AFL News: New blow for Hawks in pre-season from hell, Tigers sign NRL convert who booted 25 goals in a game

Young defender Denver Grainger-Barras is the latest casualty from Hawthorn’s disastrous AFL intra-club hitout.

With fellow tall backman James Blanck already out for the season after rupturing an anterior cruciate ligament during Thursday’s action, the Hawks have announced Denver-Barras also will be sidelined with a turf toe injury.

Grainger-Barras will be out for 12-14 weeks following surgery.

The 21-year-old was seen as the player most likely to step up this season in Blanck’s absence.

Sam Mitchell. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Blanck, Grainger-Barras and midfielder Changkuoth Jiath – who is out of action for six to eight weeks with a hamstring injury – were all hurt during last week’s intra-club at Waverley.

“Denver injured his toe in the intra-club last Thursday, with subsequent scans showing he has a significant turf toe injury,” club doctor Liam West said.

“Following discussions as a medical team, alongside consultation with several specialists across Australia, it was deemed that the best course of action for Denver was for him to undergo surgery to help return him to play this season and protect the health of his toe in the long term.

“Having successfully undergone this procedure we are expecting to see him return to play in 12-14 weeks.”

Grainger-Barras has also played as a forward in his 28 games over three seasons at Hawthorn.

The Hawks tried to recruit North Melbourne key defender Ben McKay in last year’s trade period, but he went to Essendon.

Captain and All-Australian James Sicily is Hawthorn’s standout backman, but he is more of an intercept player and the emerging Hawks will be stretched against opposition key forwards.

Step up for Fogarty

Key forward Darcy Fogarty has been elevated to an expanded Adelaide leadership group which features three vice-captains.

The 24-year-old Fogarty joins the leadership group for the looming season along with Lachlan Murphy, Wayne Milera and Mitch Hinge.

The Crows will again be skippered by Jordan Dawson with a trio of vice-captains – Brodie Smith, Ben Keays and Reilly O’Brien.

Our leadership group for 2024 is locked in ????#weflyasone

— Adelaide Crows (@Adelaide_FC) February 19, 2024

Last season, Dawson was supported by Keays, Smith, O’Brien and Tom Doedee, who has joined Brisbane.

Adelaide coach Matthew Nicks said this year’s expanded group was aimed at fostering the club’s next generation of leaders.

“We’re fortunate to have stability in our core leaders, led by Jordan Dawson,” Nicks said on Tuesday.

“Our strong culture has enabled others to develop and they have done so in a significant way in recent years.

“The four new players to the group … have been standouts and bring their own skillsets and experiences to the group.

“We embrace that diversity in experience and thought which makes us stronger as a team.”

Adelaide’s entire playing staff cast votes to determine the leadership group, which has been ratified by coaches and the club’s board.

Richmond rookie’s incredible back story

Talented former rugby league junior Mykelti Lefau has promised to bring a unique brand of aggression to the AFL after earning a spot on Richmond’s rookie list.

The New Zealand-born forward has trained with the Tigers over summer and edged out East Perth’s Mitch Schofield for the last available list spot.

Both players took part in Richmond’s practice match against Melbourne on Sunday and Lefau immediately made his presence felt.

“Hopefully (I’ll bring) some excitement, and something different and fresh to the fans.”

New AFL Tiger Mykelti Lefau and Richmond’s National Recruiting Manager Matthew Clarke spoke to the media today.

— Richmond FC ???? (@Richmond_FC) February 19, 2024

The 195cm, 96kg prospect delivered a brutal bump on experienced Demons defender Jake Lever and caught the eye with a clever goal.

Lefau’s AFL call-up comes after he spent time in NRL club Melbourne Storm’s development pathway following his move to Australia from Auckland in 2012.

“All the boys know what I can do in that (physical) sense, so I just try to bring that to the best of my ability because I know I can do it,” the 26-year-old Lefau told reporters on Monday.

“If anyone’s there I’ll put my body on the line for the boys.

“The toughness maybe (is from my rugby league background) but there’s all that technical stuff as well.

“You’ve got to be smart with it and that was a big learning curve for me, trying to get my body in the right position because you don’t want to injure someone or get in trouble.”

Lefau enters AFL ranks with a reputation, having kicked 25 goals in a single game with amateur club St Kilda City’s U19s team in 2016.

More recently, Lefau featured 11 times for Richmond’s VFL side last season after recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and has trained with the AFL team over summer.

He counts teammate Marlion Pickett among his football mentors and now has his sights on an AFL debut in 2024, as the Tigers embark on their first season under new coach Adem Yze.

“One hundred per cent (a senior game) is the goal,” Lefau said.

“First and foremost it was to get this contract and the next step now is trying to get a debut.

“After that it’s about my consistency to stay in the team.”

Lefau joins last season’s mid-season draftee James Trezise and Tylar Young as players elevated from the Tigers’ VFL program to the AFL in recent years.

Essendon’s Sam Durham, Hawthorn’s Massimo D’Ambrosio and ex-Bomber Garret McDonagh have also been drafted out of the VFL program since 2021, while Jake Aarts played 42 AFL games for Richmond.

Meanwhile, Hawthorn have signed emerging defender Ethan Phillips to cover the loss of key back James Blanck, who is out for the year because of a knee injury sustained during match practice last week.

Phillips was one of the VFL’s premier defenders over the last two years with Port Melbourne and was signed to play with the Hawks’ state league affiliate Box Hill this season.

The 24-year-old, 196cm backman was named in the VFL team of the year in 2022 and claimed the prestigious Fothergill-Round-Mitchell Medal as the competition’s best young talent.

The last 17 winners of the medal have now been drafted into the AFL system.

North Melbourne have handed their final list spot to tall forward Tyler Sellers, who shone in the club’s VFL team last year.

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