Brendan Whitecross is set to begin yet another quest for a regular senior berth at Hawthorn with his return to the senior side for Sunday’s clash with the Gold Coast Suns at Metricon Stadium.Whitecross, coming off an injury disrupted pre-season, was included in an extended Hawthorn squad last night but is expected to play his first game of the year.
The 27-year-old utility, highly regarded by coach Alastair Clarkson for his leadership and organising ability in addition to his versatility, could be excused for thinking to himself “here we go again”.
It’s been a tough five years for the former Kedron junior and Windsor-Zillmere senior player, who looked to have the football world at his feet in his early years.
By the end of 2011, still only 21, he had played 50 games and was a regular senior pick.
But knee reconstructions after mishaps in the 2012 and 2013 AFL finals has meant that since the end of 2011 he’s added only 47 games to his career tally.
He’s made one comeback after another.
At the end of last season he looked to have reclaimed his spot in the Hawks side, having played the last nine games, including two finals, but injury again intervened early this year.
He’s had to do it the hard way again, but after two good performances with Box Hill in the VFL he’s set to play his 98th game Sunday as the winless Hawks take on the winless Suns.
It will be just his second game at Carrara, and his first since Round 24 2011.
Another senior Queensland player will also make his return for the Suns to begin his 10th AFL season.
Jarrod Harbrow. games record holder at the Gold Coast, has played three NEAFL practice matches after an injury-disrupted pre-season and was an obvious inclusion after their 102-point hiding from the GWS Giants last week.
The veteran defender was named alongside fellow Queenslanders Rory Thompson and Jack Bowes in the Suns back six, with Alex Sexton and Jesse Joyce included in an extended interchange squad.
In other Queensland news to emerge from Thursday night selection:-
- Zac Smith will return to the Geelong side to take on Melbourne and the game’s No.1 ruckman Max Gawn at Etihad Stadium Saturday afternoon. He was a late withdrawal due to injury in Round 1 after playing little football in the JLT Community Series, but reinforced his credentials with a best-on-ground VFL performance last weekend.
- Melbourne ruckman Jake Spencer was named as an emergency for the third week in a row.
- The Braydon Preuss rollercoaster took another ‘up’ when he held his spot in the North Melbourne side to play GWS in Hobart Saturday afternoon despite the return of Todd Goldstein. In the first two weeks of the season the former Townsville ruck giant has made his AFL debut in Round 1 only to be dropped for Goldstein’s return in Round 2 and then had a powerhouse second game against Geelong last week as a late replacement for the injured Goldstein. Now he’s convinced coach Brad Scott there is value in playing the two big ruckmen plus Majak Daw in the same side.
- Corey Wagner was named as a North emergency after two good games in the VFL, while Sam Reid has held his spot in the GWS side.
- Nick Riewoldt capped a remarkable remarkable turnaround when he was named in the St.Kilda side to play the Brisbane Lions at Etihad Stadium Sunday. Two weeks ago there were fears Riewoldt may have suffered a career-ending knee injury in Round 1, but he’s back ahead of schedule.
- David Armitage is the opposite story – he will miss with injury again after being expected back.
- Claye Beams and Liam Dawson were included on an extended Lions bench squad after coach Chris Fagan included first-gamers Hugh McCluggage and Jarrod Berry were named to debut.
- Charlie Dixon will play in his second Showdown chasing his first win as the unbeaten Port Adelaide and Adelaide do battle at Adelaide Oval Saturday night.
- Lachie Weller, one of the few shining lights for Fremantle in the first two rounds of the season, will play his 25th game in a row against the Western Bulldogs in Perth Saturday night.
- Sydney’s Kurt Tippett will miss tonight’s SCG blockbuster against Collingwood with an ankle problem as the Swans’ Aliir Aliir and the Pies’ Josh Smith and Jesse White fly the Queensland flag.
By Peter Blucher