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The 2013 NAB Cup continues this afternoon when GWS Giants, Carlton and reigning AFL premiers Sydney Swans clash in Western Sydney, marking the return of master coach Michael Malthouse. We’ll have live scores from 4.40pm AEDT and blog from 6.50pm AEDT.
Considering the circumstances in which the three-time premiership coach left Collingwood, it came as a surprise to virtually nobody that Malthouse would return to the coaching hot seat in 2013.
Already the AFL world has its focus squarely upon Sunday April 7, when Malthouse will lead Carlton against arch-rival Collingwood, where he coached for over a decade.
But before that, the Blues head north to Sydney to meet the Giants and Swans in their first competitive hit-out of the season in the NAB Cup, where Malthouse will be pitted first-up against another of the game’s legends Kevin Sheedy.
As the Giants’ inaugural coach Sheedy has fulfilled his off-field role in spruiking the AFL in rugby league heartland, but he must now begin to get results on the field.
Sheedy serves his final year of a three-year contract before handing the reins to Leon Cameron is 2014, and he’ll be hoping to see the Giants improve on their 2012 win-loss record of 2-20.
The Giants will this afternoon unveil their prized number one pick of the 2012 AFL draft, 18-year-old midfielder Lachie Whitfield, as well as fellow draftees Jono O’Rourke and Lachie Plowman.
Skipper Callan Ward will miss the game due to injury, as will Chad Cornes and Dom Tyson, but the Giants are expected to name a strong 22 in an attempt to get 2013 underway with a winning start.
Fresh off the triumph of the 2012 AFL Grand Final win over Hawthorn, the Swans are expected to take longer to get in their stride in 2013 due to a later pre-season than most.
An AFL suspension rules Kurt Tippett out of the game, Shane Mumford is still several weeks away due to injury, and John Longmire has named eight draftees for this afternoon.
Dean Towers, Harry Marsh, Tim Membrey and Matthew Dick are all named to make their AFL debut, but attention will be focused on two particular young players.
Brandon Jack and Xavier Richards, brothers of stars Kieran and Ted respectively, will start alongside their older siblings, who have also been named to play.
Both the Giants and Blues come into 2013 with something to prove after disappointing 2012 seasons, and with a longer pre-season should provide a strong contest for the Swans this afternoon.
We’ll have live scores from first bounce at 4.40pm AEDT before covering all the action from the Giants-Swans derby at 6.50pm AEDT.