Front and Square

WITH three weeks of the NAB Cup completed, we edge closer to the pre-season Grand Final on March 17 and the official launch of Round 1.

There’s plenty to talk about on Front and Square this week, here’s the agenda…

Saints deserved the four points

St Kilda has been awarded the four points from Saturday night’s cancelled NAB Cup match against Essendon in Wangaratta.

The AFL cancelled the game after two chartered light aircraft carrying Essendon players and coaches were forced to return to Melbourne after being unable to land in Wangaratta, which had been drenched by rain throughout the week. St Kilda took a bus to the ground on Friday.

Originally, both clubs were given two points each but the AFL reversed the decision on Sunday afternoon, giving St Kilda the four points.

Bad look for Essendon and disappointing for the country town of Wangaratta, although the Saints did the right thing travelling the day before and playing intra-club for the crowd.

When criticised of flying two separate planes to Wangaratta from Melbourne, the Bombers argued that the only have a six day break before their next NAB Cup clash against the Swans at Etihad Stadium on Friday night.

Rubbish.

A 2-3 hour drive from Melbourne is a small price to pay and the fact that they still could’ve made it for Saturday’s fixtured clash had they left on a bus before 4pm, proves the point even more.

All in all, correct decision made to grant St Kilda the four points.

Injury curse strikes again

Carlton defender Jeremy Laidler and Western Bulldogs counterpart Tom Williams face potentially long stints on the sidelines after both suffered dislocation injuries in a dramatic first quarter at Etihad Stadium on Sunday night.

Williams sustained a dislocated shoulder in the opening minutes of the NAB Cup clash, while Laidler suffered a dislocated knee just before quarter-time.

Both Laidler and Williams are recognizable keys to their respected clubs with the Blues and the Dogs waiting on results of Monday morning scans for the aftermath.

Laidler has proven to be a more than handy acquisition since joining the Blues from Geelong, while the 196cm Williams has struggled with injury since the Dogs selected him with pick no.6 in the 2004 draft, netting just 74 games in his seven seasons at AFL level.

Depending on the severity of both injuries, Laidler and Williams may join the likes of Eagle Mark LeCras and Magpie duo Brent Macaffer and Andrew Krakouer on the sidelines for the season.

Your club’s verdict:

Gold Coast Suns: Still very much a developing side, the Suns tinkered with a few changes in the lineup for the season proper, as well as testing themselves against the reigning premiers. With the recruitment of experienced Melbourne defender Matthew Warnock, ex-Crow Nathan Bock was released to the forward line along with Campbell Brown, while ex-Lion Jared Brennan assumed a key defensive role. Young gun Jaeger O’Meara, secured by the Suns in last year’s mini-draft which sent pick 4 to GWS, impressed for the second week running although under AFL rules he won’t make his debut until round 1 next year. A host of youngsters got significant game time and the Suns coaching staff should be pleased with the progress of their young list.

Geelong: The Cats took a very inexperienced squad to Metricon Stadium yet they impressed enough to run away with a comfortable win. Mature-age draftee Orren Stephensen and Trent West appear set to lead the ruck division in the wake of Brad Ottens’ retirement while new captain Joel Selwood and Jimmy Bartel led from the front. The likes of Billie Smedts, Tom Gillies, Taylor Hunt, Steven Motlop and co all pressed their claims for a senior birth come round one. List Manager Stephen Wells has to take credit for his astute recruiting and the depth this club has on its list, despite the recent retirements of Ottens, Cameron Ling, Darren Milburn and Cameron Mooney.

Hawthorn: Took an inexperienced squad to Aurora Stadium and didn’t disappoint, recording a resounding win over newcomers GWS. Former Bulldog Jarrad Boumann impressed as a key defender while Adelaide recruit Jack Gunston showcased his talents at the other end. The Hawks persisted with their short kicking style to affect as key ball winners Shaun Burgoyne and Luke Hodge got involved. Ryan Schoenmakers, Isaac Smith and Matt Suckling impressed, while draftee Brad Hill turned on the jets throughout the afternoon. Alot to like for Hawthorn fans.

GWS: Despite the heavy loss to the Hawks, the Giants showed good signs despite missing injured no.1 pick Jonathon Patton and experienced players Callan Ward, Luke Power, Chad Cornes, Dean Brogan and dumped Blue Setanta O’hAilpin. Former Melbourne captain James McDonald showed he has alot to offer, while Stephen Coniglio, Dom Tyson, Toby Greene, Adam Tomlinson, Jeremy Cameron and Rugby League convert Israel Folau all showed glimpses of their talent.

Sydney Swans: Registered a comfortable win over North Melbourne outfit in Sydney, continuing their impressive pre-season in the wet in Sydney’s west. Speedsters Lewis Jetta and Gary Rohan were a class above the rest while Josh Kennedy, Mark Seaby and newcomer Mitch Morton all impressed.

North Melbourne: Despite the loss, ruckman Hamish McIntosh put his best foot forward for a round one senior birth after a injury plagued 2011 and former skipper Brent Harvey turned back the clock to kick three goals. New captain Andrew Swallow, Lachie Hansen and Jack Ziebell were also solid contributors.

West Coast Eagles: Kept their winning streak going with a 5-point win over Port Adelaide with Chris Masten and Daniel Kerr impressing along with Dean Cox, Shannon Hurn and Koby Stevens. Clear favourites to take out NAB Cup.

Port Adelaide: Despite the defeat, the Power showed promise. Key forward John Butcher booted five goals and was impressive, along with a three goal performance from ex-Pie John McCarthy and Jarrad Redden, who stood out in the ruck. With a fit list and solid pre-season, along with the recruiting of experienced trio McCarthy, Brad Ebert and premiership Hawk Brent Renouf, the Power are set for a much improved 2012.

Collingwood: Last year’s grand finalists appeared to be adjusting to Nathan Buckley’s game plan but were able to beef up the side through the inclusions of Travis Cloke, Scott Pendlebury and Ben Reid for their first pre-season hitout in preparation for round one. The run of youngster Peter Yagmoor added excitement to the back half, while Heath Shaw’s 9-point supergoal gave Pies’ fans reason to celebrate.

Melbourne: Mark Neeld has appeared to have put his charges under a gruelling pre-season and the benefits of a new game plan and fit players appears to be working. The press and run and spread was evident on Saturday night with several players impressing. Stefan Martin, Jeremy Howe, Ricky Petterd, rookies James Magner and Tom Couch were very good, along with ex-Crow James Sellar down back supporting the reliable James Frawley. Alot to like for Dees fans.

Adelaide: An impressive drubbing of the Brisbane Lions in Alice Springs would’ve pleased new coach Brenton Sanderson but the way they went about it is what would’ve pleased him most. Injury prone forward Jason Porplyzia gathered 16 touches in a half before he was rested, while St Kilda recruit Tom Lynch booted two goals in an impressive display, along with stand in captain Patrick Dangerfield, ex-Bomber rookie Josh Jenkins and talented tall Shaun McKernan.

Brisbane Lions: The Lions fielded an inexperienced team and received a hefty loss but coach Michael Voss was just pleased to get some game time into his lesser likes. Defender Matt Maguire was in terrific nick, while Jack Redden, Tom Rockliff, James Polkinghorne, Mitch Golby and Cheynee Stiller also impressed.

Western Bulldogs: A new look Bulldogs’ outfit under new coach Brendan McCartney impressed with their short kicking and quick ball movement, but it came at a cost with a serious shoulder injury to key defender Tom Williams. Brian Lake made a successful return, while Ryan Griffen, skipper Matthew Boyd, Will Minson and Ryan Hargrave stepped up in the gutsy 4-point win over Carlton.

Carlton: A much better effort than last week for the Blues, giving their fans something after a winless pre-season thus far. Eddie Betts was a shining light up forward with five goals, while Brock McLean, Kade Simpson, Matthew Kreuzer and backman Lachie Henderson all impressed. The lowlight was the dislocated kneecap to key defender Jeremy Laidler. The Blues were without skipper Chris Judd, Michael Jamison, Jarrad Waite, Mitch Robinson, Andrew Walker, Nick Duigan and Robbie Warnock. 

Fremantle: Appear a much better side under Ross Lyon, with a defensive and competitive edge paramount. Kepler Bradley impressed with three goals in his first competitive hitout, along with Nat Fyfe, Hayden Ballantyne, Tendai Mzungu and Greg Broughton in a Dockers’ lineup that was missing Aaron Sandilands and skipper Matthew Pavlich.

Richmond: Kept with the Dockers in the first half but skill errors and fatigue got the better of them in third and fourth quarters. Newcomers Ivan and Addam Maric impressed, along with draftee Brandon Ellis, Dustin Martin and Jack Riewoldt, who finished with two goals. Missing Brett Deledio, Nathan Foley and Trent Cotchin, the Tigers will be at their best for round one. 


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