Saints duo cleared for finals return

St Kilda will have a full complement of defensive options to pick from ahead of its elimination final, with Josh Battle and Dougal Howard cleared to return.

Battle will slot into the side for Saturday’s elimination final against GWS after he entered the concussion protocols following the round 24 loss to Brisbane, while Howard is no guarantee to play after overcoming a wrist injury due to the strong form of his replacement Zaine Cordy.

But the Saints have decided to put key forward Jack Hayes on ice for the rest of the season after he suffered a calf strain at training last week following his comeback game against the Lions.

The 27-year-old will go under the knife again for a clean out of his knee, with his sights set on a full pre-season.

Acting football boss David Misson said the Saints were also “hopeful” Seb Ross would be available to face the Giants as he recovers from a hamstring strain.

“The pre-finals bye has been beneficial as we look to strengthen our list and have as many players as possible available for the upcoming month,” Misson said.

“We’re also hopeful that Seb Ross will be available for selection, he’ll just need to pass a few fitness tests this week.

“We’re pleased to have Dougal and Josh available for this week’s final.”

Hayes made a bright start to 2022 after being snapped up as an SSP selection out of the SANFL, but before the Lions game he had not been sighted at senior level since round 6 last year due to an ACL injury and subsequent foot and hamstring setbacks.

He is contracted until the end of next year.

“It was great to see Jack back at AFL level in round 24, but his recovery since that game hasn’t been linear,” Misson said.

“He was quite sore after the game but then subsequently strained a calf in training last week.”

First-year forward Anthony Caminiti has also been cleared to leave the concussion protocols and is available for Saturday’s game, while experienced pair Zak Jones (knee) and Dan McKenzie (calf) are close to returning to full training.

Meanwhile, Sydney expects small forward Tom Papley to be available to play Carlton on Friday night after hamstring tightness kept him out of round 24, while Justin McInerney is racing the clock to be fit after a month on the sidelines with a calf strain.

“Tom is recovering well from the hamstring tightness he experienced against Adelaide. He trained solidly over the weekend and is expected to be available this weekend,” Swans head physio Damian Raper said.

“Justin has now completed a month of rehabilitation from a calf strain and has returned to full training … he will be a test to play Carlton.”

Originally published as AFL finals 2023: Saints Dougal Howard and Josh Battle cleared to play

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