AFL: Callum Mills’ slow progress as St Kilda almost injury free

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St Kilda coach Ross Lyon will have help dealing with his side’s persistent scoring woes as goalsneaks Dan Butler and Jack Higgins prepare to return against Melbourne on Sunday.

Butler has been cleared to return from the hamstring injury he suffered against the Western Bulldogs in round 6, while Higgins has served a three-match ban for the tackle which concussed Port Adelaide defender Aliir Aliir.

Without the duo the Saints have only managed scores of 7.11 (53) and 8.7 (55) in their losses to Hawthorn and Fremantle, but will have access to all their first-choice forwards against the Demons for the first time this season.

If first-year defender Arie Schoenmaker is cleared to leave the concussion protocols later this week, then untried tall James Van Es (ankle) will be the only player on St Kilda’s list unavailable.

Despite soaring injury numbers across the competition the Saints are not alone with almost no injury list, as Geelong prepares to face GWS with captain Patrick Dangerfield the only unavailable member of its best 22.

Key position Cats Sam De Koning (hamstring) and Jeremy Cameron (concussion) will still face tests to face the Giants.

Gold Coast only has three injured players along with suspended defender Wil Powell.

Carlton will assess Jacob Weitering ahead of its clash against the Suns after he was subbed out last week with a corked quad, while Adam Saad could return from the hamstring injury he suffered last month.

The Blues will be without ruckman Marc Pittonet after he suffered another injury to his finger during the loss to the Swans.

Hawthorn captain James Sicily should return from shoulder and ankle injuries in Hawthorn’s clash against Brisbane on Sunday along with Jack Scrimshaw (suspension).

It comes as the Lions regain star forward Zac Bailey from an ankle injury which has kept him out for the last month.

Melbourne confirmed key defender Jake Lever would miss at least four weeks following knee surgery as he also works through the concussion protocols following Sunday’s loss to West Coast.

Demons key forward Jacob van Rooyen (concussion) will be tested ahead of a possible return against the Saints.

Sydney coach John Longmire said captain Callum Mills would not return until “a few weeks after” the Swans’ round 12 bye as he continues to increase his running loads.

The Swans had initially hoped the skipper would be fit to return from his off-season shoulder injury immediately after the bye before a calf setback earlier this month delayed his return.

“He’ll be a few weeks after the bye. He did some running again yesterday and training again tomorrow,” Longmire said.

“But we want to make sure he does a really good block. We backed him off a bit when he hurt his calf a few weeks ago.

“So now he needs to get some continuous training under his belt before we put him back in the team.”

Longmire said key defender Tom McCartin, who was concussed in round 9, would miss Thursday night’s clash against the Bulldogs but was “pulling up well” from training sessions and would play after the bye.

He said Robbie Fox had avoided an AC joint injury suffered in the second half against Carlton on Friday night and “should be OK in a couple of weeks”.

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