AFL News This Week: Walsh & Zorko sidelined, Witts & Darcy injury updates, Pies rookie flagged

At this time of the year it’s tough to keep an eye on everything happening in pre-season with AFL Fantasy and SuperCoach relevance, so we’ll bundle it all into one place on a weekly basis.

Photo credit: Carlton FC / Cristian Filippo

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Western Bulldogs

Marcus Bontempelli (AF $905k SC $651k MID) admitted he may play more forward this season. He told SEN: “I haven’t chatted too much to Bevo yet as to what the break-up looks like – it could change depending on player availability or who we’ve got out on the track from week-to-week.”

West Coast

The Eagles have a few issues up forward with Oscar Allen (AF $484k SC $346k FWD) set for a stint on the sidelines after scans revealed a stress-related foot injury which puts him in doubt for the early rounds. His absence may positively impact Bailey Williams (AF $332k SC $218k R/F).

Likewise, Jamie Cripps (AF $595k SC $399k FWD) will definitely miss the early rounds after undergoing surgery on a torn pectoral muscle.

Eagles coach Adam Simpson spoke about Elliot Yeo (AF $696k SC $470k MID) on Sportsday Radio too. He said: “He’s done a pre-season. He’s had a couple niggles, nothing connected to the groin. We’ve got him to the point where he’s available to play some footy this week.”

Sydney

Sydney coach John Longmire revealed that Callum Mills (AF $922k SC $612k MID) is no certainty to play in Round 1. Longmire told afl.com.au: “He’s worked so much to get that Achilles right. Often with these injuries you take two steps forward and one step back. That’s happened a little bit over the pre-season with him.”

“Where that leaves him for Round 1, we’re not sure just yet. We’ll play him when he’s right and he’s right for the entire season. He’s been doing some drills but we’re really mindful we’re not going to push him too hard if it sets him back two to three weeks.”

St Kilda

Brett Ratten spoke to afl.com.au about Jade Gresham’s (AF $509k SC $299k M/F) return from injury. Ratten said: “He’s going pretty well and the Achilles is going well. He’s in the best shape in his time at the footy club, which is great.

“He’s so dynamic and he’s one of those players whether he’s had 25 touches or 30 touches, he might only need 12 or 15 to change a game. That’s something that’s important. He is a game changer who can change momentum for us. To get him out and playing will be important.”

On Thursday, Gresham played a half and five minutes in the Saints’ intraclub, with assistant coach Brendon Lade saying: “He had some minutes he needed to get to and it was just about getting through today… I think he is starting to get a bit of confidence back which is good for us and hopefully scary for the opposition. He hasn’t really missed a beat this summer. He had a few setbacks here and there, but generally, he’s been very, very good. He’s improved his running and will play a bit forward and midfield, which is exciting.”

Ratten also mentioned a change of role for Jack Billings (AF $699k SC $451k MID). He said: “His role will change this year by not playing as much midfield. Some of his best seasons have been hitting the scoreboard. He will play more front half than he will play midfield.”

Richmond

Nothing of note from the Tigers this week.

Port Adelaide

Port skipper Tom Jonas spoke to the media and was asked about first-round draft pick Josh Sinn (AF $268k SC $157k D/M) playing this season. He said: “You’d have to ask Ken (Hinkley). In my experience, generally the new draft picks start at half-forward or half-back, find their feet, as they bulk up and learn, they get pushed through the midfield. He’s got a great athletic profile, dangerous left foot.”

Jonas also spoke glowingly about ex-Lion Sam Skinner (AF $190k SC $123k D/F). He said: “I don’t know how much training you’ve watched but Sam Skinner is looking really good.”

He also flagged midfield time for Dan Houston (AF $670k SC $467k DEF), stating: “There might be a look to move Dan Houston or Riley Bonner to around the ball or the wing at some stage.”

North Melbourne

North had an internal match sim late last week with good reports from afl.com.au on top draft pick Jason Horne-Francis (AF $290k SC $207k MID) who was “very impressive” according to teammate Aidan Corr.

The afl.com.au report said about Horne-Francis: “Had the most influence while playing as a forward but attended a significant number of centre bounces paired with Will Phillips and Hugh Greenwood in midfield.”

On Charlie Comben (AF $190k SC $123k R/F), the report added: “Third-year youngster Charlie Comben was among the standouts, flying for everything through the air as he looks to add to his one AFL appearance made late last season.”

Melbourne

Nothing relevant again from the Dees.

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Hawthorn

Hawks coach Sam Mitchell spoke to the media on Wednesday as part of a sponsorship announcement and revealed that Will Day (AF $531k SC $345k DEF) is unlikely for Round 1.

Mitchell said: “Will is probably a little bit slower than we would like. He still thinks that he’ll be available for round one and he’s still going to be pushing hard for that, but at this stage that’s probably more unlikely than likely. We’ll give him every chance, but he’s an important player for us right now and also for our future. Safety first with him but he’s started to get back into his running, started to get back into his training. We’re looking for him to have a 10- to 15-year career.”

However, James Sicily (AF $510k SC $448k DEF) is looking good. Mitchell said: “James has been really strong. I guess he’s missed 18 months, or thereabouts, but he started right at the start of pre-season.

“Pre-Christmas he was a little bit limited with some of his jumping and things like that, but we haven’t taken him out of any training since Christmas. He’s been a really strong performer. In what we’re trying to achieve, I think he’s going to be a really important player for us.”

Jack Gunston (AF $468k SC $355k FWD) is an under-priced option in Fantasy after injuries and Mitchell said about his return: “He was a little bit limited just after Christmas but in the last couple of match plays he’s done the vast majority and we’d expect him to play the first four quarters against Collingwood next week.”

Tom Mitchell (AF $969k SC $638k MID) also appeared on the AFL Fantasy Traders podcast, offering an update on his own fitness. He said: “Tracking well. I haven’t missed a training session yet… Right now is the fittest I’ve been since prior to the (leg) injury (in 2019).”

Mitchell flagged Finn Maginness (AF $311k SC $143k M/F) as a potential breakout player too. He said: “I think Finn Maginness could have a breakout season.”

And he spoke about first-round draft pick Josh Ward (AF $278k SC $180k MID) who is in the mix to play early in the season. He said: “I think he’ll definitely play at some point this year and it’ll probably be early. He’s an elite runner, knows how to find space for uncontested marks and he’s a good link-up player.”

GWS Giants

GWS coach Leon Cameron spoke on Sportsday Radio and offered a relatively confusing quote on Stephen Coniglio (AF $695k SC $261k M/F). Speaking on role, Cameron said: “Basically most of the pre-season, 80%, it’s that midfield position. When he’s fit and confident playing deep forward has been a weapon for us. We’ll continue to go down that path.”

Cameron also flagged that Tim Taranto (AF $904k SC $529k M/F) will likely spend more time forward this season too. He said: “Tim is probably more forward this year. At the back end of last year he was absolutely super filling some of those roles. We’re experimenting a lot of our mids playing some forward roles.”

Gold Coast

Well-owned Gold Coast young gun Elijah Hollands (AF $190k SC $123k M/F) appeared on the AFL Fantasy Traders podcast and spoke about his own progress after missing last year with an ACL injury. He said: “I’m hoping so (to play Round 1) but there’s still a fair way til Round 1. I’ve been able to get some consistency over summer… I’ve been training with the midfield group over summer.”

Hollands spoke on Jarrod Witts (AF $572k SC $380k RUCK). He said: “He’s going really well. He’s in a group of four knee boys about to make their way back into things. He’s been super. A lot of those boys are starting to move into full training.”

Hollands was also asked about Matt Rowell (AF $464k SC $342k MID). He said: “Rowelly is flying. He’s one of our hardest trainers so he’s always going to get himself right. He’s put those injuries aside. He’s been burning up the track.”

The bad news out of the Suns was confirmation Ben King (AF $427k SC $290k FWD) will miss the whole season after injuring his ACL.

Geelong

Nothing of note from the Cats this week.

Fremantle

Dockers coach Justin Longmuir did a media conference in midweek, discussing a range of players. On Sean Darcy (AF $786k SC $642k RUCK), he said: “Three weeks ago he had a bit of Achilles tightness. He’s done all the work for the past couple weeks and then got a knock on it in match sim. We expect him to come up for Friday and he shouldn’t (have) any issues.”

Longmuir revealed Will Brodie (AF $387k SC $224k M/F) has picked a niggle. He said:  “We’ve picked up a couple of niggling injuries. (Brodie) will be right for next week… He has impressed with what he’s done.”

He also said Caleb Serong (AF $691k SC $451k MID) had a ‘little finger injury’ in January, while he clarified Michael Walters (AF $516k SC $349k FWD) will play primarily forward this season.

Longmuir said: “He’ll play forward. It’s really important he embeds that role. He’s really committed to being a leader of the forward line. We also want to give him flexibility to get into the game.”

The Dockers coach also spoke afl.com.au and offered an update on Nat Fyfe (AF $709k SC $546k MID) who had off-season shoulder surgery followed by an infection.

On Fyfe’s role, he added: “He’s a midfielder. We’ll continue to push him forward at the right times and I think he can hit the scoreboard and help us score. But if you look at the majority of the games last year, he played 20 minutes midfield, four minutes forward, and spent six minutes on the bench. He will resume his midfield stuff and try to be the best he can be at that. We’ll look to get him forward at the right times where he can have maximum impact.”

Essendon

SuperCoach cheapie Jye Caldwell (AF $488k SC $266k MID) impressed in Essendon’s Wednesday intraclub match. Bombers assistant coach Dale Tapping said: “Dynamic. He’s an impressive player. He missed a large chunk of last year but has had a really good summer. Just on the side of caution (rested in second half of intraclub) but he’s in good shape.”

Kaine Baldwin (AF $190k SC $123k FWD) also won praise from Tapping, who said: “Kaine Baldwin coming off an ACL has been really impressive. Really good aerial presence.”

First-round draft pick Ben Hobbs (AF $266k SC $153k MID) also impressed in the intraclub. In the afl.com.au report, they wrote: “Ben Hobbs had more of the ball in the second half as the first-round draftee pushes for an early-season debut.”

Dylan Shiel (AF $779k SC $361k MID) and Jake Stringer (AF $675k SC $506k M/F) both missed the game due to injuries.

Dons Footy GM Josh Mahoney said: “Dylan experienced some quad tightness at training late last week but scans have cleared him of serious damage. He remains a chance to play next week against the Bulldogs, if he continues to improve.

“Jake reported some groin pain two weeks ago. Jake will take the opportunity for a week of rest before building back up over the next few weeks. It is unlikely that Jake will play in a pre-season game.”

Collingwood

Scott Pendlebury (AF $708k SC $492k MID) was unveiled as the Pies skipper again and spoke to the media in midweek. On his own role, Pendlebury said: “I’ll be playing a bit more back this year. With Maynard, Crisp, Nick Daicos getting more mid time, I’ll go to half-back a bit more. There will still be times I go through the midfield but my role will be back and mid.”

Pendlebury was asked about Jordan De Goey (AF 707k SC $463k M/F) who picked up a knock in training last week. He said: “He got a knock to his ribs the other day. He’s obviously a bit sore but he’s a pretty tough boy, so nothing to worry about… He’s looked really good forward and midfield (in training).”

The Pies skipper was also pressed about a potential debutant Charlie Dean (AF $190k SC $102k DEF) after key defender Jordan Roughead went down injured. Pendlebury said: “He’s picked up the system we want to play. He’s a great character, willing learner. You never know if you’re ready for AFL but there’s one way to find out. Hopefully it’s Round 1 for him.”

Carlton

The big news out of Carlton was the injury to star midfielder Sam Walsh (AF $914k SC $637k MID). The Blues update said: “Expected to be sidelined for at least the first month of the 2022 AFL season after suffering an ankle syndesmosis injury.”

Brisbane Lions

The Lions also had a big injury update with Dayne Zorko (AF $913k SC $595k MID) troubled by an ankle issue. Brisbane said in an update: “Has undergone a minor procedure on his ankle and will be unavailable for the Club’s pre-season games.”

Adelaide

Adelaide coach Matthew Nicks spoke to afl.com.au and pumped up top 10 draft pick Josh Rachele (AF $280k SC $184k M/F). Nicks said: “He’s a big chance for Round 1. “He was already well built, and he’d done a lot of work leading in prior to being drafted to get himself physically ready to play an AFL game. It’s really exciting what he’s brought to the group. He’s a competitive beast, he likes kicking goals, and those players are important.”

The Crows coach did temper the excitement by stating Rachele may be kept to “60 or 70 per cent gametime”.

Nicks spoke about new recruit Jordan Dawson (AF $745k SC $550k DEF) who may get midfield time. He said: “He’s really keen to get a little bit more onball time. He finished the season on the wing and that’s where he took his game to the next level and stood out to a lot of clubs.”

And he was positive about the return from injury of Wayne Milera (AF $378k SC $271 DEF). He said: “He’s been outstanding through the pre-season, playing a little bit of wing and onball but also playing a little bit of half-back. If you ask Wayne his most comfortable position would be half-back.”

Once again, there was more good words for Matt Crouch (AF $649k SC $482k MID) who is set to return from injury this year. Crows ruck Reilly O’Brien said: “Having Matty back in there (the midfield) is going to be a huge bonus. He’s just so good around the ball and at the stoppages, so I’ll love being able to work with him in there.”

Read our expert panel’s top SuperCoach must-have premium mids story!

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