TOWERING key-position player Jarrod Stafford could make a timely return for Deakin University when it takes on Russells Creek at Mack Oval tomorrow.
The Sharks last night included Stafford on a five-man interchange bench but will have to wait until a living-away-from-home permit is signed off today.
The big man was instrumental in their rise up the ladder last season, playing as a ruckman who dropped a kick behind the play.
But he will have a role up forward if he plays against the Kangaroos. The Sharks have committed to using teen Jake Tanner and Mitch Hodgson in the ruck.
Assistant coach Matt Lenehan said having Stafford in the side was “massive for us, it just gives us a bigger target inside 50”.
“We’re trying to move away from playing him in the ruck due to the fact we’re trying to develop young Jakey Tanner,” he said.
“Also, we recruited Mitch Hodgson as a ruckman. We’ll use Staff through the ruck if we have to but our plan at the moment is to play him as a key post inside 50.”
Stafford was one of a host of key additions to the side. Paul Shields also returns after recovering from a broken thumb sustained in round two.
Yarran Curtis, Hodgson, Tanner and Aiden Bourke also return, giving the side welcome height at its disposal, as does Lenehan.
Brandon Cole was the only omission to injury but Lenehan was confident he would overcome a shoulder complaint. Five others are omitted.
Russells Creek made the one change, adding experience in the form of Eddie Wallace at the expense of teenager Dylan Jongebloed.
The Kangaroos have a handful of players on the long-term injury list, namely Brad Everall and Troy McCormack, but are otherwise at full strength.
Jacob Lacy will return to the Old Collegians side when Nirranda travels to Davidson Oval for a crucial fixture for both sides.
Lacy, who broke a wrist against Timboon Demons in round seven, and Zac Pickett are the Warriors’ inclusions for the sixth-versus-seventh clash.
Matt Petherick and Vincent Fogarty are omitted, with coach Daryl Beechey likewise having an abundance of players to choose from.
Nirranda made three changes. Onballer Brad Smith, utility Jesse Dalton and ruckman Tim Abraham strengthen the side on paper.
Recruit Nick Walsh injured a wrist in a farming accident, while Brenton Ludeman and Ben Young are omitted. Lachlan Blake drops back as the substitute.
And change was the overriding theme at Timboon Demons as they planned for a tough day at the office against Panmure at Timboon Recreation Reserve.
Selectors added five players to the side which went goalless against Dennington — Kris Ward, Sam Plozza, Jarrod Burrow-Buck, Matthew Grant and Darcy Meade.
Josh Walker, Cody Noonan and emerging teenage trio Ben Saunders, Joel Moriarty and Ryan Smith will miss.
Panmure named an unchanged side.
Coach Simon O’Keefe is still a week away from returning.