NORTH Melbourne and St Kilda suffered several injuries between them in a brutal clash won by the Kangaroos at Marvel Stadium on Sunday, but it seems each of the casualties will be fit to play if and when the AFL season resumes.
The competition has been shut down until at least the end of May as part of measures to curb the rising threat of coronavirus, giving the North trio of captain Jack Ziebell (knee), Paul Ahern (hamstring) and Josh Walker (concussion), along with Saints gun Jade Gresham (knee) more time to recover.
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The Kangaroos' two-point victory, after coming from 31 points down, was all the more meritorious given they had just one player on the bench for most of the second half – a fact that made coach Rhyce Shaw extremely proud.
Shaw confirmed Ziebell had sustained a strain in the medial ligament in his right knee and would take "a couple of weeks at least" of rehabilitation.
The Roos coach was uncertain about the extent of Ahern's hamstring injury in his right leg, but he too has ample time to recover.
More concerning at the time was the welfare of Walker, whom Shaw said "got tunnelled, (but) not deliberately" and landed heavily on the back of his neck in a sickening incident in the first quarter. Walker failed a concussion test and will be assessed further.
"I wasn't feeling too great when that happened," Shaw said of the Walker knockout.
"The coaches' box went pretty quiet there for a little bit. It wasn't a great look.
"I just had a chat to him before. He seems OK, but we won't take any risks with him."
Gresham suffered an apparent posterior cruciate ligament injury in his right knee and Saints coach Brett Ratten revealed it would be "a few weeks" before he got over it.
In better news for St Kilda on a dirty day, improving defender Ben Long seems fine after going down early in the second quarter with what appeared a serious ankle or foot injury. After receiving treatment in the rooms, Long returned to the field and played out the game.
And it was a game of two halves – in the first half St Kilda was cleaner, harder and applied enormous pressure; in the second half the roles were reversed, except North had the added benefit of being more composed in the clinches.
Shaw was rapt with the determination shown by his team, particularly by some of his younger players.
"We had one rotation for the majority of the second half, but our players just grit their teeth," he said.
"We knew we were better than what we produced in the first half. We probably fell asleep at the wheel a bit and we just wanted to get back in the contest.
"A few guys put their hand up early in the third and got us going and that changed the game for us … A couple of our kids really stood up.
"Tarryn Thomas, it's his second year, and he stood up so well in the second half. (Cam) Zurhaar, Josh Simpkin, Nick Larkey, these young kids, they really showed what it's all about."
Ratten felt his team didn't capitalise enough and should have been further in front than 31 points when North started its fightback.
He was also disappointed the Saints didn't exploit North's lack of rotations.