THE WESTERN Bulldogs are set to regain star defender Liam Jones and gun half-back Ed Richards for Friday night's crucial clash against Richmond.
Jones hasn't played since breaking his forearm in two places against North Melbourne in round 14.
The 32-year-old recruit was on track for a maiden All-Australian blazer when young Kangaroos forward Paul Curtis kicked his arm while attempting to soccer the ball off the ground.
Jones was initially expected to return closer to the end of the home and away season, but has recovered faster than first thought, missing only five games after returning to the AFL following his decision to miss the 2022 season.
Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said Jones will help cover the loss of Alex Keath and Josh Bruce, after the key defenders exited last Saturday's loss against Greater Western Sydney at Mars Stadium due to injuries.
"Liam will come back into the team when it is announced this afternoon," Beveridge told reporters at the Whitten Oval on Thursday.
"There will be another couple of changes. We've got a captain's run this morning and we will finalise our team after that."
After losing Keath to concussion and Bruce to a long-term knee injury, Ryan Gardner is also no guarantee to face the Tigers after missing training on Wednesday.
Richards didn't face the Giants in Ballarat due to illness but is expected to play on Friday night after returning to training this week.
"Ed has come off being crook last week. We think he'll be fine," Beveridge said.
"Ryan didn't train the other day on a six-day break. We are trying to lighten his load a little bit."
Bruce has undergone a knee reconstruction on Thursday after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament, suffering a second long-term knee injury in the space of two years, after tearing the ACL in his other knee in 2021.
Beveridge said Bruce's family have flown to Melbourne from Canberra to provide support during a tough period for the out-of-contract veteran who was fighting for another contract before the devastating injury in Ballarat.
"It is pretty traumatic for him," he said. "I think the important thing for him this time around is it was a pretty lonely rehab during pandemic times last time with his other knee.
"At least he will have family around, both sides of the family have rallied and come down to support Pip and help with Poppy and Augie.
"He goes in to surgery today with some trepidation and then we'll just support him out the other side."
With Tim O'Brien still sidelined due to a hamstring strain, Category B rookie James O'Donnell is in line to return from concussion to help bolster the Bulldogs' defence.
The Bulldogs completed a rare training session at Marvel Stadium on Thursday afternoon ahead of a crucial Friday night fixture when it comes to the finals race.
Melbourne and North Melbourne are the only two other sides to train at the Docklands venue in 2023, with the Dogs not training at Marvel Stadium since before the coronavirus pandemic.
After dropping three of their past four games, the Dogs sit only half a game inside the top eight in eighth spot with four rounds left to play.
Geelong, Sydney and Richmond all sit two premiership points below, while Adelaide, Essendon and Gold Coast only have one less win on the board after 20 rounds.