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AFL NEWS: Gawn – Demons will bounce back, Hill rests after cancer surgery, Docker dumped for drinking

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Melbourne is in the midst of turbulence off the pitch and a minor slump on the pitch, but captain Max Gawn is adamant the wheels didn’t fall off.

The AFL’s reigning prime ministers face a potentially season-defining Queen’s Birthday clash with Collingwood.

Less than three weeks ago, the Demons were undefeated and on track to fulfill their publicly expressed desire to claim premiership for their fans at the MCG.

They have since lost to Fremantle and Sydney and were rocked by Steven May and Jake Melksham’s alcohol-fuelled fight at a restaurant in Prahran on Sunday night.

Star defender May was set to return against Collingwood but was banned from Monday’s blockbuster for drinking alcohol while suffering a concussion, while Tom McDonald is out until later in the season following foot surgery.

Melksham is also unavailable and requires surgery after his hand, which he had hurt during the fight, became infected.

“No, the wheels haven’t fallen off,” Gawn told reporters on Wednesday.

“I’m completely comfortable with where we are from a performance standpoint.

“Obviously we’ve lost the last pair. The Fremantle game was a complete blockage. We didn’t play our best football at all and that was a shock.

“When the Sydney match we really felt like we were going back to some of our better basics in football and that was a ripping match, I think both teams played some ripping footy and Sydney was able to get some to score crucial goals.

“So I don’t think we’re completely out of shape.”

Max Gawn of the Demons celebrates after scoring a goal

(Photo by Will Russell/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

May’s absence couldn’t have come at a much worse time.

Swingman McDonald’s injury reduces defensive coverage and also exacerbates Melbourne’s forward problems with Ben Brown goalless in three games and Sam Weideman falling.

“We get pretty thin and (mostly) with Tom usually the one covering Steven,” Gawn said.

“So it hurts and speaking of the penalties given, I think that hurts Steven a lot too, knowing that he puts a lot of pressure on Harry Petty, Adam Tomlinson, Jake Lever, maybe (potential debutant) Daniel Turner, Jayden Hunt and Michael Hibberd.

“These guys will have to step down.

“Then of course we all have trouble scoring goals in the front line. So there is a bit of pressure on us, tall people, to be able to kick them too.”

Hill rests after cancer surgery

GWS forward Bobby Hill is in “good spirits” and is recovering well from last week’s surgery after his testicular cancer diagnosis.

The 22-year-old is due to expire at the end of the AFL season and there is no clarity about his playing future.

But his health remains the priority as the Giants players and staff gather around him.

“The surgery went very well, which is fantastic,” said GWS interim coach Mark McVeigh.

“From here on, we’ll just continue to monitor where he is and continue to listen to the medical experts in this area.

“The players are good around him and I’ve spoken to him a few times.

“He is in a good mood, which is great, and he will take time at home to relax and recover with his young family.

“If he feels he is ready, he will come to the club at some point, but at the moment we are giving him some space and all the support (we can).”

Although Hill is out indefinitely, the Giants welcome some big names back in the coming weeks.

All-Australian pair Nick Haynes (illness) and Lachie Whitfield (ankle) return on Sunday against North Melbourne, while Callan Ward is expected to tick the last boxes under concussion protocols.

Phil Davis (hamstring) and Tim Taranto (back) could be back in action next week.

McVeigh has led GWS to one win and one loss since taking the reins from Leon Cameron last month and is excited about what the second half of the season could bring.

But the Giants (3-8) face a huge battle to fight their way back into the finals race.

“We’re pretty excited about where our group is and how they’re feeling, and also the potential of players coming back in the coming weeks is exciting everyone,” said McVeigh.

Freo stands with a hard attitude

Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir believes his decision to suspend Michael Frederick in form for a week will help the club achieve future success.

Frederick will miss Saturday’s AFL clash with Hawthorn at Optus Stadium after breaking the team’s alcohol rules by drinking during a six-day break between games.

The 22-year-old has been a key figure in the club’s recent victories over Melbourne and Brisbane, and Longmuir believes Frederick’s absence against Hawthorn will hurt Fremantle’s chances of winning a third consecutive game.

Longmuir said the decision to suspend Frederick was made for the greater good of the team.

“I told the players yesterday that it could hurt our chances of winning this weekend if Freddy isn’t there, but if we walk past these things, we won’t win in the future,” said Longmuir.

“We have to step on it. He’s going to learn a hard lesson. He made a bad decision.

“He clearly stepped outside the behavior we accept, and he knew it.

“He admitted, admitted, apologized sincerely. I know he will learn from it and come back a better person and a better player.”

Longmuir said it is important for players to abstain from alcohol during shorter breaks between matches.

“Drinking on a six-day break is just not good for recovery,” Longmuir said.

“It’s a short turnaround in AFL footy, and we need everyone to recover as best we can.

“That (drinking) doesn’t allow you to do it. That’s been a rule, it’s probably a rule at most football clubs, and he’s clearly stepped outside of that.”

Fremantle will be supported by the return of Nat Fyfe, Michael Walters and Sam Switkowski against the Hawks.

But striker Matt Taberner won’t be seen until after his mid-season retirement due to an ongoing back injury.

“It probably just didn’t respond the way we would have liked and the way it has in the past,” Longmuir said.

“He’s just been a little crazy this year, both inside and out. He doesn’t have the continuity we would like.

“We have to make sure we do that right because he is a very important part of our team and can make a big difference for us.”

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