The decision to drop Silvagni, squeezed out by Marc Pittonet’s return, and relegate him to the medi-sub role has been debated by the Blues, and been a major public talking point.
The versatile Silvagni, predominantly utilized as a forward and an under-sized back-up ruck, has had his best season but the Blues wanted to play frontline ruckmen Tom De Koning and Pittonet, along with key forwards Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow, while maintaining their three small forwards.
The pairing of De Koning and Pittonet, the latter back for his first match since round six, didn’t provide the punch the Blues needed but coach Michael Voss said it was difficult to judge their partnership on “a very small sample space”.
Pittonet had 30 hitouts but only eight disposals and one mark, while De Koning, who also spent time forward, had 13 hitouts, eight touches and three marks but was goalless on a night the Blues again managed only 55 points – as they had done in the loss to Geelong a fortnight earlier.
Silvagni was among the Blues’ best (13 touches, including a key goal midway through the third quarter) when injected into the game after Durdin was subbed out.
Garry Lyon, a long-time friend of the Silvagni family, questioned whether the Blues had pulled the wrong lever by dropping a man considered one of the team’s emotional heartbeats.
“People can say what they want, [that] this is a nonsense, I am not saying it’s the sole reason they lost, but when you have got a team that is still trying to establish their credibility and bona fides coming off a couple of years of disaster, or longer than that, then there is something to be said for maintaining the bloke whose gap between his best and worst is as narrow as probably anyone in the team’s. [Sam] Walsh is up there as well,” Lyon said on SEN on Monday.
“So, you know what you get – he goes out, he is heart and soul, he is a worker, he is a competitor, at a ground that you can’t, or haven’t been able to, win [at] and you just take him out of the team.
“Michael Voss is absolutely within his right to say: ‘We wanted to try this’, but I just wonder on the back of it, whether or not it had a bigger impact on the psyche of their team and the emotional connection, and the emotional investment as opposed to structurally and wanting to see different things.”
The Blues are keen for robust midfielder George Hewett to return as soon as possible, but his back issues have meant he has been unable to train fully. Hewett has missed the past fortnight and will again be assessed through the week. He has played a key role since crossing from Sydney, averaging almost 29 touches per game, and is behind only Patrick Cripps for most tackles.
Kennedy’s absence could help Paddy Dow return after 17 touches in the VFL, but the Blues will debate whether Will Setterfield and Zac Fisher take on more minutes through the midfield.
Defender Caleb Marchbank, with 16 touches in the VFL, is another subject for selection debate, having succumbed to injury against Essendon in round 13 – his first senior match since round 16, 2019.
Voss lamented that his team had been “out-worked” by the Crows. This, in part, was shown in the Blues’ 23 missed tackles – the most by any team this season.
However, the seventh-placed Blues, having slipped from an 8-2 win-loss record to 12-7, are determined to hit back against the Lions. They need one win from their final three matches – they also face Melbourne and Collingwood – to secure a September berth for the first time since 2013.
‘Warriors down’: The round 20 injury ward
Collingwood and Richmond are waiting to learn how long some of their players will be sidelined after a round in which several key players went down with injury.
Tigers co-captain Dylan Grimes and Magpies’ leader Taylor Adams await the outcome of further tests.
Hard-nosed midfielder Adams was subbed off before half-time with a groin injury during the Pies’ six-point defeat of the Power. Despite some good news after defender Jeremy Howe was declared “fine” for selection this week, the club confirmed the 28-year-old Adams would undergo scans in the coming days to assess the extent of the damage.
His availability is up in the air ahead of the Pies’ clash with reigning premiers Melbourne on Friday.
Howe spent the last half of the final term against Port Adelaide on the bench after suffering a knee to the backside, but coach Craig McRae said after the game that the 32-year-old had suffered no significant injury.
Richmond’s thrilling comeback win over Brisbane on Sunday was marred by Grimes’ suspected hamstring injury, which the player, himself, was not optimistic about.
“I have [Grimes] seems to think it was bad, so we’ll wait and see what that’s like,” coach Damien Hardwick said after the game.
“That’s the challenging thing about AFL football, isn’t it? It’s such a tough game and warriors go down – especially brave ones like Dylan.”
Hardwick said he was concerned by the look of the tumble, but the club maintained no official decision had been made yet over Grimes’ availability against Port Adelaide on Saturday, noting the 31-year-old would be further assessed early in the week.
“I don’t want to speculate, but it’s not great at the moment,” Hardwick acknowledged.
“It’s a little bit challenging at the moment, and emotional for all of us because he’s such an important player to the fabric of our footy club.
“We hope it’s not too severe. We’ve got our fingers crossed at this stage.”
Melbourne narrowly avoided a major injury blow of their own as star ruckman Luke Jackson passed all concussion tests after sustaining a knock to the head, clearing him of any further concussion protocol requirements and setting him up for selection against Collingwood on Friday.
Phillips to helm the Power
Port Adelaide has named AFLW star Erin Phillips as captain of the expansion side’s inaugural season.
Despite beginning on the basketball court, Phillips has become a hot commodity on the field for her ability to kick goals. The 37-year-old joined the Power for their first season in 2020 after leading the Crows alongside Chelsea Randall since 2017.
“It is a huge honor to be named captain of Port Adelaide,” Phillips said.
“I feel incredibly privileged to be trusted to lead this amazing group of women, both on and off the field this season.
Phillips’ captaincy allows the powerful midfielder to continue the legacy of her father, Greg, who played 343 games for the Power between 1976 and 1993, including a stint as captain.
“My dad always said to me the only thing better than playing for this club is being captain of this club, and he was right,” Phillips said.
“Telling him the news that I had been named captain was a very special and emotional moment for both of us.
“I’m so excited to be following in his footsteps and can’t wait to lead the team on to the ground for the first time. It will be yet another special moment for this group and for Port Adelaide.”
The two-time WNBA champion and Olympic basketballer made her transition to the AFLW in 2016, quickly becoming known as a prolific ball-winner and a consistent contender for best on ground.
Soon to follow in Port Adelaide’s footsteps are fellow expansion sides Hawthorn, Essendon and Sydney as they decide who will take the helm of their teams ahead of their own highly anticipated inaugural seasons.
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