THE WESTERN Bulldogs believe star forward Aaron Naughton will require surgery on a fractured cheekbone, but remain hopeful he could return for the club's elimination final in a fortnight's time.
Naughton was sent to hospital for scans at half-time of the team's 30-point victory over Fremantle on Sunday night, which confirmed their position in the top-eight ahead of Melbourne.
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The incident came after a nasty bump with Dockers ruckman Sean Darcy that saw the two players clash heads, with Naughton immediately clutching his face and coming from the field.
He failed to return in the second half, with the club now awaiting scan results that will determine how high the fracture is and subsequently how long the talented marking forward will miss.
"We believe it's a depressed fracture of the cheekbone," Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said.
"It's just where it is. Sometimes players can almost play the next week, definitely in two weeks' time. But if it's up around the eye socket, it can be a bit worse.
"We haven't got any confirmation on where it is, but it's pretty firm that he's got a depressed fracture of his cheekbone."
Naughton has been the focal point of the Western Bulldogs' forward line this season, kicking 14 goals from 11 matches, with his contested marking ability a crucial part of the team's attack.
The pre-finals bye will give the 20-year-old time to recover, but the Dogs will remain uncertain as to his chances of playing either West Coast or St Kilda in an elimination final in two weeks' time until his scan results are returned.
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"We think he'll need surgery," Beveridge said.
"Usually what they do, they go through there (pointed at temple region) and lever it out. I remember Shane Wakelin, I think he might have played the next week when he had one. He was a tough customer.
"If (Naughton) is minor … hopefully he'll be right for the first final. But if it's up a bit higher, I think it's a bit more serious."
There is better news for the Western Bulldogs in terms of the fitness of fellow forward option Mitch Wallis, who left the field in the dying stages of the victory over Fremantle with a shoulder injury.
Wallis looked disappointed at the full-time siren, having failed to return to the field after suffering the injury, but Beveridge does not believe the blow will be enough to keep him sidelined for the finals.
"He gave it a little bit of a jolt near the end," Beveridge said.
"But I just spoke to him then and he should be fine."
For Fremantle, the defeat ended a season that has featured significant improvement under first-year coach Justin Longmuir. However, the Dockers believe there is more to come in the future.
"We're not satisfied with where we're at," Longmuir said.
"We can't be a club that accepts where we are on the ladder. Really, I won't review ladder positions as an area of growth. We've got to drill down a little bit further than that.
"We'll look at our game, look at our players and see where each individual can grow. That's including me … where can I get better as a coach? How can I help our players get better as a leader of the footy club?
"We've got to really drill down on individuals and our system and try to get better in many aspects."