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Another finals blow for luckless Menzel

Football

Injury has struck luckless Geelong forward Daniel Menzel again, forcing him out of tonight’s AFL preliminary final against Sydney.

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His omission comes as Western Bulldogs half-back Matt Suckling – who also missed out on playing in a premiership with former club Hawthorn due to a knee reconstruction – was withdrawn from Saturday’s match against Greater Western Sydney at Spotless Stadium due to an achilles problem.

The Swans also lost co-captain Jarrad McVeigh to a calf injury as the four preliminary finalists made a combined six changes.

Geelong’s qualifying final win over Hawthorn was the first time Menzel had played in a final since 2011.

In between, the South Australian – whose brother Troy returned to Adelaide to join the Crows last year – has had to overcome four knee reconstructions.

The Cats say he has groin soreness and if they beat the Swans, one of the stories of grand final week will be whether he can return to the team.

Geelong and Sydney also had an unforced change apiece, with the Cats dropping Tom Ruggles.

Tall utility Lachie Henderson is back from minor knee surgery and Jed Bews was also recalled.

The Swans left out young ruckman Toby Nankervis to accommodate the return of former Adelaide ruck-forward Kurt Tippett from the jaw injury he suffered in their qualifying final loss to the Giants, while Zak Jones comes in for McVeigh.

Gary Rohan was named, despite the speedster’s leg injury which saw him stretchered from the ground during last week’s drubbing of the Crows.

But neither Tippett nor Rohan are guaranteed to make the final cut tonight, with 2012 premiership player Nick Smith admitting Sydney’s line-up could change again when team sheets are submitted 90 minutes before the opening bounce.

“We’ll give them every opportunity to play,” Smith said yesterday.

“I think (Rohan’s) reaction was probably exacerbated by what happened last time (when he suffered a serious injury).

“First and foremost it’s good that he’s OK and second of all that he’s a chance to play this week.”

Harry Cunningham, James Rose and Nankervis also travelled with the team should further changes be needed.

Newly crowned AFL Rising Star Callum Mills injured his hamstring in the upset qualifying loss to Greater Western Sydney and was ruled out on Wednesday.

McVeigh’s loss is a blow to the Swans, but Smith put a brave face on the veteran’s absence.

“Ins and outs this week … it doesn’t matter who plays for them and who plays for us,” he said.

“In the end it comes down to our application.”

Smith admitted he had studied Menzel’s game closely during the week in preparation for a defensive role on the dangerous forward.

The Swans go into the clash having inflicted Geelong’s only loss at Simonds Stadium this season – by 38 points – in round 16.

“It’s a long time ago now and both sides have made a lot of changes,” Smith said.

“We really respect Geelong as a footy club and they’ll play some good footy on Friday night. There will be swings of momentum and we know we have to be up for the challenge.

“We know what works and we’ve got to bring that.”

Suckling’s injury for the Bulldogs means Fletcher Roberts will return to the team for the first time in the finals.

Roberts was dropped as the Bulldogs made five changes for their upset elimination final win over West Coast.

For their highly fancied opponents, Steve Johnson’s one-game suspension means Giants teammate Rhys Palmer will play the first finals match of his 121-game AFL career.

-AAP

 

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