Gold Coast, Fremantle (actually played on Friday) & The Bulldogs also had their final intra-club hitouts on the weekend. Again we’ve edited a few write-ups from various sources (included, of course) to keep you up-to-date with your favorite SC players. Long story short……..Libba is back! And Gaz was a late withdrawal. Coming up next week: NAB Challenge, bring it on!!
FREMANTLE (originally appeared in The West Australian)
Fremantle midfielder Lachie Neale is in serious doubt for the Dockers’ NAB Challenge opener against Richmond in Mandurah next Friday after a pre-season injury scare. The 22-year-old had to be carried off Fremantle Oval after being involved in a clash of knees during yesterday morning’s intra-club match. Neale was initially unable to put much weight on the left knee, but scans cleared him of serious injury or ligament damage. The club is likely to take a conservative approach with its prominent midfielder. The two-times Ross Glendinning medallist played all 24 matches last season and averaged 27 disposals to earn his first All-Australian squad nomination.
Teammate Chris Mayne was also briefly forced from the field yesterday after a head knock, but escaped serious damage. Tough nut Lee Spurr said new defensive coach Brent Guerra had made a significant impact since arriving at Fremantle. Guerra joined the club during the off-season and has taken charge of the stingy Fremantle defence alongside long-time assistant Michael Prior.
Spurr described the pre-season as gruelling but said the players were enjoying it as they push to improve on their preliminary finals exit at the hands of the Hawks last season. Their first NAB Challenge match is against Richmond on February 19, with Spurr keen to play all three pre-season fixtures. “I’ll put my hand up for selection,” he said. “There’s blokes training and performing so well and you don’t want to miss a game or a session because it’s chance for someone else put their hand up and say they want to play. No one gives up their spot, you’ve got to take your spot.”
GOLD COAST (originally appeared on foxsports.com.au)
Gary Ablett sent SuperCoach into meltdown with his late withdrawal from the Suns’ intra-club match with a foot injury, but the club says he will play in Round 1. The Suns skipper, 31, will not play in the NAB Challenge against Brisbane next week and is also unlikely to cross the Nullarbor to play West Coast in the second pre-season game on March 3. That would leave him only the game against Adelaide at Metricon Stadium on March 11 to tune up for the premiership opener against Essendon. It is not unusual for Ablett to play one pre-season game.
The Suns took an overly cautious approach to their first four-quarter hitout, resting anyone who had any niggles. Reigning club champion Tom Lynch, fellow vice-captain Dion Prestia, Jack Martin and Adam Saad were notable omissions while Jaeger O’Meara and David Swallow were not expected to play as they remain in rehabilitation from serious knee injuries.
Coach Rodney Eade was thrilled with the performances of several young players, with draftee Callum Ah Chee and second-year forward Jarrod Garlett standing out. Jesse Lonergan, defender Rory Thompson and ruck recruit Daniel Currie were others to impress the coach.
Ablett’s past two seasons have been ruined by shoulder and knee injuries. But he has been a more visible presence on the track this pre-season than any other in his time at the Suns and has taken part in the full-contact match simulation work over recent weeks. He was not in a moon boot nor was there any hint of a limp as he walked around the boundary. Eade said there was no cause for concern. “He could have played and he could play next week but we are not going to,’’ Eade said. “He has a mild foot strain, which is a little bit grumbly at the moment, so we have off-loaded him today and he just did some work on the bike. “But he has had such a great pre-season there is no point risking him. He wouldn’t have played three NAB games anyway. He will be offloaded for a few days and will start running at the end of next week.’’
Lynch, Prestia and Martin were rested after pulling up sore from a physical session on Monday. Prestia was scheduled to play but woke on Saturday morning with some swelling on his knee. All three are expected to play in the opening pre-season game. Saad rolled his ankle and will be in a moon boot for a week. He will be available for the second pre-season game in Perth.
WESTERN BULLDOGS (originally appeared in The Age)
Tom Liberatore came out firing in an intraclub match at Whitten Oval on Saturday morning, delighting the thousands of Doggies fans in attendance. Voted the club’s best and fairest player in 2014, Liberatore missed the entire 2015 after hurting his knee in the NAB Challenge. He did not play out the whole scratch match, with coaching staff saying they wanted to ease him back into football. But they were confident he would be ready to play by round one.
A fit-looking Jake Stringer was a stand-out in the match, booting three, and draftee Josh Dunkley played well, finishing with two. Captain Robert Murphy was typically classy in the backline for the Blue team. Promising young forward Tom Boyd was a notable absentee, but assistant coach Rohan Smith said he was just slightly tight in the hamstring and would be back in full training by next week.
Smith said it was great to see Liberatore embrace the game with such confidence after a year on the sidelines. “He’s had a great preseason really, he hasn’t missed a beat, then he comes out and plays like that, it just looks like he’s hardly missed (a game). “I’m sure all the Bulldogs supporters are really happy and the coaching staff are pretty happy too.”
Selected by the Doggies as pick 62 in the 2011 rookie draft, 25-year-old Jack Redpath had his best AFL season last year, playing 12 senior games. His unlikely football success story continued on Saturday, when he kicked four goals before appearing to hurt himself slightly. Smith said the big-bodied player had just been knocked on the hip, but was otherwise fine. “He presented really well as a forward, some of our ball movement through the middle of the ground was really special,” he said. “Him presenting and taking some strong marks and reliable kick for goal as well. To kick four in a half, was really good.”
Usually considered a forward, Stringer spent time in the midfield where he dominated play. The 21-year-old had put in a great preseason, Smith said, and the middle was a position Bulldogs fans should expect to see him in more often. While the coaches were disappointed with some of his defensive efforts on occasion, Smith said Stringer was a special player. “He’s progressing into a powerful midfielder who can go forward and kick goals,” he said.
Former Hawthorn player Matt Suckling, who joined the Bulldogs as a free agent at the end of last year, would also move around the ground, Smith said. “Don’t be surprised if Suckling plays as a backman, as a midfielder and as a forward,” Smith said.
Draftee Marcus Adam, who the Doggies chose at pick 35, also put in a strong performance. Smith said he had praised the 22-year-old for defending with purpose.
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