Swans put on clinic with Gulden a class act; Saints midfielder Windhager injured in practice match

Key points

  • St Kilda 10.7 (67) d. Essendon 3.14 (32) 67
  • Sydney 15.7 (97) d. Carlton 7.12 (54)

Buddy’s still a bane for opposition

Marnie Vinall

Sydney superstar Lance Franklin is looking to still be a key string in the Swans bow, making a contribution on the scoreboard in his club’s 43-point demolition over Carlton on Friday night.

However, the 36-year-old who is preparing for his 19th AFL season, has some inside competition in getting on the scoreboard with Sydney enjoying nine different goalscorers, including Franklin, Hayden McLean, Harry Cunningham and Sam Reid who all finished with two majors each, while Errol Gulden booted three.

Lance FranklinCredit:Getty

Franklin played the majority of the game, only coming off briefly late in the third but then returning minutes later. He had a running snap on his left boot in the opening quarter and then put the Blues to bed with a set shot early in the final term.

He finished with five score involvements and, importantly, still looming large near the goals, drew key defenders away from the younger ones coming through the goalkicking ranks.

Young Swan the club’s next big thing

Sydney have boasted plenty of up-and-coming stars in recent seasons, including midfielder Chad Warner who’s popped up in future Brownlow contender conversations, but on Friday it was 20-year-old Errol Gulden who took the spotlight.

At half-time, Gulden had two goals, 26 disposals and six clearances to his name and finished the pre-season scrap with three goals, 43 disposals, including 17 contested possessions, nine clearances and nine score involvements.

With the Swans’ forward line featuring a line up of Franklin, Isaac Heeney and the quickly developing Logan McDonald, shutting down Gulden is also looking to prove a problem for upcoming opposition.

Errol Gulden.Credit:Getty Images

Docker could provide Blues final piece of scoring puzzle

While Carlton are spoilt for talented talls in their forward line with the one-two punch of Harry McKay and last year’s Coleman medallist Charlie Curnow, the side’s addition of ex-Docker Blake Acres could be just what they need at ground level.

In the opening quarter the Blues scored just one goal to Sydney’s seven, with Acres providing those invaluable six points after mopping the ball up from spillage and finding the goal.

The 27-year-old was brought in to bolster the Blues outside midfield stocks and provide pace down the wing, but could be a key component in the side’s scoring when the ball finds its way onto the deck.

Acres also scored in Carlton’s scratch match against Collingwood last weekend and against the Swans finished with 20 disposals.

He found another in the third, but it did little to lift his side who struggled against last season’s grand finalists. While the Blues won the ball at the contest, they struggled to move it up the ground.

Charlie Curnow also looked sharp against Swans, booting two of Carlton’s seven goals.

Saints midfielder Windhager injured in practice match

Marc McGowan

Promising midfielder Marcus Windhager suffered a broken hand in Friday’s 35-point practice match victory over Essendon at RSEA Park but St Kilda still expect him to be fit for round one.

Windhager exited the game early after breaking the metacarpal in his right hand and will have surgery on Saturday.

The Bombers had an injury scare of their own when Jye Caldwell left the ground in the third term with a sprained left ankle, but they, too, are optimistic about his round one chances, pending post-match scans.

Marcus Windhager seen in talks with St Kilda’s David Misson.Credit:AFL Photos / Getty Images

Saints assistant coach Robert Harvey confirmed that Windhager was expected to recover in time for the club’s season opener against Fremantle at Marvel Stadium on March 19.

“You can get lucky or unlucky with those injuries, and it sounds like he’s got lucky,” Harvey told reporters.

“He’s obviously broken a bone in his hand, but it looks like he will get that done [surgery] really sharply tomorrow, then he looks good for round one.

“It didn’t look good news when he came off and what he reported, so that’s a positive. And, it was good for Jack Bytel, who was basically a reserve at the time, to come on and do what he did. So, it was a bit of a win there, too.”

Harvey also confirmed Bradley Hill would play in round one after sitting out the practice match for personal reasons.

New St Kilda coach Ross Lyon, who should be thrilled with how his side responded from last week’s disappointing effort against Melbourne, unleashed Windhager at the opening bounce alongside captain Jack Steele and Brad Crouch, but he was soon ruled out after an awkward fall.

The 19-year-old played 18 games in an impressive debut season last year – performing a series of key tagging roles – and is tipped to have even more responsibility in 2023.

Bytel replaced Windhager on the field and made his extra minutes count after having to wait until October to score a one-year contract.

Bytel, who won 10 of his 16 disposals in the first half, is among a number of fringe St Kilda players trying to force his way in for round one.

The soon-to-be 23-year-old did not add to his 16 career matches last year, in large part to the emergence of Windhager and fellow first-year player Mitch Owens, another who shone on Friday with three goals.

Draftees lock in round one berth

Any remaining doubt that Alwyn Davey jnr or Mattaes Philippou would play in round one for Essendon and St Kilda, respectively, were put to bed by quarter-time.

Bombers father-son selection Davey, whose twin Jayden joined him at the club in last year’s draft, kicked the opening goal – Essendon’s only one in a wasteful opening half – and was mostly clean with his touches and displayed some fancy footwork.

The 19-year-old won seven disposals in the first quarter and could not maintain that pace, particularly as the Saints snatched control, but he should give Brad Scott another weapon in attack.

Bombers assistant Daniel Giansiracusa stopped short of guaranteeing Davey jnr’s round one place but said they were thrilled with his progress to date.

“He’s been pretty exciting, hasn’t he? [He is] one our fans can definitely get excited about,” Giansiracusa said.

“The opposition definitely know when he’s around. The challenge with a younger player is how long he can do it for but so far, every post is a winner for him.”

Philippou was the No.10 pick after the Bombers and Hawks gave him serious consideration with the fifth and seven selections.

The man Essendon did take, Elijah Tsatas, is recovering from knee surgery, while Hawthorn’s choice, Cam Mackenzie, was outstanding against Collingwood on Thursday night.

Philippou, like Davey jnr, faded after a bright start – even cramping badly after receiving a free kick in the final term – but slotted the first of St Kilda’s six second-quarter goals and won 10 first-half touches.

“He’s going to be pretty close [for round one], and Mattaes’ attitude has been first class, so whether he plays or not, we’ll see,” Harvey said.

“There’s still there’s still a bit to play out yet for us with our injuries in the next two weeks, so we’ll let the dust settle there, but he’s been pretty good, and he’s an early draft pick, obviously, but to come in and do what he’s done is pretty impressive.

“I know he’s not satisfied, and he’s so hungry to get better. But we’re mighty impressed with how he’s gone about it so far.”

Ex-Blues make most of new start

Essendon recruit Will Setterfield also looks to have booked himself a round one berth with a strong performance in a losing cause.

The ex-Giant and Blue was starved of senior opportunities at his previous two AFL stops, but should immediately snare a midfield role for the Bombers based on his 25 disposals against the Saints.

Setterfield rounded out his performance with three clearances, eight inside 50s and six tackles, and provides a point of difference among a largely smaller on-ball brigade – but was also used in defence at times.

Another former Carlton footballer Liam Stocker made an impression down back for St Kilda, but ex-Bulldog Zaine Cordy – part of the solution in Max King’s injury absence, especially if Tim Membrey (knee) remains sidelined – had a meagre day up forward.

Late addition Anthony Caminiti, another tall forward, did his chances of making a shock debut no harm with a good display.

Sam Weideman presented well for Essendon but also had a pretty quiet afternoon, after crossing from Melbourne in the off-season.

Intriguing ruck battle

Rowan Marshall has extra responsibility this year for St Kilda after Paddy Ryder’s retirement, but he passed a significant test with flying colours on Friday.

Pitted against Essendon big man Sam Draper, one of the AFL’s most athletic ruckmen, Marshall starred with 24 disposals, 19 contested possessions and seven marks.

Draper had 29 hit-outs to Marshall’s 18, and the Bombers won the clearances 38-34, but Marshall took the honours on this occasion.

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