Sydney defender Aliir Aliir will miss the AFL grand final because of a knee injury, while one of his fit teammates could feel the brunt of football’s most-unedifying axe.
Aliir was unable to train at the SCG on Wednesday, when the Swans confirmed he would not take part in Saturday’s season decider against the Western Bulldogs.
The 22-year-old, who made his debut in round six and played 13 games this year, suffered a minor medial ligament strain in Sydney’s preliminary final.
Swans coach John Longmire is contemplating making two changes to the side who smashed Geelong, with co-captain Jarrad McVeigh (calf) and Rising Star winner Callum Mills (hamstring) both able to train on Wednesday.
It’s likely Harry Marsh or Jeremy Laidler will be dropped if Longmire opts to recall both McVeigh and Mills.
McVeigh and Mills demand selection if fully fit and the only thing stopping Sydney from picking the duo will be the fear of both breaking down.
“You’ve got to go in with a fit squad,” Swans 2005 premiership skipper Barry Hall said.
“If one goes down it just makes it that much tougher and Horse (Longmire) is pretty measured, so he won’t take a risk if there’s any doubt.
“Mills … it’s a soft-tissue injury and that’s a concern.
“I know players want to play in a grand final but, if he does something in the first 10 minutes and he sits out, how are you going to look John Longmire in the eye?”
Hall added it would test the mettle of Mills and McVeigh, who both trained on Sunday and had been racing the clock to return since their respective setbacks in week one and two of the finals.
“We’ve seen players in the past step aside because they’ve been honest … it’s quite easy to get caught up in grand-final week and go ‘yeah, I’ll get through’. It’s a tough game,” he said.
The situation wasn’t foreign to Longmire, who ruled heartbroken and hamstrung forward Ben McGlynn out of the 2012 grand final.
Swans on-baller Josh Kennedy was confident his coach would make the right call.
“You don’t want anyone really missing through injury,” Kennedy said.
“There’s always those stories every year. It’s just part of the game.
“There’ll be a few nervous guys but … you know that Horse and the coaching staff are going to make the best decision for what’s best for the team.”
Kennedy dismissed any concerns over his own knee niggle.
“I’m feeling good. I’m certainly under no cloud,” he said.
Ted Richards, who announced his retirement in August, isn’t expected to be given a fairytale farewell.
Richards was listed as an emergency in the Swans’ semi-final but the Bulldogs don’t have nearly as many tall targets as Adelaide.
Sydney football manager Tom Harley felt for Aliir, who the club initially feared had done serious damage after landing awkwardly last Friday night at the MCG.
“It’s always a tough situation for players facing some uncertainty over their fitness ahead of a game. Aliir is a young man of outstanding character and a bright future and he will be supporting the team,” Harley said.