Painful injury for Cat; Stats show Cripps’ drop; Tasmanian stadium battle heats up; Players call out racism; Dees’ selection debate

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In today’s AFL Briefing, your daily wrap of footy news:

  • Geelong’s Ollie Henry will be sidelined for a couple of weeks after injuring his testicles in a collision during the Cats’ loss to Richmond. 
  • At a time when the Blues’ campaign is being stymied by their poor ball use, their champion player is returning close to the worst kicking numbers of his career.
  • Tasmanian Labor leader Rebecca White says a Labor government would do whatever it could to stop the stadium build at Macquarie Point if it wins the next election.
  • Collingwood recruit Bobby Hill says it’s important acts of racism continue to get called out, as the AFL – on the eve of Sir Doug Nicholls Round – conceded the battle against it felt never-ending.
  • The Demons face a selection debate over who should replace the injured Harrison Petty.

Henry sidelined with testicular injury

The Henry brothers Jack and Ollie will have to wait another fortnight at least to play alongside each other at the Cats after Geelong revealed that Ollie suffered a testicular rupture in a collision late in Friday night’s game against Richmond.

The former Magpie will miss two matches as a result of the injury that was repaired post-match, meaning he will be missing if Jack makes a return to the senior team in round 10.

Geelong’s Ollie Henry suffered a nasty injury against Richmond.Credit: Getty Images

Jack is likely to be available for selection after taking part in full training for the past fortnight as he returns from a foot injury that required an operation before the season started, while Tyson Stengle is also in the frame for a return after breaking his arm during Gather Round against West Coast. Brad Close will return from suspension.

Patrick Dangerfield (hamstring), Sam De Koning (nose), Gary Rohan (hamstring) and Jack Bowes (calf) are all expected to return before the bye in round 13.

Cats football manager Simon Lloyd said the crafty forward would not take long to recover.

“Ollie Henry, late in the game had a testicular rupture from a collision,” Lloyd said.

“Basically, post-game he reported it to the club medicos, and he has had that repaired, so he will miss a couple of weeks.”

The stats that show where Cripps has dropped off this season

Andrew Wu

Carlton captain Patrick Cripps is embodying the struggles of his club.

Patrick Cripps leads the Blues off the field after the loss to the Bulldogs.Credit: AFL Photos

At a time when the Blues’ campaign is being stymied by their poor ball use, their champion player is returning close to the worst kicking numbers of his career.

Of the top 50 ball-winning midfielders, Cripps’s kicking efficiency of 45.3 per cent ranks him 46th, in front of Tim Kelly, James Worpel, Ollie Wines and Tim Taranto.

A contested beast who wins most of his possessions in heavy traffic, Cripps’s natural habitat is not conducive to precise kicking, but he also rates 46th among the top 50 contested-possession winners, according to Champion Data.

Among those ahead of the reigning Brownlow medallist are ruckmen Sean Darcy, Oscar McInerney, Jarrod Witts and Darcy Cameron, none of whom are noted for their finesse by foot.

It is the first time Cripps’ kicking efficiency has dropped below 50 per cent since his debut year in the league in 2014.

As his rating has generally hovered in the 50s for much of his career, the Blues do not necessarily need Cripps to morph from midfield bulldozer into a Rolls-Royce, but they would settle for him to become a more reliable shot for goal.

Coming off a career-best haul of 20 goals, Cripps has managed just 1.8 from 12 shots at goal for an accuracy percentage of just 8.3.

One of the three shots that did not trouble the scorer included a left-foot, set-shot snap from 20 metres in a pocket against the Western Bulldogs, which he insisted on Tuesday he would take again.

“There’s a lot of opportunist goals I haven’t quite kicked,” Cripps said.

“There haven’t been a lot of sitters that I’ve kicked, which has been a bit different to last year, but that’s something I want to keep growing.

“You want to keep having scoreboard impact and when you have the opportunity, you want to make them count.

“I’ve still got work to do on that. I’ll keep working on it.”

Cripps is not in the form he was in last year but other than his kicking there is negligible difference in key statistical areas.

His two poorest games this year came in the Blues’ least competitive losses to Adelaide and Brisbane, the latter when he was blanketed by Josh Dunkley, who played what his coach Chris Fagan said was one of the best individual games he’d ever seen at the top level.

He failed to record a clearance in the first half against the Dogs, when the Blues managed just one goal. It added further weight to the “stop Cripps, stop Carlton” theory.

“I think it’s been OK,” Cripps said of his performance this year. “The contest has been there, it’s probably the story of the team – a bit of the execution.”

Though Cripps was plagued by injury in 2020-21 when his form fell away markedly, he is adamant he is not being troubled by fitness issues.

“I’m fully fit. Always throughout the year you’re going to have little things here and there but my body feels really good,” Cripps said. “I’m covering the ground well, and running out games well, I really feel like I had a good pre-season.

“There’s gonna be times throughout the year that you get little niggles, but at the moment I feel really good.”

Tasmanian Labor government would bin new stadium

Peter Ryan
Tasmanian Labor leader Rebecca White says a Labor government would do whatever it could to stop the stadium build at Macquarie Point if it wins the next election, prompting accusations from Liberal Premier Jeremy Rockliff that “she will kill [the] Tasmanian AFL team”.

Go ahead: Tasmania Premier Jeremy Rockliff and AFL chief Gillon McLachlan were all smiles when the agreement was signed. Credit: Getty Images

The AFL granted Tasmania a 19th licence to enter the AFL in 2028 on the condition that a new stadium was built in Hobart. The league is adamant that if a new stadium is not built, there will not be a team in Tasmania.

White told ABC Hobart that her party would actively campaign against the stadium during the next state election, which is not due for two years.

Asked on Tuesday, “if Tasmania Labour were elected at the next election, would you bin the stadium, would you can it?”

White replied: “We will do everything we could to do that”.

The political battle erupted following the decision last week of two parliamentary members to leave the Liberal party because of their concerns about the stadium deal. Their departure left Rockliff leading a minority government, but he remains adamant he will serve out his term and will not back down on the stadium decision.

The AFL approved a licence for Tasmania’s team after the Federal government committed $240 million in the Federal Budget to the Macquarie Point precinct renewal on May 9.

This brought the total funding to $715 million with $15 million from the AFL, $375 million from the state government and $85 million raised from commercial land sales. There has also been $130 million committed from state and federal coffers to the stadium in Launceston.

The state government has also agreed to underwrite the proposed new AFL team for 12 years at $12 million per annum and committed $60 million to a high-performance centre. The AFL has committed $360 million to Tasmanian football over the next 10 years.

“We don’t believe a stadium is the right priority for Tasmanian taxpayers to be funding in a health, housing and cost of living crisis,” White said.

She said Labor wanted a Tasmanian team in the AFL but its support was based on the business case outlined in the Tasmanian Taskforce Report led by Brett Godfrey.

“We remain firmly opposed to the stadium,” White said.

She also called on the premier to release details of the state’s agreement with the AFL to see how the stadium and the licence agreement were linked.

There were protests against the stadium held in Hobart on Saturday.

Rockliff accused White of trying to destroy the Tasmanian AFL team in a statement released on Tuesday.

“You cannot have a Tasmanian AFL team without a new stadium – it’s as simple as that. The AFL have been clear that we need the stadium to ensure our Tasmanian AFL team is viable for the long term,” Rockliff said.

“Any suggestion we can have a team without a stadium is just fanciful. It will not happen.

“Without the stadium, the team is dead. As are over 4000 jobs, and billions into our economy.”

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said it was “easy to oppose things” but there was a business case around the stadium about “tourism, construction, economic impact [and] pride”.

“People will play that out but in the end, I think Tasmania wants an AFL team. I’ll let the politics play out day to day,” he said.

“We’re not pulling out. The decision is made.

“This is a Tasmanian political issue that’s playing out and I’m not going to comment on Tasmanian politics. That’s not my role.”

‘Call it out’: Hill says AFL still has long way to go in racism battle

Damien Ractliffe

Collingwood recruit Bobby Hill says it’s important acts of racism continue to get called out, as the AFL – on the eve of Sir Doug Nicholls Round – conceded the battle against it felt never-ending.

Brad Hill and daughter Harriet, Bobby Hill and son Bobby, and Jarman Impey.Credit: Getty Images

The small forward was one of seven Indigenous players at Marvel Stadium to help launch the 17th Indigenous round, donning their teams’ latest Indigenous guernseys, as the AFL’s general manager of inclusion Tanya Hosch said there was still work to be done to rid the league of racism.

“We know as a society we still have a lot of work to do to address racism,” Hosch said.

“Too many of our players who are just out there doing their jobs, making most of us cheer and appreciate them, are still subject to too much racism, and we know that’s the tip of the iceberg if we think about what’s going on in communities every day.

“We’re clear there is no place or space for racism in our sport.”

Hill said racism should be called out.

“It is a big one, call it out and let the world know,” he said.

“If it happens to a couple of the other brothers again, we’re there to back them up. It doesn’t only affect them, it affects their family and us other boys in the AFL.”

Experienced Hawk Jarman Impey, who was behind the design of Hawthorn’s Indigenous jumper, said the Sir Doug Nicholls round had played a significant role in educating against racism.

Bobby Hill, Jarman Impey, Alwyn Davey jnr, Jesse Motlop, Maurice Rioli jnr, Brandan Parfitt and Brad Hill.Credit: Getty Images

“I think it is with anything, getting education and learning and growing from it. I think the more that you are educated about something and know about something, the less it’s going to happen. I think the educational stuff has been really good, and I think it can be better, and it continues to get better.”

But St Kilda’s Brad Hill, cousin of Bobby, said there was still a long way to go.

“We’re still seeing lots of things on social media and players copping stuff, so I’m not sure how to answer how far it’s come,” he said.

“Even the Nicky Winmar stuff was 30 years ago, and we’re still seeing it today, so there’s probably still some improvement to do, but hopefully, we’re taking steps forward.”

AFL boss Gillon McLachlan, who declared Andrew McLeod as his favourite Indigenous player, believed the league was doing more good than not in the space.

“It feels like it’s a never-ending battle against racism, but broadly our Indigenous athletes are celebrated and revered,” he said.

“I think they have total respect across the league and I think it’s a battle we’re winning generally.”

Demons face selection debate over Petty absence

Jon Pierik

Melbourne say star midfielder Christian Petracca appears certain to line up against the surging Power in Adelaide on Friday night, but the Demons face a selection debate over who replaces Harrison Petty.

The versatile Petty will miss up to six weeks with a mid-foot sprain, giving veteran key forwards Tom McDonald and Ben Brown and mid-sized forward Jake Melksham a chance to return.

The second-placed Demons have had few issues scoring this season – they average a competition-high 10 goalkickers a game – and may even be more potent should a Brown or McDonald return.

Veteran Demon Tom McDonald is under consideration for a recall to face Port Adelaide on Friday night.Credit: Daniel Carson, Getty Images

Coach Simon Goodwin said on Tuesday that Petty’s loss was a major blow.

“We have been able to play him forward and explore what it looks like to have Harrison in our forward half of the ground, and we have been really pleased with what that looks like. He gives us enormous flexibility and in game we can move him back at any stage. That is something we need to take into consideration around our team,” Goodwin said.

“But it presents another opportunity for a forward to come in and play well, whether that’s Ben Brown, Tom McDonald, Jake Melksham. We’ll sit down … and look at what those options are.”

The Demons had a VFL bye last weekend, but Goodwin said the coaches “had a bank of evidence over the last month as to how guys are tracking”.

Petracca hurt his ankle in the win over the Hawks, but ran on Monday and trained in the wet on Tuesday.

“He will be available. Normally on these short weeks, if there is a player of concern you wait until later in the week, but he is ready to go,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin said Christian Salem (knee) has had a month of full training as part of a mini pre-season, and is likely to play, but a call on whether that was through the VFL or AFL had yet to be made.

The Demons were unbeaten after 10 rounds last year, but fell away from that point. Their fitness late in games was an issue, but this year they are the league’s best fourth-quarter team, having yet to lose a final term. They now face a Power unit enjoying a six-game winning streak.

“We feel like we have been building over the last month. We have been really hard on some of the elements within … our game. We feel like we have most elements in check and in balance,” Goodwin said.

“There is no doubt when you play a team like Port Adelaide on their home ground, you are going to get an audit into where you sit. We certainly feel that we are ready for that audit, and to give us some great information on where we are in our season.”

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