Essendon have ruled out key forward Jake Carlisle for Saturday night’s AFL elimination final against North Melbourne because of a hamstring injury.
Carlisle missed last weekend’s final-round clash against Carlton with what had been described as a “one-week hamstring”.
But coach Mark Thompson says he always knew Carlisle would be unable to make a quick return for the cut-throat encounter with the Kangaroos, despite what the club’s medical staff had told him.
“He’s had a scan today,” Thompson said on Monday.
“I haven’t seen the scan myself. They’re just saying there’s something there still … there’s damage there. So he’s not playing.
“When you have a scan and they say ‘he’s done a hammy’ and then ‘it’s a one-week hammy, we’ll test him Monday again’, I pretty much knew it was going to be two weeks.”
Carlisle’s absence means ruck-forward Tom Bellchambers, who came into the side last round, is set to hold his spot for the MCG clash.
Bellchambers would provide valuable ruck back-up for Paddy Ryder, allowing the latter to push forward and support Joe Daniher.
Ryder and Daniher kicked two goals apiece in Saturday’s draw against Carlton, a result which Thompson acknowledged was not a good dress rehearsal.
“I know we’ll get the good Essendon. The players are just ready for it. They’ll be fine.
“The plan is to start well and play well all day. If it doesn’t happen, well the thing is we’ve got pretty good experience at coming back.”
Port hot under the collar
Port Adelaide has been forced by the AFL to wear its white clash strip despite being the home team in Sunday’s elimination final against Richmond, in a decision that has left the club furious.
Port finished in fifth position, earning the right to host a final against eighth-placed Richmond, but due to to the Tigers not possessing a suitable clash strip, the Power have been made to adopt theirs.
The same decision was reached ahead of Richmond’s round 18 clash against West Coast at Subiaco Oval, as the Eagles were made to wear their white strip to the fury of supporters.
Port Adelaide chief executive Keith Thomas said the AFL’s decision had not been received well, but that there was nothing the club could do to overturn it.
“We were first alerted to this by the AFL yesterday and we challenged this decision vigorously on behalf of our players and members,” Thomas said in a statement. “Unfortunately we were told that the decision was final and there was no room for negotiation.”
As Port supporters continue to voice their disapproval across social media, Thomas expressed his own dismay that the first final to be held at the renovated Adelaide Oval would not feature his club in its traditional black strip.
“The bottom line is we finished fifth on the ladder and we won more games throughout the year than our direct opponent,” Thomas said.
“We are therefore adamant that we should be able to wear our traditional black home strip and it’s incumbent on Richmond to wear a guernsey that doesn’t clash with ours,” Thomas said.
“The AFL needs to address this issue so home clubs aren’t put in this position in future finals.”
The dispute will add further spice to the rivalry between the sides, following the war of words earlier this season involving Tiger and former Port player Troy Chaplin.
Port skipper Travis Boak bristled at Chaplin’s overt celebrations when the Tigers beat Port by 20 points in round 17.
At the time, Richmond were finals long-shots and Boak said of his ex-teammate: “I hope he’s enjoying the year that they’re having.”
But the Tigers snuck into the finals with nine consecutive wins and Boak conceded his remarks would attract attention ahead of Sunday’s final.
“I’m sure he’d be pretty happy with his season, the way they’re going,” Boak said on Monday. “It was just a bit of banter after the game.”
Boak, however, remains let-down by Chaplin, who when leaving Port in 2012 sent an email to players critical of their culture and work ethic.
“At the time it was pretty disappointing,” Boak said of Chaplin’s email. But we have both moved on … that is all in the past.”
Tigers ponder pair
Richmond is pondering whether to name experienced pair Ty Vickery and Dan Jackson, two players with genuine claims to belong in Richmond’s best 22.
Vickery had served his four-match ban for punching West Coast ruckman Dean Cox and was overlooked for the win over Sydney, while Jackson was sidelined due to a one-game VFL ban.
Jackson is the club’s reigning best and fairest and the experienced midfielder will come under serious consideration.
“He’s ready to go,” Hardwick said of Jackson. “Selection-wise, it will be another decision.
“He’s a finals-type player. He’s hard, he’s tough. He’s in our leadership group. He’s a quality bloke.
“He hasn’t had probably the season he would’ve liked – ruined generally through injury.
“But it’s one of those decisions we’ll make. If he helps us win, we’ll put him in.”
Vickery’s hopes of returning appear more doubtful.
The 24-year-old is short of match fitness due to his indiscretion in round 18, while fellow ruck-forward Ben Griffiths is in form and will not be dropped.
“Griff’s obviously secured a spot, absolutely,” Hardwick said. “Whether we have the third tall this week (is a decision we have to make).
“Last week we chose to go without it. It will be a selection call we make on Thursday or Friday.”
Hawks hopeful on Lake
The early signs are good for Hawthorn that key defender Brian Lake will play in Friday night’s AFL qualifying final against arch-rivals Geelong.
Lake suffered a corked hip in Friday’s regulation win over Collingwood.
If available, Lake will have one of Hawthorn’s most crucial assignments when he lines up on Cats spearhead Tom Hawkins.
Lake restricted Hawkins to three goals in the round-22 comeback win over Geelong.
Hawkins then reminded everyone of his talent last weekend with a career-best seven goals against Brisbane.
“I saw Lakey yesterday and he was moving around quite freely,” said Hawthorn captain Luke Hodge. “Hawkins on Saturday night looked in pretty good form.
“No doubt, he’s been a big player for them in the last few years in finals.”
But Hodge stopped short of confirming Lake would play this week.
“Whether it’s Lakey or Gibbo (Josh Gibson), we rely on all defenders to work as a unit and help each other out,” Hodge said. “I don’t think one person can stop Hawkins, it’s probably a team unit that’s going to help.”
Hodge will return from a week off with a sore knee, while Brad Hill (quad) and Ben Stratton (calf) were also rested for the Collingwood game.
Matt Suckling remains in doubt with a knee injury and Cyril Rioli continues to recover from his latest hamstring problem.
“We’re not expecting that all those guys will miss,” Clarkson said.
The Hawks coach also expected Cats star Steve Johnson (foot) to play.
“We’ll plan for their best and that’s in the way they play and also in the way they pick their side,” he said. “We’d expect Stevey to be there.”
Hodge said he wanted to play against the Magpies, but accepted he needed the rest.
“I copped a hit on the knee a few weeks ago and it was a little bit grumbly,” he said.
“Did I want to play? Yes. Am I better off now? Yeah, I am, so I’m looking forward to Friday night.”
Fremantle suffer hammer blow
Fremantle’s flag bid has suffered a massive blow after star defender Michael Johnson was ruled out of the AFL finals series due to a back injury.
Johnson will undergo “exploratory surgery” this week after struggling to even run during Saturday’s eight-point win over Port Adelaide.
The Dockers were initially hopeful Johnson would be able to make it through the finals series before addressing the issue.
But after consulting a specialist on Monday, Johnson was advised to undergo a procedure this week in a bid to fix the problem.
Johnson’s injury is a major blow to the Dockers, who will also be without Luke McPharlin (calf) for Saturday’s qualifying final against Sydney at ANZ Stadium.
That spells good news for Sydney, who are set to unleash a monster forward line featuring Lance Franklin, Adam Goodes, Kurt Tippett and Sam Reid.
The Dockers have the option of switching Chris Mayne into defence to help out Zac Dawson and Alex Silvagni, while rebounding defender Garrick Ibbotson is likely to be handed a key match-up against one of Sydney’s bigs.
Fremantle youngster Matt Taberner played a game in defence earlier this year, but the key forward struggled to adapt to the positional change.
The Dockers will be boosted by the return of star midfielder Nat Fyfe from suspension, while Sydney will welcome back Franklin (knee), Josh Kennedy (hamstring), Ben McGlynn (calf) and Mike Pyke (illness).