Carlton will be bolstered by the return of Chris Judd. Photo: Ken IrwinRound five teams
A “united” Carlton has turned to comeback star Chris Judd for inspiration, and not a moment too soon, as the winless Blues put their fading credibility on the line against the Western Bulldogs on Sunday.
Judd is set to play his first game for the season after proving at training on Thursday that his long-running Achilles problem was no longer hampering him.
Given the game at Etihad Stadium is a Sunday twilight fixture, the two-time Brownlow medallist may still need to pass a final examination on Saturday, although Judd was named in the starting 22 on Thursday night and said he would not put his hand up if he did not think he was ready.
The urgency surrounding his return cannot be overestimated, with the Blues desperate for a win after a harrowing week when the club faced the media blowtorch, and the players put their commitment on the line by tweeting the word “united” to supporters on Wednesday.
On a night when all the big names featured in the “ins” column, there was one notable omission – Essendon star Brendon Goddard, who has been ruled out of Sunday’s game against St Kilda with a groin injury.
He has had the injury before but the Bombers say they are confident it will not be a long-running issue.
Number one draft pick Tom Boyd will make his debut for Greater Western Sydney against Adelaide on Sunday.
The 18-year-old was named at full-forward for the game at Adelaide Oval, but just how the Giants use Boyd alongside the other members of their blue-chip triple threat – Jeremy Cameron and Jonathon Patton – will be one of the more fascinating strategic decisions of round five.
Carlton has also decided that Jarrad Waite needed only one week at the lower level to get the message his axing last week was trying to send, and now it needs its best key forward back in the team, kicking goals.
Waite, who kicked two goals in the VFL last week, was recalled on Thursday night, and one of Jeff Garlett (another surprise axing last week), key defender Matthew Watson, midfielder Tom Bell and utility Simon White will play after all four were added to an extended interchange.
The other team gasping for air underneath lofty but so far unfulfilled expectations is Sydney, and coach John Longmire has decided Saturday’s showdown against Fremantle at the SCG is the time to make a statement, dropping 2012 Norm Smith medallist Ryan O’Keefe – despite the fact Tom Mitchell is out injured – and midfield runner Gary Rohan.
O’Keefe and Rohan have been out of form, but it was thought the proven pair would get one more chance against the Dockers, especially with high-priced recruit Kurt Tippett still a week away from his long-awaited return.
In other selection news, Essendon recalled veteran duo Paul Chapman and Dustin Fletcher for the game against the Saints after being spared last week’s interstate trip to Perth – and key big man Paddy Ryder is back from an ankle injury to give the Bombers much-needed relief in the ruck.
Fremantle star Nat Fyfe returns from suspension to take on the Swans, Jack Ziebell failed to come up for North Melbourne’s crucial match against Collingwood, the Dogs named Marcus Bontempelli on an extended interchange, and Shane Savage’s poor start at new club St Kilda continued when he was dropped.
There is still several days to go before the Hawthorn-Geelong clash on Easter Monday, but Hawks supporters would be buoyed that defender Ben Stratton has been named, as well as Brian Lake and Ben McEvoy named on the extended bench.