The Giants are set to welcome back a star midfielder — but could he replace a fellow big name?
Plus Essendon and North Melbourne are pondering feel-good returns, while all eyes are on Brodie Grundy.
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Expect changes at the GIANTS for the clash against Essendon following coach Mark McVeigh’s stunning criticism after the loss to Sydney.
Co-captain Stephen Coniglio should slot straight back into the side after missing last week with soreness, but Jacob Wehr (calf) will miss through injury.
McVeigh already showed last week he’s not afraid to swing the axe, dropping six players. Could he look to make a serious statement this week and drop a senior player underperforming? If so, he could make a statement, with Jacob Hopper and Tim Taranto possible exclusions after quiet games against the Swans, although Taranto had been in decent form prior to Saturday’s loss.
ESSENDON fans want it and the players do too, but Bombers coach Ben Rutten won’t commit to a heartwarming senior return for Michael Hurley, who “pulled up well” from a first full game in the VFL.
Hurley, who hasn’t played since round 18, 2020, as he battled a crippling hip infection, has increased his output across three games for the Essendon reserves and was unlimited in Sunday’s clash with North Melbourne.
The Bombers are out of finals contention but have winnable games against the Giants, Port Adelaide and Richmond in the last three rounds, having found form with five wins in their last seven games.
Rutten conceded everyone wanted to see 32-year-old Hurley, an All-Australian defender, get back to the AFL but was conscious of not pencilling anything in.
“All reports are he pulled up well from (the VFL game), got through that,” Rutten said after Essendon’s win over North Melbourne on Sunday.
“That’s certainly the first step for him. His form and his impact on the game is kind of secondary at the moment.
“We‘ve been managing his training a little bit during the week, so as he gets more confidence and more resilience and durability into his body he’ll be able to train more.
Meanwhile, Darcy Parish is set to return from his calf injury, while Andy McGrath (health and safety protocols) should also be available.
Jye Caldwell did get subbed out of the win over North with a calf issue, while Dylan Shiel (hamstring) was a pre-game withdrawal — and his return is unclear.
ST KILDA’S task of curtailing the influence of Jeremy Cameron and Tom Hawkins will be boosted by the return of key defender Dougal Howard, who’ll face Geelong on Saturday.
Howard has missed the last four games due to a knee injury.
“He‘s our vice-captain, he’ll be extremely important. His presence down there gives us confidence as a team,” coach Brett Ratten said.
“The support for (Callum) Wilkie and (Josh) Battle and co. really helps our system and communication down there. He‘s an integral part of that.”
Zak Jones is “close” to earning a recall too after being dropped for the past two games.
There are plenty of dangerous Geelong midfielders to choose from to potentially apply a tag to, with the likes of Dangerfield, Cam Guthrie, Joel Selwood and Mitch Duncan all capable of tearing a game open.
Saints youngster Marcus Windhager has done a few impressive negating roles this year, but Ratten wasn’t sure if he would be used in that fashion against the Cats.
GEELONG isn’t expected to be too busy at match committee, although Gary Rohan (concussion) has been ruled out of the Saints’ clash.
Brandan Parfitt, who was the medi sub in the win over the Bulldogs, could come into the starting 22, but veteran Zach Tuohy should be available for selection after sitting out last weekend’s game in health and safety protocols.
The prospect of throwing cancer survivor Ben Cunnington straight into the NORTH MELBOURNE team to play Sydney this weekend is “really exciting” and would serve as a huge source of motivation against the top-four contenders, according to caretaker coach Leigh Adams.
Cunnington hasn’t played a senior game since Round 19 last year after battling two bouts of testicular cancer that required a tumour to be surgically removed and a nine-week course of chemotherapy respectively.
The star on-baller’s return was further delayed recently by a calf strain and a bout of Covid.
While he’s more likely to line up in the VFL this weekend, if Cunnington gets through training on Thursday, he will be considered for a senior return against the Swans at Marvel Stadium on Sunday.
“Pretty sure I know what his preference will be and the coach‘s preference, it’ll just be what’s best for his body going forward,” Adams said at Arden Street on Wednesday.
“But at this time of year, it’s a great story for us, for the motivation of the group and the footy club, really.
“It‘s been an amazing journey which will hopefully be capped off very soon.
“The last thing we want to do is put him in there and he breaks down and then he’s out for the rest of the year.
“We‘re thinking it’s probably going to be the VFL even though we’d probably love it to be straight back in (the senior team).
“Deep down I know he’d love to play seniors, particularly being a game in Melbourne this weekend and we travel next weekend, so to have his support network and his family that have been through so much with him to be at the game would be fantastic.
“But … it’s only an hour flight to Adelaide (for the game against the Crows in round 22), take his family over there so it’s not too far.”
Paul Curtis and Aaron Hall are pressing for senior recalls after missing last week due to Covid, but Jack Mahony and Lachie Young will be line ball as they entered protocols on Sunday, which means they would exit them on game day.
SYDNEY coach John Longmire often fends off selection-related questions at his Monday media conferences by leaning on it being too early in the week to answer — and he did so again about Josh Kennedy’s chances of facing North Melbourne.
He said there would be more than just sentiment involved, particularly in regards to Kennedy’s impending milestone, when deciding whether Kennedy continued into a 17th season.
The coach expects ruckmen Tom Hickey and Peter Ladhams to both available this weekend, the latter after missing the past three games with a broken thumb on his dominant right hand.
At what level Ladhams returns at remains to be determined, Longmire said, especially with Sam Reid’s renaissance season as a forward-ruck creating a “good problem”.
COLLINGWOOD’S call on whether Brodie Grundy returns to face Melbourne on Friday night could be determined by Brody Mihocek’s availability.
However the dual All-Australian’s bid to return has hit a hurdle, after being sent for scans on an ankle injury.
Grundy had successfully negotiated his VFL comeback from a knee issue on Saturday, playing a full match a full match while amassing 11 disposals, 21 hit-outs and eight tackles.
But coach Craig McRae on Saturday stopped short of guaranteeing Grundy’s return.
Mason Cox will likely be the player to make way if Grundy is recalled, unless Mihocek (hip) fails to prove his fitness.
“He took a big step forward today. We thought he needed the run … and by all reports was getting better as the game was going on,” McRae said.
“I watched two quarters of that game and was happy with what I saw. He got into a little scuffle and got the bumps and bruises you need to, which you can’t get at training.
“We’re trying to set him up. Whether that’s six days’ time, we’ll see how he pulls up. But we were really pleased he got through today.”
Star on-baller Taylor Adams has been ruled out for the rest of the home and away season due to a groin injury. Callum Brown and Finlay Macrae loom as the most likely on-ball replacements.
Defender Jeremy Howe (corked buttock) sat out most of the last quarter at the weekend but should be fine for Friday night’s clash with his old side the Demons.
MELBOURNE’S tall forward stocks are likely to be bolstered by the return of Ben Brown from a knee injury for Friday night’s clash against Collingwood at the MCG.
The Demons’ strong midfield is also likely to be strengthened by the return of James Harmes, who missed the trip West due to health and safety protocols.
Even with the return of Harmes, Goodwin said he is likely to continue using Angus Brayshaw in the midfield.
WEST COAST will be forced to find a replacement for speedster Jack Petruccelle for Sunday’s game with Adelaide.
Petruccelle suffered a hamstring injury against the Gold Coast Suns, with scans revealing a low-grade strain.
Petruccelle will be joined on the sidelines by mid-season draftee Jai Culley, who’ll miss due to suspension and injury.
But the Eagles could welcome back three defenders for Josh Kennedy’s farewell game, with Rhett Bazzo (ankle), Josh Rotham (ankle) and Alex Witherden (hamstring) all in the mix to return.
ADELAIDE defender Tom Doedee appears set to be rested for this week’s clash against West Coast.
The Crows were buoyed by the promising form of replacement Josh Worrell in their upset win over Carlton that has put them on course for a momentum-building end to the season.
“Josh has been playing some really strong footy at SANFL level, but he gets his opportunity and comes in and plays his role really strongly,” assistant coach Nathan van Berlo said on Monday.
“It’s pleasing that Josh came in and played his role like he did … but we’ll manage Tom on a week-to-week basis.
“He’s pretty banged up at the moment so we’ll see if the week off helped him recover to a satisfactory level.”
Young forward Riley Thilthorpe will push his claims for a return to the AFL side on the training track after the club erred on the side of caution in ruling him out against the Blues with an ankle injury.
Exiled midfielder Matt Crouch will likely continue to build his case for a recall in the SANFL.
PORT ADELAIDE star Travis Boak, who suffered a hand injury against the Pies, has been cleared to play against Richmond at Adelaide Oval on Saturday night as they look to at least potentially shape the final eight.
Dan Houston (concussion protocols) and Riley Bonner (health and safety protocols) should be in the mix to play.
Coach Ken Hinkley will again assess the merits of his makeshift ruck combination of Jeremy Finlayson and Charlie Dixon in Scott Lycett’s absence, with Brynn Teakle and Sam Hayes still a chance to play again this season.
RICHMOND will be without Dylan Grimes for the Port Adelaide clash, but fellow key defender Josh Gibcus looms as a straight replacement.
HAWTHORN will be without Changkuoth Jaith for the match against the Suns, after he accepted a one-match ban for his dangerous tackle on Saints skipper Jack Steele.
Mitch Lewis will also miss after injuring his knee in a marking contest.
Jacob Koschitzke remains in doubt as he struggles to overcome a cork that saw him unable to run in the loss to St Kilda.
Emerson Jeka looks set to get the nod for the final 22, after serving as the medi sub last weekend.
Daniel Howe is pushing for a recall after a 31-disposal effort a fortnight ago. Box Hill had the bye in the VFL last weekend.
GOLD COAST will need Brandon Ellis to prove himself fit if he is to board the flight to Tasmania for this weekend’s clash with Hawthorn.
Ellis was a late withdrawal from the win over West Coast with a shoulder injury.
“Brandon sustained a minor shoulder injury at training last week and wasn’t fully fit on Sunday which saw him withdrawn from the team,” club head physiotherapist Lindsay Bullsaid.
“With some added rest, Brandon will be tested again this week before a call is made on his availability for the match against Hawthorn.”
Brayden Fiorini and Sam Flanders are pushing for AFL recalls after big efforts in the VFL win over Port Melbourne.
Fiorini had 35 disposals, 2.1, eight tackles and seven clearances while Flanders finished with 32 touches and two goals.
WESTERN BULLDOGS could recall Anthony Scott and Hayden Crozier (ankle) if the duo can prove their fitness before Saturday’s clash with the Dockers.
Scott hasn’t played since the Round 17 loss to Sydney due to concussion.
“He is now symptom free and feeling back to his best,” the club said. “He will work with the doctors this week as he progresses back into contact, and we will make a decision on his availability following our main session on Thursday.”
Adam Treloar appears unlikely to face Fremantle as he struggles with a calf complaint.
Lachie Hunter is building form in the VFL with 24 touches and three clearances while young father-son pick Sam Darcy continues to impress – this time with 20 disposals and 14 marks against Werribee.
Josh Schache kicked 3.3 from his 11 touches while Alex Keath also looms as a possible inclusion for the Dogs.
FREMANTLE aren’t expected to make wholesale changes despite the dismal loss to Melbourne in Round 20. Darcy Tucker is pushing hard for a recall in the WAFL, with a 38-disposal, three-goal effort last weekend, while Sam Sturt kicked four goals for Peel.
“I don’t want to give selection but (swinging the axe) is probably not my style. I think players grow confidence from getting backed in and not being on edge all the time, but we need to find the balance between rewarding performances at Peel as well,” coach Justin Longmuir said on Wednesday.
“We’re looking at players that have put a body of work together … Darcy Tucker has put three best on grounds together and not only has he done that, he’s worked away at a few things in his game that he needed to work on.
“Sam had a really good game on the weekend. I thought his intensity was at a level that we expect and have been looking for. Whether it’s his go this week or not, if he keeps on playing the way he played on the weekend, he’ll get his opportunity.”
While going goalless against the Dees, Matt Taberner is expected to hold his spot to face the Dogs on Saturday.
“We need Tabs back to his best,” Longmuir said.
“We haven’t got a lot of goalkickers on our list who can kick multiple goals and bags of goals. Tabs is one of those guys. I understand everyone’s frustration and the fact they’re seeing his form at the moment.”
Fremantle will still be without Nat Fyfe this weekend as he recovers from a hamstring injury. But the Dockers do have one of the healthiest lists at this point in the season.
BRISBANE could remarkably take an unchanged line up into the clash with the Blues as Zac Bailey’s condition continues to improve.
Bailey was taken to hospital after “coughing up blood” during the loss to Richmond, as a result of a heavy blow to the sternum.
He remained behind in Melbourne as a precaution but was discharged and able to fly home a day after the team on Monday.
Bailey and Jarrod Berry (ankle) could both hold their spots, while Brandon Starcevich (quad) needs to prove his fitness.
“Zac Bailey did some light running after spending Sunday night in hospital after coughing up blood during the game, while Jarrod Berry and Brandon Starcevich also trained (on Tuesday),” the club said.
CARLTON will be forced to make changes to the side beaten by Adelaide last weekend, with Nic Newman (knee cut), Corey Durdin (shoulder) and Matt Kennedy (concussion/jaw fracture) all ruled out.
The Blues won’t be able to consider Liam Stocker as a replacement after he suffered concussion in the VFL.
Lachie Fogarty could come into contention to replace Durdin, and play his fourth match for 2022.
He racked up 30 touches in the VFL last week, with seven clearances and eight tackles.
Caleb Marchbank is another who impressed in the VFL, while Sam Durdin, Brodie Kemp and Paddy Dow are all available.