Gardiner almost ready to return for Saints - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Gardiner almost ready to return for Saints

By Robert Grant 08/06/2011 04:58:35 PM Comments (0)

Veteran St Kilda ruckman Michael Gardiner is set to return to the AFL side in better nick than he has been for two years, according to Saints coach Ross Lyon.

Gardiner has been plagued by a variety of problems which have sidelined him since last year's drawn grand final but on Wednesday he joined in full training for the first time this season.

He has battled a nagging knee injury, which required surgery and had to fight off tendinitis last year.

He then missed the grand final replay, in which St Kilda lost to Collingwood, after suffering an injury the week before.

However, while his imminent return is good news for the Saints, they have been dealt a blow with the loss of midfielder Leigh Montagna for Friday night's clash with the Western Bulldogs.

Montagna hurt his knee in the opening seconds of Saturday night's loss to Collingwood and, while he played out the game with the leg strapped, coach Ross Lyon had no hesitation in ruling him out for at least a week.

"We won't even name him, he'll miss this week," Lyon said. "We're pretty confident he'll be back the week after but that's yet to be seen."

However he did flag the possibility that Irish import Tommy Walsh could make his senior debut this week.

"We're looking for some support in the back half and in the forward half and maybe a mobile ruck," he said. "That's something we're looking at, but it's not odds-on."

Lyon was optimistic that Gardiner could come back into the side as early as round 14 to help share the load in the ruck which has been carried mainly by Ben McEvoy with help from Justin Koschitzke and Jason Blake.

"It's an exciting time, he brings a bit of energy," Lyon said.

"It's been a long haul for him but he's saying he's feeling as great as he's felt in two years. He's been doing a mini pre-season and we're really looking forward to his return.

"When that is exactly I couldn't tell you. He's got a little bit of general training to get through but we may bring him straight in in a couple of weeks or maybe through the VFL.

"Over the last few years he's been incredibly important to us and has been a real key driver around the clearances in an area we're clearly struggling in."

Lyon said that the fact the side needed to beat the Bulldogs on Friday night to keep alive their season was "self-evident."

"If you look at the numbers we're six points out of the eight and if you don't start winning games consistently clearly the season fades away from you," he said.

"But we've really been about improvement and over the last two weeks we think we have improved.

"Ultimately we would like to win more games of football, but we're trying to make the most of what we've got."

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