The Carlton Blues weigh up Mitch McGovern’s pick while North Melbourne, Essendon Bombers, Western Bulldogs and Hawthorn prepare for the first round

Ruckmann No. 1 Pittonet also escaped unscathed, returning from post-season PCL surgery, while Jack Martin (Wade) played a full game and young forward Josh Honey scored twice.

Tarryn Thomas, from North Melbourne, will play in the VFL for the first time on Saturday since police accused him in January of threatening to release an intimate picture, alongside other serious allegations of inappropriate conduct.

Since then, the 22-year-old has completed a training program on behalf of the Kangaroos.

Tarryn Thomas prepares for his football return in a VFL practice game.

Tarryn Thomas prepares for his football return in a VFL practice game.Credit:Getty Images

Aidan Corr (Wade), Dan Howe and Curtis Taylor will also play for North Melbourne against Footscray, who will have AFL-listed Mitch Hannan after being sidelined last week with illness. Blue-chip draftee George Wardlaw will not play.

Ed Richards (corked quad), Taylor Duryea (neck) and Hayden Crozier (dislocated finger) will not play but are all expected to be fit for the first round, while Cody Weightman (adductors) and Jason Johannisen (calf) remain doubtful.

Hawthorn’s Sam Butler, Emerson Jeka and Cooper Stephens, who was part of the three-way trade that sent Tom Mitchell to Collingwood and Ollie Henry to Geelong, will line up for Box Hill against Williamstown on Friday night before round one.

Stephens sat out Hawthorn’s first practice game under the AFL’s concussion protocol after injuring himself at club, then missed selection for the trip to Tasmania to play Collingwood. The Hawks are keen for Butler, who played minimal time in both practice games, and Jeka to get more minutes.


Harry Morrison will not play in the VFL but is back in full training and remains on course to be available for the first round after suffering a hamstring injury in late January.

Kyle Langford (back spasms) and Matt Guelfi (calf) will make their case for the first round for Essendon’s VFL side against Frankston at the hangar on Saturday. Some AFL clubs instead choose to manage their footballers through coaching.

Richmond’s Jack Graham (toe) and Marlion Pickett (adductors) were two candidates who could have played for the VFL Tigers on Friday but instead attended the Tigers’ main game on Thursday.

St Kilda remain optimistic that key striker Tim Membrey (knee) will be ready for the season opener against Fremantle.

Neither Membrey nor an AFL-listed Saint will feature in Sandringham’s line-up for the clash with Richmond’s reserves, while no Melbourne players will be in action for Casey Demons on Friday night.

Geelong will also play Werribee at GMHBA Stadium on Friday night but no AFL players will be involved.

Pies-Skipper becomes a saint in the three-club AFLW mega trade

Marnie Vinall

The upcoming AFLW season promises a new look again after the first day of the Mark and Trade period saw a series of big name changes.

That included a three-club, five-player mega trade that saw Collingwood skipper Steph Chiocci and team-mate Jamie Lambert head to St Kilda.

Magpies skipper Steph Chiocci has signed with St Kilda.

Magpies skipper Steph Chiocci has signed with St Kilda.Credit:AFL photos

In return, the Pies secured Tarni White from the Saints and North Melbourne’s Grace Campbell, while the Kangaroos received last season’s best and fairest and leading scorer from St Kilda, Kate Shierlaw.

Collingwood also gets North Melbourne’s first-round pick with pick 15 in the upcoming Season 8 supplement draft, while St Kilda gets the Magpies’ second-round pick with pick 31.

Chiocci, a first-time AFLW player, said she felt she still had a lot to bring to the game and sees St Kilda as the best place to do it.

“Through conversations I’ve had with some players and coaches, I think there’s a lot of room for us to grow as a group and improve across the board, which is exciting,” Chiocci said in a statement.

Lambert, who is arguably in the best form of her career after seven seasons in the competition, said she was ready for a change and wanted it at St Kilda, where she saw plenty of talent ready to be exploited.

“There are a lot of similarities between the Saints today and what we were at Pies four years ago,” Lambert said.

“Through a couple of wins and some momentum, we really got girls out of their shells and played with confidence and I think this group has the ability to do that. When we come together as a group and work hard, there is no limit to what we can achieve.”

Nick Dal Santo’s Saints could also gain the added boost of last year’s league-leading scorer and all-Australian Jesse Wardlaw for their forward line, as the Lion has been linked with a move to Moorabin.

Wardlaw and Lions teammate Lulu Pullar confirmed to Brisbane on Thursday that they would be trading on new clubs. This came after the club lost league best and fairest winner Emily Bates and striker Greta Bodey in the priority signing stage.

In other news, Fremantle forward Amy Franklin asked for a trade after a year with Dockers. It’s understood she wants to head to the west coast, but how she gets there remains unseen at this point.

Richmond’s Kodi Jacques will travel to Essendon after being traded to the new AFLW side in exchange for a second-round pick, currently 27 total, to be used in this year’s AFLW draft supplement.

The club’s AFLW director of football Bob Murphy said AFL women It was a shame Franklin decided not to pursue another season with the club.

“We believe the Freo family has invested a great deal of time and resources into ‘Franky’ so our goal now is to ensure the club gets the best return on this investment,” said Murphy.

This week, clubs also removed some players from the list, including Brisbane’s Gabby Collingwood, Ava Seton and Maggie Harmer, Sydney’s Sarah Dargan, Sarah Skinner and Tiarne Cavanagh, and Gold Coast’s Jade Pregelj and Tori Groves-Little.

The AFLW draw and trade period runs from Friday 10th March to Monday 20th March.

Captain Finale snubs Essendon with ‘fire in stomach’

Ronnie Lerner

Essendon were one of just five clubs not selected for the finals in this week’s annual AFL captains’ poll and Bombers cult hero Sam Draper said it gave his team extra motivation to finish in the top eight.

The Dons last reached the finals in 2021 and have been something of a yo-yo club, finishing in the top eight six times in the past 13 years. But they’re still looking for their first Finals win since 2004.

But Draper insisted it was wrong to write Essendon off so early in the year despite winning just seven games in 2022.

Sam Draper shows a shot last year.

Sam Draper shows a shot last year.Credit:AFL Photos / Getty Images

“Look, I obviously wasn’t too happy to see that,” the up-and-coming ruckman said of Friday’s poll results.

“But for our group, and for me in particular, it puts a bit of a fire in my stomach and makes me want to prove people wrong.

“We’re not just here to compete, we’re here to go far into the finals and do well.”

During the week, Essendon legend Matthew Lloyd told 3AW the bombers needed to be “tougher” and “more vicious” in 2023, and Draper agreed.

“If you want to be a good team, like (Premiers) Geelong do, they have a pretty evil streak so you have to be really competitive,” Draper said.

Essendon’s midfield came under scrutiny for undersizing, hence the decision to recruit the burly Will Setterfield in the off-season from Carlton, but Draper went so far as to say his on-ball unit could “definitely” help in the win Bombers a Premiership.

“We have a really diverse group there and they have a lot of strengths. I think if we put everything together, we could be really dangerous,” said Draper.

“We’ve seen bits of that, we’re just looking for a little more consistency, so that’s been a big focus this preseason – a lot of our competitive work – so I think we’ve got the guys who can do it.”

Stay up to date with the best AFL coverage in the country. Sign up for the Real Footy newsletter. The Carlton Blues weigh up Mitch McGovern’s pick while North Melbourne, Essendon Bombers, Western Bulldogs and Hawthorn prepare for the first round

Ryan Sederquist

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