Young Port Adelaide ruckman Dougal Howard faces a massive AFL assignment in Saturday night’s must-win game against Richmond.
While the Power lost stars Robbie Gray (hamstring) and Chad Wingard (delayed concussion), they have also made a big call by dropping Matthew Lobbe for the MCG match.
Howard, whose only senior game was the round-two Showdown loss, takes Lobbe’s place among five Port changes.
The 20-year-old has an imposing assignment, with the Tigers recalling Shaun Hampson to share the ruckwork with Ivan Maric.
But Power assistant coach Michael Voss backed Howard, saying it also came down to their midfielders supporting the young ruckman.
“We think he has the capacity to be able to handle that for us,” Voss told 5AA.
“If anything, it just puts more of an onus on making sure that relationship between the ruck and the rover, so to speak, comes together.”
Justin Westhoff could also come up the ground to lend support.
But with star Richmond defender Alex Rance suspended, the Power are likely to resist the temptation to throw Charlie Dixon into the ruck.
Instead, they will try to boost the supply to Dixon and exploit Rance’s absence.
Voss added they dropped Lobbe because he needed to offer more around the ground.
“It’s not so much patience, it’s just more you need a bit of time to go back and re-gather some of that form,” Voss said.
“We feel like his ruckwork has been very competitive and there are some other things in his form that he needs to work on.
“A little bit more around the ground, we’d like a greater involvement from him.”
Gray, easily Port’s best player so far this season, injured his hamstring at Wednesday training.
“We think it might be about two to three weeks,” Voss said.
“It’s never great when it’s mid-week, (but) that’s still be assessed.”
He added they were taking no risks with Wingard’s concussion.
“He still had headaches on Monday … we know the attitude that doctors and medical staff have towards concussion and fair enough,” Voss said.
“We have to be really, really cautious.”
The Tigers have also regained vice-captain Brett Deledio for the first time this season, while Jacob Townsend was dropped.
Karl Amon was Port’s other omission and Jackson Trengove is suspended.
Port recalled Jared Polec, Brendon Ah Chee and Jarman Impey along with Howard.
Nathan Krakouer is also back for his first senior game of the season after serving his six-week club suspension.