AFL News This Week: Neale role change clarified, Butters ‘100%’, debut flags for Mead, Dean & Chesser

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.

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Western Bulldogs

Don’t expect to see number two draft pick Sam Darcy (AF $288k SC $202k D/F) in the first half of the season due to a foot stress fracture. Dogs assistant coach Rohan Smith said: “He’s doing everything he can with rehab. It’s a conservative approach. We’ll probably see him halfway through the season… No expectation from our end.”

West Coast

Campbell Chesser (AF $264k SC $148k D/M) is looming in Round 1 contention. Eagles assistant coach Matthew Knights told The West: “He’s pushing for R1 but with all the guys available it’s going to be a difficult team to select so we’ll see how he goes over these next couple of practice matches.”

On Elliot Yeo (AF $696k SC $470k MID), Knights added: “(Yeo) just had a couple of little interruptions. But he’s tracking really well.”

The Eagles confirmed that Greg Clark (AF $190k SC $117k MID) will miss the early part for the season with a shoulder injury which he’s had before.

Sydney

Nothing of much relevance from the Swans this week.

St Kilda

Brett Ratten clarified if pick 11 Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera (AF $270k SC $162k D/M) would come into best 22 calculations early on. Ratten told SEN: “He’s a beautiful mover and he’s a beautiful kick. It’s hard not to get excited. He’s still developing… He’ll play some games, whether it’s this year, but he’s really going well.”

Richmond

Dustin Martin (AF $682k SC $503k M/F) missed the Tigers’ intraclub last weekend and assistant coach Andrew McQualter explained: “He was pretty close to playing today. Slight hip issue. We expect him to play next week.”

He also revealed Jack Graham (AF $657k SC $457k M/F) has had an injury interrupted pre-season.

There was some hype about top 10 draft pick Josh Gibcus (AF $274k SC $171k DEF). Tigers Senior Club Advisor Neil Balme told Sportsday SA: “I think the way Josh Gibcus has gone as a defender, he might get a game early.”

Port Adelaide

Zak Butters (AF $639k SC $443k FWD) is feeling good after an injury-cursed 2021, with a midfield switch anticipated in 2022. He said: “I’ve got a lot of confidence back in my body and I’m looking to build on that in the next couple weeks. All you can do at this stage of the season is get your body right. It’s good to feel 100% heading into the season.”

Port assistant coach Nathan Bassett spoke positively about Jackson Mead (AF $190k SC $123k MID) who looms as a potential debutant. He said: “Meady has had an outstanding pre-season. He’s certainly put his hand up to play & I’d imagine he’s right in the mix depending on how he goes in the next few weeks to play in Round 1.”

North Melbourne

Aaron Hall (AF $914k SC $572k DEF) injured his hamstring in North’s intraclub which looks set to sideline him for several weeks.

North confirmed that Jed Anderson (AF $794k SC $401k M/F) was back training after complying with the AFL’s Covid-19 health and safety protocols in a boost.

Melbourne

Nothing of note from the Dees again.

Hawthorn

Quiet week.

GWS Giants

Nothing of note.

Gold Coast Suns

Elijah Hollands (AF $190k SC $123k M/F) reportedly picked up a groin niggle and was left out of their practice game squad.

Geelong

Sam De Koning (AF $190k SC $123k D/F) is looming for the Cats’ best 22 in their defensive role, with Lachie Henderson retired. De Koning said: “I think I’ve slotted in fairly well into the backline so hopefully I get a few more opportunities this year and make a name for myself hopefully. I do really see myself as a solid key back.”

Fremantle

Nathan O’Driscoll (AF $190k SC $123k D/M) is firming for a Round 1 debut. Freo assistant coach Josh Carr said: “He showed that he’s improving. If you look at him and where he was last year, there’s been massive improvement year on year in his game. He’s been able to play wing and also go inside and play onball.”

Essendon

The Bombers confirmed the dual SSP signings of Nick Martin and Tex Wanganeen. Essendon GM of list & recruiting Adrian Dodoro said: “With Nick’s experience and natural goalkicking abilities, we see him evolving into a high half-forward/wing position which will complement our existing forward line.”

Dodoro added: “Tex has impressed with his natural athleticism and pace, and he was able to showcase that in an intraclub match at the NEC Hangar last week.” Dons assistant coach Daniel Giansiracusa cooled any talk of Wanganeen immediately stepping into AFL though.

Jye Caldwell (AF $488k SC $266k MID) did well in a half in last weekend’s intraclub, with Dons Head of High Performance Sean Murphy saying: “For the time Caldwell played (in intraclub), he looked strong and dynamic. He’s done a full pre-season, so he’s in a really good spot to launch into the season.”

Collingwood

The timeline on Jordan De Goey (AF $707k SC $463k M/F) being fit for Round 1 became a bit clearer. Pies assistant coach Hayden Skipworth said on Wednesday: “Unfortunately he got a broken rib a week or two ago… Another big one (training session) on Friday and hopefully he’ll integrate back in for the GWS game the week after.”

Nick Daicos (AF $284k SC $193k MID) starred in the Pies’ intraclub last weekend, leading the disposals with 24, playing between midfield and the half-back line.

Charlie Dean (AF $190k SC $102k DEF) is looming as another Round 1 debutant, possibly filling the shoes of injured Jordan Roughead. Pies assistant coach Justin Leppitsch said: “Charlie is in the frame, absolutely.”

Carlton

Sam Walsh (AF $914k SC $637k MID) underwent surgery on his ankle syndesmosis and there’s been some reports he could be back sooner than expected, although Carlton Head of Football Brad Lloyd clarified that on SEN. Lloyd said: “He’s moving fairly quickly through his rehab, but we’ll monitor it pretty closely as well. He’s only a week or so post-operation, so it’s early days. Everyone recovers differently.”

Carlton football director Greg Williams spoke glowingly about the fitness of Charlie Curnow (AF $347k SC $224k FWD) after battling injury last year. He told 3AW: “He’s been doing 100% (training) for at least six weeks. He’s said himself he’s in the best shape he’s ever been in. His knee feels great. He’s moving as well as he ever has.”

Caleb Marchbank (AF $294k SC $209k DEF) won’t be a starting option due to his ongoing knee injury. Carlton said in an update: “Marchbank has started integrating back into the skills program, with the aim to be available to play some level of football between Rounds 5-8 this season.”

Sam Docherty (AF $827k SC $533k DEF) has also shot into contention, while Zac Williams (AF $600k SC $461k DEF) has been flagged for a half-back role.

Brisbane Lions

Plenty of coaches ears pricked up when they heard about a potential move out of the midfield for Lachie Neale (AF $792k SC $543k MID) and Jarryd Lyons (AF $982k SC $640k MID) to allow Zac Bailey and Cam Rayner to come in.

It is worth reading the whole quote here as Lions coach Chris Fagan told afl.com.au: “Lachie and JL, we have had chats about that, and they understand their roles will change a little bit. We are confident those guys can contribute in other parts of the ground as well, and the good part about that group of players is that they are all good forwards. They can all score. We just have to work out ways to use that tremendous asset we have against opposition teams. Lachie and JL understand. They are here to win premierships, not to win individual awards, and they know it is going to take all of us to do that, not just a few.

“Probably JL is probably more of a forward, and Lachie is a pretty handy player out on the wing, as well as a forward, so we have a few different options there.”

Fagan moved to clarify the comments on Thursday when he said: “We’re looking to share the load but what that does to Lachie’s time in there, I don’t think it’ll make a great deal of difference. Could play wing or forward a bit more but generally he’ll play around the ball.”

More hype around Cam Rayner (AF $396k SC $278k FWD), this time from Fagan who said: “His form in the practice games, I’ll be honest has surprised me. Sometimes after 12 months out you can be a bit scratchy but it appears to me as if he couldn’t wait for the opportunity to play again.”

On his role, Fagan added: “He’ll play more minutes in the midfield this year. He won’t be in for huge amounts of time but he’ll be in there more than he’s ever been & he’ll also be a great attribute up forward.”

Fagan, who spoke to the media on Thursday, also said Dayne Zorko (AF $913k SC $595k MID) was on track for Round 1 after a minor ankle operation pending any infections. He said: “He’ll ramp up more next week. We’ll have our own little hitout the week before R1 which I think he’ll play and he’ll be right for Round 1.”

Zorko himself rubbished any talk of a switch to half back. He told SEN: “Last week I trialled it to get match fitness in. Our defenders run more. It’s something I can potentially look out but it’s not in concrete. I’m a mid-forward.”

The Lions skipper also talked up cheap SuperCoach option Jarrod Berry (AF $725k SC $268k MID). Zorko said: “He’s come back from his shoulder injuries. Jarrod has completed all of the pre-season this year. We’ve put him inside and he looks really strong in there. He can play multiple positions for us.”

Adelaide

Matt Crouch (AF $649k SC $482k MID) was named to play in the Crows’ practice game but on capped minutes as he returns from a long-term groin injury.

Wayne Milera (AF $378k SC $271k DEF) is one of the bunch of Adelaide players out due to Covid-19 but Crows assistant coach Nathan van Berlo explained he’s in the selection mix. He said: “He’s definitely in our preparations for Round 1, make no mistake about it.”

Crows coach Matthew Nicks told afl.com.au that Luke Pedlar (AF $210k SC $123k M/F) was impressing in pre-season. He said: “Peds’ weapon is dynamic movement and he’s taking his body to a new level. He’s been a standout through the last few weeks… Hopefully his name is talked about a little bit through footy circles.”

Nicks also flagged Rory Sloane (AF $718k SC $528k MID) for a bit more time forward this season.

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