Dockers hesitant about Jackson deal, Zorko paralyzed, Nic Nat a chance to return

Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir is tight-lipped about his AFL club’s chances of landing rising Melbourne star Luke Jackson on a mega deal.

Jackson’s contract expires at the end of the year and he faces a huge decision to re-sign with the Demons or return to Western Australia with Fremantle or West Coast.

If Jackson decided to leave the defending prime ministers, Fremantle seems like his most likely destination, as the club’s flag window has just opened.

West Coast, on the other hand, faces a long and painful rebuilding as they abandon a host of aging stars.

Talking about Jackson’s future is one of the hottest topics in the AFL, but Longmuir was in no mood to discuss details when asked about it on Wednesday.

“It’s not my job to talk about such things in public. I’ve probably done that with certain players in the past and immediately regretted it,” said Longmuir.

Luke Jackson of the Demons celebrates a goal

(Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

“If the shoe were on the other side, I wouldn’t want opposing coaches talking about my players that way. It’s not really up to me to comment publicly.

“I am involved with the roster committee and constantly talk about our players and players around the comp, as any coach would and any roster committee.”

Meanwhile, Longmuir is leaning towards giving Matt Taberner a second straight game in the WAFL rather than playing him in Saturday’s crunch clash with Carlton at Marvel Stadium.

Taberner scored three goals and took eight points for Peel Thunder last week on his return from a back injury.

The 29-year-old has been limited to six games this season due to hamstring and back problems, and Longmuir wants to make sure Taberner is fully fit and match-hardened before returning to the AFL ranks.

The Dockers are heartened by goalsneak Michael Frederick’s return from his club-imposed alcohol ban during a six-day break. But Blake Acres (hamstring) and Sam Switkowski (back fracture) go out of the side. Longmuir hopes Switkowski can play again this season.

Zorko paralyzed for another week

Brisbane captain Dayne Zorko will use his enforced break to prepare his body for a big end to the AFL season in pursuit of premiership glory.

Despite running well this week, Zorko will miss the Lions’ heavyweight showdown against Melbourne on Thursday night with a minor hamstring injury sustained during the pre-retirement victory over St Kilda.

“I trained very well (on Tuesday) and thought I had a very good chance to play, but unfortunately it didn’t happen,” said Zorko.

“A top of the table clash is a game I would have loved to participate in, but that’s the way it is.

“I certainly don’t have to take any risks at this time of year.”

Zorko had a minor procedure in February to repair an Achilles tendon, but returned to play each of the Lions’ first 13 home and away games.

The 33-year-old said he is “definitely right to go” against the Western Bulldogs at the Gabba in round 16.

“With this little setback, it was nice to get the body down for a few weeks and get a really good solid block of training and get back to moving like I was in previous years,” Zorko said.

Dayne Zorko and his Lions teammates look dejected after loss

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

“That has been a very encouraging sign to me for the past three or four days.

“The extra nine days in the Bulldogs game will do me good too.”

Zorko’s return against the Bulldogs will coincide with wearing a commemorative jersey in Brisbane to celebrate 20 years since the premiership hat-trick in 2001-03.

The jersey has an image of the three-peat team on the back.

Zorko’s absence comes after Melbourne captain and ruckman Max Gawn injured his ankle in a third consecutive loss last week, which allowed Brisbane to jump to first place for them.

Come and go everywhere

Geelong’s Brownlow medalist Patrick Dangerfield returns as coach Chris Scott predicts more conservative injury management at his AFL club.

Dangerfield has not played since he contracted a calf muscle on May 21, but Scott expects his star player to be back for Saturday’s game against Richmond.

“We think so,” Scott told reporters on Wednesday. “We would especially like to see this (training) session today, but our plan was quite conservative in terms of injury management, giving Patrick enough work that he was denied earlier this year.

“Any indication is that he will be ready to leave.”

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick says there is some doubt about Dustin Martin’s output when he returns from illness for Saturday’s AFL clash against Geelong.

The Tiger ace missed last week’s win against Carlton due to a severe flu attack, which toppled Martin, according to Hardwick.

“How he’ll get out, we’re not so sure,” Hardwick told reporters on Wednesday.

“But we’re pretty sure it (Martin’s best) isn’t too far away.

“What we need to realize is Dustin’s level of expectation is unbelievably high.”

Essendon star Darcy Parish is busy making a comeback from a corked calf against West Coast, but the Bombers are confident their midfield can thrive no matter what.

Parish missed the win over St Kilda and will have to prove his eligibility for Friday’s AFL game in Perth. Coach Ben Rutten said his availability depends on how he recovers in Wednesday’s training.

In Parish’s absence, young guns Jy Caldwell, Archie Perkins and Ben Hobbs thrived with more centre-bounce time against St Kilda.

Rutten hoped that in the longer term those players, plus the return of Jake Stringer, would reduce reliance on ball magnet Parish.

“It’s a balance to make sure we get some cohesion out of our guys, but we also have some good options,” he said.

St Kilda coach Brett Ratten warns that skipper Jack Steele’s return will not be a magic elixir for the Saints’ recent AFL woes as they prepare for Sydney on Saturday night.

Ratten said on Wednesday the double all-Australian midfielder was a certainty for the SCG clash as St Kilda try to stop a two-match slump.

Last round, the Saints were shocking 35-point losers against the humble Essendon, with Ratten saying he hoped the poor performance had kicked the team into gear.

Steele has recovered quickly from shoulder surgery, missing just four games and will add some much-needed intensity around the ball, which was lacking against the Bombers.

Wingman Daniel McKenzie also returns after a concussion.

The Western Bulldogs are poised to take on their pivotal AFL clash against Hawthorn without livewire Cody Weightman.

The small forward scored five goals in the first half against GWS and then dislocated his elbow in the third quarter but still finished the game.

Weightman trained on Wednesday, but coach Luke Beveridge indicated that while the 21-year-old avoided bone damage, only stretching his ligaments, the six-day break until Friday night’s game was probably too little.

“It’s quite a traumatic injury and he’s going to train today, but we want to make sure that when he plays, he’s pain free, feels comfortable and can play his natural game,” Beveridge told reporters.

Nic Nat in the picture to return

West Coast defender Jeremy McGovern is unsure of playing again this year after his painful rib injury, but ruckman Nic Naitanui could return as early as this week.

McGovern spent three nights in hospital before being released on Tuesday after breaking his ribs in Saturday’s 18-point loss to Geelong.

The four-time All-Australian had surgery on Monday to have a plate put in place and no timetable has been set for his return.

West Coast (1-12) has nine games left this season.

But with the side at the bottom of the ladder with nothing but pride to play for, there’s no urgency to rush McGovern back.

“The damage is significant, but he is now in good health. Now it’s about recovery,” Eagles coach Adam Simpson said on Tuesday.

“It will be a few weeks when he comes back. We won’t know. We will probably know by the end of the week.”

Naitanui has not played since he injured a medial ligament in his knee in the club’s fourth-round victory over Collingwood.

While Naitanui is more likely to return next week, Simpson has left the door ajar for this week.

‘He’s not far away. This week or next week,” Simpson said.

“We’ll see what training is like and then decide if he plays WAFL or goes straight back to the side.

“We’ll see how he picks up after today.”

A large number of West Coast players have been brought back through the WAFL this season and Simpson will strongly consider taking a similar path for Naitanui.

“Unfortunately, this year we’ve had injuries that have been going on for several weeks and there’s a tipping point before you can come right back,” Simpson said. “Especially halfway through the season, when everyone is race-ready and race-hardened. Getting back into it right away is a challenge.

Nic Naitanui of the Eagles takes the ball

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

“I think eight players have come back from serious injuries this year and Nic will be one more.

“We’re dealing with that on a case-by-case basis, but we understand there’s a certain level where you need some touch at the WAFL level.”

The West Coast could be boosted by the return of Tim Kelly, Liam Ryan and Samo Petrevski-Seton for Friday night’s game against Essendon at Optus Stadium.

All three players missed last week’s loss to Geelong due to illness and Simpson will assess them in training this week before calling on their availability.

Simpson says Josh Kennedy will be managed sometime in the second half of the season, but the 34-year-old attacker will face Essendon on Friday if he holds up well from training.