The Western Bulldogs have consolidated their spot in the top four with a clinical 53-point win over Brisbane on Saturday night at Etihad Stadium.
The 17.18 (120) to 10.7 (67) win might have come at a cost, however, with Matt Suckling departing the game in the second quarter with a knee injury.
Still adjusting to life without long-term absentees Bob Murphy and Jason Johannisen, the Dogs can ill afford to lose Suckling as well.
The former Hawk landed awkwardly in a first-quarter marking contest and hobbled off the ground favouring his right knee. He managed to return to the field, albeit heavily strapped, in the second term but didn’t re-emerge after halftime.
Young Lion Tom Cutler wasn’t so lucky, suffering an elbow injury that ended his game in the first quarter, and he was joined by Allen Christensen in the second after the former Cat suffered a concussion.
As industrious as the Lions were early, the Bulldogs always looked to have their measure and duly broke the game open with five unanswered goals setting up a 34-point halftime lead.
Down to two fit men on the bench, Brisbane looked set for a fearful hiding as the margin blew out to 54 points late in the third quarter.
But in a small positive for Justin Leppitsch, his players at least fought the game out bravely.
Koby Stevens and Mitch Wallis were impressive for the Dogs with 34 and 33 possessions respectively.
The Bulldogs had 10 goalkickers, Jake Stringer leading the way with three.
Mitch Robinson (27 disposals) was at his combative best for the Lions, with Tom Rockliff, Dayne Zorko and Daniel Merrett among their side’s best players.
After the match, Dogs coach Luke Beveridge allayed fears Suckling had suffered serious damage but conceded he was in doubt for next week’s top-of-the-table clash against North Melbourne.
Suckling also sustained ankle damage and the coach said that the length of his time on the sidelines would become clearer in the coming days.
The injury was one of few negatives for the Dogs, who had 51 more contested possessions than the Lions and a whopping 71 inside 50s to 31.
“It was a good win … we set everyone a challenge but one of the important ones was the battle in the midfield,” Beveridge said.
“Brisbane really had the better of us last year and the contributions in there and the spread through there was a significant part of the game.”
Leppitsch said the lopsided possession count was reflective of failures of structure and effort by his team.
“The start of the game was actually ok … we were quite competitive,” Leppitsch said.
“But halfway through the first quarter and onwards it just fell apart (at the stoppages) … they dominated.”