Jeremy Finlayson has been left out of Port Adelaide's side for their AFL semi-final against GWS on Saturday night, after admitting on Thursday that his wife's cancer battle has affected his form on the field. Ken Hinkley has recalled spearhead forward Charlie Dixon for the do-or-die clash at Adelaide Oval, despite the veteran not playing since July 29 due to a foot injury.
Fellow forward Todd Marshall has also been named despite battling an ongoing hip injury, while defender Trent McKenzie, who injured his ankle in last week's 48-point loss to Brisbane, has been given the all-clear to play. However it's bad news for Finlayson and Dylan Williams, who have been dropped as a result.
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After kicking 32 goals in his first 14 games this season, Finlayson has only managed six in his last seven games. Speaking on Channel 7 on Thursday morning, the 27-year-old opened up on the toll of wife Kellie's battle with terminal cancer.
“It’s been a rocky road, it’s been a long 18 months,” he said on the Morning Show alongside Kellie and daughter Sophia. “It’s kind of taken its toll, I won’t lie about that. Lately, the past three or four weeks, it’s taken its toll and it shows in footy.
“I’ve tried to put a brave face on through everything, just looking at how strong Kellie is and just trying to be her rock and just trying to put a smile on her face out on the football ground for her and Soph and trying to provide for them while she’s going through such a difficult battle. It’s all that I can do.”
Kellie revealed earlier this year that she'd been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. It came just months after she'd finished treatment for bowel cancer, which came shortly after the birth of Sophia in August of 2021.
While the cancer has stopped spreading, Kellie and Jeremy said she's "not out of the woods". Kellie said on Thursday: “Obviously, with a terminal diagnosis, it’s not common for things to turn around as well as they have for me.
"The chemotherapy and all the alternate therapies that I’ve been doing and putting myself through have worked, which is obviously fantastic, but we’re not out of the woods. I’ve got to be realistic with the fact that I still have cancer and, although things aren’t spreading and things are getting better, I am still going through the emotions of what’s to come.”
AFL world reacts to Jeremy Finlayson's axing
Speaking on AFL 360 on Thursday night, Hawthorn great Dermott Brereton said the sad reality was Finlayson's form has dropped in recent weeks. “Jeremy is a wonderful player,” he said. “His best is insanely good - his worst is close to non-competitive.
“I hope there aren’t other things in his life that aren’t taking his mind off the game at the moment. If he’s not playing well, he’s not very physical and if you want your second ruckman to go into the middle of the field and be physical and he’s not playing well, he’s probably not the right selection. But finger’s crossed everything is alright with him.”
St Kilda great Leigh Montagna added: “He hasn’t played well for six to eight weeks. He’s been out of form and they’ve had to make a choice.” AFL fans were divided on social media over the decision to axe Finlayson considering he's the team's leading goal-kicker this year.
When is the last time a top 4 side has dropped their leading goalkicker (Jeremy Finlayson has 38 goals) for the season in a finals match?
Phil Matera was dropped after the 2005 QF. He was the Eagles (who finished 2nd) leading goalkicker for the season at that point (38 goals).
— Kevin Pollard (@football_roos) September 14, 2023
Surprised- Finlayson has been one of best most of year, dropped for the huff, puff and not much else of Dixon?
— Tony Beckett (@BeckettTony) September 14, 2023
The right selection moves for Port. Dixon and Boak (hopefully not the last time) into the side.
Finlayson makes way after unfortunately underwhelming of late. Still think Dyl Williams is stiff to miss out. Francis Evans could be a good shout to come in. #weareportadelaide
— Adam Schultz (@aschultz_15) September 14, 2023
Imagine bringing in glass ankle Dixon back into your side 😆 🤣
Hasn't played for over a month 😆 🙃 😅
— Rob Troll (@rob_troll) September 14, 2023
I reckon Pies should chase Jeremy FINLAYSON, he won't be happy being dumped for a final. 197cm very versatile and can win games of his own boot
— Bryn Pies (@ThebestOfBryn) September 14, 2023
That's crazy, he can play forward, back or in ruck as needed, why leave out such a versatile and valuable player in a do or die final? Makes no sense!
— tim (@tarzan0741) September 14, 2023
As long as Dixon is fit enough, it's a good call. Thought Fantasia was worth a shot over Mcentee on current form tho
— Mark MOOSE Smyth 🎹 (@Moose1870) September 14, 2023
Sad but Dixon has to play. Personally I would’ve kept him in and dropped either Jed or x as we need to score more. Be tempted to play JF on the wing and channel a bit of Westy!
— Rob Beattie (@Bunderbeats) September 14, 2023
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