Sinning Saint aims for Eagles redemption - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Sinning Saint aims for Eagles redemption

By Justin Chadwick 11/07/2009 09:41:59 AM Comments (0)

When Michael Gardiner last visited Subiaco Oval, he walked off a dishevelled figure.

Matched against his former team-mate Dean Cox, Gardiner managed just two possessions and eight hit-outs as St Kilda crashed to a shock 17-point AFL defeat to West Coast.

Many thought Gardiner, traded to the Saints at the end of 2006 after one off-field indiscretion too many at the Eagles, was a spent force.

Fast-forward to 2009 and the story couldn't be more different, with a fit-again Gardiner displaying the sort of form that brought him All-Australian honours in 2003.

Last week's match-winning haul of four goals against Geelong thrust Gardiner back into the spotlight.

Now, the 30-year-old has his sights set on getting one up on Cox, who returns to the Eagles' line-up after a two-game layoff with a groin injury.

"I've played a few more games and come into this game with different circumstances to last year, so I'm looking forward to the contest," Gardiner said ahead of Sunday's clash between the two sides.

"Cox has been the benchmark in the ruck for the past five years so I'm looking forward to the challenge.

"I think he'll come into the game nice and fresh.

"I'm looking forward to the contest and I'm sure it will be a good one.

"I'm all about team success and hopefully we can come away with the win. That's the most important thing.

"I've had some hard times and all credit to the St Kilda footy club and Ross Lyon and all the players, they've supported me and given me the opportunity to play again this year which has been great and at the moment has paid off.

"I've had my fair share of injuries, as everybody knows, but it's good to be back out there."

Gardiner said he harboured no ill feelings towards West Coast despite the acrimonious split.

"I've got some great memories and some great friends here in Perth and at West Coast," Gardiner said.

"That's in the past though, so we look forward to the future and I'm enjoying my time at the Saints at the moment."

Despite the Eagles woes on the road, where they have lost 18 straight, West Coast have won four of their seven games at Subiaco Oval this year.

But West Coast will have their work cut out against the unbeaten Saints, even though Gardiner labelled it a danger game for his team.

"They are a hard team to beat here so we are looking forward to the challenge ... we know that they are going to be hard to beat," he said.

West Coast made five changes to the side that lost to Melbourne last week, with Nic Naitanui (glute), Brett Jones (hamstring) and Scott Selwood (general soreness) out injured and Chad Fletcher and Ben McKinley dropped.

Cox, premiership forward Ashley Hansen, Eric Mackenzie and Mark Nicoski return to the side, while Patrick McGinnity will make his debut.

But the Eagles will again be without star onballer Daniel Kerr, who has an abdominal strain.

St Kilda tagger Sean Dempster returns for his first game of the year after recovering from a serious knee injury, with Jarryn Geary forced to make way.

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