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Fired-up Bulldogs lose firepower for Port clash

Football

Port Adelaide will face a desperate Western Bulldogs outfit emboldened by the looming retirement of their touchstone and captain Bob Murphy, but shaken by the loss of key forward Jack Redpath, who was last night ousted for three matches by the AFL tribunal.

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Redpath’s failed challenge to his charge of striking GWS co-skipper Phil Davis means the forward, only recently returned from a long-term knee injury, will miss the last two rounds of the 2017 home-and-away season and either the Bulldogs’ first final or round one of next season depending on where Luke Beveridge’s side finishes on the ladder.

Redpath was charged with striking Davis during the Giants’ 48-point win on Friday night and could have accepted a two-game ban with an early plea.

Bulldogs legal counsel Rob Stary argued the open-handed blow was careless, not intentional, and to Davis’ upper chest rather than his neck.

But the jury – consisting of Richard Loveridge, Paul Williams and Stewart Loewe – took 15 minutes to return a guilty verdict.

“I’m a little bit disappointed… obviously we came here thinking we had a good case,” Redpath told reporters as he left the hour-long hearing at AFL House.

“But it wasn’t to be.”

Redpath made a key admission in cross-examination by AFL legal counsel Jeff Gleeson QC, giving evidence that his initial blow deflected into Davis’ neck, which constitutes high contact.

Davis doubled over clutching his neck after the second-quarter incident at Etihad Stadium, but he didn’t leave the ground and a GWS medical report stated he did not need ongoing treatment.

Redpath couldn’t hide his disappointment when it was suggested a three-week ban was harsh given the relatively minor nature of the offence.

“Yeah, but that’s their decision so I’ve got to cop it,” he said.

“I’ll deal with it over the next few days.”

Redpath’s penalty was impacted by his bad record, the big Dog having been suspended twice in the past two seasons.

He will miss Saturday’s crucial clash against the Power in Ballarat and what could be the club’s final game of the season when they face Hawthorn in round 23.

Murphy, who yesterday announced his impending retirement, feels the AFL’s crackdown on players punching each other – however gentle the impact – has gone too far.

“There’s a big difference between someone throwing a punch and two big key (position players) pushing and shoving and asserting their presence in the game,” Murphy told Fox Footy’s AFL 360.

“Sometimes a hand slips off a shoulder into someone’s neck – I think there’s a chasm between that and a clenched fist and ‘I’m going to drop one on your chin’.”

Port will take on the Bulldogs in Ballarat, which will host its first AFL game in the finals-shaping fixture.

Power assistant coach Aaron Greaves told reporters on Monday the club was relishing the occasion, saying: “It will probably have a real community, country feel; it should be a good place to play.”

Port can also expect to face Suns marquee man Gary Ablett in a fortnight, in what could be his last game for the start-up club.

Ablett’s ongoing hamstring problem means the Gold Coast star will miss their last home game of the season against Essendon this weekend, but the Suns remain hopeful he will return for their season-ending game on the road against the Power.

There is ongoing speculation that Ablett will try again to leave Gold Coast and return to Geelong.

The two-time Brownlow Medallist and former Suns captain has not played two games in a row since rounds 11-12.

“Gary is still going along a little bit slowly,” Gold Coast football manager Marcus Ashcroft told the club website.

“I don’t think he’ll be available for this weekend, but we’re holding some hope for our last game against Port Adelaide.”

Meanwhile, Adelaide captain Taylor Walker and star onballer Rory Sloane will aim to prove their fitness today ahead of Friday’s blockbuster against Sydney.

Walker is in some doubt for the Adelaide Oval clash due to a jarred toe, which he suffered in last Saturday’s win over Essendon.

Crows General Manager of High Performance Matt Hass told the club’s website Walker was assessed by doctors during the game and sent back out.

“Pleasingly, he was able to finish the match, which is always a good sign,” Hass said.

“He’ll be doing everything he can to be fit for Friday night, but he’ll be a ‘test’ for later in the week.”

Sloane also aggravated an existing knee injury in the same match, but returned to the match and should be available.

-AAP

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