AFL News: Hawks’ shock bid for Dogs gun, Tigers’ massive blow ahead of Dimma grudge match


Hawthorn have entered the race for Jamarra Ugle-Hagan’s signature, as the star Western Bulldogs forward enters the final year of his contract.

Taken with pick 1 in the 2020 AFL draft – his selection as a Next Generation Academy player prompting the league to change its drafting rules – the 21-year old kicked 35 goals in a breakout 2023 campaign, with only inaccurate kicking preventing an even greater haul.

As broken by Channel 7 chief football reporter Mitch Cleary on Talking Footy, the Hawks have begun their play for Ugle-Hagan, as they look to put together a finals-quality outfit for the first time since 2018.

“We know that they’re after a key back – they’re also after a key forward. They also have salary cap space,” Cleary sad of the Hawks.

“They went after Todd Marshall in recent times, Ben King, they missed out on Aaron Naughton as well.

“We know Sydney has been linked, the Pies have been linked also… but make no mistake, the Hawthorn footy club want to partner Jamarra Ugle-Hagan with Mitch Lewis as a key pillar.”

However, Cleary also reported the Bulldogs remain confident their star spearhead will remain at Whitten Oval.

Ugle-Hagan is one of a number of star Dogs out of contract heading into 2025, with reigning All-Australian ruckman Tim English and midfielder Bailey Smith – who will miss the entire season after suffering a knee injury – also on their priority list.

The Dogs have already locked away one of their biggest guns, with Ugle-Hagan’s forward partner Aaron Naughton signing a whopping eight-year contract extension in late 2023 tying him to the club until 2032.

Jamarra Ugle-Hagan celebrates with Aaron Naughton after kicking a goal. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Tigers’ massive blow ahead of Hardwick grudge match

Richmond have ruled Dustin Martin out of their Opening Round showdown with former coach and new Gold Coast boss Damien Hardwick.

The 32-year old triple Norm Smith Medallist sustained a corked calf during training on Tuesday, with the Tigers erring on the side of caution as they have just a five-day turnaround between their clash with the Suns and a Round 1 date with Carlton.

Martin joins captain Toby Nankervis (foot) and Tom Lynch (foot) on the sidelines for the Tigers’ first match under new coach Adem Yze.

“The risk of him playing this weekend is going to be too high,” Yze said of Martin.

“We’ve got a five-day break leading into the Carlton game and he’s too important for us to go and push really hard for round zero up there, flying up, all those sorts of things have come into calculation.

“Knowing him, he’d be really anxious and angry about the fact that he’s not playing because he loves playing the game.”

Dustin Martin will miss Opening Round. (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Gawn expects Grundy to settle score in AFL reunion

Brodie Grundy may be itching to settle the score with his former team but Melbourne captain Max Gawn believes the new Sydney ruck doesn’t need to prove himself in the AFL season opener.

Seven months after the Demons pulled the pin on their attempts to partner him with Gawn, Grundy will line up at the SCG on Thursday night as the Swans’ No.1 ruck for their opening-round blockbuster.

The move came after the two-time All-Australian was initially squeezed out of Collingwood in 2022 because of salary cap pressure.

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Grundy has so-far impressed at his third AFL club in three years, shining in last week’s practice match against the Brisbane Lions.

Asked whether he believes Grundy will have an axe to grind at their reunion, Gawn was candid.

“I presume he will,” Gawn said on Wednesday.

“Anyone who’s gone out of two teams now and found a new place and won a chance to play (the) first game of the year against your old team, I feel like that might be a bit of the thought process going into the game.

“But he doesn’t need to prove anything to me and I dare say he doesn’t need to prove a thing to his teammates or the AFL community. He seems happy.

Recruited by Melbourne to work in tandem with Gawn, Grundy was ultimately dropped and missed out on a finals appearance last year after the Dees found they functioned better with Gawn as the sole ruckman.

Gridley #235: Footy is BACK ????

It’s Gawn Grundy in tonight’s season opener and we can’t wait!

Don’t forget to get your tips in, then head on over to for the best damn trivia game period ????

— Gridley (@GridleyGame) March 6, 2024

Still, the Melbourne skipper expects a tough battle ahead when he goes head-to-head with his former teammate.

“There might be a stalemate in the end because we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses quite well,” Gawn said.

“I’m sure there’s going to be moments where we’re going to see Brodie at his best and hopefully, they’re just moments.

“I wouldn’t mind him being best-on-ground but us winning by 20 or 30 points.”

Grundy will not be the only Swan having a Thursday night reunion.

Former Demons midfielder James Jordon will make his debut in the red and white after impressing in the pre-season.

Moving interstate after failing to land a permanent spot in Simon Goodwin’s best 22, the unused 2021 premiership substitute starred in the trial game against the Lions.

Sydney stalwart Dane Rampe said the 23-year-old has “made a difference” since arriving in the harbour city.

“He’s probably snuck under the radar. He couldn’t have impressed any more,” Rampe said.

“Nothing seems to faze him. He’s provided a great bit of depth and probably a little bit of experience as well.

“You can get stuck in your ways and that’s why we embrace having Brodie and James come in because they offer a different perspective.”

In the biggest selection news, Melbourne named star midfielder Clayton Oliver despite his turbulent pre-season in which he took time off for personal leave amidst his off-field troubles.

The Demons also named Charlie Spargo, who wasn’t able to play pre-season due to an Achilles tendon issue.

Forward Josh Schache was selected ahead of Tom McDonald, while Jack Billings, Caleb Windsor and Blake Howes will all play their first games for Melbourne.

Sydney enter the match without injured trio Callum Mills, Luke Parker and Taylor Adams.


(Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

‘Sold a lemon’: Great questions Opening Round fixture

Former St Kilda great Leigh Montagna isn’t sure the AFL’s new Opening Round concept is a winner for future seasons.

Ostensibly designed to take advantage of the NRL beginning their season with two matches in Las Vegas, the four matches this weekend see Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sydney and GWS all host big Victorian counterparts in an attempt to maximise attendances and viewing figures in non-AFL heartland states.

“While you go on holidays, we’ll rob your house,” was how Giants director Jimmy Bartel described the plan when it was unveiled in late 2023.

However, with the NRL hitting back by scheduling games in direct conflict with AFL fixtures in three of four matches – the Gold Coast Titans play shortly after the Suns match is set to finish, while the Giants will face competition with the Parramatta Eels’ match directly before – Montagna isn’t convinced the ploy will do anything to improve the AFL’s footprint in those markets.

“It might be a bit controversial but I feel a bit jibbed – I feel like we’ve been sold a bit of a lemon coming into this Opening Round,” Montagna said on his Footy Talk podcast.

“When it got announced in November we were going to change it up and open the game up in the northern states, we were told it was because the rugby would be in Vegas, there was going to be no NRL on and it was a great opportunity to eat into the northern market.

“You do realise there’s NRL on all weekend and it starts on Thursday night? There is NRL in NSW the same time that Sydney are hosting Melbourne to start the season… I don’t quite understand why we’re bring these games forward when they could still be part of Round 1 next week and have their own free airtime.”

Co-host Nick Riewoldt added that the AFL have ‘messed up their calendar’ for no reason, with the eight teams playing in Opening Round to be granted byes across the first two months of the season, creating an imbalance in the ladder.

Wasn’t this the whole thing, ‘While you’re away we’ll rob your house?’ Isn’t that how the AFL pitched it?” Riewoldt said.

“Have they messed up the calendar? How have they got this so wrong?”

Opening Round begins with the Demons facing Sydney at the SCG on Thursday night.

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