Sandilands coming to Dockers rescue
Fremantle could finally be boosted by the return of ruck giant Aaron Sandilands to face Carlton at Patersons Stadium on Saturday as they try to reignite their fading finals prospects.
It could not come any sooner for the ninth-placed Dockers, who could also be forced to recall an out-of-favour Ryan Crowley in a bid to shut down Brownlow Medal front-runner Chris Judd.
Judd’s form has been stunning in the past month and continued against Melbourne on Saturday.
He amassed 31 possessions and two goals to sound an ominous warning to Dockers coach Mark Harvey.
Sandilands, 28, has played just one match in nearly three months. He returned in round 14 only to aggravate a bout of turf toe and miss another five games.
A source close to Sandilands said the 211cm ruckman was hopeful of returning against the Blues with Fremantle’s 2011 campaign all but on the line. It is understood the club’s No.1 ruckman has returned to full training in the past week behind closed doors.
Fremantle have been forced to throw emerging ruckman Zac Clarke into the deep end over the past fortnight, using the 21-year-old as the sole specialist ruckman with both Sandilands and Jonathon Griffin injured.
But Griffin (hip) could also be available, creating plenty of ruck options for the clash.
Clearance specialist David Mundy also remains an outside chance to return from a broken leg.
Fremantle will be desperate to arrest a slump that has seen them tumble from the top eight on the back of Friday night’s 41-point loss to St Kilda at Etihad Stadium.
They may need to snatch four points against Carlton to qualify for finals given North Melbourne (away), Collingwood (home) and the Western Bulldogs (away) remain in their tough run home.
Personnel issues could prompt Crowley’s recall after he was dropped for the third time this season. The Dockers have a dire short-age of taggers to combat Judd and Marc Murphy, with Matt de Boer (knee) and Rhys Palmer (ankle) both sidelined.
Utility player Adam McPhee, who won a physical duel with Judd last year, is expected to be handed at least a one-week ban by the AFL match review panel today for his crude hit on St Kilda’s Sam Gilbert.
Subiaco coach Chris Waterman said he didn’t expect to have Crowley for much longer after the 27-year-old’s solid performance on Saturday.
“He had about 24 disposals, he kicked a very important goal near the end,” Waterman said.
“In a tough game that wasn’t going our way for the first half, he was doing a fair bit of grunt work.
“Typical of Crowley, he just kept toiling away and kept moving and running and tackling. His attitude was terrific … the job was to come back and get a bit of confidence and get a fair bit of it. He did that.