Freo’s Sandilands blow
FREMANTLE ruckman Aaron Sandilands has a foot injury and will miss Saturday’s crucial clash with North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium.
Sandilands is only expected to miss one match as the club comes to terms with a mounting injury list with star defender Chris Tarrant (knee) and goalsneak Hayden Ballantyne (foot), injured in last Sunday’s western-derby demolition of West Coast.
Sandilands’ absence will force at least three changes to the side that beat the Eagles by 75 points, with Kepler Bradley primed to return from a knee injury and developing ruckman Zac Clarke under notice after an impressive run of WAFL form.
Clarke, 20, could play the second game of his second season after a standout performance for East Perth in the forward line, with Michael Johnson and Bradley the other ruck options. Both have been used as pinch-hit ruckmen at times this season.
Midfielder Rhys Palmer (shoulder) is also available after missing one match, but Fremantle’s injury list is still sizeable.
Important players Ryan Crowley (knee), Chris Mayne (ankle) and Alex Silvagni (groin) are all working their way back from injury, while Des Headland is resuming in the WAFL.
Fremantle coach Mark Harvey maintains his players can have an immediate impact when they return, with Ballantyne and Tarrant shooting for round-22 comebacks.
“We’d like to think that the way they’ve gone about their rehab preparation, they train as hard if not harder than what they would when they’re playing,” he said, using Greg Broughton and Luke McPharlin as recent examples.
“I think the team can cope with a little bit of disturbance from an injury point of view, [but] if you keep losing your A-graders then that can certainly take its toll.
“We can manipulate or change positions and hopefully have the same outcome.”
Sandilands was awarded his second Ross Glendinning Medal last weekend, accumulating 22 possessions and 33 hit-outs, with the efficiency of his tap work a feature.
He is on track for All-Australian honours for the third straight year after a commanding season that has seen him lead the league for hit-outs, while also racking up 39 contested marks and kicking 12 goals.