Fremantle’s finals aspirations were dealt a triple blow yesterday as the club accepted the grim reality of being without triple All-Australian ruckman Aaron Sandilands for close to three months.
Sandilands, 29, will miss up to 10 weeks after scans revealed he had a turf toe injury to his right foot identical to the problem that sidelined him for half of last season.
The club’s tenuous position was compounded yesterday with confirmation it would also be without key defender Zac Dawson and forward Hayden Ballantyne when they host Essendon in 11 days.
Dawson will be sidelined for up to a fortnight after straining the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during Saturday’s 12-point victory over Richmond at the MCG.
Ballantyne, who was added to the Dockers leadership group during the pre-season, was stung with his second suspension of the year for an undisciplined off-the-ball clash.
The 24-year-old was offered a one-match ban that Fremantle aren’t expected to challenge after being found guilty of elbowing Richmond skipper Chris Newman in the stomach. The strike was judged to be intentional, low impact and body contact, with Ballantyne’s bad record leaving him unable to escape suspension, even with an early guilty plea. Tagger Ryan Crowley was fined $900 for making an obscene one-fingered gesture at the crowd.
Fremantle are 10th and face a wounded Essendon and ladder leaders Collingwood in their next two games.
Sandilands suffered his latest injury when he jammed his right big toe into the turf just five minutes into their win over Richmond.
Fremantle chose not to send Sandilands for surgery when he injured the big toe on his left foot last year, but leading sports medico Peter Larkins predicted they may do that this time to guarantee a full recovery.
“If his left foot is still giving him a bit of trouble, he certainly wouldn’t want to have both of them holding him back next year because it will limit his effectiveness,” he said.
“I don’t think there’s any hereditary or anatomical thing that predisposes people to this.
In my mind it’s just really unlucky and unusual.”
Sandilands’ absence will force Fremantle to rely on Jonathon Griffin and Zac Clarke to lead the ruck.
Clarke is understood to have been battling general soreness in recent weeks and did not play at either AFL or WAFL level last weekend.
Griffin stood up against Richmond after Sandilands was substituted, but his long-term durability remains unproven after suffering groin and knee injuries in the past two seasons.