Bulldogs coach Lee Murray has had to start again. Again.
Patrick Walker had booted 27 goals in seven games to lead the league, then suffered a broken collarbone to go with a concussion in the loss to Wollongong Bulldogs a fortnight ago.
Ethan Kimball had 10 majors in four games, then suffered an ACL knee injury, also ending his season.
So Murray, who needed to find potency after struggling for height and size against the top teams last year, is back to tinkering with his forward structures.
Still, he has time on his side with seven rounds remaining and green shoots of growth before last week's bye, when Lewis Gooden kicked 10 against struggling Shellharbour.
"We'd really started to build well and then you lose two key players like that," he said. "So we're still thinking about the best way forward to make it work.
"Lewis was good, he's got a good leap and hopefully he can help us fill that void and it also helps to have a guy like Jay Banks back, he's just got that experience we need."
It's a big occasion for the Dogs, who can slam the finals door shut on Northern Districts with a win at Keira Oval. The Dogs are at 4-4, the only top four team vulnerable to a late push from the Tigers.
And Norths have lifted in the past month, despite coming away empty-handed in the doomsday run of games against Figtee, Kiama and Wollongong Lions.
"They're up and about, for sure," Murray said of the Tigers. "Forget the end scoreboard, we know how much they've tested those teams in the past three weeks.
"And we've always struggled to beat them, even when they had a couple of really tough years.
"They're always physical and hard at it, which is a real challenge for some of our younger guys to match."
While the Lions have the bye, Kiama and Figtree will be hot favourites on Saturday in their pursuit of top spot.
AFL SOUTH COAST
Men: WOLLONGONG BULLDOGS v NORTHERN DISTRICTS at Keira Oval, KIAMA v SHELLHARBOUR at Bonaira Oval, FIGTREE v BOMADERRY at Figtree Oval No.2 (2.15pm)
Women: KIAMA v SHELLHARBOUR at Bonaira Oval, WOLLONGONG BULLDOGS v NORTHERN DISTRICTS at Keira Oval, WOLLONGONG SAINTS v BOMADERRY at North Dalton Park (12.30pm)
Women's division one: WOLLONGONG SAINTS v PENRITH at North Dalton Park (2.30pm)
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