Senior coach Ben Rutten has praised Kaine Baldwin for his hard work to earn back a spot in the senior side, while revealing Zach Merrett and Jake Stringer were likely to line up on Anzac Day.
The trio were today named as inclusions in Rutten’s 22 for Monday, with an injured Andrew Phillips (hamstring) and omissions Devon Smith, Nick Hind and Tom Cutler making way following last week’s disappointing loss to Fremantle.
Rutten said key forward Baldwin, who will be one of seven Bombers playing their first Anzac Day games, had earned his opportunity to shine on the big stage.
“We’ve really enjoyed the way Kaine’s progressed. He was able to get an opportunity in round one, which was a difficult game to play in, but he still handled himself pretty well,” Rutten said.
“Since then, he’s gone back and played some pretty good footy. He missed a week through concussion, but he’s kicked five goals (against Port Melbourne on Sunday), he’s a great competitor who sets up well for us ahead of the ball, and his ability to finish is nice. He’s put a nice body of work together to make himself knock down the door to come back into the team.”
Merrett and Stringer have made quicker-than-expected recoveries from syndesmosis and hamstring injuries respectively, with the shock inclusions getting through main training today.
Rutten said the star duo had ticked all the boxes so far this week.
“Everything we’ve seen is indicating they’ll play. We’ll need to see how they pull up tomorrow to make sure they haven’t pulled up sore,” he said.
“They did full training and what we needed them to do. We’re pretty confident they’ll play.”
While Smith has been omitted for the second time this season, Hind has been dropped for the first time as a Bomber, with the electrifying half-back a mainstay in Rutten’s side since his arrival ahead of the 2021 season.
“'Hindy’ has struggled to find his best form, and some of that form we saw last year. We need him to get back to doing what we know he can do, which is defend really hard but then give us some nice bounce and spring out of defence,” Rutten said.
“Dev has been in and out of the team. He was the sub and then played a half last week. He hasn’t been at his absolute best, but has made some in-roads in his game the last couple of weeks, so he’s starting to improve. With a couple of guys coming back and available, Dev misses out.”
With Phillips exiting the side and Nick Bryan initially named in the squad but missing out on selection, Rutten said the Bombers thought long and hard about playing two rucks against the Magpies.
“There was (a temptation) and a good conversation around it,” he said.
“Something we’d like to see at some stage is ‘Drapes’ (Sam Draper) and Nick Bryan together, but for this week, it’ll be Drapes with some support. Stoppages are a really important of the game and we think we should be able to get enough out of our setup.”
The Bombers and Magpies will go head-to-head from 3:20pm in the 27th edition of the annual Anzac Day blockbuster. Click here for all the key match info.