Norm Smith Medallist Jason Johannisen is nearing full fitness but is unlikely to run out for the Western Bulldogs when they face Gold Coast on Sunday.
Johannisen, who has been battling an ankle injury, is more likely to play his first game for the year against Collingwood the following Friday night.
The running defender has been recovering from syndesmosis and his return will strengthen a Bulldogs team that is showing signs of recapturing its 2016 form.
"To have him up our sleeve will be a good thing," said coach Luke Beveridge.
Utility Jackson Trengrove has come down with gastro while still recovering from his ankle injury, and is also unlikely to play against the Suns.
The Bulldogs' wins against Sydney and Hawthorn in the first two rounds of the season were a surprise for many after their less-than-stellar performances the last two seasons.
Beveridge acknowledged the club hasn't had an easy time in past seasons but had been buoyed by their early wins.
"I think it's just disconcerting where you're going through a period when you're not necessarily winning games and you're being challenged in the public domain. And that's not nice for anyone, it's just part of what we do," he said.
"And so it's just good for the boys at the moment to be acknowledged for their recent efforts but also feeling it and looking forward to the promise for the future."
Asked whether the club's spirit was similar to that in 2016, he said: "There's no doubt that after round two there are some good signs. But the reality is it's just round two.
"Your culture and your environment, it's the people who establish that, who nurture it and maintain it. And at times that's compromised through various things whether you're talking about spirit on the field, sometimes injury, sometimes a belief, so we're looking to reestablish that."
The return of Tom Liberatore has had a "tremendous effect" on the team, according to Beveridge.
"Tom's almost playing some of the best footy he's ever played," he said.
"And that was the question with him being out of the game for so long … there were some
challenges afoot and he's come up and met those challenges."
Beveridge was critical of the changes to rule interpretations that make life difficult for umpires, following the AFL's controversial crackdown on striking.
"It's always going to be a challenge when our game continues to shift and move and the rules change and we can't establish any sort of foothold on precedence in any area. We just have been never abRead More – Source