Round 22 AFL Selection News

Gabba farewell for Merrett – By Peter Blucher

Daniel Merrett will bid an emotional farewell to the Gabba on Sunday, ending a 14-year love affair with the Brisbane football public.

Having confirmed on Tuesday that season 2016 will be his last in the AFL, battling to get the words out in his announcement to teammates, the veteran Lions fullback will have a troop of 100+ friends and family on hand for his last home game against Geelong.

And it will mean as much to him as his pending 200th game a week later in Round 23. If not more.

Born in Adelaide and drafted as a 17-year-old in November 2002 from the Gold Coast, Merrett has virtually grown up at the Gabba and will leave as a 31-year-old admired and respected by teammates and opponents alike.

He has spent 14 years with the Lions. Only Simon Black (16 years), Marcus Ashcroft (15), Michael Voss (15), Nigel Lappin (15) and Shaun Hart (15) have been there longer as players.

He’ll share the occasion on Sunday with 100th-gamer Dayne Zorko, but, with teammates knowing the veteran vice-captain won’t be back next year he’ll be a primary focus before and after the game.

Sunday will be Merrett’s 106th Gabba game, leaving him in an exclusive group of centurions that includes long-time teammates Black (170), Luke Power (149), Lappin (147), Voss (147), Ashcroft (136), Chris Scott (136), Jason Akermanis (135), Jonathan Brown (133), Darryl White (128), Hart (125), Justin Leppitsch (117), Daniel Bradshaw (115), Ash McGrath (111), Chris Johnson (111), Tim Notting (107), Jed Adcock (106) and Craig McRae (105).

Through 105 Gabba games he’s enjoyed and endured 52 wins, one draw and 52 losses, so it would not be entirely inappropriate if he could go out with a win to put him on the positive side of the ledger.

Merrett’s retirement announcement came in a week in which Zorko and Aliir Aliir were chosen in the AFL Team of the Week following standout performances in Round 21.

In other Queensland selection news for Round 22:-

  • Kurt Tippett will return from a 10-week injury layoff to provide a welcome and potentially crucial boost to the Sydney Swans finals preparation. Having not played since Round 12, he’ll return against North Melbourne in Hobart on Saturday afternoon. Joel Tippett continues to hang on to the hope of a senior recall after he was named as a North emergency for the second week in a row.
  • Tom Bell, also sidelined since Round 12 and originally expected to miss the rest of the year, will make a surprise return for Brisbane against Geelong. Liam Dawson, too, has been included in the Lions’ extended bench squad.
  • Alex Sexton will return to the Gold Coast side to play Collingwood at Etihad Stadium Saturday night after a bad ‘corkie’. But after an impressive 10 games in a row in his debut season Jesse Joyce has been omitted.
  • After playing the first 20 games of the season Tom Hickey has fallen victim to a calf problem and will miss St.Kilda’s Saturday afternoon MCG clash with Richmond at the MCG.
  • Charlie Dixon has succumbed again to the ankle problem that sidelined him in Rounds 18-19 and will miss Port Adelaide’s showdown with the Adelaide Crows on Sunday afternoon.
  • Sam Reid’s hopes of a finals berth with the GWS Giants took a blow when he was not even named as an emergency for their Saturday twilight clash with Fremantle in Sydney.
  • But Brendan Whitecross’ farewell comeback continues after he was chosen for what will be his sixth game in a row against West Coast in Perth Friday night.

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