Bruce to add bite to Bulldogs' AFL attack

Shayne Hope
Josh Bruce (l) and Patrick Lipinski during Western Bulldogs training at Whitten Oval

Western Bulldogs will unveil star recruit Josh Bruce in their final AFL pre-season hit-out against Port Adelaide.

Young star Aaron Naughton will miss Saturday's match at Whyalla but is expected to join Bruce in a new-look forward line in round one after successful knee surgery.

Bruce was a prized acquisition during October's trade period and missed the Bulldogs' first pre-season match because of back spasms.

But the former St Kilda forward, who kicked 36 goals last year, is fit to return this week alongside fellow tall Josh Schache.

"We're looking to getting him into the team and getting to know his teammates and really just getting some match practice in, which is really important," Bulldogs assistant coach Ash Hansen said.

"Because Aaron's not available, we're probably going to just have the two talls at this stage operating down there.

"Potentially three with Lewis Young, but it's going to be fluid (this season) depending on who's performing and where we think the opposition can be exploited."

The Bulldogs will pick a near full-strength team to take on Port, with former skipper Easton Wood (hamstring) and first-choice ruckman Tim English (concussion) set to return to action.

Naughton and star midfielder Tom Liberatore, who is recovering from a knee injury, are two key players unavailable.

Liberatore is expected to return through the VFL early in the season, while Lin Jong is out with a long-term hamstring injury.

Naughton is in contention for the round-one encounter with Collingwood on March 19 after arthroscopic surgery to address a cartilage concern in his right knee last month.

It is the opposite knee to the one he hurt late last season.

The 20-year-old star, who enjoyed a breakout 2019 campaign after being moved to the forward line, is scheduled to resume running on Thursday in a positive step in his recovery.

"We're really happy with how Naughts came out of surgery ... and he's on track for round one, which is exciting," Hansen said.