St Kilda have rolled the dice at selection as they prepare to take on a Richmond attack bolstered by the inclusion of Tom Lynch for Friday night’s AFL semi-final.
Lynch is back from a hamstring injury to rekindle his partnership with Jack Riewoldt, while Mabior Chol was dropped after several quiet games.
The Tigers hope their premier key forwards can be a significant factor against a St Kilda back line that will be without 200cm defender Jake Carlisle (family reasons).
Josh Battle returns from a foot injury, while the Saints have taken a chance on Jonathon Marsh and Shane Savage as replacements for Paddy Ryder (hamstring) and Ben Long (suspended).
Savage played all 22 games last year and finished 10th in St Kilda’s best-and-fairest but has managed just one appearance this season, in round nine.
The versatile Marsh has played just one senior match in the past three months, against Hawthorn in round 16, and will likely start forward alongside Max King and Tim Membrey.
“We’ve spoken about everyone’s opportunity,” Saints coach Brett Ratten said.
“Finals series, whether it’s your first final or first game for the year, you look through history and it’s littered with people who have come in and had an impact.
“All the way back to Dermott (Brereton), you can go through ’95 with Matty Hogg or last year (Marlion) Pickett with the Tiges.
“People are going to get these opportunities and it’s whether you can grab them with both hands and make the most of it.”
Speaking on Thursday before the teams were announced, Ratten said defender Dylan Roberton was “very close” to selection for the Metricon Stadium clash despite playing just five games in three seasons.
The Saints have dealt with distractions in the build-up, including losing much-loved veteran Ryder to a season-ending injury during the elimination final win over the Western Bulldogs.
Carlisle chose to withdraw from this week’s team, with his heavily pregnant partner due to give birth, and Long lost his tribunal appeal over a one-match ban for rough conduct.
“We’re just trying to keep everything normal … we didn’t get bogged down by it,” Ratten said.
“We let others play their roles and do what they had to do and just waited to hear what happened (with Long’s appeal).
“I didn’t take any momentum from us.”
Ratten is hopeful Carlisle will be available for a preliminary final against Port Adelaide, if St Kilda qualify by beating Richmond.
The Tigers dropped small forward Jake Aarts, and recalled defender Nathan Broad.