Star St Kilda midfielder Jack Steven and forgotten ruckman Billy Longer will return against Geelong on Sunday, while David Armitage and Tom Hickey won’t face the Cats at Etihad Stadium.
Steven has overcome the punctured lung he suffered against West Coast at Domain Stadium, returning after a two-week absence, but Armitage’s injury interrupted season has continued after the midfielder aggravated his groin in the win over Collingwood.
Hickey will have his workload managed, opening the door for an in-form Longer to return for the first time since facing North Melbourne in Round 20, 2015, ending a 617 day hiatus from the senior team.
While Hickey established himself as one of the best emerging ruckmen in the game last year, Longer endured a frustrating season at Sandringham, marred by a nasty concussion that sidelined him for an extended period.
Rebounding defender Shane Savage, midfielder Koby Stevens and midfielder-forward Darren Minchington have all been included in the 25-man squad, which will be trimmed to a final 22 on Friday night ahead of the clash on Sunday.
Savage was left out of the side that faced Collingwood last Sunday and didn’t play in the VFL as the carryover emergency, while Minchington booted four goals and collected to 32 disposals and off-season recruit Stevens put his best foot forward at Trevor Barker Beach Oval.
While the loss of Armitage hurts St Kilda’s midfield, the injection of Steven boosts the engine room ahead of a big midfield test against a Cats’ engine room comprising reigning Brownlow medallist Patrick Dangerfield and five-time All-Australian Joel Selwood.
Alan Richardson will need another even spread of contribution through the midfield, with Seb Ross (36 disposals), Jack Billings (28 disposals), Jack Newnes (32 disposals), Blake Acres (21 disposals) and Jack Steele (20 disposals) all making an impact against Collingwood last weekend.
New full-back Nathan Brown is likely to get the job on in-form powerhouse forward Tom Hawkins. The two-time premiership star is leading the Coleman Medal after four rounds with 16 goals next to his name, three goals ahead of medium-sized forward Dan Menzel.
The last time the two sides met, St Kilda won a thrilling encounter by three-points at Etihad Stadium. The time before that ended in a draw so if recent duels are anything to go by, Sunday afternoon should be another intense battle.
Round 5 Team v Geelong
Sunday April 23 at 3.20 pm
B: Jarryn Geary, Nathan Brown, Jimmy Webster
HB: Jack Newnes, Jake Carlisle, Dylan Roberton
C: Jack Billings, Jack Steele, Leigh Montagna
HF: Ben Long, Nick Riewoldt, Maverick Weller
F: Jade Gresham, Josh Bruce, Tim Membrey
R: Billy Longer, Seb Ross, Jack Steven
Interchange from: Shane Savage, Luke Dunstan, Blake Acres, Jack Lonie, Sam Gilbert, Koby Stevens, Darren Minchington
IN: Jack Steven, Shane Savage, Koby Stevens, Billy Longer, Darren Minchington
OUT: David Armitage (groin), Tom Hickey (managed)