THE WESTERN Bulldogs will give Lachie Hunter as much time away from the club as he needs to deal with ongoing mental health challenges.
But Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge has dismissed any fears the premiership winger may be lost to the AFL completely.
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The former Bulldogs vice-captain previously missed four games in July and August of 2020 due to personal reasons.
Beveridge alluded to Hunter's battles during a now-infamous press conference exchange with a journalist after the Bulldogs' round-one loss this season.
Hunter, 27, has played all five games this season and 168 in total for the Bulldogs since his debut in 2013.
"I don't have that concern," Beveridge said on Wednesday when asked if he was worried about Hunter not returning to the club.
"I believe Lachie is going to be OK and we'll have him back before the end of the year.
"Over the journey Lachie's had a challenge here and there.
"The thing about 'Hunts' is every time he turns up to play he gives his absolute all, and in recent times it's got on top of him a little bit.
"He's OK but he knows in the immediate future he's got to work through a few things.
"Whether it's a month, two months or whatever it may be, we'll have him back and hopefully he's able to play some footy before the end of the year."
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The Bulldogs have been able to support a number of players, including Bailey Smith and retired premiership hero Tom Boyd, work through personal issues in recent times.
But Beveridge is concerned by the slashing of the AFL's soft cap since the COVID-19 pandemic and what that is doing to clubs and their ability to help struggling players.
He did admit the AFL, and society in general, has come a long way in accepting players who are battling with their mental health.
"I think now we understand the challenges that individuals are facing in the industry and the public exposure and their public life and we're able to help them more," Beveridge said.
"This is where I take my hat off to a large contingent of our playing group because they've been through some of this before with some of their other teammates.
"When an individual who has some hurdles to jump in their life, and we're a player down in the club, it puts added responsibility onto others.
"My role, and people who work in supportive roles within the football club, have to make sure everyone else is OK and that's where it becomes emotional."
The Bulldogs bounced back from a slow start to the season last Friday when they smashed North Melbourne by 68 points.
They will head to their second home on Saturday when they host a resurgent Adelaide in Ballarat.
Beveridge put a line through forward Mitch Hannan, who has missed the past two weeks, as he continues to battle lingering concussion symptoms.