Rory Lobb thought he was getting replaced. Instead, he was getting remade.

When the whiteboard came out midway through last Wednesday's main training to spell out the teams for that day's match simulation session, there was Lobb's name camped at full-forward in the reserves side. It was a deflating feeling.

The game before, he'd played arguably his best match in Bulldogs colours. He'd won 19 disposals, kicked three goals and taken six marks playing as a ruck-forward against his former side Fremantle. But that was a fortnight ago. Aaron Naughton was back from a knee injury. Sam Darcy was back from suspension. Had the bye in between stunted his momentum? Lobb was sure he was returning to the VFL.

But towards the end of training, when the onlooking media had been asked to pack up their cameras and leave, Dogs coach Luke Beveridge walked over to Lobb and his opponent James O'Donnell with a message: "Swap bibs." Suddenly, the roles had been flipped and he was acting as a key defender against the equally as versatile O'Donnell.

Lobb's first instinct might have been to question the call. After all, he couldn't quite remember the last time he'd been asked to play as a defender throughout his 11-year career at AFL level – even at training. But if this was the way Lobb would keep his spot in the side, then he set about grasping it.

"When you see your name on the twos whiteboard, it's a bit flattening," Lobb told from the Whitten Oval this week.

"Usually, it does mean you're getting dropped and I hadn't spoken to 'Bevo' for those two weeks (over the bye) coming into training. But he spoke to me straight after and said he wanted to try me as a back. He said I'd played too well the previous game to be dropped, so I was very grateful."

What resulted was somewhat of a revelation. Lobb had 16 disposals, eight marks, five intercept marks and 12 intercept possessions in a win over North Melbourne. It culminated in the 206cm tall being the Dogs' third highest-rated player on the ground, behind only Marcus Bontempelli and Ed Richards.


Having spent the 24 hours before the match cramming in as much backline study as he could with teammate Liam Jones – himself a natural forward, converted mid-career into being a defender – Lobb can now see a life in the backline as his future. He feels at home in defence, is again expected to line up there against Port Adelaide on Saturday, and is even learning to dish it back to his former friends in attack.

"I have full confidence," Lobb said of being a defender.

"Obviously, 'Jonesy' has got a lot more speed than I do, but I've got the length. I've got a little bit of the length to help me out with that. He really gets into my head around playing very assertively.

"I had a bit of a crash course on how to play back, but 'Jonesy' essentially told me to play like I was a forward and I'd know when to defend. That was also what 'Bevo' said to me. I basically just tried to read it like I was playing forward. Obviously, I feel really good in the contest and being a back, you're initiating the contest a little bit more and the bodywork. As much as I can pick 'Jonesy's' brain on the way he goes about it, I've just tried to emulate as much as I can from what he does.

"But Jamarra (Ugle-Hagan) is already giving it to me, saying I'm a failed forward gone back. I used to say the exact same stuff to the backs, so now I'm trying to give it back to the forwards as much as I can."

Lobb's campaign to that point had been a frustrating one. Having started the season out of the senior side, he'd featured just three times in 13 weeks before earning a reprieve when Naughton hurt his knee against Sydney and Darcy was suspended for a late bump against Collingwood the following week.

Despite some solid VFL form – he'd kicked 17 goals from seven matches with Footscray this year – he knew that opportunities were proving hard to come by. At 31 years of age, and with two seasons remaining on his contract, it wasn't a position he wanted to find himself in.

"It was obviously challenging," Lobb said.

"Everyone wants to be playing AFL, but there's only 23 that can go out there every week. When I went back to the VFL, I just tried to get around those boys and tried to keep a positive mindset and go out there and play footy as best as I could.

"Obviously, I wanted to be playing AFL. But, at the time, it wasn't best for the team. Hopefully I can find my spot as a back for now and if I have to go forward, I have to go forward. It'll depend on what we need.

"There are boys that miss out every week. If I was to go down to the VFL and sook it up, it's not a good example. Especially being such a senior player. I just tried to keep that positive mindset. We all want to be playing AFL, but the reality is we can't every week. Obviously, now I've got that spot as a back I'll be doing everything I can to stay in the team."