Tippett a chance to play. By Peter Blucher.
All eyes will be on Sydney Swans big man Kurt Tippett ahead of the penultimate weekend of the Toyota AFL season this week.
After the Swans kept their season alive with a 36-point semi-final win over the Adelaide Crows at the SCG on Saturday night Tippett is now a chance to return for Friday night’s preliminary final against Geelong at the MCG.
The powerhouse ruckman/forward is reportedly “in the mix” after suffering a hairline jaw fracture in the Swans’ qualifying final loss to the GWS Giants on 10 September and missing the game against his former club.
Tippett would be a massive inclusion for the injury-hit Swans, who face the prospect of being without Callum Mills, Jarrad McVeigh and Gary Rohan for the grand final qualifier.
The 29-year-old Gold Coaster has an excellent preliminary final record, having played in two for two bags of four goals.
He kicked four goals for the Adelaide Crows in a preliminary final loss to Hawthorn in 2012, and four goals for the Swans in a preliminary final win over North Melbourne in 2014.
If Tippett is cleared to play he will become the third Queenslander in the Friday night blockbuster against the Cats.
Aliir is already a lock for the Swans side after another outstanding performance against Adelaide on Saturday, and Zac Smith will be a member of a Geelong side that will be fresh after a weekend off following their last-kick qualifying final win over Hawthorn.
The Aliir fairytale, playing just his 12th game, rolled along beautifully on Saturday night when he won his first final against the Crows and posted his first 20-possession game.
The dynamic defender, who features in a television advertisement for Virgin Airlines that was released over the weekend, had 21 possessions, including 14 in the first half, to go with five marks, three tackles and five1%ers.
The AFL website’s rated Aliir’s performance a “seven”. Only Josh Kennedy (9), Isaac Heeney (9), Dan Hanneberry (8), Tom Papley (8) and Nick Smith (8) were rated higher.
In summarising his performance the website wrote: “Provided wonderful defensive pressure, whether it was one on one or as the third-man in over the top. Kept dangerous Crows forward Tom Lynch without a touch in the first quarter. Had a quieter second half, but was a pivotal figure when the game was up for grabs.”
The other Queenslander in action on AFL semi-final weekend was Hawthorn’s Brendan Whitecross. And sadly his fairytale comeback from a terrible injury run fell short when the Hawks’ premiership rein ended in a 23-point loss to the Western Bulldogs Friday night.
The AFL website rated the Whitecross performance a “five” and said, perhaps a little harshly: “Was one of Hawthorn’s best in a losing side against Geelong with his poise and elite kicking off half-back but struggled to get into the contest in the semi-final, finishing with just 12 disposals.”
He was the only Hawthorn player to use the ball at 100% efficiency, and he also had five marks, two clearances and three 1%ers.
Although Whitecross will be denied the grand final appearance he was robbed off in each of the last three years by injury he has at least consolidated his future via what will be a 10th season at the Hawks in 2017.
While the Queensland focus ahead of preliminary final will focus on Aliir, Smith and potentially Tippett, there is another chance another player from the Sunshine State could be involved.
With Steve Johnson to miss the GWS Giants’ grand final qualifier against the Bulldogs on Saturday it could open the door for a fairytale return for Sunshine Coaster Sam Reid.
He has been identified among five candidates to fill the shoes of the ex-Geelong ace.
Also in the mix are Rhys Palmer, Adam Kennedy, Matt Kennedy and Will Hoskin-Elliott.
Palmer, the 2008 NAB AFL Rising Star winner, has played 11 games this season and kicked 13 goals, but hasn’t appeared at AFL level since round 16’s shock loss to Collingwood.
Adam Kennedy has played 15 games, mostly in defence, while his namesake Matt has featured three times for three goals, and strong-marking Hoskin-Elliott has only managed two senior games in Rounds 2-3.
Reid, who retired at the end of 2013 before being thrown a second-chance in last year’s rookie draft, kicked seven goals from six games in the back half of the year. He played Rounds 12-13-17-18-19-20.
Reid, Adam Kennedy and Palmer were among the Giants’ best players in their four-point NEAFL Grand Final win over the Swans last Sunday week.
“It’s been the one position where we probably haven’t absolutely nailed down – Jacob Hopper played there as well,” GWS general manager football operations Wayne Campbell toldAFL.com.au.
“It’s that sixth forward that we haven’t absolutely settled on, whereas the rest of the side has been reasonably settled.
In other news, Jake Spencer is set to play for the Casey Scorpions in the VFL grand final at Etihad next Sunday after a strong showing in last Sunday’s preliminary final win over Williamstown.
The Melbourne list veteran had nine possessions, seven tackles, three marks and 22 hit-outs as the Scorpions qualified for the premiership decider against Footscray.
In the other VFL preliminary final on Saturday, fellow Queenslander Adam Oxley had a game-high 31 possessions and kicked a goal for Collingwood as they copped a 119-point hiding from Footscray.
In the SANFL preliminary final, ex-Redland ruckman Paul Hunter ended his first season with the Adelaide Crows with 12 disposals, 10 hit-outs, five marks, five tackles and a goal in his side’s loss to Sturt.
Hunter’s future with the Crows is likely to be decided in the next fortnight.