Sydney AFL coach John Longmire says Michael Talia must win back the respect of his teammates after pleading guilty to drug possession, but there’s a more immediate challenge for his other defenders.
Talia, who last month was stood down indefinitely from club activities and given a solo training program, was handed a 12-month good behaviour bond a week ago at Sydney’s Waverley Local Court.
Longmire revealed on Thursday the four-week stand-down period down would end on Friday August 19.
“Then he just needs to make sure that he’s working really hard to be able to win the respect back of the players,” Longmire said of Talia, who hadn’t played since round one due to a serious foot injury.
“He’s spoken to the players, he’s stood down until August 19 and then it’s about working to make sure that he gets himself in the best possible physical shape as he can be.”
Longmire suggested the Swans’ fit and available defenders would have their hands full against St Kilda on Saturday at Etihad Stadium.
He was impressed by the marking prowess of the Saints in their 71-point thrashing of Carlton last week, which maintained their slim finals’ hopes.
“Our defenders have been in reasonable form, but their forwards – certainly to be able to take 27 marks inside the forward 50 – is a huge number,” Longmire said.
Among the Saints most-potent attacking threats will be former Swan Tim Membrey, their leading goalkicker this season with 39.
Membrey 22, after playing just one senior game for Sydney, has flourished in his second season with the Saints.
“It’s a real credit to him to be able to go down there and do what he’s done,” Longmire said.
“He’s kicked a lot of goals; he’s been an important part of their forward set-up.”
Longmire suggested key forward Sam Reid was running out of time to break back into the senior side after not playing a senior game this season due to calf and achilles injuries.
“It’s becoming really close now to make a call on him,” Longmire said.
Veteran key defender Ted Richards, who last week announced he would retire at the end of the season, would not be earning a 262nd and final AFL game on sentiment.
“You play if you deserve to play,” Longmire said.
However, he didn’t rule out Richards getting another opportunity, after serving a one-game suspension on a rough conduct charge arising out of a NEAFL fixture.
“He’s still got an important role to play and it’s just the one week,” Longmire said.
“He’s still training and doing all he needs to do to try and be available for selection.”