AFL News: Tigers stars no certainty for season opener, Dees ’embarrassed’ by finals failures – Gawn


Richmond captain Toby Nankervis concedes he’s no certainty to be fit for an AFL opening-round clash with former coach Damien Hardwick’s Gold Coast as he battles a foot injury.

Like key forward Tom Lynch (foot), Nankervis is battling to feature in the season’s early rounds and won’t play in Tuesday’s practice match against Collingwood.

It opens the door for former Swan Sam Naismith, who could become the feel-good story of the summer by capping off his AFL career lifeline with a Tigers debut.Play00:00MuteRewind 10sForward 10s00:00Restart00:00PlayToby Nankervis says he’ll be rapt if his injury opens the door for Sam Naismith’s Tigers debut. (Sam McInerney)

“I’ll have my big session (on Tuesday). It’s sort of session-to-session at the moment,” Nankervis said on Monday.

“So hopefully I can get through that and pull up well and hopefully play early in the season.

“Sam Naismith and Samson Ryan have both had great summers. They’ve done most of the work. So we’re in a great spot in that department I think. If that happens, I’ll be rapt for big Sammy.

“He’s a great person and he’s had some hardship, but he’s been playing some great footy as well.”

Naismith, 31, whose Sydney career was ruined by three knee reconstructions, signed in November after a strong VFL season at Port Melbourne.

“He’s very determined, very competitive and he wants to play AFL footy,” Nankervis said. That’s the reality of it, he’s not here to play VFL footy so he’s doing whatever he can.”

Nankervis couldn’t put a firm timeline on when Lynch, whose 2023 was ruined by a broken foot, would return. “He’s training a lot at the moment,” he said.

Toby Nankervis (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

“There’s no rush with Lynchy. Obviously we want him to play every game but when he’s back we want him to be back for the whole season.

“So I’m not sure – early parts of the season I’m hearing, but I’m not sure what round.”

Brownlow Medallist Dustin Martin is poised to have more midfield minutes this season, after spending more time up forward last year.

He will join the likes of Tim Taranto, Jacob Hopper and Dion Prestia in the thick of things.

“He’s trained in summer in that part of the ground but we know he’s really dangerous up forward as well. So I’m sure he’ll play a bit of both,” Nankervis said.

“It’s a real strength of our group, the depth in the midfield that we’ve got. Thomson Dow as well, he’s had a great summer and Dion is a star of the competition.

“We’ve got so much depth there which we probably hadn’t had over the last couple of years so hopefully everyone can stay injury-free and really attack that part of the game.”

Demons ’embarrassed’ by AFL finals failures, says Gawn

Melbourne’s AFL finals futility is embarrassing captain Max Gawn and it’s something he’s determined to fix.

Even setting aside the issues in the Demons’ turbulent off-season, this year is massive given how badly their last two campaigns have ended.

After winning the 2021 premiership, Melbourne have lost their last four finals for two straight-sets exits – and all four have been at their MCG home.

“It’s our own storyline of losing four finals in a row, is why we want to prove something,” Gawn said on Monday.

“We have put ourselves in some great positions – which I love, the fact that we’ve put ourselves in those positions. Top four is incredibly hard to do.

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

“But we’ve sort-of been embarrassed on the final stage four times at the MCG, twice against sides that aren’t from Melbourne.

“That’s what we want to prove to our supporters and to those (externally), that we have improved over this last little bit. We have looked at those finals and it’s something we want to get right.”

A massive issue over the last few months has been the off-field struggles of star onballer Clayton Oliver. He showed encouraging signs last week in a hit-out against Richmond, but Gawn said it remains too soon to say whether Oliver will play in their March 7 season opener against Sydney.

“Clayton Oliver is day-by-day, round zero being (10) days away … it’s still too far away,” Gawn said. “He’s training really well. He played a pretty-good three quarters against Richmond the other day, he’ll play another four quarters this week against Carlton, I think in the VFL.

“Then we’ll sit down with Clayton as a group and talk about how he’s going. I want to set Clayton up for an unbelievable season and I want to set Clayton up for the rest of his life.”

with AAP

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