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Neal-Bullen among five inclusions

Matt Burgan  June 12, 2015 5:00 PM

MELBOURNE has finalised its 22 for Sunday’s clash against St Kilda at Etihad Stadium, with South Australian Alex Neal-Bullen set to make his AFL debut.

The Demons have also included former co-captain Jack Grimes – who was originally named on the seven-man bench, but has now been named in the back pocket – ball-winner Viv Michie and father/son recruit Billy Stretch in their team. Classy midfielder Dom Tyson was confirmed in the starting 18 on Thursday night.

Stretch, Michie and Neal-Bullen have been named on the interchange, along with clearance specialist Aidan Riley, who played against Collingwood last round.

The Demons have left out big man Jack Fitzpatrick, who was initially named in the back pocket, but was omitted on Friday. He is now an emergency, along with ruckman Jake Spencer and defender Dean Terlich.

On Thursday night, the Demons were forced to leave out defender Colin Garland (hand) and rookie Aaron vandenBerg (hamstring) through injury. Garland incredibly played with a broken hand against the Magpies and vandenBerg was subbed out of the same match due to his strain. Midfielders Ben Newton and Matt Jones were also omitted.  

Manager of football operations Josh Mahoney said Tyson was ready to go after playing for Casey last weekend.  

Tyson, who also starred with 33 touches for Casey, upon returning from a knee injury, will play his first match for Melbourne since round seven.

“Dom was close to resuming last week, but he needed some more training under his belt and to play a game at VFL level. He was able to get through the full game and perform well and he’s come straight back into the team this week,” Mahoney told melbournefc.com.au.  

“With the other players included in the squad, we’ve tried to be consistent with rewarding people who are performing well at VFL level and all of the inclusions into the squad have certainly done that.”

Neal-Bullen, who was drafted at No.40 in last year’s NAB AFL Draft, has been building some fine form in the VFL after an interrupted pre-season, due to two separate dislocated knee injuries.

Last Saturday, he notched up 34 disposals, including 20 contested possessions, for the Scorpions against Collingwood at Casey Fields, and was widely regarded as his side’s best.

Grimes and Michie, who were emergencies last round, have played four matches and three games respectively this season for the Demons.

Stretch, who made his AFL debut against the Sydney Swans in round six this year – and landed a goal with his first AFL kick – has played two games. He also played in round seven against Hawthorn, but has since been an emergency and played in the VFL.

Mahoney praised Garland’s bravery to play injured, while he said key forward Chris Dawes and small forward Jay Kennedy-Harris would play for Casey against Coburg this weekend.  

“Unfortunately, we’ve lost two players through injury in Col Garland and Aaron vandenBerg,” he said.

“Colin showed great courage to play the game out with a broken hand and his operation went well on Tuesday and we’re hoping he’ll only miss a short period of time out, before he resumes. Aaron’s scans show a typical hamstring strain, so he’ll miss three or four weeks.

“Unfortunately, our injury list has grown in recent weeks, but pleasingly Chris Dawes and Jay Kennedy-Harris will play a game in the VFL this weekend.”

Spencer has played four matches this year and Fitzpatrick has featured in the past three rounds. Terlich, who finished third in Melbourne’s best and fairest in 2013, has yet to play a match this year, but has been building some strong form with Casey in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, vice-captain Lynden Dunn will become the 57th player to reach or surpass 150 VFL/AFL matches with Melbourne.

Dunn, a versatile tall, who made his AFL debut in round six, 2006 against Geelong at the MCG, has become a fine defender and an integral part of Melbourne’s line-up.

Melbourne team: round 11

B: Daniel Cross, Tom McDonald, Jack Grimes

HB: Jeremy Howe, Lynden Dunn, Neville Jetta

C: Jimmy Toumpas, Dom Tyson, Heritier Lumumba

HF: Jack Watts, Cam Pedersen, Jack Viney

F: Jeff Garlett, Jesse Hogan, Angus Brayshaw

FOLL: Max Gawn, Nathan Jones, Bernie Vince

I/C: Billy Stretch, Viv Michie, Aidan Riley, Alex Neal-Bullen

EMG: Jake Spencer, Dean Terlich, Jack Fitzpatrick

IN: Jack Grimes, Viv Michie, Dom Tyson, Alex Neal-Bullen, Billy Stretch

OUT: Colin Garland (hand), Aaron vandenBerg (hamstring), Jack Fitzpatrick, Ben Newton, Matt Jones