Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge expects a more settled Jamarra Ugle-Hagan to take a step forward in his fledgling AFL career against Gold Coast on Saturday.
Last year’s No.1 draft pick made his long-awaited debut when he replaced star forward Aaron Naughton (concussion) in the side against Sydney last week.
The 19-year-old was not as clean as he would’ve liked and finished with just seven disposals in the defeat, but held his place in the team despite Naughton returning as one of four inclusions for the Suns clash.
With ruck-forward Stefan Martin (groin) still out injured, Beveridge is eager to see how the 194cm Ugle-Hagan will work alongside fellow talls Josh Bruce, Tim English and Naughton in the front half of the ground.
“Marra will be better for the experience,” Beveridge said.
“There’s always a little bit of self-doubt and you’re sort of on an edge in your first one.
“I’m sure he’ll be a little bit more settled and hopefully he can get into the game early.”
Naughton is a key inclusion at Metricon Stadium alongside Hayden Crozier, Roarke Smith and Josh Dunkley, who is back after almost three months out with a shoulder injury.
Beveridge said Tom Liberatore had been “a little bit sore the last couple of weeks” and expects the gun on-baller to miss just one match.
Dunkley is an ideal replacement but will take time to get back to full fitness.
“Dunks comes in fit, but he hasn’t played footy, so he’s probably not that match fit and match hardened player that he was when he went out of the side,” Beveridge said.
“That might take one or two weeks to get back.”
Gold Coast have lost Sam Day (foot), Hugh Greenwood (knee) and Oleg Markov (calf) to injury but regained Noah Anderson (fractured hand) and Josh Corbett (concussion), while Caleb Graham has been recalled to take on English in the ruck.
The Bulldogs won’t take their 14th-placed opponents lightly after the Suns’ strong form in upset wins over Richmond and GWS in the last fortnight.
“Their chairman put them under pressure, (the media has been) questioning them and even their viability (as a club), so you can imagine how they’ve galvanised since then,” Beveridge said of Stuart Dew’s side.
“They’ve done well, they’ve rebounded, they’ve had a couple of impressive wins … and whenever we play them they challenge us with their work ethic and what they do well.”