AFL 2024; Tom Liberatore could return for the Western Bulldogs

Western Bulldogs kicker Tom Liberatore could be cleared to return to AFL as soon as this Friday against Brisbane after a series of concussions that “ticked all the possible boxes” to be fit.

But Norm Smith medalist Jason Johannisen suffered another setback as he injured his saber at the weekend while rehabilitating a hamstring injury and will be out for at least six weeks.

Liberatore has not played since suffering his second concussion of the season against Hawthorn in round eight, and has missed six games this season due to protocols after also falling behind against Essendon in round five.

He needed clearance from outside experts just to return to practice, but the 32-year-old has been training solidly for more than a month and could play against the Lions on Friday night.

“Tom has established excellent continuity in his training over the last few weeks,” said Chris Bell, the Bulldogs’ head of sports medicine.

“He has progressed as well as we could have hoped and ticked all the possible boxes to announce his availability.”

“If he does the main training on Wednesday as I expect, he will be back available.”

Ed Richards, who filled the hole in the middle left by Liberatore, is also expected to return from his own concussion, with a decision to be made in the next 48-72 hours.

But James Harmes will be on the sidelines after injuring his hamstring in last week’s win over Collingwood.

“The scan confirmed that James had suffered a minor hamstring injury,” Bell said.

“I expect him to miss the next 3-4 weeks of football.”

Laitham Vandermeer, who left the same game in the second quarter with a hamstring problem, could still compete with the lefty after tests

confirmed “a pocket of fluid surrounding his thigh muscle” associated with the plug.

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