Ross Lyon reveals first positional change with Brad Hill as St Kilda Saints debate game plan, Melbourne Demons’ Tayla Harris cleared for AFLW grand final

Joining McDonald-Tipungwuti at The Hangar were the two players who arrived during monster trade period, ex-Melbourne forward Sam Weideman, and former Carlton midfielder Will Setterfield. The recruits are both top-10 draft picks, and are both considered players who are yet to fulfil their potential.

Essendon traded a future third-round selection to nab Weideman from the Demons, who played as a key forward.

Over at Ikon Park, Carlton – tipped out of the final eight by Collingwood in the last home-and-away round – are kicking training off by “going a little easy,” said coach Michael Voss on Monday.

“We’ll give them a bit of reprieve. Over the coming weeks we’ll put some benchmarks in place,” he said.

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Despite the cheery start, Voss acknowledged the tough road ahead.

“We need to own the reality that we weren’t good enough to make it. Now it’s up to us to make sure that we get to work,” he said. “We obviously fell a little bit short last year, so the reality of that is that we have to find a way to get better.”

 

Lions CEO “peeved” at critics of venue ahead of AFLW grand final; Harris given all clear to line up for Dees

Marnie Vinall

Brisbane Lions CEO Greg Swann said he was “a bit peeved” at noise coming out of Melbourne that their newly built Brighton Homes Arena was “just a training ground” ahead of it hosting the AFLW grand final this weekend between the Lions and the Demons.

“They’ve never been here, it’s a great stadium,” said Swann on Monday, claiming it was purpose built for AFLW.

“Even the away facilities are better than most home team facilities…and as the seasons go on and this becomes our home, for home and away and future finals, then I’m sure people might regret calling it a glorified training venue.”

The AFL confirmed last Friday that the Lions’ $80 million training and administration centre in Springfield would host the league’s showpiece event if Brisbane were to qualify, given the Gabba and Metricon Stadium were unavailable due to cricket and concert commitments respectively.

Brisbane earned hosting rights for the event after finishing top of the ladder as minor premiers. However, debate was sparked given Springfield’s limited capacity of around 8000 people and fears it wouldn’t be ready in time.

However, Swann was firm the facilities would be ready for Sunday, with work being done this week to install a scoreboard, signage, interchange benches and marquees.

Tickets for the grand final sold out hours after going on sale to the general public, with the Lions saying, should further tickets become available, they will be released via Ticketmaster on Thursday from 2pm (AEST).

Meanwhile, Melbourne star Tayla Harris has said she “pulled up better than expected” after a shoulder injury in the preliminary final win over North Melbourne on Saturday and indicated she’ll be right to play in the grand final this weekend.

“My shoulder’s pulled up better than expected, and that’s honest. The physios have all made me know that they probably expected a bit worse, which is an awesome thing to hear. So yeah, feeling great, and I have no doubt that I will be able to compete at my best capacity on Sunday,” Harris said on Monday.

The Demons forward-turned-ruck collided with Kangaroos ruck Emma King in the opening quarter and came off in pain. Harris played out the remainder of the game in the forward line to limit further contact.

“When your shoulder’s in a vulnerable position, it doesn’t take much … I felt a bit juicy. I’ve got quite mobile joints. So, that’s the reason why I probably got hurt, but also the reason it didn’t get hurt as much as it could have,” said Harris.

The 25-year-old said her main concern on game day was that she wouldn’t be able to give as much as she would have liked in the exact moment for the team, but felt confident seeing how her side stepped up, in particular 23-year-old Eden Zanker, who moved into the ruck to replace her.

“I think someone like Eden, who is clearly a younger player in the competition, to be able to have a little bit of a curveball and to take it in such a great fashion was really impressive and inspiring.”

She said she was unfazed by the injury scare.

“I’ve done so much work, as has the entire team, on the mental side of things and controlling what you can control. This is another one of those things, obviously, the weather, there’s the scoreboard, but then, of course, there’s injuries,” said Harris.

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“So, this was one that we’ve been training for and it’s presented itself in real time. And I am proud of myself with the way that I’ve gone about it from a mental space and coming today and got reassured that we’re in a really good place.”

She added despite the shoulder concerns, she’s excited to take on Lions’ ruck Tahlia Hickie, whom she said has had incredible development.

“I love the way she competes. So, I can’t wait to see how I go.”

On Sunday Harris, who also played for Carlton, will come up against her former side Brisbane in what will be her fourth grand final without a win. However, the Dees gun said she was happy just to be playing with Melbourne in the showpiece event, rather than chasing her own elusive medal.

“Grand finals are hard enough to get in, let alone win them, so I think I’m fortunate to have been in them in the first place,” Harris said.

“I think anyone would agree that it’s the hardest thing in footy to win and only one team wins … I won’t be thinking about the previous ones, but I’ll certainly be taking the lessons.”

When asked what winning a premiership would mean, she said it would be something she, and the rest of the playing group, could take with them for the rest of their lives and share together.

“I think there’s nothing better than having an achievement with a group of people that you’d love to be around.”

Lyon reveals first positional change as Saints debate game plan

Jon Pierik

Returned St Kilda coach Ross Lyon has revealed his first major positional change, declaring often-maligned playmaker Brad Hill will return to his “pet position” on the wing.

Hill’s 2022 campaign was a microcosm of the Saints’. He began the season in superb touch through an 8-3 win-loss record, before slipping after the mid-season bye as the Saints went 3-8 and missed the finals.

The former premiership Hawk and Docker, who won a best and fairest under Lyon with Fremantle, has played his best football on a wing, but last year spent time at half-back and half-forward, and was often a source of frustration for Saints supporters.

On Monday, the 29-year-old opted to join younger teammates on the first day of official training for first to fourth-year players and Lyon said Hill – who had considered leaving Moorabbin through the trade period – had returned in the best shape of his 11-year career.

“He looked bubbly, he is running really well. I know even last year there was a bit of noise [about his form], but I know he was second in our best and fairest halfway through the year,” Lyon said.

“It was a pretty good performance. I think he still finished seventh – I mean there would be a lot of players who take seventh as a bad year. He sets such a high standard.

“He performed for [Alastair] Clarkson, he performed for me, he has performed here, we are pretty hard taskmasters. He knows what is expected. He will probably play less half back I would think, get him back to his pet position on the wing a little bit, just free him up a little to run.

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“But he has got to do his bit. He has had his best pre-season off-season, he said to me, at his best he will bring real pop to the group and real enthusiasm.”

Hill is contracted until the end of 2025, having signed with the Saints in 2019 on a deal industry sources say is worth about $900,000 per season.

Lyon, still “pinching himself” about returning to the club he led into grand finals in 2009 and 2010, also looks forward to working with Max King.

The star young forward is arguably the centrepiece of Lyon’s premiership blueprint, but King must improve his radar in front of goal. He had the yips, again, at times last season, finishing with 52 goals but 41 points.

Just how to fine tune his consistency has been a source of internal and public debate.

“I think there is a lot of noise about goalkicking. I have seen him kick five straight and 1.5. But, look, it’s an incredibly important stat,” Lyon said.

“Andrew Ireland, who is a good friend and mentor, said it’s the most underrated stat in AFL footy, goalkicking accuracy. All you can do is do the work and give yourself the best possible chance.”

Lyon said assistant coaches, including Robert Harvey and Corey Enright, were finalising a game plan that would be presented to Lyon before a final decision was made. At his introductory press conference, Lyon had said the Saints were a strong running team ready to play bold football.

“I said we could run, I didn’t actually use the term leg speed. But we have got really good endurance athletes here. It talks that you can play a bit more [of a] continuous game. Hopefully an up-tempo game,” he said.

Tagger Marcus Windhager won the time trial, as the Saints continued to move on after the emotional sacking of former coach Brett Ratten. Lyon addressed the playing group as a whole on Monday.

“I think it’s important to acknowledge context and not just pretend there has been no tumultuous period here because there has, but my job is to pick us and get us moving as a club,” he said.

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