Horror injury overshadows Dogs' triumph in Cairns
A CAREER-THREATENING injury to Western Bulldogs veteran Dale Morris has soured his side's crucial 16.14.110 to 8.8.56 victory over the Gold Coast Suns and a stunning six-goal haul from Liam Picken.
Morris landed awkwardly on his forearm following an aerial duel with Suns skipper Tom Lynch on centre wing in the first quarter in Cairns, before immediately signalling for medical attention.
The Dogs tweeted the injury was "a suspected broken forearm" at the main break, before Fox Footy commentator Ben Dixon reported Morris had broken both bones in the forearm.
Morris, 34, has a history of playing through injury - he famously revealed he played with a broken back in last year's grand final - but this setback is a massive blow to his hopes of playing on in 2018.
Meanwhile, throughout the year the Bulldogs have been crying out for numerous threats in front of goal and it appears they may have found their man in Picken.
In a different-looking forward line, the Bulldogs veteran stole the show with a record-breaking performance with six goals, the most of any player at Cazaly's Stadium in a single game.
It was a record Picken was certainly modest about, telling Fox Footy: "I'll take that."
Picken set the tone for his performance in the first half, beating his previous career-best of three goals by the midway point of the second term, an opening half which impressed injured Sun Michael Barlow.
"He's not naturally a forward, earlier in his career he was half-back, went to the midfield All-Australian type form through there and he must just be a coach's' dream," he told Fox Footy.
Despite having previously shown an ability to play in a host of positions, Picken admitted he found himself in a unique situation against the Suns.
"It was a bit different this week, playing up forward. It was nice when the ball was coming in and to get on the scoreboard," he said.
"It was strange conditions. It was windy, it was hot, but it just worked out tonight which was good."
While the Suns went down by 54 points - the Bulldogs' biggest win over the year - there were plenty of signs to suggest patience is the key with the club's youngsters.
In a midfield which once again missed Gary Ablett, Brayden Fiorini showcased his ball-winning ability of recent weeks, collecting a team-high 29 disposals, with the next best Sun collecting 22.
Darcy Macpherson was another player to make an impression on the Suns' coaching staff with 16 disposals in just his seventh game of AFL football.
But perhaps the biggest impression was made by pick four from the 2016 draft, Ben Ainsworth.
The talented Ainsworth almost single-handedly willed the Suns back into the contest during the third term, kicking 2.1 in a matter of minutes.
It wasn't only his impact on the scoreboard which would please the club's supporters, the forward pressure he brought to the table often caused rushed disposal from opposition defenders.