Melbourne have made a big selection call by overlooking spearhead Ben Brown for their semi-final against Carlton at the MCG, but Brodie Grundy is a chance to return via the sub role.
Port Adelaide have received good news on the injury front for their Saturday semi-final, with spearhead Charlie Dixon, defender Trent McKenzie and forward Todd Marshall all named to face Greater Western Sydney.
The Demons had a big vacancy to fill in attack after Jacob van Rooyen copped a one-match ban.
Brown, a premiership forward, was a chance to replace van Rooyen as a direct swap after recently returning to full training following a knee injury, while forgotten ruckman Grundy was also in the mix.
But Demons coach Simon Goodwin overlooked them both for his final 22 for Friday’s clash, instead handing recalls to defender Adam Tomlinson, midfielder James Jordon and small forward Charlie Spargo.
Veteran defender Michael Hibberd has been dropped, while Angus Brayshaw goes out with concussion and is no guarantee to play again this year.
With ruckman Max Gawn reportedly nursing a broken toe, Goodwin may hand Grundy the tactical sub role as insurance.
Grundy has only featured once since round 17, and the former Pie is expected to join Sydney next year for greater playing opportunities.
Brodie Grundy of the Demons handballs. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
The Blues made two changes, thrusting fit-again midfielder Matt Kennedy and last week’s substitute Jesse Motlop into the 22 after spearhead Harry McKay (concussion) and Jack Martin (suspension) were ruled out.
Jack Silvagni loomed as an ideal replacement for McKay, but was deemed unready to return to AFL ranks.
The versatile Silvagni has been sidelined by a knee injury for almost two months, and will instead push for selection next week if Carlton advance.
Kennedy will play his first senior game since injuring his knee in round 17.
“Matty has played a fair bit as a forward … he has managed to get a fair bit of work under his belt, particularly in the last month,” Carlton coach Michael Voss told reporters on Thursday.
“Not just from a training perspective but lucky enough to get a (VFL) game last week as well so that certainly puts him in a good position to come in.”
Voss said it will be important for the Blues’ forwards to compete in the air against Melbourne defenders Jake Lever and Steven May.
Port Adelaide have recalled spearhead Dixon for Saturday night’s semi-final against GWS at Adelaide Oval.
Dixon hasn’t played since July 29 due to a foot injury, but has been able to prove his fitness this week.
Fellow forward Marshall was also named despite battling an ongoing hip injury last week.
Defender McKenzie, who injured his ankle in last week’s 48-point loss to Brisbane, was given the all-clear to play.
Last week’s sub Travis Boak has been promoted to the 22, while Jeremy Finlayson and Dylan Williams have been dropped.
GWS made just one change, with Xavier O’Halloran the unlucky player to make way for returning midfielder Stephen Coniglio.
Coniglio was a late withdrawal from the Giants’ elimination-final win over St Kilda with an eye injury but was always going to be ready for the semi-final.
Legendary AFL hard man Dermott Brereton has accused Melbourne of having a ‘soft underbelly’, saying they will pay the price for their lack of mongrel sooner or later this finals series.
The Demons’ narrow qualifying final loss to Collingwood leaves them in danger of becoming the first team under the current AFL finals system to be knocked out in straight sets in two successive years.
Speaking on Fox Footy’s AFL 360 Plus, Brereton said the 2021 premiers needed to find a ‘natural aggressor’ to cope with the heat of finals akin to the role premiership Hawk Jordan Lewis played in their 2018 run to a preliminary final.
“When you go back over time, Melbourne had recruited Jordan Lewis: great football analyst, nasty piece of work on the field. They went for Michael Hibberd – very good backman, nasty piece of work,” Brereton said.
“Who’s Melbourne‘s nasty piece of work? Do they have a natural aggressor? Do they have somebody who in September goes, not on my watch?”
Brereton warned that the Demons could be ‘steamroller[ed]’ by the Blues on Friday night should they fail to lift their intensity.
“If they don‘t bring it angry, teams will keep doing this to them, and if they’re not prepared to get down and dirty tomorrow night, I reckon they [Carlton] will try and steamroller them,” Brereton said.
“I reckon they’ll physically try and get into them… that‘s what finals does. You find the slightest chink in the armour, and you attack someone.
“It sounds cruel, and it sounds like bullying, but if someone is a little bit off in that area, you attack them, and you pull that tiny hole into a big, gaping wound.”
Should the Demons win, they will need to face an in-form Brisbane at the Gabba in a tough preliminary final to reach the grand final.