Hunter could lead at Dogs again: Beveridge

Lachie Hunter (r) could play a leadership role for the Bulldogs again, says coach Luke Beveridge.
Lachie Hunter (r) could play a leadership role for the Bulldogs again, says coach Luke Beveridge.

Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge is open to Lachie Hunter returning to the club's leadership group in the future, as the winger heads into the second game of his AFL return with a point to prove.

Hunter relinquished the Bulldogs' vice-captaincy in April when he received a four-match ban for an alleged drink-driving incident during coronavirus lockdown.

In an interview with the club's website, Hunter said he had "aspirations" to one day return to the leadership group and would "love" to be vice-captain again.

Beveridge indicated he was open to Hunter playing a leadership role in the future, but there wouldn't be any rush to return him to an official post.

"He's got almost his time to serve again now where he needs to establish a trust from the collective - from his teammates and the club," Beveridge told reporters on Thursday.

"One thing that Lachie has always done is he's been so proactive and assertive in driving us forward and been quite futuristic in the way he approaches the game.

"We'll benefit from his on-field leadership - he's not going to be any less vocal, he'll be influential with his performance.

"So there's some aspects of his personality and the way he plays the game that just tell us that he's got those foundations and those great leadership characteristics that will never go away.

"But you've got to combine all of that with the way you carry yourself away from the football club again.

"Over time, I've got no doubt that he'll be in that conversation and that'll be a natural thing if it happens - but there's no urgency around it."

Hunter impressed in his AFL return last week, collecting 27 disposals in the Bulldogs' 52-point loss to Carlton, and is set to play a crucial role against Essendon on Friday night.

The 25-year-old was among the stand-outs the last time the Bulldogs faced the Bombers, collecting 34 disposals in a 104-point win in round 21 last year.

That victory included a run of 21 unanswered Bulldogs goals - though Beveridge was wary of comparing the 2019 Essendon line-up to the 2020 version currently sitting 4-1.

Beveridge said the Bulldogs would make four changes - none forced - with Hayden Crozier to return from a week's suspension and first-round draft pick Cody Weightman to debut.

The Bombers will be without Dylan Shiel (suspended) while Conor McKenna (hand) will have to prove his fitness.

Australian Associated Press