Maxwell is back as Pies spring a surprise

Collingwood has sprung its second big selection surprise in as many weeks, rushing in captain Nick Maxwell for Saturday night’s showdown against Fremantle.

While there has been speculation all week about the possible comeback of Luke Ball, Maxwell has flown in from nowhere to lead the Pies in the pivotal clash at Patersons Stadium.

Maxwell has not played since badly injuring a wrist against Carlton in round two, and he was expected to be sidelined for up to two months after surgery.

However, the 29-year-old defender has completed a remarkable recovery, and did enough in several key sessions this week to prove his fitness and join elevated rookie Caolan Mooney as inclusions in the Pies team.

Mooney was impressive in the VFL last week with five goals and the Irishman’s stellar form over several weeks at the lower level has earned him an elevation to the main list, with youngsters Jackson Ramsay and Tim Broomhead out because of long-term injuries.

Tyson Goldsack has been ruled out with a hip injury and young ruckman Jarrod Witts has been dropped after making his debut last week.

In other big selection news on Thursday, Melbourne named highly touted recruit Chris Dawes to play his first game for the club. The former Collingwood forward has been forced to sit out the first six rounds with a hamstring strain but will make his debut against Gold Coast at the MCG on Sunday.

Dawes used a media opportunity on Thursday to reveal he had no regrets about leaving Collingwood – despite Melbourne’s plight – and to declare he was ready to make a difference to the struggling Demons.

”I won’t just be planning on getting through, I’ll be bringing a lot of effort and leadership to that forward line,” Dawes said.

”I’ll tie up one of their big-bodied defenders and hopefully have a bit of a physical presence myself.”

The Western Bulldogs have regained a clutch of experienced stars for their match with North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium on Saturday, with Daniel Giansiracusa, Bob Murphy and Ryan Griffen all named in the side.

The Roos will welcome back champion forward Brent Harvey.

Carlton has named ruckman Matthew Kreuzer in the starting 18 for Monday’s showpiece game against St Kilda. Kreuzer has not played since fracturing his thumb in round three.

Judd takes one year, huge pay cut

Committed and happy partners for the past six years, Chris Judd and Carlton have reached a turning point in their relationship. Contractually speaking at least.

From now on, both parties will reassess where they stand annually. Another profound change is that Judd, having previously enjoyed the status of being the AFL’s highest-paid footballer, has agreed to take a significant wage cut in 2014 – close to halving his annual earnings for playing, according to a source with first-hand knowledge of the new contract.

Judd had already told the club – and on Thursday told the public – he would make his decision on whether to play beyond 2014 based on his physical and mental freshness and how his abilities would serve his team.

The result, as it stands, is that the 29-year-old champion preparing for his 246th game has agreed to the first 12-month contract of his 12-year AFL career.

Asked to forecast if he would play beyond that, the only thing Judd would pledge is that he would never again change colours after leaving West Coast at the end of 2007 to sign a $6 million, six-year playing deal with the Blues.

”I’ve changed clubs once before and it’s a pretty full-on thing to go through and certainly not something I’ll do again,” he said.

Judd described the one-season-at-a-time approach with his contract as mutually beneficial. Carlton would have done the deal earlier, but Judd wanted to test his body out in the opening rounds.

Reassured by how he has felt in the first six weeks, the contract proved an uncomplicated exercise that Judd hopes will afford Carlton freedom in its salary cap.

”You certainly can’t take your football for granted when you get to 30 and over,” Judd, a premiership player for West Coast in 2006, said on Carlton’s website. ”And it is, I guess, safer from the club’s perspective just to do things one year at a time. Both parties are happy with how it’s worked out.

”Obviously, there’s plenty of work still to go this year, but I’m really excited with the direction the club is heading.”

Darley puts up full house sign for rising star New Approach

Darley’s hot-shot stallion New Approach showed why he is in record demand with breeders in both hemispheres at Newmarket last Saturday when his unbeaten son Dawn Approach produced a five-length demolition in the English 2000 Guineas over a mile.

Dawn Approach was resuming after winning all of his six starts at two – the last two in group 1s – and he made it a top-line trifecta for breeder-trainer Jim Bolger.

New Approach is one of Galileo’s best sons – Frankel is obviously his best – and his popularity in Australia has been amazing as breeders queue up to get one of the 80 nominations available.

New Approach was responsible for another black-type winner at the Newmarket meeting last Sunday when Talent took out the listed Pretty Polly Stakes, run over 10 furlongs (2000 metres).

The weekend racing resulted in New Approach becoming the second-leading flat sire in Europe this year for progeny earnings. He has had seven individual winners and earnings of £274,433 ($416,500). Cape Cross is leading with 21 winners. Galileo is third with 25 winners.

Despite a hefty increase to $55,000 this year, New Approach was the first of Darley’s 23 sires to be fully booked. ”His demand is unbelievable and we have had to reject so many breeders. But our instruction is for only 80 broodmares to be available,” Darley’s Aaron Bott said.

”We’ve also closed our books on Exceed And Excel. He’s got 200 mares, which isn’t surprising considering the phenomenal year he is experiencing,” Bott added.

New Approach retired after his three-year-old season with a Timeform rating of 132. He won eight of his 11 starts, plus had two seconds and a third, and his progeny were immediate sale-ring hits, fetching big money in Europe and here. Peter Snowden has more than 30 two-year-olds by New Approach and has already produced one stakes-winner in Montsegur. Snowden loves the breed and racegoers can expect plenty from his progeny in the coming seasons.Kingdom on top

Arrowfield Stud’s Animal Kingdom, which heads to the Hunter Valley after contesting the group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, has been rated as the world’s best entire in the world thoroughbred rankings.

The runaway Dubai World Cup winner has been rated on 126 for the period dating from November 1 last year to April 28. The six-year-old gelding Game On Dude shares the same figure as Animal Kingdom.

Australia’s champion mare Black Caviar headed the ratings on 130 ahead of US sprinter Wise Dan on 129. The latter, which is a gelding, won at Louisville on Kentucky Derby day last Saturday.Master off to a flyer

Coolmore’s shuttle sire Mastercraftsman has had a great start to his career after his first three starters all won on debut in Europe. The latest winner was in Rome last Saturday when Pablosky romped home by six lengths. Mastercraftsman shuttled from Ireland the past two seasons to Windsor Park in New Zealand where he covered large books and consequently was the highest-represented stallion at this year’s Karaka yearling sales.New blood

Hats off to Inglis Bloodstock for its effort to introduce new owners to racing at its Newmarket complex last Sunday. Inglis held a syndication open day and 50 rising two-year-olds were paraded from 14 companies. More than 300 were on hand to learn the ins and outs of being able to afford racing a thoroughbred. Caroline Searcy hosted along with Jonathan Darcy and James Price. The consensus was most people there were interested buyers. The syndicators praised the Inglis concept and believe there is a place on the racing calendar for such a day. Champion, Darby, Dynamic, Proven, Star, Topline and Triple Crown all sold shares.

Stick with your big guns

Every season there are players who start in magnificent form, far exceeding their preseason expectations. There are also players who start slowly due to injury, changed roles or poor form.

A quiet start from a high-profile player brings unwanted scrutiny and even more pressure to perform.

The same is true for Ultimate Footy. At the beginning of each season, competitors participate in a draft where players are sequentially drafted to a fantasy team.

The early draft choices always see the best players taken, but these do not always turn out to be sound selections. The opening rounds of a fantasy draft are fraught with danger, as injury and a lack of form can leave people regretting selections.

Dayne Beams, Brett Deledio and Matthew Boyd are all gun midfielders and all featured heavily in the first two rounds of fantasy drafts. Each averaged over 110 fantasy points in 2012. But these three have played just nine games between them in 2013, with only three scores over 100 points from those nine starts.

Beams and Boyd picked up injuries on the eve of the season. Boyd’s three games have been quieter than normal, while Beams is yet to play a game. Deledio is a different beast entirely. He was close to his best in the Tigers’ three wins, but has gone missing in the last three rounds.

There’s not much worse for a fantasy coach than having your top player missing in action, or performing well below their capabilities. Fortunately, Deledio, Beams and Boyd are proven fantasy players. Back them in to overcome their slow starts and deliver at a premium level for the remainder of the season.

Patrick Dangerfield could have been lumped into the ”bust” category after three rounds, averaging just 80 points. But he has pumped out two scores over 100 since then, including a 149 last weekend. After six rounds he is now averaging 105. Those players who drafted Beams, Boyd and Deledio will be hoping things improve as quickly for them as they did for Dangerfield.

SIMON WALKER: Flights of not so fancy

NOT SUCH A GOOD PLAN(SIMON WALKER: Pet sitters are cat’s meow [4/5/13] here)

LIFE has an uncanny knack of derailing common sense, if you plan it right.

And seeing as my mate and I had agreed to catch up that Friday night, it had made common sense . . . to us.

I’d drawn the short straw, you see.

I’d had to work that Friday while the wife and kids got the ‘‘luxury’’ of driving up to Queensland for our school holiday break.

By mutual consent, I’d fly up the next day, proving once again the universe can be an unfair place.

Out of respect for those less fortunate than myself (those in the car, as I’d foolishly assumed), I’d decided to make the most of my Friday night freedom.

I had thought about jumping into the extensive job list left behind, but figured, after much heartache and anguish, that it could wait.

Took me about a minute.

The extensive job list had been one of the trade-offs in determining who’d fly and who’d drive, and gave an indication of how extensive the extensive job list was.

And so it proved to be next morning from the moment the cats woke me . . . at 5am.

(Why can’t cats sleep in too?)

Having savoured the football with moderate vigour, morning wasn’t the only thing that appeared to have broken.

Still, I knew the drill: you do the crime, you do the time – that had been factored into the common sense plan.

What hadn’t been factored in was an arctic hurricane, ensuring everything on the extensive job list, including numerous outdoor activities, would be done under the weather, metaphorically, meteorologically, and medically.

Leading one to ponder on numerous occasions that day ‘‘wwwhhyyyy!?’’

Still you soldier on because, remember, you’re trying to pass this off as common sense.

And it wouldn’t look very sensible if there was a new life form mutating in the fridge when you got back from holidays.

Difficult to rule out when you’re parallel processing online check-ins with cleaning, bleaching, remembering to pack underpants and getting pneumonia.

All the while undergoing a journey within a journey from near-death to a place nearer to death the longer the job list dragged on.

Eventually, though, it was all done and I started to anticipate the warmth, comfort and dryness of air travel.

There was only one question left to answer: what shoes to wear?

I’d wanted to look a little suave at ground level to disguise how ordinary I was feeling from the socks up.

I opted for my old faithful leather boots – the ones with the small character splits.

So I made it to the airport and I was starting to hum Here Comes the Sun because I’d had communications with the road warriors and apparently there wasn’t a cloud in the sky up north.

I’d noted their ‘‘ain’t karma a bitch’’ tone as I’d described the tempest down south.

But I’d comforted myself that in just over an hour I’d be joining their smug butts.

Yet a look out the departure lounge window revealed this dusty day of drama was far from over. It was sheeting down, in that way that causes flights to be cancelled, or planes to tragically disappear off radars.

In fact it wasn’t just sheeting, the weather gods had thrown in pillow cases, doonas and the whole bedroom suite.

All well and good when you’re queuing up to show your boarding pass.

A different story when you slip through the looking glass.

Williamtown’s quaint like that: no cover from the terminal to the plane.

They’re talking about upgrading it in future but that was cold comfort for those facing the daunting run to freedom that evening. Emphasis on the cold.

Some of us held back hoping for a break in the torrent – or a wetsuit. But it just wasn’t gonna play like that.

Airport staff handed out limited numbers of umbrellas to less deserving types like women with babies and what not.

The rest of us prepared to become fish.

And when I took my first step onto

the wide blue yonder that was the tarmac

I felt water leak straight into the character splits of my old faithful leather ankle

boots. That didn’t feel suave.

I wished I’d worn thongs. I swear I could hear the gurgle.

The flight was going to be dusty and musty.

As far as derailing common sense, everything about this day had gone to plan.