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AFL NEWS: Gawn – Demons to bounce back, Hill resting after cancer surgery, Docker dropped out for drinking

Melbourne are in the midst of turmoil off the pitch and a mini crisis on the pitch, but captain Max Gawn is adamant the wheels haven’t fallen off.

The reigning AFL premiers face a potentially Queen’s birthday-defining clash with Collingwood.

Less than three weeks ago, the Demons were undefeated and well on their way to fulfilling their publicly stated desire to claim a premiership in front of their fans at the MCG.

They have since lost to Fremantle and Sydney and were rocked by Steven May and Jake Melksham’s alcohol-fueled fight at a restaurant in Prahran on Sunday night.

Star defender May was due to return against Collingwood but was suspended for Monday’s blockbuster for drinking alcohol while in concussion protocols, while Tom McDonald is out until later in the season after foot surgery.

Melksham is also unavailable, requiring surgery after his hand, which he injured in the fight, became infected.

“No, the wheels didn’t fall off,” Gawn told reporters Wednesday.

“I’m completely comfortable with where we are from a performance perspective.

“Obviously we lost the last couple. The Fremantle game was a complete cover-up. We didn’t play our best football at all and that was a shock.

“Then the Sydney game, we felt like we were going back to some of our best bases in football and it was a heartbreaking game, I think both teams played heartbreaking football and Sydney were able to score some late crucial goals.

“So I don’t think we’re out of shape at all.”

(Photo by Will Russell/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

May’s absence couldn’t come at a worse time.

Swingman McDonald’s injury reduces defensive coverage and also amplifies Melbourne’s forward line problems with Ben Brown scoreless in three games and Sam Weideman waived.

“We get pretty thin and (mostly) with Tom usually being the one covering for Steven,” Gawn said.

“So it hurts and when you talk about the punishments given, I think it hurts Steven a lot too, knowing that he puts a lot of pressure on Harry Petty, Adam Tomlinson, Jake Lever, maybe (potential newbie) Daniel Turner, Jayden Hunt and Michael Hibberd.

“Those kind of guys are going to have to step up.

“Then in the front line obviously all of us big guys struggled to score goals. So there’s a bit of pressure on us big guys to be able to kick them too.

Hill resting after cancer operation

GWS striker Bobby Hill is in ‘good spirits’ and is recovering well from surgery last week following his diagnosis of testicular cancer.

The 22-year-old is out of contract at the end of the AFL season and his playing future is unclear.

But his health remains the priority as Giants players and staff rally around him.

“The operation went really well, which is fantastic,” said GWS interim coach Mark McVeigh.

“From here we just continue to monitor his whereabouts and listen to the medical experts in this area.

“The players surrounded him well and I spoke to him several times.

“He’s in good spirits, which is great, and he’ll be taking his time at home to relax and recuperate with his young family.

“When he feels he is ready to go, he will come to the club at some point, but for now we are giving him space and all the support (that we can).

While Hill is sidelined indefinitely, the Giants are expected to welcome some big names back in the coming weeks.

All-Australian pair Nick Haynes (illness) and Lachie Whitfield (ankle) will return against North Melbourne on Sunday, while Callan Ward is expected to tick the final boxes under concussion protocols.

Phil Davis (hamstrings) and Tim Taranto (back) could be back in action the following week.

McVeigh has led GWS to a win and a loss since taking over the reins from Leon Cameron last month and is excited for what the second half of the season could bring.

But the Giants (3-8) face a massive battle to fight their way to the final race.

“We’re pretty excited about where our squad is and how they feel, and the potential for players to return over the next few weeks has everyone excited,” McVeigh said.

Freo stand firm

Fremantle manager Justin Longmuir believes his decision to suspend in-form striker Michael Frederick for a week will help the club succeed in the future.

Frederick will miss Saturday’s AFL clash with Hawthorn at Optus Stadium after breaking the team’s alcohol rules by drinking during a six-day break between games.

The 22-year-old has been a key figure in the club’s recent wins against top two sides Melbourne and Brisbane, and Longmuir believes Frederick’s absence against Hawthorn will dampen Fremantle’s chances of winning a third game in a row.

Longmuir said the decision to ban Frederick was made for the greater good of the team.

“I told the players yesterday that it might hurt our chances of winning this weekend by not having Freddy there, but going past those things will prevent us from winning in the future,” Longmuir said.

“We have to step on it. He will learn a hard lesson. He made a bad decision.

“He clearly stepped out of the behaviors that we accept, and he knew it.

“He admitted it, admitted it, apologized very sincerely. I know he will learn from this and come back a better person and a better player.

Longmuir said it was important for players to abstain from drinking alcohol during the shortened breaks between games.

“Drinking on a six-day break just isn’t good for recovery,” Longmuir said.

“It’s a short turnaround in AFL football, and we need everyone to recover as best they can.

“It (drinking) does not allow you to do it. It’s been a rule, it’s probably a rule at most football clubs, and he’s clearly come out of that.

Fremantle should be bolstered by the return of Nat Fyfe, Michael Walters and Sam Switkowski against the Hawks.

But striker Matt Taberner won’t be seen until after the mid-season break due to a lingering back injury.

“He probably just didn’t respond the way we would have liked and the way he has in the past,” Longmuir said.

“He’s just been interrupted a bit this year, inside and out. It doesn’t have the continuity we would like.

“We have to make sure we get it right because he is a very important part of our team and can make a big difference for us.”

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