Two Queenslanders are opposite ends of their career will play in Round 22 of the Toyota AFL premiership this weekend with the massive lure of a finals berth on the line.
Sydney’s Kurt Tippett, a 176-game veteran in his 10th season in the AFL, and Geelong’s Wylie Buzza, a four-game first-year player, have a chance to stitch up a senior berth for the upcoming finals that not so long ago looked more than improbable.
Tippett, having endured a wretched run with injury, will play his third game in a row in the Friday night blockbuster against the Adelaide Crows at Adelaide Oval knowing a repeat of his excellent form of last week will go a long way to ensuring he is in the Swans finals side.
With first-choice ruckman Sam Naismith still sidelined by injury, Tippett will share a ruck/forward role with Callum Sinclair against his former side and in-form Crows big man Sam Jacobs.
Tippett has won lavish praise for his effort against Fremantle last week, when he was a multiple goal-kicker for the first time this year, had three thumping contested marks for the first time this year, and had an equal career-high eight tackles to set the tone for a fine Swans effort.
Former Sydney coach Paul Roos said on FoxFooty Thursday night that at his best Tippett was still an important weapon for the Swans, and if he can stay fit will have coach John Longmire thinking seriously about playing Tippett over Sinclair when Naismith returns.
His timing could hardly be better, with the Swans now fifth on the ladder with a 12-8 record after starting the season 0-6 and pushing for a top four spot if they can beat ladder leaders Adelaide.
Buzza won a selection recall for Geelong’s Saturday clash with Collingwod at the MCG as they, too, look to settle on their best side for the finals.
The 21-year-old forward/ruck, who has played Rounds 15-16-19-20 in an impressive back half of the season, got his chance when Rhys Stanley was ruled unfit.
Stanley has been an in and out member of the side all year, sharing ruck duties with Zac Smith when included, but now Buzza, primarily a forward but a capable second-string ruckman, has a chance to show coach Chris Scott he is a better fit to share the big man duties with fellow Queenslander Smith.
Buzza’s recall was the Queensland selection highlight on Thursday night ahead of Round 22.
In other news, Nick Riewoldt, sidelined last week by concussion, was declared a certain starter in what will be his second-last game for St.Kilda against North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
Tom Hickey, too, was named in the Saints squad but isn’t expected to play.
Braydon Preuss held his spot in the North side and will play his fourth game in a row and his eighth game overall.
Josh Smith’s mixed second half of the season took another upward turn when he was recalled by the Magpies for what will be his 13th game of the season. He’s only played once since Round 12 – in Round 16.
Lachy Keeffe, pressing strongly for a long-awaited return to the top side, was named an emergency.
Claye Beams, who returned to the Brisbane side last weekend, retained his spot for the Lions’ Sunday clash with Melbourne at the MCG.
Ben Keays is in line for a recall, having been included in an extended bench squad with fellow Queenslander Jacob Allison, who has played the last three games.
Josh Wagner is named on the Melbourne bench but is expected to take his place in the side.
The Gold Coast Suns, set for their second game under caretaker coach Dean Solomon against Essendon at Metricon Stadium on Saturday night, dropped Queenslanders Alex Sexton and Jack Bowes after last week’s loss to the Lions.
It will be the first game Sexton has missed this season.
But Max Spencer, who hasn’t looked out of place in his first three games, held his spot. And Brad Scheer is an emergency.
Aliir Aliir is a Sydney emergency for the game against Adelaide but isn’t expected to play.
By Peter Blucher