Skipper Brad Johnson will be sidelined by injury again this weekend as age finally threatens to catch up with the famously durable Western Bulldogs utility.
Having played 21 games or more in each of his previous 15 full seasons with the Bulldogs, Johnson has only managed three of the first seven in 2010, with groin soreness ruling him out of Friday night’s clash with Melbourne.
The Bulldogs have taken a cautious approach with the 33-year-old Johnson, who is becoming increasingly susceptible to injuries.
“He’s a little bit tight in the groin. He could have trained, may be have been able to play but we thought, no … that’s why he didn’t train today,” Dogs coach Rodney Eade said on Wednesday.
He admitted the club’s oldest player was likely to miss more games this year with small issues.
“He’s getting little niggles. Obviously one was the Achilles and then the cart incident (when Johnson was accidentally knocked by a golf cart during training,” he said.
“That put him back a little bit but his fitness is pretty good actually, so from that aspect it’s not too bad.
“We’ve just got to obviously monitor the game time but we would think at worst it would only be the one week and he would be right for the week after.
“Experience tells you that he’s had a bit of an interrupted program, that maybe it’s a little bit on and off at times and maybe we just err on the side of caution at various stages.
“How many games (for the rest of the year) that equates to I’m not sure but we’d be pretty positive he’d probably get at least 12 of the 15 left.”
Eade also described the form of another veteran, Jason Akermanis, who has not kicked a goal this year, as “steady”.
“His tackling’s been up, which is good,” said Eade.
“He’s got some good numbers in that area but when you’re a great player obviously expectations of you are high.
“Probably the X-factor stuff that he does is what has been down so people notice that, whether it’s a mercurial goal or it’s great agility or his speed at various stages and his good kicking.
“But certainly his work rate around the ball has been okay.”
The Dogs will this week regain midfielder Matthew Boyd who’s recovered from a hand injury, while a number of other players are under consideration.
They include ruckman Will Minson, who has been overlooked in recent weeks in favour of youngster Jordan Roughead.