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Who's out? Selection puzzlers for the prelims

Steve Johnson kicked six goals against the Eagles - AFL,GWS Giants,Adelaide Crows,Richmond Tigers,Geelong Cats
Steve Johnson kicked six goals against the Eagles

IT'S DO-OR-DIE time for the four teams contesting the preliminary finals.

With spots in the Grand Final at stake, clubs are sweating on form and injuries as they head to the selection table.

Our reporters take a look at the arguments for and against selecting individual players, and predict the likely ins and outs for the two matches.

ADELAIDE

Injuries: Forward Mitch McGovern is highly unlikely to recover in time from a hamstring injury suffered at training last weekend. The Crows will also be missing attacking half-back flanker Brodie Smith, who tore the ACL in his knee in the qualifying final win against Greater Western Sydney. Star midfielder Rory Sloane returns after missing the qualifying final recovering from appendix surgery.

Under the pump: The Crows will stay with the side that has got them this far.

In the frame: With Sloane coming into the side for Smith, and midfielder Paul Seedsman shifting to defence, the main selection question revolves around who replaces McGovern in the forward line. The Crows can go two ways – if they want a smaller forward who will apply pressure, then Wayne Milera is at the front of the queue. He's been up and down this year, but played in round 23 and kicked a couple nice goals in the reserves' scratch match with GWS. Otherwise, utility Andy Otten provides a marking target inside the forward 50 and has been effective in attack this year, booting four goals against Fremantle in round 10. Curtly Hampton hasn't played in the senior side since an ankle injury in round nine, but is an outside chance. Jono Beech is another forward option.

Verdict: Milera appears to have the edge with his pressure and work on the ground. The Crows still have Taylor Walker and Josh Jenkins who can contest in the air. - Lee Gaskin

Rory Sloane will return after recovering from appendix surgery. Picture: AFL Photos

GEELONG

Injuries: Coach Chris Scott ruled out midfielder Cameron Guthrie (calf) for the preliminary final, although he is a chance to return for the Grand Final should the Cats qualify. Tom Lonergan (illness) is a certain starter for the clash against the Crows, while Tom Stewart has been passed fit to play after battling hamstring tightness against the Swans.

Under the pump: Rhys Stanley was a late inclusion for Lonergan ahead of the clash against the Swans and is no certainty to keep his spot. If Geelong takes the risk in playing Nakia Cockatoo, James Parsons, who has kicked just two goals in his past four games, and Darcy Lang, brought in to play his first game since round 14 against the Swans, would appear to be in danger. With Lonergan to return and Harry Taylor playing back against the Swans, the Cats could also decide young defender Zach Guthrie is surplus to their defensive needs.

In the frame: There is little doubt Lonergan will be recalled after missing the semi-final against the Swans with a viral infection. The Cats are also weighing up whether to recall speedster Nakia Cockatoo. The promising young forward has not played at AFL level since round 19 after injuring his hamstring. That follows two other occasions this season where he suffered hamstring twinges.

Verdict: Lonergan is ready to roll, having shaken off a viral infection, while Cockatoo is very much in the mix to return. The Cats love the defensive pressure the young forward brings and with his speed and power he provides a real X-factor. The Cats have already said Cockatoo will be in their travelling squad for Adelaide, but it seems more and more likely that he will play. Stanley appears to be the likely out for Lonergan and it will probably come down to Parsons, Lang and 19-year-old Guthrie for who holds on to their spot. - Ben Guthriek

Nakia Cockatoo is being tipped to come in for the Cats. Picture: AFL Photos

RICHMOND

Injuries: Nathan Drummond (knee)

Under the pump: Forwards Jason Castagna and Jacob Townsend. Castagna's inability to find the ball is balanced by his hardness and pressure, while Townsend has been prolific, with 13 goals from just three games (and 31 disposals). Do they win the ball enough?

In the frame: Shai Bolton and Tyson Stengle have been performing in the Tigers' run to the VFL Grand Final.

Verdict: Castagna fumbled seemingly every time he touched the footy in the qualifying final and has had seven kicks in his past four games, but his pressure is the reason he gets a game. Bolton has pressed for selection though after what VFL coach Craig McRae called an "outstanding" month. After booting 11 goals in two matches leading up to the finals, Townsend had just three disposals against Geelong, although two of those were goals. It's hard to change a winning team, especially one that won as convincingly as Richmond did last start, so don't expect any changes. - Dinny Navaratnam

Is defensive pressure enough to keep Jason Castagna in the team? Picture: AFL Photos

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY

Injuries: Steve Johnson (knee) has been the biggest talking point all week, but he should be right to go, while minor concerns over Devon Smith (knee), Brett Deledio (Achilles), Nick Haynes (knee) and Stephen Coniglio (illness) were dispelled when they trained on Wednesday.

Under the pump: Johnson's fate is a big decision purely because of his troublesome knee, while Adam Tomlinson will also be nervous given Richmond's small forward line means GWS don't need three tall defenders.

In the frame: Smith is the only realistic chance of coming in, either for Johnson if the veteran can't get up or Tomlinson, who doesn't have a match up in the back half.

Verdict: If Johnson feels he can contribute to the team he'll play, so that leaves Smith to come in for Tomlinson to play forward and through the midfield. Phil Davis will take Jack Riewoldt, with Aidan Corr's speed and ability to play on all sizes getting him the nod over Tomlinson. - Adam Curley

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs