Former No.2 draft pick Josh Schache has opened a "new chapter" of his AFL career as a defender in a Western Bulldogs team that's firming as this year's premiership favourites.
Schache was recalled for his second game of the season - just his fourth in two years - and played a key role in the back line as the Bulldogs posted an impressive 20-point win over Melbourne on Saturday night.
It was a change of tack for the 23-year-old, who was drafted as a key forward by Brisbane in 2015 and recruited by the Bulldogs to play that role, only to be squeezed out of Luke Beveridge's first-choice side.
Schache started on talented Melbourne youngster Luke Jackson and later spent time opposed to dangerous forward Ben Brown, who had threatened to take the game away from the Bulldogs.
Schache's performance was even more important after defensive mainstay Alex Keath was substituted out with a hamstring injury before quarter-time.
"He's spent some time down back in recent games with Footscray, our state league team, but by and large he's learnt the defensive craft from playing against his teammates in pre-seasons and over his journey," Beveridge said post-match.
"He gets to the right spots, his positioning is where we want it to be and I couldn't be any more rapt for Josh tonight.
"It's kind of a new chapter for him and that versatility now that we can use in his game becomes even more critical with Alex going down."
Beveridge said he had resisted the urge to send Schache back to defence for some time, persevering with the 199cm prospect in attack despite him enduring mixed fortunes at VFL level.
"It's only recently that I've said to him that it's time to keep him in the game for as long as we can and we've worked our way through that the last few weeks," Beveridge said.
"But at the moment I think he's probably a first-choice defender with the prospect that if we need him forward we can do that."
Keath will be sent for scans on his injured hamstring before the full extent of the damage is known.
He was able to jog off the ground in a positive sign, with finals only six weeks away.
Australian Associated Press