Dempster in for Saints, Cats unchanged - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Dempster in for Saints, Cats unchanged

By Sam Lienert and Daniel Brettig 24/09/2009 07:10:44 PM Comments (0)

St Kilda have added grand final experience and flexibility, recalling former Sydney premiership player Sean Dempster for Saturday's AFL decider.

Dempster's inclusion, at the expense of youngster Robert Eddy, was the Saints' only change.

The Cats stuck with the same 22 that delivered their convincing preliminary final win over Collingwood.

Defensive midfielder Dempster, who played in both the Swans' 2005 premiership and 2006 grand final loss, will be one of only four Saints with experience of the AFL's biggest stage.

The others are former Swans teammate Adam Schneider, Michael Gardiner, who played in West Coast's 2005 grand final loss, and former Geelong captain Steven King, who famously ousted Mark Blake from the Cats' 2007 premiership side.

By contrast, every Cat selected, other than young forward Tom Hawkins, has played at least one of the past two grand finals.

But Saints football manager Greg Hutchison said Dempster's big-game knowledge was not behind his inclusion.

"We just felt he could add some extra flexibility in the midfield and in defence," he said.

"When we weigh up these decisions, it's never taken lightly, but we felt that Rob (Eddy) had had a few opportunities and hadn't performed as well as he would have liked in the last couple of weeks.

"Big game experience helps, but that wasn't the main reason."

The lone survivor of the Saints' 1997 grand final loss, Max Hudghton, was denied a chance for a premiership to cap what will almost certainly be the last of his 13 seasons.

The popular 33-year-old defender, restricted by form and injury to seven games this season, has been out of the side since round 20 despite a groundswell of support from fans and former Saints coaches.

He did not even make the emergencies list.

Gutsy midfielder Luke Ball kept his place, despite two stints in the reserves late in the season.

Geelong's hard luck story is 24-year-old small forward Mathew Stokes, who played in the Cats' past two grand finals.

He had played 10 games straight before pulling out of the team for last weekend's preliminary final win over Collingwood with a groin injury.

Coach Mark Thompson earlier this week praised Stokes' "selfless" decision to withdraw from that match and said he "does deserve to play" in the grand final.

But he also said the 22 players who thrashed the Magpies in the preliminary final also deserved to keep their spots.

Stokes was "devastated", but unsurprised to only make the emergencies list.

"Bomber (Thompson) showed a bit of faith by saying that I was a chance, but I'm not playing, which is shattering but you move on, that's life," he said.

"Nothing I can do about it now apart from support the boys.

"To be honest the whole reason I didn't play last week was because of last year (the grand final loss to Geelong) and letting the boys down.

"I played two games where I shouldn't have, my groins weren't strong enough ... I didn't want to make the same mistake this year so I pulled out."

Dempster's recall is a story of perseverance.

He was traded from Sydney to the Saints for 2008 and was a team regular before a serious knee injury a week out from the finals.

He returned in round 15 this year and played out the regular season, before being dropped for the club's first two finals.

But 21-year-old Eddy's minimal impact in those two games - a combined total of just 12 disposals - opened the way for Dempster's recall for what will be his first final in Saints colours.

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