ST KILDA ruckman Rowan Marshall is expected to be available to face reigning premiers Melbourne next Sunday after failing to prove his fitness in time for Saturday night's game against Port Adelaide at Cazalys Stadium.
Marshall travelled to Cairns with an extended 27-man squad on Wednesday and tested out the quad he suffered a deep cork in against Greater Western Sydney in Canberra, before training again on Friday morning.
AFL.com.au understands the 26-year-old was only an outside chance to get up for the clash against the Power, but is now in a much better position physically and set to play against the Demons in round eight.
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With mature-age rookie Jack Hayes tearing his anterior cruciate ligament against the Giants last Friday night and Marshall ruled out, journeyman ruckman Tom Campbell will make his first appearance for St Kilda after being signed as a delisted free agent in November.
The 30-year-old has played 54 games – 42 for the Western Bulldogs and 10 for North Melbourne – scattered across 10 seasons, after originally being selected via the 2012 NAB AFL Rookie Draft.
Campbell has played 109 VFL games in that time for Bendigo, Williamstown, Footscray, North Melbourne and most recently Sandringham. Now he gets another chance at AFL level, partnering veteran Paddy Ryder in the ruck, who returns after serving a two-game suspension.
"He is a competitor, Tom. It is his third club, but as we know with ruckmen, they get better with age. At 30 years of age, there is a fair bit of footy left in him," St Kilda coach Brett Ratten said on Friday.
"For him to come into our team, ready to go, he's been playing good AFL footy. We've got full faith in him that he can help Paddy and get the job done there. He's worked extremely hard since he's been in our footy club."
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Midfielder Zak Jones will play for Sandringham again this weekend after exiting health and safety protocols earlier this week, with wingman Jack Billings set to play his first game since straining his hamstring during the AAMI Community Series.
Ratten said the Saints won't rush Jones back into the senior side after overcoming COVID-19, following an extended period away from the club on personal leave.
"We'll just wait. Him and Billings will play VFL this weekend. Zak had COVID – his partner had COVID, then he got COVID – it started off as seven days and turned into 10. He'd only played one game in roughly six or seven weeks," he said.
"No need to rush him. People recover a little bit differently with COVID; some bounce back really quickly and we've found others have just taken their time a little bit. We'll take it easy with him."
Former first-round pick Hunter Clark is in far north Queensland with the Saints and is edging closer to a return from pre-season shoulder surgery, following a collision against Essendon at the start of March.
The Saints expect the 23-year-old to return in the VFL next weekend and quickly create some pressure for spots, along with Billings, Jones and former skipper Jarryn Geary, who is set to play a full game for Sandringham on Sunday after overcoming an injury-interrupted start to the season.
St Kilda will be hoping to return to Melbourne on Sunday 6-1 for the first time since 2009 when it won the first 19 games of the season, before eventually losing to Geelong in the Grand Final.