Nathan Freeman has waited more than four and a half years for an AFL debut, and it looks like he’ll have to wait at least another week.
The injury-plagued midfielder, a top-10 pick for Collingwood in 2013, is yet to play an AFL game, having been traded to the Saints in 2015.
Nathan Freeman will likely have to wait another week to debut.
After overcoming a shoulder injury, he strung together four consecutive matches for Sandringham in the VFL, but had already faced a delayed start to the season following a hamstring tear in February.
Freeman, 22, was on restricted duties when St Kilda had their main session at Moorabbin, suggesting he was unlikely to take on Carlton at Etihad Stadium on Friday night.
Coach Alan Richardson downplayed talk Freeman would confront the Blues, but wouldn’t completely rule it out either.
“He’s in the mix. He’s certainly been in the mix early in the week in our early match committees,” Richardson said.
“It’s not a physical issue now, it’s a footy issue, and whether we think he can help our team. Has he played in a manner that we think he can support what we’re doing out there? My gut feel would be he’s probably still a week away. That’s a positive, when you consider he hasn’t been able to string games together, he’s certainly been able to do that, and he’s getting really close, which is exciting. We’d love to have him out there but we’re not going to pick him until he’s ready.”
Richardson acknowledged the club ultimately needed to uphold the integrity of selection.
“He’s been frustrated for a long time. We’re really keen to get him out there. Probably not quite as keen as him. There’ll be no one keener than him. We’ve got to make sure we do it at the right time,” Richardson said.
“We’ve got to make sure we do the right thing by him. If we think he’s not quite ready and put him out there for his first game, we’re not doing him any favours. But fundamentally we’ll do the right thing by the team, and by the supporters, and by the footy club. He’s really close. It’s line-ball, and it may be that gets in this week, but it’s probably a little bit less likely than likely.”
Jake Carlisle (punctured lung) is poised to return for the meeting with Carlton provided he trains strongly, although Blake Acres (groin) was likely to wait another week at Sandringham following a lengthy layoff.
Paddy McCartin (ankle sprain) has again been sidelined and it set to miss around three weeks. Richardson said it was disappointing for the key forward but flagged an opportunity for Rowan Marshall to stand up, in the absence of McCartin and fellow forwards Josh Bruce and Josh Battle. Richardson said McCartin, who has also dealt with his fair share of football hardship, would get through this latest setback.
“I don’t think [McCartin’s story] is sad. It’s a story of perseverance and resilience, not unlike Nathan Freeman. Paddy’s a really strong character, he’s a very positive person.”
Richardson also denied there is extra pressure on the Saints even though they will be playing the bottom-of-the-ladder Blues, who have won just one game this year and lost to fellow bottom-four side Brisbane by 11 goals last weekend.
“What’s important is we can get real clarity in terms of what we want to get out of the game and the way that we want to play, and clearly we’re going to be chasing a result, as will Carlton, but there’s some parts of our game that have turned around and have been much more positive.”
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