Blues weigh up McGovern selection as AFL players tune up for round one

Key points

  • Defender Mitch McGovern was among three key Blues to appear in a VFL practice match.
  • Tarryn Thomas is one of at least four Roos set to play in a second-tier game on Saturday.
  • Western Bulldogs, Hawthorn and Essendon are also taking the chance to get players extra game time.

Mitch McGovern is set to play in Carlton’s blockbuster season opener against Richmond after an impressive VFL practice match hit-out alongside fellow key Blues Marc Pittonet and Jack Martin.

The oft-injured intercept defender, who is out of contract at season’s end, would be a timely addition for round one, given the need to quell the Tigers’ twin towers Tom Lynch and Jack Riewoldt.

Marc Pittonet is tracking well in his recovery from PCL surgery.Credit:Getty Images

McGovern made only 40 senior appearances in his first four seasons as a Blue, but has completed consecutive VFL pre-season games – the latest across three quarters against Port Melbourne on Thursday night – since overcoming a back complaint.

He missed Carlton’s AFL practice match last week to be at the birth of his son, Hamish, but showed in limited matches last season how valuable he can be, with coach Michael Voss hinting he would play next week.

“He has [done enough] … [but] there’s obviously the immediate time, then there’s the long-term thinking with him as well,” Voss told SEN.

“We’re keen to get him through a full season of footy, and we’ll continue to manage him where we need [to], but he certainly was able to get some work in last week with some match practice and got some more in this week.”

No.1 ruckman Pittonet also came through unscathed as he makes his way back from post-season PCL surgery, while Jack Martin (calf) played a full game and young forward Josh Honey kicked two goals.

North Melbourne’s Tarryn Thomas will play in the VFL for the first time on Saturday since police charged him in January with threatening to distribute an intimate image among other serious allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

The 22-year-old has since undergone an education program at the Kangaroos’ behest.

Tarryn Thomas is preparing for his football return in a VFL practice match.Credit:Getty Images

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

Ed Richards (corked quad), Taylor Duryea (neck) and Hayden Crozier (dislocated finger) won’t play but are all expected to be fit for round one, while Cody Weightman (adductor) and Jason Johannisen (calf) remain in doubt.

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 turn out for Box Hill against Williamstown on Friday night ahead of round one.

Stephens sat out Hawthorn’s first practice match under the AFL’s concussion protocol after being injured in the intra-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 match minutes in.

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

Kyle Langford (back spasms) and Matt Guelfi (calf) are set to push their case for round one for Essendon’s VFL side against Frankston at the Hangar on Saturday. But some AFL clubs are instead opting to manage their footballers through training.

Richmond’s Jack Graham (toe) and Marlion Pickett (adductor) were two candidates who could have played for the VFL Tigers on Friday, but instead took part in the Tigers’ main session on Thursday.

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

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

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

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