Naitanui ‘every chance to play’, North confirms debutant, Ebert dropped

Nic Naitanui looks set to play again despite more talk of a rest, while Port Adelaide have confirmed their three changes and North Melbourne have revealed another debutant.

TEAM NEWS

Ins: F.Perez (debutant), J.Ziebell, J.Polec, D.Houston, S.Motlop, K.Farrell
Outs: R.Bonner, J.Westhoff, B.Ebert, M.Daw, P.Ahern, T.Murphy

Port coach Ken Hinkley and North coach Rhyce Shaw both generously offered up the bulk of their changes ahead of Friday’s 6:20pm AEST announcement.

Hinkley said: “Three changes to this week’s side. Westhoff, Bonner and Ebert are out and Farrell, Houston and Motlop are in.”

On Brad Ebert (AF $538k SC $375k FWD), he said: “Brad Ebert goes out due to form not injury.”

Dan Houston’s (AF $579k SC $437k DEF/MID) return had already been confirmed after his two-game suspension for a COVID-19 protocol breach. There’s no Boyd Woodcock (AF $290k SC $231k FWD) or Mitch Georgiades (AF $363k SC $248k FWD) in Port’s 22 either.

North have confirmed Flynn Perez (AF $202k SC $117k DEF) will make his debut, while Jared Polec (AF $682k SC $451k MID) and Jack Ziebell (AF $473k SC $357k MID/FWD) are also in.

Perez was pick 35 in the AFL 2019 Draft. Shaw said: “Flynn is a really exciting talent. He’s a running defender and really exciting talent. He’ll take the game on, and I can’t wait to see him get his first touch.”

Tristan Xerri (AF $212k SC $188k RUCK/FWD) remains sidelined with a shoulder problem.

NIC NAT REST

West Coast coach Adam Simpson indicated Nic Naitanui (AF $611k SC $618k RUCK) is likely to play in Sunday’s clash with the Western Bulldogs despite talk of a rest.

Simpson said: “He’s one of four or five that we’ve got to see how they pull up. We took a bit of a risk to play him off a four-day break against Richmond with travel.

“He pulled up well against Essendon too. His body is in good condition at the moment. We’ll give him every chance to play.”

Simpson confirmed Josh Kennedy (AF $450k SC $380k FWD) will play after passing all the concussion protocols, while Jeremy McGovern (AF $547k SC $486k DEF) “has put his hand up” despite an ankle issue.

He also flagged Hamish Brayshaw (AF $170k SC $102k MID) may be close to a debut having recently been an emergency.

“He’s in the mix,” Simpson said. “The team isn’t as settled as normal. Hamish is an option for us. We’ve got Brander and Ainsworth, we’ve got an oversupply of defenders as well.

“There’s players who can play there but it’s just not their primary role, so that’s the advantage of Brayshaw or O’Neill.”

CROW BAR

Andrew McPherson (AF $360k SC $284k DEF) looks set to return from his hamstring injury against GWS next round.

Adelaide Head of Science and Medicine Steve Saunders said: “Andrew has had two really good weeks of training on the track. He should be right to go against GWS.”

The Crows will be conservative with the return of Will Hamill (AF $286k SC $210k DEF) after concussion too.

Saunders said: “Will is going very well… While he’s medically available, we’re taking a longer-term view.”

Ben Davis (AF $182k SC $123k FWD) is also “tough and go” to return from a foot issue, but more likely he’s done for 2020.

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OTHERS

Essendon coach John Worsfold indicated Mitch Hibberd (AF $324k SC $219k MID) is among the contenders to be replace Andrew McGrath after his ankle injury.

Worsfold said: “There’s a number of guys like Mitch Hibberd, Brayden Ham, Tom Cutler, Kobe Mutch, that have been playing a fair bit of football. Any of those guys.”

The Bombers coach said Joe Daniher (AF $446k SC $270k FWD) is a “big chance to play” despite speculation of needing to be managed.

Jaeger O’Meara (AF $690k SC $450k MID) may be done for 2020, with coach Alastair Clarkson reluctant to play him with his hand issue.

“Jaeger will train today,” Clarkson said. “He’s getting closer. We just won’t take any risks with him. If his hand is no discomfort to him, he’s a chance to play.”

Sydney Stack (AF $367k SC $277k DEF) and Callum Coleman-Jones‘ (AF $367k SC $195k RUCK/FWD) seasons are over after copping 10-game bans for their protocol breach on the Gold Coast.

TOMORROW

We’ve got one game which will start after the six teams for Sunday’s three matches are announced.

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