Bulldog Lake finally has match practice - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Bulldog Lake finally has match practice

By Roger Vaughan and Sam Lienert 18/03/2011 08:54:44 PM Comments (0)

All-Australian key defender Brian Lake has finally managed match practice, adding to the Western Bulldogs' selection intrigue over their AFL season opener.

Lake played in an intra-club scratch match on Friday, a few hours before VFL affiliates Williamstown took on Box Hill at Whitten Oval.

When Lake did not turn out for Williamstown, it appeared as though his chances of being ready for round one had nose-dived.

The classy defender has not played a proper pre-season match after hip, shoulder and knee surgery.

But the Bulldogs have admitted his performance in the scratch match boosted Lake's chances for the March 17 opener against Essendon.

"It's an interesting one, it's how we use that sub," assistant coach Paul Williams said of the new substitute rule.

"We wanted to keep him under our eyes so we could manage him properly and he did more than what we thought he would, so it was good, very pleasing.

"He played okay - we need to work out how he pulls up.

"Everything is about how he pulls up."

Fellow key players Adam Cooney, Dale Morris and Rob Murphy also played the entire scratch match, which consisted of three periods.

"There's a few decisions to make," Williams said.

"There's 19 or 20 who are decided on at the minute, probably 19, and there's still some decisions to make with the other (three)."

Football manager James Fantasia said while Lake was over his injuries and desperate to play, the club would tread carefully while he was regaining fitness.

"We don't want to rush him back because it's the start of the season. We want to make sure his recovery is right."

With another experienced defender Ryan Hargrave out long-term with a foot injury, it gives the Dogs some concerns against the Bombers.

Essendon's ability to field a tall attack, with ruckmen Paddy Ryder and David Hille spending stints alongside the in-form Michael Hurley and possibly Scott Gumbleton, could trouble a Lake-less defence.

"That's going to be one of the concerns and I know the boys have been talking about that," Fantasia said.

But he said the Bulldogs had confidence in their defensive depth.

Also on Friday, Carlton players Andrew Carrazzo, Mark Austin, Lachie Henderson, Brock McLean and Jordan Russell all came through unscathed when they played for VFL affiliates the Northern Bullants against Coburg.

Setanta O'hAilpin (ankle) did not play, making him an unlikely candidate for round one.

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