Sport Great mates to debut, gun Eagles trio back as Optus hosts rare double-header
Dreamtime heads west as Richmond and Essendon look to put on a show
For the second consecutive year, the annual Dreamtime clash between Essendon and Richmond will be played away from Victoria, with Perth’s Optus Stadium to host one of the game’s biggest showpieces this Saturday night. Another lockdown in Victoria, its fourth since the start of the pandemic and second this year, has temporarily forced the AFL out of the state once again, with the AFL desperately hoping that all Victorian teams will not have to hub elsewhere in the long term, as was the case last year.
There will be added interest ahead of the weekend's rare double header of AFL action at Optus Stadium.
Great mates and Fremantle Next Generation Academy members Brandon Walker and Joel Western have been selected for the undermanned club's crunch round 13 match against Gold Coast on Saturday.
They'll be joined by injury-prone defender Alex Pearce, who has managed just one AFL match in 742 days due to two serious lower-leg setbacks but has played three on the trot for Peel in the WAFL.
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Young Suns superstar Matt Rowell, who took the competition by storm in his debut 2020 before injury cruelled the 19-year-old's season after just five games, is back after suffering a knee injury in round one against the Eagles at Optus Stadium.
Gold Coast coach Stuart Dew said the No.1 draft pick was ready to face the Dockers.
"Physically, his body is better prepared than what it was leading into round one, because he's essentially had another pre-season," he said.
"In some sense he's probably fitter than what he was leading into the season. It's certainly not a rush."
West Coast, meanwhile, has recalled a gun trio for its crucial Sunday soiree with reigning premiers Richmond.
The Tigers stormed home against Essendon in last Saturday's epic Dreamtime spectacle in front of a sell-out WA crowd and the Eagles will have to be at their best to beat the $1.73 favourites.
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Vice-captain Josh Kennedy is back and will lead the team in Luke Shuey's absence, while running half-back Liam Duggan and versatile tall Oscar Allen are confirmed starters, coach Adam Simpson said.
Simpson also confirmed a two-year coaching extension to 2024 that ended fanciful talk he could replace Nathan Buckley at Collingwood.
The influx of senior players could extend further when the club refines its team on Friday afternoon, with wingman Jarrod Brander and back-ruckman Nathan Vardy named on an extended eight-man interchange that also includes last week's medical sub Jamaine Jones, Luke Edwards, forwards Jake Waterman and Zac Langdon, midfielder Xavier O'Neill and defender Luke Foley.
All-Australian defender Brad Sheppard was ruled out due to AFL concussion protocols and emerging ruck-forward Bailey Williams was not considered because of a hamstring strain.
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Richmond added Kane Lambert, tall defender Ben Miller, Will Martyn, and Hugo Ralphsmith to its squad for the 5.20pm clash while youngster Riley Collier-Dawkins was omitted but Dion Prestia named, despite being subbed out for Daniel Rioli in last Saturday's 39-point win with hamstring tightness.
At Fremantle the mood was buoyant ahead of the clash despite the absence of captain Nat Fyfe (shoulder), Brennan Cox (hamstring) and Griffin Logue (concussion).
Out-of-favour midfielder Connor Blakely has been dropped and could struggle to play again in purple, while Nathan Wilson was suspended for one match for an unsavoury hit to the groin of young Dog Cody Weightman last Sunday.
Not only will great mates Western and Walker debut but hopes will be high for Pearce, who appears ready for his 55th AFL game .
Walker, 18, had a mixed start to the season that saw him demoted to Peel's reserves after a serious foot injury and then a concussion setback. He has shown pace and skill in his four WAFL games for the Thunder off half back and his imposing frame should hold well at AFL level.
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Walker admitted he thought his good mate Western was going to get a call-up.
"Joel and I have been playing footy since about year 6. It's been a while playing together and to debut on the same day, it's really cool," he said.
"I'm just so keen and I'm shaking right now."
Fremantle v Gold Coast(Optus Stadium, Saturday 2.15pm)
FREMANTLEB: R Conca A Pearce T DumanHB: J Aish L Ryan D TuckerC: B Acres D Mundy A BrayshawHF: T Colyer R Lobb M CrowdenF: L Schultz J Treacy L HenryFOLL: S Darcy A Cerra M WaltersI/C: B Bewley C Serong J Western B WalkerEMG: C Blakely T Watson L Meek S GiroIN: R Conca A Pearce B Bewley J Western B WalkerOUT: C Blakely (omitted) N Wilson (suspension) G Logue B Cox N Fyfe (all injured) T Watson (medical sub)
GOLD COASTB: W Powell S Collins S LemmensHB: J Lukosius C Ballard J BowesC: B Ellis M Rowell H GreenwoodHF: D Swallow C Burgess N HolmanF: I Rankine B King A SextonFOLL: Z Smith L Weller T MillerI/C: N Anderson S Flanders O Markov M RosasEMG: J Corbett J Farrar C Graham J SharpIN: J Bowes M RowellOUT: J Farrar R Atkins (both omitted) J Corbett (medical-sub)
Texas OKs public gun-carrying without permit .
Governor Greg Abbott signed into law Wednesday a bill that allows Texans to carry firearms in public without a permit, the latest in a series of measures expanding gun rights in conservative US states. The law, which was passed in the Republican-dominated state Senate and House of Representatives last month, will allow anyone 21 years or older who is not barred from possessing a firearm to carry one in public without a permit.