Eagles brace for big game from Gardiner - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Eagles brace for big game from Gardiner

By Sam Lienert 10/04/2009 01:52:48 PM Comments (0)

West Coast expect in-form St Kilda ruckman Michael Gardiner to be desperate to impress against his former AFL club at Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

It will be just the second time the 29-year-old former All Australian has played against the Eagles since the club dumped him because of off-field disciplinary issues in 2006.

The first was at Subiaco in round 17 last year, when Gardiner put in a shocker, picking up only two disposals in 69 minutes of gametime, while giving away three free kicks.

But, after missing the entire 2007 season through injury, then showing patchy form in his first nine games with the Saints last year, Gardiner looks to be finally rewarding the club for its faith.

He has impressed both in the ruck and up forward in the first two rounds and Eagles coach Peter Sumich predicted an interesting battle with the AFL's premier ruckman Dean Cox, Gardiner's former teammate.

"I think both will look forward to it because they're great competitors, so it will be a great contest," Sumich said on Friday.

"Gardy looks in great nick actually, to his credit.

"Last year I know he played at Subi and he mentioned to a few of the players that it wasn't a great game for him.

"Now to come back, especially this year he looks in great nick.

"He's a professional in that area and his form now is showing that."

Sumich said it had been clear Gardiner's time at the Eagles was up in 2006, but they knew the Saints were gaining a top class player.

"St Kilda would be very happy with Michael and what he's achieved for them at this stage and I think there's more to come," he said.

Meanwhile, Sumich said the Eagles had been working on ways to combat the Saints' stifling defensive skills.

St Kilda kept Sydney to 65 points in the opening round and Adelaide to 69 last weekend.

"Their pressure, their tackling, they're very ferocious at the body at the moment," he said.

"They've got a senior list and that's something you look at from afar.

"There's not too many real young kids in there so they're a mature list probably having a crack at the top four and so they should.

But Sumich said West Coast had confidence in their own form, with their big win over Port Adelaide last round prompting them to name an unchanged side for the first time since rounds four and five, 2007.

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