St Kilda coach Brett Ratten is confident Hunter Clark will keep “putting his head over the ball” as he prepares for a playing comeback after suffering a broken jaw in a collision that put the entire AFL on edge.
Clark looms as one of four inclusions for the Saints’ must-win clash over Carlton, where victory could launch Ratten’s team into the top-eight by the end of Friday night.
Out of his 14 days of Covid isolation, ruckman Rowan Marshall is set to tackle the Blues, with Jack Higgins (back) and Tom Highmore (hand) also likely to return.
Clark’s jaw was broken in round 13 against Adelaide when a collision with Crows veteran David McKay put the future of the bump in the game on the line.
McKay was sent straight to the AFL tribunal but cleared of a rough conduct charge after the jury decided his actions were not unreasonable.
Ratten said Clark had put himself through enough contact drills at training in recent days to suggest he would continue to attack each contest with the ferocity the Saints have become accustomed to.
“Hopefully, he’s as ferocious as ever,” Ratten said on Wednesday.
“It’s a situation that can happen in your career and some people can take a little bit more time to get over it.
“I don’t see that he’ll have an issue with it. I think he’ll just attack the footy.
“Some players react a little bit different from a broken jaw and it can take a little bit of time, but he seemed to be pretty comfortable in that space.”
Marshall is back to partner veteran Paddy Ryder in the ruck having serve a period of isolation first in a hotel in Perth and then in an Airbnb.
Ratten was confident Marshall would be ready to go despite his unique build-up.
“He’ll be fine. Everybody has had a few chats with him. It’s not like he hasn’t had the contact,” Ratten said.
“He’s had a program to do, it’s quite unique what’s happened and how he’s had to deal with it, but he’s a professional and he’ll make sure he gets up and is fine.”
Star young forward Max King was easily St Kilda’s best in last week’s eight point loss to West Coast, kicking six goals and taking a handful of contested marks.
Ratten suggested it could be the game that gives the 21-year-old the confidence to play like that more often.
“I think all players that are emerging, there’s a breakout game or a situation which can elevate their confidence and he played a fantastic game,” Ratten said.
“Most players look back and there’s a game which boosted your confidence and kickstarted your career. All players have that game, and you can have a flat one after it.
“It was really pleasing to see his hard work come through. He’s done so much goalkicking practice this year … to see him get the rewards, you think, well done, you deserve that.”
Originally published as Broken jaw won’t stop Saint hunting