The Western Bulldogs believe the knee injury suffered by young key forward Aaron Naughton in the elimination final loss to Greater Western Sydney isn't as serious as initially feared.
In the third term of the clash at Giants Stadium on Saturday, Naughton hyperextended his dominant left leg as he landed awkwardly in a marking contest that left him clutching the knee.
The promising high-flyer required assistance to leave the field and couldn't put any weight on the leg, heightening fears he had suffered a dreaded rupture to the anterior cruciate ligament.
A lengthy stint on the sidelines would be a devastating blow for the Bulldogs given Naughton is among the most promising players in the AFL after a season that featured 30 goals from 22 games.
Dogs coach Luke Beveridge revealed that preliminary indications are that the 19-year-old had escaped an ACL tear. However, he might still require an operation.
"The initial assessment of the injury isn't that it's extreme, but they've got to scan it to work out whether or not he might need surgery. It doesn't seem to be ACL, it seems to be lateral," Beveridge said post-match.
"But I'd rather not comment in any detail – let our practitioners work it out. He'll have a scan and we'll publicise what that is as soon as we can."
It might well prove to be one of the few positives from a 58-point defeat that Beveridge described as "a nightmare", "a bit of a disaster", "an eye-opening experience" and "numbing".
He was disappointed in the lack of balance in the Dogs' performance on an afternoon in which they were swamped in inside 50s (76-37), disposals (395-319), contested possessions (167-125) and clearances (47-35).
Beveridge was at a loss to explain why they had been so comprehensively outworked, believing they had put their big round 22 victory over a depleted GWS at the same venue behind them.
"There's no doubt they probably played with an energy we didn't have, unfortunately," he said.
"We couldn't win it on the inside, when we got our hands on it, we coughed it up, and even in transition we couldn't find each other on overlap – just nothing went right.
"As far as our ball use goes, we just couldn't get into space, we didn't run like we usually do – all the things that (were) evident in our victories just weren't there."