Zorko paralyzed, Gawn gone, Nic Nat gets a chance to come back

Both Brisbane and Melbourne will enter their AFL clash top of the table without their captain after Lions captain Dayne Zorko was ruled out with a hamstring injury.

Zorko traveled with the team on Wednesday, but coach Chris Fagan said he would not participate in Thursday’s blockbuster, which will be the Lions’ first game at the MCG since March 2020.

“He will not play; he was close, but better give him a break, give him a chance for a bye (last week) plus one more week,” said Fagan, who has not decided on his replacement.

Versatile midfielder Zorko has been hampered by various lower leg injuries in recent seasons, but Fagan is positive as they anticipate a deep run in the final this September.

“Yesterday in practice, the race he was doing, I thought he was moving as well as I’ve seen him move,” the trainer said.

Dayne Zorko and her Lions teammates look dejected after losing

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

“That encouraged me a lot.

“It might not hurt him to just have this little break and then throw himself out there for the last eight games of the (regular) season.

“That is what I hope and based on the evidence I saw yesterday, that could be the case.”

It comes after Melbourne skipper and ruckman Max Gawn hurt his ankle last week during a third successive defeat that saw Brisbane slip past them into first place.

Harris Andrews will captain Brisbane as they look to end a nine-game losing streak at the venue.

Nic Nat in Marco to come back

West Coast defender Jeremy McGovern isn’t certain he’ll play again this year after his painful rib injury, but ruckman Nic Naitanui could return this week.

McGovern spent three nights in the hospital before being released Tuesday after breaking his ribs in Saturday’s 18-point loss to Geelong.

The four-time All-Australian underwent surgery on Monday to have a plate inserted and no timeframe has been set for his return.

West Coast (1-12) has nine games remaining this season.

But with the side sitting at the bottom of the ladder with nothing but pride to play for, there is no urgency to rush McGovern back.

“It’s significant damage, but he’s in good health now. Now it’s about recovery,” Eagles coach Adam Simpson said Tuesday.

“It will be a few weeks if he comes back. we won’t know. We probably will know by the end of the week.”

Naitanui has not played since injuring a medial knee ligament during the club’s fourth round victory over Collingwood.

Although Naitanui will most likely return next week, Simpson has left the door ajar for this week.

Is not far. This week or next week,” Simpson said.

“We will see what training looks like and then make a decision on whether he plays WAFL or goes straight back to the side.

“We’ll see how it holds up after today.”

A host of West Coast players have returned via the WAFL this season and Simpson will seriously consider a similar path for Naitanui.

“Unfortunately, this year we’ve had injuries that have lasted several weeks and there’s a tipping point before you can come back,” Simpson said. “Especially in the middle of the season, when everyone is ready for the game and hardened. Returning directly is a challenge.

Eagles' Nic Naitanui takes the ball

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

“I think eight players this year have come back from major injuries and Nic will be another.

“We’re dealing with it on a case-by-case basis, but we understand there’s a certain level where you need a touch at the WAFL level.”

West Coast could be boosted by the return of Tim Kelly, Liam Ryan and Samo Petrevski-Seton for Friday night’s clash with Essendon at Optus Stadium.

All three players missed last week’s loss to Geelong through illness and Simpson will evaluate them in training this week before determining their availability.

Simpson says Josh Kennedy will be managed at some point in the second half of the season, but the 34-year-old striker will play Essendon on Friday if he recovers well from training.

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