WESTERN Bulldogs star Bailey Smith is a confirmed starter for Friday night's big clash against Geelong at Marvel Stadium, but Jamarra Ugle-Hagan might have to wait a little bit longer for a recall despite a dominant display in the VFL on the weekend. 

Smith missed the 101-point win over West Coast at Optus Stadium last Saturday night after dealing with a serious case of the flu ahead of the trip to Perth, but the midfielder has fully recovered and trained strongly at the Whitten Oval this week. 

The 21-year-old has emerged as a Brownlow Medal contender across the first half of 2022, averaging 33 disposals, 632.8 metres gained, 7.8 score involvements and 6.9 inside 50s from nine games.  

Bailey Smith gets a kick away under pressure during round nine, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

"'Baz' will come back in, obviously. Definitely one change to the team, anything outside of that will be really considered. He has bounced back, trained yesterday and got through in flying colours," Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge told reporters at a press conference on Thursday.

After playing the first six games of 2022, Ugle-Hagan has put himself back in senior selection contention across the past fortnight in the VFL, booting six goals from 16 disposals and six marks against Williamstown last Saturday, after kicking three goals against Gold Coast a week earlier. 

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Beveridge is pleased with the progress of the 2020 No.1 pick at Footscray, but indicated it will be difficult to change a forward mix that kicked 25 goals – and had 16 individual goalkickers – in the triple-digit win in the West.

"'Marra's' last two weeks have been really encouraging. He is pushing to be back in that 22," Beveridge said.

"He has had a couple of good weeks, but it's going to be difficult to change the team too much after the performance last week.

"Some of the hidden things you don’t necessarily see on the stats sheet from one or two of the boys that play in those roles that 'Marra' might be playing in if he was in the team, we've got to be measured in our thought process."

Star ruckman Tim English looms as a key player against the Cats after the 24-year-old earned maximum coaches votes in Perth in his first game back after missing five games due to illness and a hamstring strain. 

Geelong is set to regain Rhys Stanley for the first time since the ruckman injured his ankle again in round nine, after relying on tall utility Mark Blicavs in the absence of Esava Ratugolea and Jon Ceglar.

"Tim has had a progressive start to the year, then he's gone out of the team. It's affected us a little bit because he was influential at the start of the year. His return last week – he was the best man on the ground – he's done that once or twice previously," he said.

"He becomes an important factor to get that drive out of the stoppage. He has been a big part of that. We look forward to him really contributing to that tomorrow night."

Tim English flies for a mark during the round 11 clash between Western Bulldogs and West Coast at Optus Stadium on May 28, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Beveridge said key forward Josh Bruce is on track to return via the VFL following the Western Bulldogs' mid-season bye next weekend, after taking another step forward with his recovery from a knee reconstruction this week. 

"He should be available as soon as we come back, that's the plan. He trained yesterday and we think that he is a few weeks away. He should be right to go at state league level after that," he said.

The 2016 premiership winning coach was thrilled to see Will Hayes earn another opportunity at AFL after Carlton selected the 26-year-old with the final pick in Wednesday night's Mid-Season Rookie Draft, seven months after being delisted by the Dogs.

Will Hayes in action for Carlton's VFL team in 2022. Picture: carltonfc.com.au

"Absolutely rapt for Hayesy to get another chance. It's starting to look like little Footscray over there with Lewy Young, Jordon Boyd and ash Hansen over there," he said. 

"Haysey is a ripper. He provided tremendous service as a player here. he played in a Footscray premiership and I'm rapt that he's got another chance." 

The Western Bulldogs have recovered from a poor start to the season to sit in the top-eight at 6-5 after 11 rounds, two games adrift of the top-four.