIDE CHANCES?
Never rule out a late bolter, especially when it's Beveridge making the call. Riley Garcia has played nine games this year and could factor into the Dogs' thoughts, despite having not yet kicked multiple goals in a game this season. Ed Richards has spent time between defensive and attacking posts, but is battling a shoulder injury. Louis Butler hasn't played since May, while Ben Cavarra has played just once all year – and that was in April – but both could be smokies amid a packed field.
BREAK GLASS IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
This has been the option Beveridge has been reluctant to use ever since the finals began, but could it be time for Stefan Martin? His inclusion would allow the Dogs to use English predominantly forward alongside Naughton, with Mitch Hannan providing another marking target. Martin hasn't played since June and has battled debilitating injuries all year, with Beveridge questioning his ability to complete a full match at finals intensity last month. The same applies for fellow ruckman Jordon Sweet, who hasn't featured at senior level since May.