Melksham escapes AFL suspension over restaurant fight, Gawn could miss five

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

  • The AFL has completed its investigation into the Steven May-Jake Melksham fight
  • Sam Switkowski’s season may be over
  • The latest Blues and Tigers news ahead of Thursday’s clash.
  • Caleb Daniel signs a four-year contract extension with the Bulldogs, plus team news
  • Nathan Buckley has offered Jason Horne-Francis some advice.

Gawn sidelined, AFL rules out further action on May and Melksham

Andrew Wu

The AFL will not take further action against Steven May and Jake Melksham after completing their inquiry into a blue between the pair at an exclusive Prahran restaurant. The league reviewed CCTV vision from the night and conducted multiple interviews as part of their investigation.

As previously stated, the club has taken matter extremely seriously, however the AFL wishes to reinforce that no matter the situation or circumstances, violence is never the answer, the AFL said in a statement. As professional footballers, as people, we expect better.

Neither the club nor the AFL imposed a suspension on Melksham despite him lashing out at his teammate.

In another setback to the Demons’ premiership defence, captain Max Gawn could miss up to five weeks with an

A campaign which was going swimmingly just over three weeks ago is now facing mounting challenges for the Demons, who have a testing run of games without their champion ruckman.

Gawn underwent scans on the ankle injury he sustained in , which was the club’s third in a row and knocked them off the top of the ladder.

Gawn, who must wear a moonboot until early next week, will not require surgery but a best-case scenario forecast by the club will see him miss at least three matches, possibly five.

The Dees play the top-of-the-ladder Brisbane Lions after the bye before trips away to Adelaide and Geelong, to Darwin to host Port Adelaide followed by a clash with their grand final opponent Western Bulldogs.

Gawn’s injury offsets the on-field boost they are likely to receive after the bye when backline general for his role in a restaurant stoush with teammate Jake Melksham.

Gawn’s absence will not only be felt in the ruck but also in attack, where he has been a threat with his marking power in a struggling forward line.

Young star Luke Jackson will have to shoulder the bulk of the ruck duties in Gawn’s absence, while there is now an opening for out-of-favour forward Sam Weideman to break back into the senior 22.

Max had a left ankle concern during the game and, while he managed to battle through, was quite sore afterwards, Demons football boss Alan Richardson said.

He had some scans on Tuesday, which unfortunately showed some ligament damage.

Max will be in a moonboot until early next week and will then begin his structured rehabilitation program. It’s, obviously, disappointing that we will be without our leader for the next three to five weeks, but we’re hopeful it’ll be a relatively quick recovery for Max, and he won’t miss too much footy.

There was a wretched postscript to youngster Daniel Turner’s debut. Subbed out with concussion, Turner also requires surgery to repair facial fractures and will miss four weeks.

A possible early finish for Switkowski

Nell Geraets

Fremantle forward Sam Switkowski could be out for the rest of the season after scans confirmed a stress fracture in his back – the second such injury he has suffered since 2020.

Dockers football GM Peter Bell confirmed on Wednesday that Switkowski would not be available for selection when the team’s season resumes in round 15.

, a heavy clash with Hawks defender James Sicily sent Switkowski to the rooms before he returned to finish what he had started. Back injury and all, he still managed 17 possessions and five tackles.

Sam will require a period of non-running, followed by a repeat scan before being cleared to progress in his return to training, Bell said.

Due to the nature of the injury, Bell said it was impossible to know exactly how long Switkowski would need to remain off-field for, leaving his exact return date up in the air.

It is disappointing that we will be without Sam for a period of time, as he is an integral part of our team and one of our best trademark players.

Despite the severity and uncertainty surrounding the injury, the Dockers remained positive that the 25-year-old would focus on a thorough and effective rehabilitation process to ensure as speedy a recovery as possible.

We also know that Sam will attack his reconditioning with the same professionalism and purpose that he has demonstrated in all aspects of his career, Bell said.

Adding insult to injury, for his chicken wing tackle on Collingwood’s Jack Ginnivan. The tribunal determined it was intended to cause harm, and therefore was a form of serious misconduct.

Switkowski is unfortunately no stranger to back injuries, with his current situation closely mirroring a similar injury that kept him out of the majority of Fremantle’s line-up two years ago.

With the club sitting third in this season’s ladder – and a painfully close 5. 7 per cent behind the leading Lions – losing anyone in the offensive line, let alone a player that can exert as much pressure on the opposition as Switkowski, could be of concern.

The Dockers also expect to be without wingman Blake Acres as he recovers from a hamstring injury for about a month. But in better news, forwards Michael Frederick and Matt Taberner are set to return for next week’s head-to-head with Carlton after serving a club suspension and recovering from a back injury respectively.

Durdin in, Dusty out for a cup of soup?

Andrew Wu, with AAP

Dustin Martin will miss the club’s vital clash with Carlton due to illness, as the Blues threw mid-season recruit Sam Durdin into the deep end against Tigers twin towers Tom Lynch and Jack Riewoldt for skipper Patrick Cripps’s milestone game.

, on Thursday night the former North Melbourne defender will be making his navy-blue debut in front of a big MCG crowd and a massive national TV audience.

It will be a baptism of fire for Durdin, who made his debut in the VFL last week and now faces the daunting challenge of stepping up against one of the league’s most potent forward pairings just over a fortnight after being picked in the mid-season draft.

Former No. 3 pick Paddy Dow was overlooked in favour of running machine Matthew Cottrell, the Blues’ sub last week, who comes into the 22 for the injured Adam Cerra.

Blues ruckman Tom de Koning has been named and is expected to play despite showing signs of discomfort at training on Thursday. De Koning was wearing bandage around his left thigh and had a brief chat with midfield coach Tim Clarke as players left the track.

The Tigers named Lynch in their 22 after a hamstring injury but they will be without Martin for a game that is crucial to their hopes of making the finals. Ruckman Ivan Soldo has been dropped, with greasy conditions expected.

Dustin unfortunately has got a very bad case so he will probably be sitting on the sidelines at home with a cup of soup, Hardwick said on Wednesday.

He is not too well . . . he hasn’t trained all week. He obviously came down with it over the weekend and just hasn’t responded well.

The Blues’ tall stocks in defence has been decimated by injuries to , Oscar McDonald, Mitch McGovern, Luke Parks and Caleb Marchbank.

, has created the opening for Durdin to play for his second club.

Durdin, who played the last of his 22 games for the Kangaroos in round 18, 2020, earned his ticket back into the AFL with strong performances in the SANFL.

Coach Michael Voss is telling Durdin to back his instincts as he comes to grips with the Blues’ system. The first day he got in he was in front of the computer for three-and-a-half hours trying to learn our style, Voss said.

The biggest advice I can give him is just to get out there and back your instincts in. He’s built the craft over a long period of time in the position he plays and that goes a long, long way.

There will be some minor adjustments to how we ask him to do that but in the end it goes down to winning his battle, and if he can win his battle that puts us in a really good position.

Such has been the depth of the Blues’ woes, recruit Lewis Young is now the side’s No. 1 key defender having started the season out of the side.

Since taking over from Weitering in the game against Collingwood, Young has held Essendon spearhead Peter Wright and Collingwood’s Brody Mihocek goalless. Young will play his 10th game of the season this week, the most the former Bulldog has managed in his six years in the league.

He’s been huge. Before this year he hadn’t played a lot of games in a row. He’s building confidence every week, skipper Patrick Cripps said.

With ‘Weiters’ going down, you can’t replace him, but he stood up massively on the weekend. His game against the Bombers was really good. He’s a leader down there now. He’s got another big responsibility this week but the way he’s playing I’ve got full confidence in him.

These are uncharted waters for Cripps, who plays his 150th game this week. His career has coincided with a dark chapter for the Blues, who have finished no higher than 11th during his time at the club. Their nine wins this season is their most since 2013.

Cripps said he would not change the dark times as it had built resilience and camaraderie into the Blues.

I probably grew a lot as a person through those tough times, Cripps said. One thing I’ve been big on, and I know a lot of the guys have been big on, is having a level of optimism, hope, and positivity around the place. Where there are tough times you have to keep the group together, that’s one thing I’m really proud of. The group’s stuck together, and we’re starting to see the hard work pay off.

We’re just getting started, we feel like we’ve got so much more to give. That’s the exciting part.
I’m excited for the next 150, I think that will be more successful than the first.

Caleb Daniel remains in the kennel

Nell Geraets, Jon Pierik

The Western Bulldogs will keep Caleb Daniel at the Whitten Oval until at least 2026, as prime movers Josh Bruce and Lachie Hunter prepare to make their return to the field on Friday night.

Daniel, the former Charles Sutton medallist, has inked a four-year deal in a year when he has averaged 24. 5 disposals, 5. 1 marks and 4. 3 rebound 50s per game. He was club champion and an All-Australian in 2020.

Daniel looked toward his long-term future at Whitten Oval with excitement.

I’ve built some amazing friendships at this football club and am incredibly grateful to pull on the jumper each week with this group, Daniel said.

As a club, we’ve had a lot of success over recent times, but we’re extremely hungry to improve and continually drive each other to be better.

The club’s general manager of list and recruiting, Sam Power, said Daniel, 25, had established himself as a consistent performer, and they were overjoyed to have him on-board for the long haul.

Caleb is not only a key member of our playing group but a quality individual who is a big part of the future of the Western Bulldogs, he said.

His professionalism and ability to impact matches from defence has been exceptional, with his growth being rewarded by the club, named in the leadership group for this season. A long-term commitment demonstrates the confidence that Caleb has in the direction of the club, as the Bulldogs push for success on and off the field for years to come.

Meanwhile, Bruce and Hunter will make their returns against Carlton in a VFL match at Ikon Park on Friday night. Bruce has been sidelined with an ACL injury since round 21 last year. The Bulldogs have missed his potency in front of goal, for Aaron Naughton has had to be the prime target.

Physically we believe he’s ready and there’ll be some trepidation on his front but he’s really excited about getting out on the field again, coach Luke Beveridge said.

Hunter took personal leave from the Bulldogs on April 19 but returned to training last week.

That’s his first foray back into it and I just spoke to him earlier on, he’s looking forward to getting out on the ground, Beveridge said.

It’s an ongoing thing as far as Lachie’s welfare goes but he’s put things in place and what he was able to do is train away from the club and he applied himself in regards to the strength program as well.

So he’s pretty fit. Our mandate and our objective for him was to come back into the main group and not be part of a rehab group and so he’s come back and he’s trained our main sessions. After a bit of a layoff, he’ll blow a bit but he’s prepared.

In the AFL, the 10th-placed Bulldogs face the Giants on Saturday night.

‘What is your plan? ’ Buckley says Horne-Francis could go home

Jon Pierik

Nathan Buckley, once the centre of AFL attention in his rookie season, says Jason Horne-Francis has been unfairly treated but needs to devise a plan which could have him return home to South Australia to play.

The spotlight on Horne-Francis has been immense, culminating in his two-match ban for striking during another loss for North Melbourne on Sunday, .

The No. 1 pick in last year’s national draft has shown glimpses of the star he is expected to become, but the Kangaroos’ dismal season, combined with Horne-Francis’ growing frustration, has sparked debate whether he may even seek a trade home to Adelaide.

The Crows offered pick No. 4, two future first-round picks and a future second-round pick last year to secure the No. 1 pick, and take Horne-Francis, but the Kangaroos rejected the pitch.

Buckley, who endured the spotlight in his lone season as a Brisbane Bear in 1993 before crossing to the Magpies, offered this advice to Horne-Francis.

There is nothing I would say different to what I’m saying here – you’re still a young man who is developing. I understand the challenges that are happening around you, but what is your plan? What is the plan with the club? Buckley said on SEN.

There’s a flawed ideal already to assume that my circumstances are the same as his. He might want to go home. He might want to be around his loved ones and have a support mechanism that is crucial to him. Right now, he’s a work in progress and it’s going to take time and patience and a lot of care and support.

Buckley was drafted by the Bears in ’91 but remained in the SANFL for a year, winning a premiership with Port Adelaide, before heading north. He left for Collingwood after the ’93 campaign.

Horne-Francis has so far opted against signing a contract extension. For the Crows or Port Adelaide to seek a trade, industry sources say they may have to offer Horne-Francis more than $700,000 a season, which could have implications on team harmony.

Buckley said it was unfair that there was speculation Horne-Francis would leave Arden St midway through his rookie contract.

He is already being judged by the masses, by the football community, for something that hasn’t happened yet, Buckley said.

He is already being judged for: ‘Why don’t you just stick with North, mate? Why don’t you do this, why don’t you do that? ’ Nothing’s happened, but our bias has us judging this kid’s character. And he is a kid. I see him struggling physically and I don’t feel comfortable with the way the game is not supporting this kid and the game being the industry.

Buckley said the external expectations on Horne-Francis were unwarranted.

I’m hot under the collar around a specific issue. If I was Jason Horne-Francis’ parents, how would I feel about how he has been treated by the industry? Buckley said.

So I’m not just talking about the club, I’m not talking about the media, I’m not talking about anyone in particular, but I feel like – What are we doing to this kid? He is an 18-year-old who is probably struggling within himself. We’re seeing his behaviours that are coming out that are showing quite clearly that he is struggling in himself in the challenge that he is facing.

It’s got worse and worse as the expectation has grown. These expectations weren’t his, they were placed on him externally and this is where sports media and social media becomes a big thing.

Richmond had also attempted to snatch the No. 1 pick off the Kangaroos last year, offering picks seven, 15 and 26 and Callum-Coleman Jones.

The Kangaroos have been in free-fall, and held a one-night leadership camp this week at the start of their bye. They have only one win from 13 matches,

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