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VFL quashes Blues’ ineligible player controversy, Irishman eyes return, Buckley to present Norm Smith Medal

The VFL has moved to quash suggestions from social media that Carlton fielded an ineligible player during their elimination final win over Collingwood.

Suggestions emerged following the Blues’ win on Sunday that AFL-listed player Will Setterfield, one of the best on ground at Victoria Park with 40 disposals and two goals, had exceeded the maximum number of AFL matches during the season to be eligible to play in the lower competition.

Setterfield made 13 appearances for the Blues at the highest level in 2022 – one more than the limit – with suggestions swirling on Twitter that he shouldn’t have been allowed to play in the final.

However, VFL reporter Brendan Rhodes addressed the controversy on Sunday evening, explaining that given one of those 13 AFL matches was as an unused medical sub, he had been cleared by the league to play going into the match.

“As long as you’ve played six games in the VFL and no more than 12 games of AFL, then you’re eligible to play in the finals,” Rhodes told SEN.

“As for Will Setterfield, the official figures are that he played six games in the VFL and 13 in the AFL, which is where the conjecture comes in.

“But of those 13 games, one was as an unused medi-sub, which the VFL has ruled that it’s not an official game, which brings him back to 12 and means he’s okay to play.”

Despite his VFL heroics, Setterfield is uncontracted for 2023, having struggled to find a regular spot in the Blues’ best 22. However, with the team hit by injury, he was able to play the final five matches of the season, gathering 24 disposals in their heartbreaking final round loss to Collingwood.

Magpie Oliver Henry was in a similar boat heading into the match, having played 13 matches for Collingwood’s AFL team during the season (with two more as an unused medi-sub) but was eligible to play due to the Magpies remaining in contention in the AFL finals series.

The Pies’ loss to the Blues on Sunday knocked them out of contention for the VFL premiership, while Carlton will face qualifying final losers Brisbane next week.

Irish Bomber eyes AFL return

Former Essendon cult hero Conor McKenna is reportedly weighing up an AFL comeback, having returned to his native Ireland in 2020.

The pacy half-back played 79 games for the Bombers after making his debut in 2015, finishing fourth in the best and fairest in 2019 and often wowing fans with his exhilarating dashes from defence and occasional ‘solo’.

He battled homesickness during the COVID-19 affected 2020 season and chose to return home to play Gaelic football.

However, according to Irish media, McKenna has informed Gaelic county team Tyrone that he will be leaving to try for a second chance in Australia.

The 26-year old was crucial in Tyrone’s All-Ireland final victory, following in former Swan Tadhg Kennelly’s footsteps of winning the championship and playing in the AFL.

Speculation has arisen that McKenna’s return will not be to the Bombers, but rather to Geelong.

The Herald Sun reports that the Cats have their eyes on him, with former Essendon assistant coach James Kelly, now at the minor premiers, a potential link.

Brisbane and Port Adelaide have also expressed interest in signing McKenna, according to reports.

Conor McKenna of the Bombers

Conor McKenna. (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

Lions ponder rare finals debutant, but bad news for defender

Brisbane will consider handing an AFL debut to 2021 top draft pick Darcy Wilmot for Thursday night’s must-win elimination final against Richmond.

With the Lions’ backline depleted by both injury and suspension, the 18-year old, who was taken with pick 16 in last year’s draft, is in line to replace Noah Answerth in the 22, who received a one-match ban for striking Melbourne’s Alex Neal-Bullen in Round 23.

Wilmot was set to make his debut in the Lions’ Round 17 clash against Essendon, only to be caught in the club’s COVID-19 outbreak.

He has averaged 17 disposals a game in the Lions’ VFL team this season.

The Lions are set for a selection headache heading into the do-or-die match, with Answerth and Cam Rayner (suspension) to be joined on the sidelines by defender Marcus Adams.

Adams missed the final two rounds of the home-and-away season after suffering a concussion against Carlton in Round 21, with coach Chris Fagan telling SEN on Monday lingering symptoms have forced them to put a line through the key back for the rest of the season.

“We’ve had a bit of instability in our back six to be honest,” Fagan said.

“Since the bye we’ve played about a dozen players through there, if not a few more.

“We haven’t been able to stabilise it this week because we’ve lost Noah Answerth due to suspension and Marcus Adams looks like he’s done for the year with his concussion.

“There’s still a bit of a disruption there but that’s what this season is all about, giving opportunities to players and a lot of those guys who will play in the backline this week have played a few games this year and we look forward to them making a strong contribution.”

Buckley’s chance: Pies icon to present Norm Smith Medal

Former Collingwood champion Nathan Buckley will present the 2022 Norm Smith Medal.

The Magpies great and former coach, who claimed the prestigious medal for best afield in the 2002 grand final as one of just three to win in a losing side, was confirmed as this season’s presenter on Monday.

Richmond triple premiership hero Bachar Houli has been named as the premiership cup ambassador, regardless of whether the Tigers reach the grand final.

The medal is traditionally presented by a former winner, in order of the year they won. The 2002 winner, Buckley was originally slated to present in 2019, but was unavailable due to Collingwood being still in the running for the premiership at the time the position was named.

The COVID-19 pandemic further muddled the order, with 2006 winner Andrew Embley the only available presenter in Perth last year due to the Western Australian border closure to hand the medal to Melbourne’s Christian Petracca.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the 2023 medal is expected to be presented by 2005 winner Chris Judd – who, like Buckley, claimed it in a losing West Coast team.

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