A trio of injury concerns fortunately faded for the Western Bulldogs during their intraclub clash in Ballarat on Saturday morning in what was a strong hitout under testing conditions.
The weather wasn't kind to Luke Beveridge's men, with rain and wind impacting play as a mixture of the Bulldogs' senior players and VFL-listed talent went head-to-head at Mars Stadium.
The Dogs were near full strength for the four-quarter session, with Cody Weightman (adductor), Laitham Vandermeer (leg), Tim O'Brien (hamstring) and Jason Johannisen (calf) among the small list of absent names.
Defender Ryan Gardner looked to be the club's latest pre-season casualty after suffering an arm/elbow injury in a marking contest with Jamarra Ugle-Hagan in the second term, with Gardner assisted off the field in the hands of Bulldogs medical staff.
Gardner remained on the sidelines for a large portion of the quarter before returning to the field with his left arm strapped and showing no signs of agony after grimacing from the incident earlier.
Ruckman Tim English also left local Dogs fans nervous after a nasty collision left him requiring an on-field assessment for a head knock before he quickly returned to action in the middle.
English missed multiple rounds last season due to a head knock, while hamstring and adductor issues have hindered his preparations for 2023.
The Western Australian managed to get through the remainder of the intraclub match unscathed.
Meanwhile, utility Roarke Smith suffered a suspected foot injury during the hit-out, with the 26-year-old sitting out of the intraclub match for some time.
Dogs fans shouldn't be too concerned for the trio of injury scares, while the likes of Weightman and Johannisen look to be in the mix for next week's pre-season game against North Melbourne.
The club confirmed on Friday that Vandermeer will miss the start of the home and away season with a leg fracture, while O'Brien is set to miss the opening month due to ongoing hamstring issues.
The former Hawks will find it hard to break back into Beveridge's side after a promising display from their tall contingent, with Ugle-Hagan, Aaron Naughton, Rory Lobb and Sam Darcy all managing to share the forward 50.
First half in the books 🤝
🔵 6. 3. 39
⚪️ 6. 5. 41
Tune in to our intra-club at half time to hear from Chris Grant: https://t.co/3Pr7e3xuZD pic.twitter.com/ZePx4zGFH2
— Western Bulldogs (@westernbulldogs) February 25, 2023
Lobb and English look well-balanced to split the ruck duties this season, even going head-to-head at times, while Darcy was impressive as a forward target.
The father-son selection's versatility is set to buoy Beveridge's key-position plans, with his aerial dominance also looking to match that of Naughton's.
Veteran Josh Bruce resumed his new role in defence, while swingman Buku Khamis had a large say on the scoreboard with strong opening and fourth terms.
Sophomore Arthur Jones showed exciting signs in attack in the absence of Weightman, while Toby McLean looked comfortable in the forward half of the field after playing just four games since the end of the 2020 season.
The Dogs' senior players weren't the only ones to impress in Ballarat, with VFL-listed midfield-forward Luke Goater, the brother of North Melbourne's Josh, impressed with his run and disposal.
Delisted Collingwood wingman Caleb Poulter was also impressive in his role behind the ball, with the former Magpie hoping to redeem himself in 2023 after signing with Footscray.
The Bulldogs will host North Melbourne at Ikon Park next Saturday for their one and only pre-season match before a Round 1 encounter with Melbourne at the MCG on Saturday, March 18.