Saints' Hudghton set to miss out again - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Saints' Hudghton set to miss out again

By John Salvado 20/09/2009 05:45:26 PM Comments (0)

St Kilda stalwart Max Hudghton is set to be denied a fairytale farewell, with the Saints and Geelong to keep selection changes to a minimum for Saturday's AFL grand final.

Opposing coaches Ross Lyon and Mark Thompson have near full-strength lists for the premiership decider between the two standout clubs of 2009.

Hudghton, the Saints' sole survivor from their last grand final side in 1997, has been hampered by form and fitness problems this year.

The 33-year-old fullback - who will retire at the end of the season - played the most recent of his seven senior matches this season in round 20 against Essendon.

After a shaky start in Friday's preliminary final against the Western Bulldogs, former Hawk Zac Dawson again stood up at fullback in Hudghton's absence.

"I don't understand anyone questioning Zac's position in the team," Saints coach Lyon said on Sunday.

"There's some rhetoric outside St Kilda, but his year has been outstanding."

If Hudghton were to win a shock recall it would be due to the Saints deciding they needed an extra key defender to cover the prospect of Geelong ruckman Brad Ottens pushing forward to create a third key-position marking threat alongside Cameron Mooney and Tom Hawkins.

"(Hudghton) is certainly in the mix," said Lyon.

"I understand everyone's interest and how tough it is for Max but it's a brutal business.

"St Kilda hasn't won a premiership since 1966 so we certainly can't put the individual ahead of the team."

But another long-serving Saint who has also spent time in the reserves this year, tough inside midfielder Luke Ball, earned strong support from his coach on Sunday.

"He's in (the grand final team) - he's not going anywhere Luke," Lyon told the Nine Network.

"I thought he played quite well on Friday night.

"He's really elevated himself over the last few weeks.

" ... the fierceness of finals is about contested ball and we're playing a great contested-ball team.

"Luke is as talented an inside player as there is."

One Saint whose position could come scrutiny this week is small utility Robert Eddy, who could only muster four handballs and no kicks in the seven-point victory over the Bulldogs.

Barring late injury concerns, the only prospective change for Geelong could be the return of Mathew Stokes.

The small forward ruled himself out of the 73-point demolition of Collingwood with groin soreness, the same problem that limited his output in last year's grand final loss to Hawthorn.

"Mathew Stokes, he basically withdrew out of the team today because he wasn't feeling 100 per cent right," Thompson said after the big win over Collingwood.

"We think he's done the really selfless thing for the team and (if) he is right to play, he probably deserves to get a game.

"There is one issue there."

But it's hard to see who could be omitted to make way for the return of Stokes, with small forwards Travis Varcoe and Shannon Byrnes kicking two goals apiece and playing well in the win over the Magpies.

The Cats appear to have timed their run perfectly on the injury front, with star forwards Steve Johnson and Paul Chapman showing no effects from hip and hamstring concerns that have troubled them in the latter part of the year.

The Cats will start favourites in Saturday's finale on the back of their big win over Collingwood.

Luxbet wound them in from $1.75 to $1.70 on Sunday, with the Saints out to $2.15.

"The punters were quick to take the $1.75," said Luxbet spokesman Stephen Brassel.

"And if everything stays steady in the injury front, the Cats are likely to start the grand final shorter than $1.70."

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