With just three rounds remaining, the stakes continue to rise with finals positions up for grabs. Team selection becomes crucial.
Tune into The Match Committee with Terry Wallace and Sam McClure from 6pm in preparation for the teams dropping at 6:25pm AEST.
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Star Bombers fit to face Saints
Essendon skipper Dyson Heppell and forward Jake Stringer will both be available to face St Kilda tomorrow night. Heppell played sore during last week’s loss to Hawthorn, but is expected to take his place against the Saints. Stringer suffered a lower leg injury against the Hawks, but the former Dog trained during the week and showed no signs of discomfort.
Young Saint to debut
St Kilda youngster Ben Paton will make his AFL debut tomorrow night against Essendon. Paton gets his chance after a string of impressive performances in the VFL. With ruck duo Tom Hickey and Billy Longer both out through injury, Lewis Pierce is in the mix for a recall, while athletic big man Rowan Marshall is also a chance to claim the number one ruck mantle.
Hawks on-baller O’Rourke pressing for a recall
On the back of last Saturday’s vital win over rivals Essendon, Hawthorn are unlikely to make too many changes for this weekend’s crunch clash against Geelong. One man who is pressing for a recall is midfielder Jonathan O’Rourke, who collected 29 disposals for Box Hill in the VFL. James Cousins and David Mirra continue to stake their claims after both impressing at the lower level.
Gun Cats defender a chance to return
Star Geelong defender Tom Stewart will be given every chance to prove his fitness to return for Saturday’s huge game against Hawthorn. Stewart was close to returning against Richmond, after missing the last two weeks with an ankle injury. Ruckman Rhys Stanley is likely to return after being a late withdrawal from last week’s loss to the Tigers. Promising youngster Charlie Constable continues to inch closer to a debut after another strong performance at VFL level.
Trio of Suns to boost Dew
Gold Coast could welcome back three experienced heads for Saturday’s match against Richmond. Captain Steven May will return from his one-game suspension, while midfielder David Swallow (concussion) and defender Rory Thompson (hamstring tightness) are also a chance to line up against the Tigers. Ben Ainsworth, Michael Barlow and Jarryd Lyons are all in the mix for a senior recall.
Key Tigers duo to bolster reigning premiers
Nathan Broad and Dion Prestia have been given the green light to return for Saturday’s encounter against Gold Coast. Prestia missed last week’s match against Geelong with a rib injury, but will be available to front his old club. Broad missed the Cats clash with a calf injury, but will slot back into the Tigers’ defence. Bachar Houli and Jack Graham will both line up in the VFL.
Power defender in the mix
Port Adelaide defender Dougal Howard is a chance to play against West Coast on Saturday. Howard has missed the last two matches with a hand injury, but could return for the Eagles clash to bolster the Power’s defence. Sam Gray and Jack Trengove have both pressed their claims after dominant performances in the SANFL.
Slew of Giants set to face Crows
Greater Western Sydney could be bolstered with a number of players potentially available for their clash against Adelaide on Saturday night. Dylan Shiel (ankle), Tim Taranto (knee), Sam Reid (knee), Aidan Corr (groin) and Ryan Griffen (hamstring) are all a chance to return for the Crows encounter. Brett Deledio (calf) and Dawson Simpson (ankle) have already been ruled out, while Toby Greene (hamstring) and Sam Taylor (hamstring) are huge doubts.
Crows likely to regain two stars
Adelaide are expected to welcome the returns of midfielder Richard Douglas and exciting forward Mitch McGovern for the club’s do-or-die clash against GWS. Douglas (ankle) and McGovern (shoulder) will need to prove their fitness before getting the all clear. Defender Kyle Cheney is available after serving his one-game ban, while book-end Daniel Talia is on track to play despite suffering a corked calf in the last weekend’s Showdown.
De Goey to return for Pies
Jordan De Goey will return for the Pies on Saturday night against Brisbane, allaying fears the dynamic 22-year-old could miss the reminder of the season.
However, doubt remains over Jeremy Howe’s status, as the high-flying defender failed to train on Thursday with a corkie.
James Aish will return to the AFL side, marking his first senior game since Round 6.
Tom Cutler is likely to return after two games on the sidelines due to suspension.
After a strong effort against North Melbourne last week, don’t expect Chris Fagan to swing many changes.
North Melbourne to get star back
The Roos are set to be boosted by Shaun Higgins’ return from knee surgery, as he prepares to battle his former club.
Who comes out for Higgins will be the major question mark for North, with the likes of Will Walker and Luke McDonald in the conversation to lose their spot.
Unlucky Dog out again
Roarke Smith was knocked out with a concussion in the first quarter of last week’s victory over St Kida, only a week after being involved in a car crash.
It’s unlikely he will take his spot at Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon, with Billy Gowers and Marcus Adams set to face fitness tests to earn their way back into the squad.
No fear over Gawn health
Max Gawn had a light training week, but Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin has declared he is “really confident” the ruckman will battle Sydney on Sunday.
Goodwin also mentioned trio Cam Pedersen, Jayden Hunt and Josh Wagner at his weekly press conference, saying “we’ll see who is the right fit for this week”.
Jake Melksham trained away from teammates on Thursday, signaling he is unlikely to return from a hamstring issue.
Big names could strengthen Swans
The Swans are set to see some big names return, with Dan Hannebery and Gary Rohan likely to be declared fit from calf and hand issues, respectively.
With no other fresh injuires, John Longmire might give one of his youngsters, potentially Dan Robinson, Will Hayward or Ben Ronke, a rest.
Can Fyfe return?
Andrew Brayshaw won’t play after breaking his jaw and having three misplaced teeth from a punch by Andrew Gaff in last week’s derby.
Joel Hamling was a late out for the Dockers last week with a calf issue, with his status unknown for the Carlton clash.
Superstar Nat Fyfe is pushing to return, while Harley Bennell could finally earn his 2018 debut if he can navigate a calf ailment.
Minimal contributors in the big loss to the Eagles included Mitch Crowden and Adam Cerra.
Blues trio fighting fitness
Fitness will be the key word for Carlton this week, with the club hopeful that trio Matthew Kreuzer, Jacob Weitering and Jack Silvagni can pass fitness tests.
Possible exclusions from Brendon Bolton’s side include Matthew Lobbe, Nick Graham, Cam O’Shea, Cam Polson and Jarrod Pickett.