Bulldogs back Naughton, stalwart Daniel dropped

Western Bulldogs spearhead Aaron Naughton is judged on more than goals, having kicked just four across the opening month of the AFL season, coach Luke Beveridge says.

But Caleb Daniel has paid the price for his up-and-down start to the year, with the versatile stalwart dropped for Friday night's clash with Essendon at Marvel Stadium.

Naughton, 24, has been a focal point of the Bulldogs' attack and last year signed a bumper nine-year extension to remain at Whitten Oval.

But this season, Cody Weightman (11 goals), Marcus Bontempelli (seven), Sam Darcy (six) and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (six) have all proved more potent.

Part of that has been due to Naughton, who kicked at least 40 goals in each of his past three seasons, pushing up the ground.

But after Naughton went goalless against Geelong on Saturday, Beveridge said the player had been "outstanding" against Gold Coast and West Coast, with high score involvements, contested marks and work-rate.

Aaron Naughton.
Naughton has been playing higher up the field for the Western Bulldogs this season.

Naughton is ranked elite in the AFL for score involvements (7.3), goal assists (1.3) and marks on the lead (1.5).

"We don't judge his games on how many times he kicks it between the two big sticks," Beveridge said.

"(We'd) love him to be kicking more for his own sake. But, when the team's averaged over 100 points the last three rounds, no one's happier ... as far as being a leader and a team player than Aaron Naughton.

"We've got to remember Cody Weightman kicked six against Gold Coast. Some of the other boys are getting (goals).

"The best teams, and the teams that challenge at the end of the year, are the ones who have multiple goalkickers who share and spread that responsibility.

"We want to be one of those teams. We don't expect Aaron to kick four or five goals every week.

"I'm sure in the games coming up that he's going to kick multiples (goals) and he's going to really hit the scoreboard."

Daniel, who was the substitute in round one and taken off against the Cats, makes way for tall defender James O'Donnell in the Bulldogs' only change for Friday.

He has been listed as an emergency.

Caleb Daniel.
Caleb Daniel has been dropped by the Western Bulldogs for Friday night's clash with Essendon.

Beveridge conceded Daniel's versatility had counted against him.

"I suppose the team's needs have come before Caleb's to a degree and that's always hard for a player to process and deal with," he said.

"But as you'd expect in such a great character and with great integrity, he'll always process things in accordance with what's best for the team.

"He'll probably spend a bit of time at half-back.

"If he plays state league, and maybe it is a period of time where he spends some time there, it just depends on who's playing well in different areas at AFL level, and where he in the end gets his claws into the competition again.

"We've got no doubt that'll happen but there's no need to do anything at the moment."

Midfielder Jack Macrae has been named on the bench and could yet be the substitute.

The Bombers have regained Sam Durham from concussion and recalled Alwyn Davey Jr, replacing Archie Perkins (hamstring) and Will Setterfield (knee).

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