AFL teams: Danger, Dees skipper out
PATRICK Dangerfield has reportedly lost his battle to be fit for Geelong's round one clash against Melbourne on Sunday.
Dangerfield sustained a hamstring injury in the Cats' second pre-season series game against Essendon in Colac.
The Brownlow medallist was confident he would be ready to take on the Demons at the MCG, but Geelong coach Chris Scott wasn't as bullish when asked earlier this week.
"He's going well and in his mind he doesn't want to rule it out. I think that's a really good sign for round two and three, in particular," Scott said.
"Whether it happens round one, more and more clubs are realising it's best to resist the temptation to see round one as the finishing line. You have to take a bit more of a longer view."
The recovery period for most hamstring injuries is generally three weeks and Geelong will open their season just 14 days after Dangerfield went down. But the superstar's first-ever soft-tissue injury was at the very light end of the severity scale.
"It was so minor that it was actually quite hard to work out whether he'd done anything significant or not," Scott said.
"It's even more complicated with guys who have never done hamstrings. He's never had a soft tissue injury in his life, so they tend to be a little bit confused when it first happens."
It was better news for Hawks star Cyril Rioli, who is a confirmed starter for Hawthorn's game against Collingwood on Saturday night.
Melbourne has been dealt a huge injury blow with co-captain Jack Viney and forward Tom McDonald ruled out for up to two months.
Viney has been struggling with the ongoing effects of a plantar fascia injury in his right foot suffered in round 15 last season.
The 23-year-old had surgery and missed just two games but has since dealt with complications including a stress fracture in the same foot and ankle and toe niggles.
Both he and McDonald, who has a toe injury, will be managed in a bid to get them right for the second half of the season.
"They both had cortisone (injections) during the week," coach Simon Goodwin said on Thursday.
"They'll have a couple of weeks off legs and we're not expecting them to be right for probably six to eight weeks in terms of rebuilding them up.
"Both those players will be out but we're trying to set them up as best we can to have impact when they come in and play for us."
Viney's latest setback is a major worry for the Demons considering it will have been almost a year since the initial injury by the time he is scheduled to return to senior football.
Goodwin remained optimistic about Viney's long-term prospects.
"It's different to what he's had previously. It's not a major problem but we want to make sure they're both 100% right when they come back and they've done the right training," he said.
In better news for the Demons, reigning best and fairest Clayton Oliver has been cleared to face Geelong on Sunday at the MCG.
The 20-year-old had an interrupted pre-season because of a knee issue but proved his fitness at training on Thursday.
"He's just had an extended warm-up so he'll play," Goodwin said. "We've got a lot of players available. We've got 40 I think and Clayton will be out there on Sunday."
Draftee Bayley Fritsch will make his AFL debut with Goodwin describing the Casey Demons product as a versatile forward line addition.
West Coast coach Adam Simpson has confirmed Nic Naitanui will make his return this weekend - as long as the star ruckman pulls up well after training on Thursday.
Naitanui has trained strongly in recent weeks, and Simpson said the 2012 All- Australian was set to return against Sydney at Perth's new Optus Stadium on Sunday.
It will be his first AFL match since rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in round 22, 2016.
"I want to see him get through training again, tick off one more session," Simpson said before the club's closed training session on Thursday. "If he gets through that, he'll play.
"Things happen at training. Let's get through that. But he's in a good space. He's in good condition and he's ready to play."
Naitanui's minutes will be managed against Sydney.
But Simpson said his star ruckman would go "full bore" when he was on the field. But he also urged fans to be patient with Naitanui, saying the 27-year-old needed to be given time to find his feet again.
"There's been a lot of change since the last time he's played. It's been a full season," Simpson said.
"There's been some rule changes that he hasn't had to deal with as a ruckman. That's all exciting.
"I think we've got to be a little bit patient about what he's going to deliver. But the fact he's in the side, we all walk a bit taller. But it's not all about Nic."
Simpson is set to hand debuts to Liam Ryan, Jake Waterman and Daniel Venables. Willie Rioli won't be among the debutants, with the goalsneak needing more time to build up his fitness after copping minor knee and ankle injuries during the pre-season.