Collingwood v Carlton
AT THE height of his dramas, Brett Ratten has punted on a first-gamer for Carlton's season-defining game against Collingwood at the MCG tonight.
Dandenong Stingray Andrew McInnes, 20, learnt from Ratten yesterday that his debut would take place in front of 75,000 people at the home of football against the AFL's top team.
Who's the new guy: the Blues are bringing in first-gamer Andrew McInnes, 20, from the Dandenong Stingrays, for the do-or-die clash against Collingwood at the MCG tonight.
With key defender Michael Jamison battling a shoulder injury, the Blues might have gone for the experienced Paul Bower or Bret Thornton as they ponder how to stop Travis Cloke. Instead, they tapped McInnes on the shoulder, and he may well see some time on Cloke, the competition's premier power forward.
Ratten, whose coaching career has been the subject of fierce speculation, despite club president Stephen Kernahan guaranteeing him the job until the end of 2012, has chosen the aggressive path.
''Ratts actually came up to me during weights,'' McInnes said. ''He started bagging me about the weight I was lifting at the start. Then he said: 'What are you doing Friday night?' I said: 'I've got no plans at this stage.' He said: 'Do you want to come for a run Friday night?' ''
McInnes is a 191-centimetre defender who has done well in a negating role for the Northern Blues in
the VFL this season. He was drafted to the club with pick 67 in 2010 but a shoulder injury ruined his 2011 season.
Although he has been named as an emergency in recent weeks, McInnes admitted to shock at his elevation. ''It doesn't get any bigger, does it? I look forward to the challenge. It's a big stage, I'll see how I go,'' he told the club's website.
Carlton's general manager of football operations, Andrew McKay, said McInnes would defend sternly. ''He comes into our team with the same mindset being a really good, honest and strong defender, and it's terrific to see him get his chance. He's more of a traditional defender. He beats his man, he can play on taller or shorter guys, and he's a good runner, so he should be able to match up with anyone they put down on the forward line.''
The Blues also dropped ruckman Robbie Warnock, defender Josh Bootsma and midfielder David Ellard for tonight's game. Shaun Hampson and Matthew Kreuzer will share ruck duties.
Collingwood suffered a blow when vice-captain Scott Pendlebury was ruled out along with defender Chris Tarrant and half-forward Alan Didak. Pendlebury wanted to play but his case for returning from a cracked bone in the leg was dismissed by medical staff, and he will miss a fourth match. Tarrant (shoulder) and Didak (groin) will spend another week in the VFL after recovering from injuries.
The Magpies have Ben Sinclair back from an ankle injury, and dropped Irishman Caolan Mooney after his debut last weekend. They made only one change after 10 consecutive wins.
Carlton assistant coach Alan Richardson said the Blues were ready for the challenge. ''I know the players are committed to doing something about the situation and they certainly take a lot of the responsibility,'' he said.
Collingwood assistant Matthew Lappin said the Magpies would be wary, having lost to Carlton in round three. ''We've had a good look at that [round three] to see where Carlton pulled us apart,'' he said.
''Obviously they're playing a little bit differently, and so are we. That's a game that triggered a fair bit of change in the way we play our footy. We've made some adjustments. We've also had a lot of individual improvement … and we've got a lot more guys who are in better form than they were that night.''
■Hawthorn named Lance Franklin for the game against Greater Western Sydney on Sunday, despite the champion forward suffering hamstring tightness last weekend. But captain Luke Hodge has not been picked as he continues his recovery from a knee problem.
The Hawks named two new players - ruckman Luke Lowden, 21, and forward Derick Wanganeen, also 21, to play the Giants.
The Bulldogs have left out Adam Cooney, who has struggled this season, saying he has general soreness. With AAP