Connolly’s live blog, Monday noon
Carlton star Chris Judd has declared he’s ready to return for Sunday’s elimination final against Richmond.
As the Blues near full strength for the MCG blockbuster, Judd is one of the last pieces of Mick Malthouse’s puzzle after spending the past three weeks on the sidelines with a knee injury.
The former captain was originally scheduled to miss the rest of the season with the medial ligament strain, but that was before Essendon was booted from the finals and before Carlton’s stunning win over Port Adelaide on Saturday changed the circumstances.
Judd, who had already decided to play on next year, said on Sunday that he was excited by the prospect of another finals series and was looking forward to playing.
”I’m feeling good, so I’m expecting to put my hand up,” he said.
Blues defender Zach Tuohy admitted playing Judd under an injury cloud would be a risk, but was confident the dual Brownlow medallist would make the right call for the team.
”He’s been running, but I think it’s just going to come down to whether or not he feels like he can train this week, and it’s a decision that is going to be have between him and the medicos,” Tuohy said on Channel Nine on Sunday.
Key midfielder Brock McLean, one of the match winners for the Blues in their 10-point victory over the Tigers in round 21, is also due back from a quadriceps injury.
Having squeaked into the finals by default on the back of Essendon’s unprecedented exclusion, Carlton will enter Sunday’s knockout final with a nothing-to-lose mindset, healthy and in form after knocking off Port Adelaide.
It sets up an unnerving proposition for Richmond, which has waited more than a decade to play finals and now runs into a club the Tigers have lost to in 10 of the past 11 meetings – although the one win did come this year.
Veteran defender Chris Newman is the other player who will be under the spotlight this week as he prepares to shed the unwanted record of playing the most games ever – 232 – without playing a final.
Although to do so, he must first prove his fitness at training this week after the former skipper sat out Saturday night’s win against Essendon with an ankle injury.
Newman, though, is unconcerned about the possibility of missing out.
”It’s all good. I was close to playing last night and possibly could have, but it’s great just to have another week to get it right,” Newman said on Channel Seven.
”I had a fairly solid hitout on Saturday. I’ll train this week and very much look forward to, hopefully, getting a spot.”
Tigers spearhead Jack Riewoldt was the other high-profile Tiger who missed the dead rubber against the Bombers, but is expected to play.
”He’s moving around OK so I don’t think there’ll be too many dramas there,” Newman said when asked about Riewoldt’s status.
Matt White is in doubt with an ongoing hamstring issue, although the Tigers small forward is hopeful, saying on Sunday that the injury he sustained felt like a ”cramp” rather than a strain.
Tigers coach Damien Hardwick said his team would embrace the club’s first appearance in an AFL finals series for 12 years and said he wanted Richmond to revel in the moment. ”Yeah, we do, because you never know when you’re going to be back,” he said.
”You look at our side, in 2001 was the last time we appeared. Do you think they thought it was going to be 12-13 years before they got back? You’d hope not. So you’ve just got to make the most of your opportunity. They don’t come around that often. We’ve had a good season, but a new one starts.”
First Elimination Final
Richmond v Carlton Sunday, 3.20pm, MCG.
Will Chris Judd get up? That will be the running story all week. He thinks he will, but it will come down to what he can do at training. Brock McLean and Heath Scotland are also to come in. For Richmond, Chris Newman has an ankle injury, but he of all people won’t miss this after waiting so long. Jack Riewoldt also sat out on Saturday night, but is expected to play against the Blues.
Round 1: Richmond 14.22.(106) def Carlton. 14.17.(101) The Tigers survived a five-goals-to-zero last quarter surge from the Blues to hold on and finally break the round 1 hoodoo.
Round 21: Carlton 16.10 (106) def Richmond 14.12 (96) The Blues reversed a 30-point quarter-time deficit with Levi Casboult and Lachie Henderson emerging as key forward targets, while Jarrad Waite went back.
Why Richmond will win: Because their best is better than Carlton’s. As long as they don’t get stage fright, and get the game played on their terms by scoring from stoppages, the Tigers will be okay. Playing the in-form Aaron Edwards alongside Riewoldt and Ty Vickery could force the Blues to keep Henderson in defence.
Why Carlton will win: Because they nearly always do against Richmond. It would be an upset this time, but the Blues beat them out of nowhere just two weeks ago and before that, had won nine of their last 10 against Richmond. And many of the current Tigers players carry the scares from many of those defeats.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.