'Pies, Saints roll selection dice - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

'Pies, Saints roll selection dice

By Roger Vaughan 23/09/2010 08:06:08 PM Comments (0)

Collingwood and St Kilda have taken big risks at selection, creating four intriguing question marks for Saturday's AFL grand final.

Tough St Kilda defender Steven Baker is set for his first match at any level since round 13, while Ben McEvoy's heartbreaking omission means the Saints will only take one full-time ruckman into the premiership decider.

The Magpies recalled key defender Simon Prestigiacomo, out since round 20 with a badly-corked thigh.

Their other inclusion is small forward Leon Davis, who is yet to shake a reputation for not firing in the finals.

Tyson Goldsack and Nathan Brown made way for Davis and Prestigiacomo.

St Kilda onballers Nick Dal Santo (back/hamstring) and Jason Gram (groin) and Collingwood midfielder Luke Ball (hamstring) had fitness concerns after last weekend, but all were named in the grand final teams.

Coach Ross Lyon said Baker's inclusion would give the team more tactical flexibility.

"We acknowledge Collingwood are a terrific running side and a very flexible team," coach Ross Lyon told Channel Seven.

"Leigh Brown has been unique for them in the ruck, so we felt we needed the run, needed the flexibility.

"It certainly helps our midfield and back half with Baker coming in, frees up certain players."

Baker received a controversial nine-game suspension for several incidents involving arch-rival Steve Johnson during the round-13 clash against Geelong.

During his suspension, Baker had several days off training because of a broken toe.

He became eligible for selection at the start of the finals series and narrowly missed a recall for the qualifying final and then the preliminary final.

McEvoy, 21, is the hard-luck story of the grand final selections.

He has played 18 games this season, including the last seven, and kicked a vital goal last Saturday night against the Western Bulldogs.

"It was devastating for Ben, obviously, he took the news quite hard," Lyon said.

"(Assistant coach) Stephen Silvagni and I called him in - probably from his point of view, (he) didn't see it coming.

"But certainly we've picked the team we think will give us our best chance and he needs to hold himself together now, he's a great young man."

McEvoy's omission means 31-year-old Michael Gardiner will carry the ruck duties against Darren Jolly and Leigh Brown, with Justin Koschitzke and perhaps Jason Blake in support.

Koschitzke has not had more than 10 hitouts in a game this season, while Blake has had a total of four hitouts in 2010.

"We feel Koschitzke can really ruck and Blake has a history of rucking - it gives us great flexibility," Lyon said.

Brown, like McEvoy, is stiff to be dropped after playing in the last five matches.

Prestigiacomo had played 13 matches this season before suffering his injury and will be the first choice to play on St Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt, the most important player in the grand final.

Collingwood assistant coach Scott Watters said the Magpies had absolute faith in their support staff to make the right call on Prestigiacomo's fitness.

"Our sports science department we think is the best sports science department going around," Watters said.

"I'm sure St Kilda are looking at the same issue with Baker."

Davis was a late withdrawal from Friday night's commanding preliminary final win over Geelong because of hamstring soreness.

An All-Australian last year, Davis has played 19 games this season for a career total of 203.

But Davis only managed eight disposals in the qualifying final and also had a disappointing September last year.

There is also the prospect of the two teams making a late change on Saturday afternoon.

The emergencies for Collingwood are Goldsack, Nathan Brown and Tarkyn Lockyer, while McEvoy, Jarryn Geary and Rhys Stanley are on the verge of selection for the Saints.

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