Main content

Why can't he get a game?

It's proving a hard road to get back in the seniors for premiership hero Tom Boyd - AFL,Adelaide Crows,Brisbane Lions,Carlton Blues,Collingwood Magpies,Essendon Bombers,Fremantle Dockers,Geelong Cats,Gold Coast Suns,GWS Giants,Hawthorn Hawks,Melbourne Demons,North Melbourne Kangaroos,Port Adelaide Power,Richmond Tigers,St Kilda Saints,Sydney Swans,West Coast Eagles,Western Bulldogs
It's proving a hard road to get back in the seniors for premiership hero Tom Boyd

Andy Otten

While he's missed the past two weeks with Achilles soreness, Otten was an emergency for the Crows' round one loss to Essendon. The 28-year-old was a great story last year as he fought his way back to play 19 games, including the Grand Final, after not playing senior footy since 2014. Otten's lack of speed was exposed at times in defence, but he was useful in attack. Tom Doedee has grabbed the backline spot opened up by Jake Lever's departure, while the Crows have plenty of tall forwards such as Josh Jenkins, Taylor Walker and Mitch McGovern. - Lee Gaskin

Ryan Bastinac

After such an excellent second half to 2017, it was a slight surprise to see Bastinac start outside the best 22 this year. However, coach Chris Fagan has shown he expects much more of his middle tier players – Bastinac is 26 and has played 159 games – than he does of his youngsters. The return of Mitch Robinson and Allen Christensen from injury, plus the addition of Charlie Cameron, has put the squeeze on for spots, but Bastinac was given one chance against Sydney in the JLT Community Series and had a poor day. He has slid down the pecking order in the NEAFL as well, with Jacob Allison, Zac Bailey among others jumping the queue. - Michael Whiting

Harry McKay

While the Blues desperately need to increase their scoring power, they have resisted the temptation to play McKay in the opening three rounds. McKay's pre-season preparation was hampered by a toe complaint, but he managed to play in Carlton's two JLT Community Series games. In the VFL opening round game against Collingwood last Saturday, he spent time up forward and in the ruck. The Blues are looking for more consistency from the promising big man before he is given another opportunity to add to his two AFL games in two seasons at Ikon Park. - Howard Kotton

Carlton fans are keen to see more of Harry McKay. Picture: AFL Photos

Chris Mayne

The former Fremantle forward has returned to the selection frame this season, and if not for a quad problem in round two he might well have got a game for the round two clash with Greater Western Sydney. It's some development given Mayne's dramatic fall from grace in his first season at the Holden Centre, when he was recruited to lead an inexperienced attack only to be banished to the VFL after just three rounds. The 29-year-old's attitude has been first class throughout and it will need to remain that way given the Pies have preferred young lead-up option Ben Crocker and there is now a forward-half selection squeeze with Jamie Elliott, Jordan De Goey and Alex Fasolo set to return. - Ben Collins

Kyle Langford

Essendon doesn't have too many players who fit into the 'Why can't he get a game?' category, particularly after fielding close to its best team last week, aside from a couple of injuries. But Langford fits into the 'Why can't he keep getting a game?' group comfortably. He played well in round one against Adelaide, perhaps the best game of his career with 23 disposals, but was one of many to be quiet the next week against Freo and was then dropped. It's not the first time Langford has been cut after a bad overall team loss. Langford is a big body who needs consistent time in the midfield. He can look like he lacks urgency at times, and this hurts his play, but if he can become more proactive at the stoppages and use his smarts, nice kicking and overhead marking, then he could carve out a good career with the Bombers despite managing just 33 games in three-and-a-bit seasons. - Callum Twomey

Darcy Tucker 

Given the Dockers' desire to promote youth it was a surprise when Tucker was axed just one game into the season, especially considering the 21-year-old had 12 touches at 100 per cent efficiency and five rebound 50s – an equal team-high – in the 50-point loss to Port Adelaide. Tucker hasn't put a foot wrong since being sent back to Peel, averaging 31 touches, and his ability to play a variety of roles is handy. However, Tommy Sheridan was picked ahead of him to replace Bradley Hill's run, which raised some eyebrows. Tucker doesn’t seem to have done a lot wrong, but with Stephen Hill returning in round two and first-year players Adam Cerra and Mitch Crowden performing well he has been squeezed out. - Travis King

George Horlin-Smith

Entering the final year of a three-year deal, Horlin-Smith remains on the outer for senior selection. In three rounds to date, he's failed to be named in a 26-man squad, instead overlooked for first and second-year prospects. It comes after the 25-year-old featured in both of the Cats' JLT Community Series Games before playing in two VFL practice matches, the last collecting 21 disposals against Werribee on Easter Sunday. Regarded as a fantastic clubman, the inside midfielder's lack of leg speed has hurt him at times. Last year he played seven of a possible 13 AFL games before an ankle injury ended his season. With the arrival of Gary Ablett and Tim Kelly, Horlin-Smith will need some big VFL matches to earn a recall and a fresh contract for 2019. Mitch Cleary

Injuries to Gary Ablett and Cam Guthrie could see George Horlin-Smith get a chance. Picture: AFL Photos

Michael Barlow

The veteran midfielder will undoubtedly play games this season – he just hasn't yet. Coach Stuart Dew wants to play a fast-paced, high-pressure style of game and can't carry too many 'one-paced' players. The Suns already have Jarryd Lyons – a great ball winner – in the midfield and Michael Rischitelli in defence and throwing Barlow into the same team might make a bit light on for speed. The 30-year-old had an excellent pre-season, is one of the club's best endurance athletes and was sensational in the NEAFL season opener on Saturday. He won't be far away. - Michael Whiting

Isaac Cumming

The young defender was one of the main candidates to take over at half back when Zac Williams (Achilles) went down during the pre-season, but a calf injury cost him that chance. Cumming missed the JLT Community Series but has been slowly finding his best form in the NEAFL and had 27 possessions and six tackles against the Swans last week. The 19-year-old is highly rated by the Giants because of his neat foot skills and the run he provides from defence at good speed, so as soon as he's back to some consistent form, he's sure to be considered for a senior debut. - Adam Curley

Jonathan O'Rourke

It has been a wretched few years at the Hawks for the No.2 selection from the 2012 NAB AFL Draft, with repeated hamstring injuries preventing him from getting on the ground. Since joining the Hawks in 2015 he has managed just nine games at AFL level, but none since round 20, 2016. The Hawks could do with some more leg speed and O'Rourke can provide that. You can't blame the club for being conservative with him, given his durability issues, but at some stage they have to press the 'go' button and see what he has to offer. He is still only 23 years old and was an elite junior at the same time as Jaeger O'Meara and really, has had about the same luck. O'Rourke has played three games at VFL level this season and in Box Hill's season opener against Williamstown on Sunday he racked up 29 touches and kicked a goal. - Ashley Browne

Angus Brayshaw

When Brayshaw missed selection in round one, many Melbourne supporters were shocked. The midfielder, pick No.3 in the 2015 NAB AFL Draft, had enjoyed a strong pre-season after playing just five matches last year following repeated concussion issues. Given Brayshaw's propensity to lead with his head into contests, the Demons had to reprogram the midfielder's approach to winning the footy to prevent further head knocks, and that has taken him some time to get used to. Making sure Brayshaw develops continuity in his football after just 15 games in three years, whether at VFL or AFL level, is something Melbourne is committed to. The depth in their midfield is another factor holding Brayshaw out of the side, with Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca, Dom Tyson and others ahead of him in the pecking order. Brayshaw gathered 22 disposals and looked a class above at VFL level against Coburg on the weekend with his composure and hardness at the contest standing out, so a senior recall is not too far away. – Ben Guthrie

Mason Wood

The oft-injured forward is fit, although he sustained a fractured thumb in an intra-club match in February, but is languishing in the VFL. It's become an interesting turn of events for a player held to just 26 games because of injury since being drafted in 2012. Wood's natural talent has never been in doubt, but he is stuck behind Ben Brown and veteran Jarrad Waite, while coach Brad Scott says he has "a few things" to work on. The 24-year-old had 15 disposals and two goals in a VFL hit-out last weekend and shouldn't be far off a promotion. Wood is contracted at Arden St until the end of the 2020 season and is a big part of the Roos' future. – Marc McGowan

Jack Hombsch

The emergence of Dougal Howard as a key defender has squeezed Hombsch out of the Power's best 22. Hombsch, 25, has played 84 career games, but only 23 in the past two seasons, which have also been interrupted by injury. Hombsch is a great back-up option to have if Howard, Tom Clurey or Tom Jonas is unavailable. Former Melbourne captain Jack Trengove has been unable to get a game at his new club, such is the Power's strength in the midfield. Trengove's been in good form in the SANFL and looks capable of stepping up to the senior side. - Lee Gaskin

Anthony Miles

The hard-at-it midfielder hasn't had a look in so far this season after just five games last year. He didn't play in the AFL team's finals campaign but was retained on a one-year deal as a depth player. The 26-year-old is highly regarded for his work ethic and dedication, which doesn't change even when he can't get into the team. Wins plenty of the ball, dominates at the clearances and tackles hard, and while he isn't doing anything obviously wrong to keep him out of the side, he simply lacks the flexibility to play a second role as midfield teammates Trent Cotchin, Dustin Martin, Kane Lambert, Jack Graham, and this year Reece Conca, can. - Jennifer Phelan

Anthony Miles has no trouble getting the ball but he can't get a game. Picture: AFL Photos

Mav Weller
The tough forward is yet to play a senior game this year and hasn't been seen in the senior side after a quiet performance in the club's opening JLT Community Series clash. With St Kilda struggling in the contested stakes in the opening fortnight of the season, Weller was set to be included to face Adelaide in round three after a 25-disposal, five-goal effort in the VFL, but the Tasmanian suffered a hamstring injury at training on the Thursday before the match. Weller, 26, carried a right ankle injury throughout 2017, but the season prior he was a dynamic part of the Saints' forward set-up. – Dinny Navaratnam

Nic Newman

The versatile 25-year-old was unlucky to be dropped after gathering 19 possessions in Sydney's round one win over West Coast, and despite playing 20 games last season in defence and on a wing, he looks to be out of favour. Newman's leg speed is his biggest issue where he can be exposed in the midfield, and with Jarrad McVeigh, Jake Lloyd, Callum Mills and Nick Smith locks as small defenders, there doesn't seem to be a spot for him at the moment. Newman uses the ball well on his trusty left boot but he might be forced to wait for his opportunity in the NEAFL. - Adam Curley

Nic Newman looked to be close to a regular spot at the Swans. Picture: AFL Photos

Mark Hutchings

He did get a game in round three as a late inclusion to take on Joel Selwood but Hutchings wasn't picked in the opening weeks due to match-ups. Elliot Yeo is often used to combat the opposition's most dangerous midfielder, and the Eagles decided against employing Hutchings in run-with roles against Sydney and the Bulldogs due to team balance. There's no doubt the Eagles are being more proactive around the ball after Nic Naitanui and Scott Lycett's returns, so the need for a stopper isn't as great as it was last year when Hutchings played 19 games and performed some excellent shut-down jobs. - Travis King

Tom Boyd

The premiership hero hasn't played senior footy since round 13 last year after he took time away from the game to deal with mental health issues. A glute injury late in the pre-season hampered his preparation for round one and he's been struggling at VFL level since. Switching between the ruck and attack, the 22-year-old looks to be lacking confidence and timing when going for marks and hit-outs. However, after dropping an easy mark on the weekend against Sandringham, the penny might have dropped for former No.1 draft pick. From that moment onwards, Boyd attacked the contest with far more vigour and self-assurance, and his voice out on the field was more evident. Coach Luke Beveridge has long viewed the versatile big man as better suited to the ruck at this point in his career, but said recently that Boyd needed to "find his mojo as a forward and contribute in other areas (of the ground)." - Ryan Davidson