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In the mix: round one

Staff writers  March 22, 2016 4:27 PM

AFL 2014 Rd 22 - North Melbourne v Adelaide

Will Brad Crouch be picked to help plug the hole left by Patrick Dangerfield's departure?


All eyes will be on Adelaide's team sheet to see whether Brad Crouch is picked for the season opener against North Melbourne. The emerging star returned from nearly nine months out of the game – and responded to being demoted to the SANFL for disciplinary reasons – with 40 touches in a practice match 10 days ago. Whether Crouch has done enough to face the Roos and help cover the Patrick Dangerfield-sized midfield hole remains to be seen. First-year coach Don Pyke has a mostly fit squad to pick from in his first match. Small forward Charlie Cameron, Riley Knight, Ricky Henderson and Andy Otten have put their hands up after overcoming injuries. Off-season recruits Paul Seedsman, Troy Menzel and Dean Gore are also in the mix, while first-round draftee Wayne Milera is on the cusp of his debut. - Travis King 


Captain Tom Rockliff did not play an NAB Challenge match, but will line up against West Coast in Perth on Sunday. Rockliff (hamstring), midfielder Allen Christensen (finger) and small forward Josh Green (foot) are all likely to play against the Eagles despite not playing a pre-season match. Coach Justin Leppitsch has already confirmed No.2 draft pick Josh Schache will make his debut against last season's runners-up. - Michael Whiting 


Despite not playing in the NAB Challenge after having shoulder surgery in the off-season, skipper Marc Murphy is set to lead Carlton in the season opener against Richmond on Thursday night. No.1 draft pick Jacob Weitering is likely to make his AFL debut against the Tigers. Weitering has been impressive in two NAB Challenge matches and should slot straight into Carlton's defence. Of Carlton's other 2016 recruits, former Adelaide midfielder Sam Kerridge appears certain to play against Richmond. Another former Crow, Matthew Wright, and Jed Lamb, at his third club after stints with the Swans and Giants, could also make the final 22. Irishman Ciaran Byrne, left out of the Blues' final NAB Challenge game against the Sydney Swans, is the club's nominated rookie and is eligible for selection. - Howard Kotton 

Jacob Weitering is likely to make his debut for Carlton against the Tigers. Picture: AFL Media


Much-hyped recruit Adam Treloar will play his first game for the Pies against the Sydney Swans at the SCG on Saturday night, despite the former Giant having an injury scare at training last week. Fellow newcomer James Aish received little game time in the final NAB Challenge game against the Bulldogs but the ex-Lion is firmly in the selection frame, particularly given the absence of classy runner Travis Varcoe. Upgraded rookie Corey Gault remains a chance to play a forward/ruck role after an impressive pre-season. Premiership defender Ben Reid didn't play in the NAB Challenge, but has been given the all-clear to play and is likely to take on superstar Lance Franklin. - Ben Collins 


It will be a fascinating team that Essendon selects on Thursday night, with a mix of young and old recruits likely to feature in the Bombers' team that takes on Gold Coast on Saturday. The club's first pick at last year's NAB AFL Draft, Darcy Parish, has overcome a minor hamstring niggle and could debut against the Suns. He seems likely to be the only player to come into the line-up fresh from the under-18 system, with fellow top-10 pick Aaron Francis not featuring in the NAB Challenge. Recent additions Ryan Crowley, James Kelly, Mathew Stokes and Nathan Grima also appear set to face the Suns in the opening round of what looms as a long year for the Bombers. - Callum Twomey 


The Dockers' round one mix is fairly straightforward. Star recruit Harley Bennell has been ruled out with a calf strain and may not be available for a couple of weeks. Aaron Sandilands will miss this week due to suspension. Zac Clarke is almost certain to partner Jon Griffin in the ruck against the Western Bulldogs following a solid performance in the WAFL. But Ross Lyon has all but ruled out any youngsters playing in the club's season opener. He said Lachie Weller, Connor Blakely and Ed Langdon had not taken their chances in the pre-season while Alex Pearce is underdone. The Dockers are likely to stick with their tried and trusted group from 2015. Matt Taberner is set to start up forward alongside Matthew Pavlich. Zac Dawson and Michael Johnson will likely be the key defenders and the midfield will have a familiar feel to it. Clancee Pearce would be the most likely of those that played for Peel last week after 32 disposals to travel to Etihad. - Alex Malcolm


Geelong expects to welcome skipper Joel Selwood into the senior side after he had a successful hit-out last Friday night in a VFL practice match against Richmond. He will be an automatic replacement for the suspended Nakia Cockatoo who will miss the first two games. Dan Menzel also had a good run against Richmond but his availability will depend on how he pulls up as he often battles soreness post-game. The Cats are relatively injury-free with Lincoln McCarthy a likely inclusion following his exciting NAB Challenge form. He missed 2015 with a foot injury. The Cats will be deliberating on the right mix of talls and smalls to take into the game against the Hawks on Easter Monday and a small defender's position is up for grabs with someone required to fill the breach left by Jackson Thurlow after he did his knee in week three of the NAB Challenge. - Peter Ryan

Gold Coast

Captain Gary Ablett is well and truly over a foot niggle and will take his place against Essendon at Metricon Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Ablett did not play a single NAB Challenge match, but has trained strongly in the past week and will line up against the Bombers. He will be joined by last season's best and fairest runner-up Kade Kolodjashnij (calf) and young midfielder Jesse Lonergan (ankle), who have both recovered since missing the final pre-season match. Vice-captain Dion Prestia (knee) is unlikely to play, while draftee Callum Ah Chee is a huge chance to debut. - Michael Whiting 

Suns skipper Gary Ablett is set to return against the Bombers. Picture: AFL Media


Star off-season pick-up Steve Johnson looks to be the only new face guaranteed to make his first appearance for the Giants against Melbourne at the MCG on Saturday afternoon. Fellow ex-Cat Dawson Simpson is an extreme long-shot after Shane Mumford proved his fitness in the club's final NAB Challenge match against the Brisbane Lions a fortnight ago. Academy draftees Jacob Hopper and Matthew Kennedy enjoyed solid pre-season campaigns but with the Giants' midfield stacked with talent, the pair appears certain to start the season at NEAFL level. - Adam Curley


There will be at least five changes to Hawthorn's round one team to take on Geelong from the side that triumphed on Grand Final day last year. The certain outs are retired pair Brian Lake and David Hale, departed free agent Matthew Suckling and injured duo Jarryd Roughead and Liam Shiels. Ruckman Jon Ceglar is a certain inclusion in place of Hale, while James Sicily should come in to bolster Hawthorn's marking and scoring power closed to goal. Angus Litherland is the lead candidate to bolster the backline in Lake's stead. Youngster Daniel Howe has enjoyed a great pre-season and also appears a likely to come in as an extra medium defender, while speedster Billy Hartung headlines the likely midfield additions along with Jonathan O'Rourke and perhaps Will Langford if the Hawks deem that one VFL practice game and an intra-club hit-out have provided the 2014 finals hero with enough preparation. Without tackling machine Shiels, he might be needed. - Ashley Browne 


On the back of three straight wins in the NAB Challenge, Melbourne has a number of tough selection decisions to make. Angus Brayshaw proved his fitness in a VFL practice match on the weekend and appears a certain starter against the Giants. Melbourne has to decide whether to play both Sam Frost and Cam Pedersen in the same team, or opt for one of them to complement Jesse Hogan up forward. Frost seems slightly in front at this stage. Heritier Lumumba is also no certainty to play after a limited pre-season, but he played a full match for Casey to throw himself into the selection mix. Oscar McDonald is putting pressure on veteran Lynden Dunn for the second tall defender spot and James Harmes should be rewarded for an impressive pre-season campaign. Tom Bugg, Ben Kennedy and first-round draftee Clayton Oliver are all likely to front up against GWS. Aaron vandenBerg participated in full match simulation at training on Monday and looks set to overcome an ankle complaint before Saturday. - Ben Guthrie

North Melbourne

Key Roos Shaun Higgins (knee) and Robbie Tarrant (back) are set to take on the Crows, having made good recoveries from minor injuries that forced them to miss late NAB Challenge games. Star midfielder Daniel Wells is also raring to play his first senior game since round two last season after overcoming the leg injuries that cruelled his 2014 and 2015 seasons. A carefully tailored pre-season program has helped Wells shed some weight and his practice match form suggests he can get back close to his best form. Former Hawk Jed Anderson is expected to make his debut in the royal blue and white on Saturday night, but 2015 draftees such as Ryan Clarke, Corey Wagner and Mitch Hibberd will likely have to wait a little longer. Defender/wingman Aaron Mullett fell out of favour in 2015 but a strong pre-season has him firmly in the frame to take on Adelaide. - Nick Bowen 

Port Adelaide

With almost a full list to choose from, bar Nathan Krakouer (jaw) and a few other injured youngsters, Power coach Ken Hinkley and his match committee face a couple of dilemmas when picking the team. Marquee recruit Charlie Dixon is set to play his first game in the black, teal and white after getting through his first full hit-out of the season against Richmond. After a solid NAB Challenge campaign, fellow recruit Jimmy Toumpas could also force his way into the team. The question is who would be left out if Toumpas gets the nod? Defender Tom Jonas appears to be on the edge, while veteran forward Matt White played just 37 per cent game time against the Tigers. Jake Neade looked sharp in the NAB Challenge and will likely hold down the small forward spot. Karl Amon will be around the mark, while Sam Gray and Brendon Ah Chee are likely to play. Matthew Lobbe is likely to go into the game against the Saints as the lone ruckman, with Dixon to provide a chop-out at stages. - Ben Guthrie 

Former Demon Jimmy Toumpas may make his Port Adelaide debut this week. Picture: AFL Media


Shaun Hampson will be given the No.1 ruck role against his former club on Thursday night as a replacement for Ivan Maric, who is struggling with back soreness. There are plenty of opportunities for fringe Tigers to impress, with Brett Deledio (quad), Chris Yarran (foot) and Reece Conca (hamstring) all sidelined and Shane Edwards (shoulder) and Shaun Grigg (thumb) needing to jump final hurdles. With half-back the biggest vulnerability, elevated rookie Jason Castagna is a strong chance to debut. There is intrigue over the rest of the backline and Troy Chaplin's place with David Astbury a certainty to play. Wingman Connor Menadue has also been impressive this summer and should earn a place in the 22. Draftee Daniel Rioli is a slim chance. - Nathan Schmook     

St Kilda

The Saints have a dilemma in the ruck. Billy Longer is a fair way off his best form after a shoulder reconstruction at the end of last season, with Jason Holmes likely to get the job if he is upgraded to the primary list. Tom Hickey is set to be the back-up. Nick Riewoldt dismissed any concerns over his fitness and will lead his team out. Paddy McCartin is likely to play for Sandringham as he returns from a hamstring injury. Jade Gresham should debut after an impressive pre-season. Seb Ross is fit and in form, and if match committee decides to play only one of he and Luke Dunstan, Ross has the edge. - Dinny Navaratnam

Sydney Swans

No.3 draft pick Callum Mills will step straight into senior football after an almost faultless pre-season. The 18-year-old will start in defence, filling a hole left by injured co-captain Jarrad McVeigh. Big man Callum Sinclair will wear the red and white for the first time after crossing from West Coast, and former-Bulldog Michael Talia is also a chance with veteran Ted Richards (calf) unlikely to face the Pies. In-form utility George Hewett could make his debut after impressing in the NAB Challenge, while rookie-listed players Tom Papley and Nic Newman are big chances to be elevated to the senior list. - Adam Curley

West Coast

The Eagles will be without the services of Chris Masten (ankle), Dom Sheed (pec), Sharrod Wellingham (knee) and Mitch Brown (finger) in round one. Lewis Jetta is touch and go to make his first start for West Coast as he battles a calf strain. Jack Redden looks ready to go after two games in the last two weeks but Adam Simpson could not guarantee he would be selected to face his former teammates. Exciting second-year players Liam Duggan and Jackson Nelson look likely to play against the Lions. Jamie Bennell is in the mix to play as a small forward following a very good pre-season. Mark Hutchings is underdone due to a persistent calf problem. But Eric Mackenzie is ready to return after 12 months out following a knee reconstruction. - Alex Malcolm

Western Bulldogs

Two players are likely to make their debuts in the red, white and blue with former Hawk Matt Suckling and mature-aged key defender Marcus Adams impressing during the NAB Challenge. Tory Dickson is over an adductor complaint and will play while in-form ruckman Tom Campbell's ankle is a 50-50 proposition. Jordan Roughead will lead the ruck division if Campbell isn't available. Tom Boyd and Koby Stevens will play their first senior games since the middle of last year, Tom Liberatore will make his long-awaited return from a knee reconstruction, while versatile defender Joel Hamling impressed in a VFL practice match on the weekend after overcoming a minor hamstring injury. – Ryan Davidson