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Blues’ brutal selection call stuns, Jones Bulldogs bound, Saint’s season scuppered

Liam Jones appears set to make his AFL comeback with the Western Bulldogs next season.

The former Blues defender, whose decision to retired from the AFL late last year due to the league’s vaccination mandate, has been cleared to return by the recent lifting of the requirement.

According to SEN’s Sam Edmund, the 31-year old will return to the club he started his career with back in 2009, on a reported three-year deal.

“Liam Jones wants to go back to where it all began at the Western Bulldogs,” Edmund said on SEN Mornings on Friday.

“Rival clubs have been informed by the Jones camp, ‘thanks, but no thanks’. The rebounding backman wants to head back to the Whitten Oval.

“This hasn’t been confirmed by the Dogs… but I’m told this is a three-year deal for Jones that he will accept in his return to the top level.

“He’s 32 come February, Jones, so it’s a pretty big show of faith from the Bulldogs.”

Jones played 66 games for the Bulldogs between 2009-2014, primarily as a forward, before being traded to Carlton.

After a shaky start, Jones transformed into one of the AFL’s leading key defenders, playing 95 games for the Blues and seen as a contender for All-Australian honours last year.

Since making the shock decision to step away from the league, Jones has plied his trade for QAFL side Palm Beach Currumbin.

Jones’ return to the Bulldogs isn’t set in stone just yet, with the AFL needing to grant him an exemption from the rule preventing players who have retired from returning to the league before spending 18 months on the outer.

However, it is expected the league will relax those rules as Jones left the game due to the COVID-19 pandemic response.

It is unknown whether Carlton will receive any compensation for losing Jones, given the club chose not to place him on their ‘inactive’ list, as West Coast did with the similarly vaccine-hesitant Jack Darling, and replaced him with Sam Durdin in this year’s mid-season draft.

‘I’m flabbergasted’: Blues’ brutal call on son of a gun stuns

Carlton’s decision to omit Jack Silvagni for their clash with Adelaide has sparked disbelief around the footy world.

Despite a strong season as a forward and makeshift second ruckman, the return of first ruck Marc Pittonet from a knee injury has seen the Blues switch up their structure, leaving Silvagni on the outer.

Footy journalist and well-known Blues fan Sam McClure said he was ‘flabbergasted’ by the shock call.

“There must be a misprint in the Carlton teams and one of the emergencies named,” McClure said on 3AW’s Sportsday.

“I think he‘s in their best six players and he plays every position. And more than that, he’s heart and soul.”

However, while AFL great and Brownlow Medallist Gerard Healy was also surprised by the omission, he said it exemplified the ‘brutality of the game’.

“He hasn’t been dropped on form, he’s been dropped because someone taller is there for his role,” Healy said.

“I feel for Jack, he’s had a heck of a year and he’s done a great job when Carlton needed him. But it’s a brutal sport and they’re going to play the three talls and he’s that hybrid.

“That would be the thinking that they want the three smalls to keep the ball inside their forward 50, not that Jack doesn’t do that.”

The Blues will instead opt for Tom De Koning, who has filled in admirably as starting ruck during Pittonet’s absence, as the third tall forward alongside star duo Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow.

Speaking on AFL 360, former great Nick Riewoldt said the call to axe Silvagni is the perfect reminder to any Blue getting complacent about their spot in the team on the eve of finals.

“It’s perfect for Michael Voss to be able to sharpen the focus of the group,” Riewoldt said.

“When a heart and soul player like Silvagni, who tries every week, gets dropped – it reverberates through the group. You almost get an organic lift and accountability within the group from having to drop a player just from a selection point of view.”

Sitting seventh with a 12-6 record, the Blues are almost certain to appear in their first finals series since 2013.

Jack Silvagni

Jack Silvagni carries a huge legacy at Carlton. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Finals blow for Saints as star’s season over, but Hannebery ready to go

St Kilda’s hopes of a finals berth have been dealt a major blow, with key midfielder Jade Gresham ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.

Gresham suffered a medial meniscus tear late in the Saints’ win over West Coast last week, with scans confirming the need for surgery that will sideline him for up to five months.

However, veteran Dan Hannebery has been named to face Hawthorn on Saturday for his first game of the season, having shown strong form in the VFL after returning from a series of calf problems.

“He’s pretty shattered,” Saints coach Brett Ratten said of Gresham.

“We just had to wait a little bit for the surgeon to give us an indication where it was going to sit. Could we get through the rest of the year? Could we take a risk?

“That’s why we delayed the decision to just see. With four weeks to go could we do something to maybe get back out there, but there’s no chance.”

Ratten was full of praise for Hannebery’s recovery from yet another injury-riddled season, having played just 15 games of a possible 81 since joining the Saints at the end of 2018.

While he was adamant early expectations would be low, he is confident the 31-year old will have an instant impact against the Hawks.

“He’s [Hannebery] done a power of work. The continuity from session to session just kept increasing and has been really pleasing,” Ratten said.

“He’s had two games back [in the VFL]; he’s clean with the footy and his voice and his running was up to where we expected so it’s giving him the opportunity to play, which is great.

“It’s been a long wait, and with that comes a bit of anxiety. He’s got nothing to worry about because he’s just got to stick to what he does and that’s just bring the voice which he is outstanding at.

“There will be a few butterflies for him, but as soon as he runs out he will be fine.”

Dan Hannebery

(Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Ratten is also hopeful wingman Jack Billings will feature again in 2022, after a back injury sustained in the opening minutes against the Eagles ruled him out of this weekend at least.

He had to sit on a plane for three and a bit hours. He’s had some work done on the back and he’s pretty sore,” he said. 

“Hopefully he responds pretty quickly and next week we’ll see him running around and start the process of playing again. But if it doesn’t, we’ll have to just take it slowly.”

The Saints are level with the eighth-placed Western Bulldogs on 10 wins, and can move into the eight should they defeat the Hawks and the Bulldogs lose to Geelong.

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