Aaron Sandiland’s left knee is causing concern among Fremantle’s medical staff
If Aaron Sandilands manages to play a pivotal role against Geelong tonight, credit will be due as much to the Fremantle doctors as to the courage of the Dockers’ ruckman.
For anyone who witnessed the champion’s slow, awkward trot during Fremantle’s final training session at the MCG yesterday before tonight’s semi-final against the Cats will attest that only the marvels of modern medicine would enable Sandilands to be competitive.
He will, though, have that chance courtesy of a pain-killing jab or two near his left knee, with the All-Australian pivotal to Fremantle’s chances of springing a massive September surprise.
Sandilands did participate in the light session yesterday though it can be argued that he signed more autographs for the 200-odd members of the purple haze — among them world champion boxer Danny Green — than produce kicks with his right foot.
The left knee injured early in a rucking contest against Hawthorn a week ago was heavily strapped, with Sandilands barely breaking into a trot in the opening 10 minutes before chatting with Dockers officials in the middle of the MCG, a ground that six of his teammates tonight will play on for the first time.
It is understood Sandilands, who injured his posterior ligament and was unable to ruck another centre bounce against the Hawks despite performing credibly around the ground, has spent a significant portion of this week receiving treatment through a device that effectively ensures the joint is iced at all times.
That he will play, though, is a certainty, even if he spends more time as a forward to stretch Geelong’s defence than in his position of usual dominance, Dockers assistant coach Todd Curley said yesterday.
“He was obviously a little bit sore last week towards the end of the game and there was a little bit of fluid (on his knee) early in the week but he’s been working overtime, spending a lot of time at the club getting treatment,” he said. “We’re really confident that he’ll play and have a really good impact. We’re pretty confident that he will be able to do it all.”
Even without Sandilands’s problems, the challenge facing Fremantle in its first final in Melbourne must be considered monumental, with the Dockers $6 outsiders. Among the six young Dockers yet to play senior football at the MCG — let alone in a final — is impressive recruit Anthony Morabito, who had not even stepped foot into Melbourne’s sporting colosseum until yesterday.
Then there is their opponent, Geelong, a team pressing its claims to be included among the all-time greatest. Only last Friday the Cats failed narrowly to conjure a miraculous win against St Kilda with a tremendous fightback, yet a rarely displeased coach Mark Thompson warned some that they were playing for careers in coming weeks given the tardy start.
Those already identified as passengers a week ago are Andrew Mackie, the usually sublime half-back, and fringe ruckman Mark Blake, that pair sacked for tonight’s clash in favour of James Podsiadly, the boom mature-age rookie, and defender Tom Lonergan.