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Footy tips: Hawks or Cats?

Twists and turns in the battle for the final eight just keep coming; Rohan Connolly previews and tips the penultimate round of the AFL premiership season.

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Dyson Heppell has a broken bone in his hand and is expected to miss this weekend's game against Gold Coast.

Heppell injured the hand at training on Wednesday morning and underwent a small operation immediately. The Bombers were relieved that the injury was not worse given that the young superstar has been clearly their standout player in 2014.

The Bombers haven't completely ruled Heppell out of this Saturday's game against the Suns, though they expect him to miss the game, in which they can consolidate their position in the eight. The club is optimistic that he will return against Carlton the following Saturday in the final home-and-away round.

Dyson Heppell: curse of the Brownlow fancies?

Dyson Heppell: curse of the Brownlow fancies? Photo: Pat Scala

Heppell sustained the injury in a tackling drill. He was put in for surgery immediately, because the specialist, Greg Hoy, happened in to be operating at that time.

Heppell has become one of the leading contenders for the Brownlow Medal after an outstanding run in recent weeks, particularly since Gary Ablett suffered his season-ending injury against Collingwood, but he would lose an opportunity to gain more votes - and perhaps vault to outright favouritism - if he missed the last two games.

Since Ablett's injury, a number of the Brownlow fancies have had injuries, including Josh Kennedy and Scott Pendlebury. And with Fremantle's Nat Fyfe ineligible due to suspension and a possibility to poll the most votes, there has been talk of a Brownlow curse in which the favourites keep experiencing problems. 

In a statement released later, Essendon club doctor Bruce Reid said Heppell’s recovery period would be short, given that he had the surgery very soon after the injury.

“Dyson sustained a fracture in his hand during training this morning but we were extremely fortunate that Greg Hoy was available to operate on his hand within the hour,” Reid said.

“The surgery was a success, Dyson had a plate and screws inserted into his hand and we’re confident his recovery time will be minimal.”

Heppell has earned significant praise from coach Mark Thompson over the past two games, when he has stood out in a losing team against Richmond and then gathered 28 second half disposals to propell his team's comeback from a 34 point deficit against West Coast. He was shifted to half-back in the second half of the Eagles game. 

Thompson described Heppell as ''a champion'' after the Richmond game and then spoke of the player's special effort in the second half against the Eagles.