Callum Mills, George Wardlaw, Jamie Elliott. Pictures: AFL Photos

WHO IS a chance to play in round 18?

In this week's In the Mix we find the players who are giving their selectors plenty of food for thought.

Who's going out, who's sore, who is under the pump? Our reporters attempt to pick all the R18 ins and outs. Check it out.

The Crows need to make at least two changes to replace Izak Rankine (suspended) and Mitch Hinge (adductor), with draftee Dan Curtin and potential debutant Oscar Ryan among the Crows' options at selection if they want to expose youth. More seasoned options are Chayce Jones (18 disposals and a goal) and Ned McHenry (22 and two) after both produced strong SANFL performances. Key forward Riley Thilthorpe has continued to build in the SANFL and booted two goals at the weekend, but there appears little point in rushing the valuable tall back if he is not completely ready. Substitute Zac Taylor could also be elevated after another eye-catching performance in the role. – Nathan Schmook  

Last week's sub: Zac Taylor (replaced Mitch Hinge)


There's likely just the one change for the Lions' trip to face West Coast in Perth on Sunday after reliable defender Brandon Starcevich entered concussion protocols. Shadeau Brain has been a substitute three times and would be an ideal fit at half-back, while mid-season recruit Luke Beecken has impressed mightily in the VFL and could also be an option in the same role. Young forward Logan Morris has been subbed, or been the sub, the past two weeks and if the coaching staff decides to save him from the long flight, young tall Henry Smith or half-forward/midfielder Deven Robertson could be considered for an elevation. – Michael Whiting

Last week's sub: Logan Morris (replaced Brandon Starcevich)


The Blues are sweating on the fitness of key duo Tom De Koning (ankle) and Jacob Weitering (quad) ahead of this Saturday's clash with the Dogs. Both are likely to face fitness tests later this week. Marc Pittonet (26 disposals, 33 hitouts, six clearances) was dominant in the ruck at VFL level and will be on standby for De Koning, while both Lewis Young (23 disposals, 11 marks) and Caleb Marchbank (11 disposals, two marks) will be in contention to replace Weitering should they be needed. Jack Martin (calf) is likely to be available, but could return through the VFL. Jack Carroll (32 disposals, one goal) has impressed at reserves level recently, while both David Cuningham (29 disposals, six clearances, eight tackles) and Jesse Motlop (18 disposals, four goals) could add some spark in the forward line. George Hewett will be another option to return after last week's defeat, having been the carryover emergency against the Giants. – Riley Beveridge

Last week's sub: Matt Owies (replaced Orazio Fantasia)


Collingwood's injury list hasn't subsided with Brody Mihocek the latest premiership player to be sidelined. Craig McRae could regain Jamie Elliott for Friday night's blockbuster against Geelong, but Darcy Cameron, Jeremy Howe and Isaac Quaynor all need to prove their fitness this week. John Noble is expected to return from concussion. Lachie Sullivan responded to being dropped with 31 disposals and seven clearances in the VFL against Frankston, while Fin Macrae collected 30 touches and laid seven tackles. Ash Johnson slotted five goals to put his hand up for a spot, while Reef McInnes played only a half. Dan McStay is edging closer to a return and might play some managed minutes in the VFL this Saturday. – Josh Gabelich

Last week's sub: Ned Long (replaced Charlie Dean)


A strong win over Collingwood could tempt the Bombers into going unchanged for Saturday night's big clash against Melbourne. Veterans Dyson Heppell and Todd Goldstein were managed but could return, although the absence of Demons star Max Gawn could mean they opt for just one ruckman again. Elijah Tsatas (31 disposals, 10 clearances) starred in the VFL again and Archie Roberts (32 disposals, one goal) also impressed, while Nick Bryan (20 disposals, 50 hitouts, eight clearances) dominated in the ruck and Will Setterfield (22 disposals, nine clearances and two goals) was a strong contributor. – Dejan Kalinic

Last week's sub: Nick Hind (replaced Nate Caddy)


The loss of Sean Darcy to concussion will thrust Luke Jackson into the No.1 ruck role and open a spot for Pat Voss as a third tall forward after his six-goal performance in the WAFL. The alternative is selecting ruckman Liam Reidy and allowing Jackson to remain forward. An accelerated return for captain Alex Pearce appears highly unlikely, but the skipper has been pushing his case just two weeks after suffering a fractured forearm. If both Pearce and young defender Josh Draper (groin) are unavailable, Hugh Davies could earn another call-up. Defender Brandon Walker is pushing to returning from an AC joint issue. – Nathan Schmook

Last week's sub: Michael Walters (replaced Sean Darcy)


Ollie Henry will be hopeful of a return to the starting 22 against his former side Collingwood on Friday night, but the strong form of his teammates in the big win over the Hawks makes it hard to find a change. Jhye Clark (18 touches) was a late inclusion for the unlucky Mitch Knevitt (illness) but acquitted himself well. Shaun Mannagh, who broke through for a recall against the Hawks, was outstanding with 20 touches and 14 tackles and looks to have done enough to hold his spot. Mitch Hardie (36 disposals, eight clearances, two goals) and Oisin Mullin (25 disposals, eight intercepts) performed well in the VFL Cats' narrow loss to Box Hill Hawks. – Michael Rogers

Last week's sub: Ollie Henry (replaced Patrick Dangerfield)

Ollie Henry celebrates a goal during Geelong's clash against Carlton in round seven, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Damien Hardwick wasn't happy with Gold Coast's loss to North Melbourne at the weekend and he'll be forced into at least a couple of changes ahead of hosting Port Adelaide on Sunday. With Touk Miller (wrist) and Sam Day (plantar fascia) both unavailable for the next month, there's a midfield and forward line spot up for grabs. Alex Davies impressed in the VFL and could play on-ball, while Jake Rogers was clean in wet conditions to press his claims. Jed Walter appears a likely replacement for Day. Brayden Fiorini (42 disposals) could not stop finding the ball, while Connor Budarick also played well. If Jarrod Witts passes a fitness test during the week, he will replace Ned Moyle in the ruck. – Michael Whiting

Last week's sub: Bailey Humphrey (replaced Touk Miller)


The Giants are hopeful that Lachie Ash (calf) will pass a fitness test later this week, making him available for Sunday's clash with the Tigers. Nick Haynes (32 disposals, 13 marks) was among the best at VFL level after returning from a hamstring problem and could also return to contention. Xavier O'Halloran (23 disposals, eight clearances, seven tackles) continued his strong run of reserves form, while Callum Brown (18 disposals, two goals) responded to being axed from the senior side. Young duo Conor Stone (28 disposals, seven marks) and James Leake (24 disposals, eight tackles) continue to put their hand up for AFL selection. – Riley Beveridge

Last week's sub: James Peatling (replaced Leek Aleer)

Lachie Ash is tackled by Ben Keays during the round 16 match between Adelaide and GWS at Adelaide Oval, June 29, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

James Sicily could be available this weekend after missing the Geelong game after dislocating his shoulder in round 16. Jack Ginnivan is likely to need another week to recover from the hairline fracture in his fibula. Calsher Dear could be considered to replace Mitch Lewis after the spearhead tore his ACL against the Cats. Josh Ward put his hand up for a recall by amassing 31 disposals for Box Hill. Jai Serong is hunting another AFL chance after collecting 27 disposals and seven marks against Geelong's reserves and could play a role against Fremantle's talls while Ned Reeves registered 50 hitouts at Box Hill City Oval and Finn Maginness kicked two goals from 24 touches. – Josh Gabelich

Last week's sub: Harry Morrison (replaced Jack Gunston)


There's huge shoes to fill this week with the absence of ruckman Max Gawn (ankle). Tom Fullarton, who the Demons brought in over the off-season to provide ruck depth, seems the obvious candidate to replace the skipper, but young tall Will Verrall (28 hitouts, four clearances) has been honing his craft at the lower level and could also come under consideration at the selection table. Defender-turned-forward Harrison Petty missed last week's match with a hamstring issue but would be expected to come straight back into the side, pending a fitness test later in the week. After a solid showing against the Eagles, the Demons are unlikely to make too many unforced changes but ex-Saint Jack Billings (33 disposals), young forward Matthew Jefferson and recruit Shane McAdam (three goals apiece) could be considered. - Alison O'Connor

Last week's sub: Taj Woewodin (replaced Max Gawn)

Max Gawn receives medical attention during the match between Melbourne and West Coast at the MCG in round 17, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

The Kangas should regain George Wardlaw (concussion) for Saturday's clash with the Swans, while Zac Fisher (foot) faces a fitness test later this week but could also be available. Wil Dawson (shoulder) and Blake Drury (knee) are both set to return through the VFL. The reserves side had the bye last weekend, so there is no exposed form to pick from for coach Alastair Clarkson, but don't expect too many changes following an impressive performance in the side's second win of the season last weekend. – Riley Beveridge

Last week's sub: Curtis Taylor (replaced Dylan Stephens)

George Wardlaw in action during North Melbourne's loss to Melbourne in round 15, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Ken Hinkley could have some important weaponry at his disposal for the trip north to face Gold Coast on Sunday, with key defender Esava Ratugolea (hamstring) and Ryan Burton (foot) expected to be available after training on Tuesday, while Josh Sinn (quad) will be tested on Thursday. Hinkley will need to find a replacement for suspended forward Mitch Georgiades, with former Sun Charlie Dixon now available after serving a three-match ban of his own for an incident in the SANFL. If the coach wanted to go a little smaller, Willie Rioli (personal reasons) could be available, while Jed McEntee impressed in Port's SANFL win at the weekend. – Michael Whiting

Last week's sub: Francis Evans (replaced Zak Butters)

Charlie Dixon is seen during Port Adelaide's clash against St Kilda in round seven, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Both Dion Prestia (calf) and Dustin Martin (back) may be available to face Greater Western Sydney, but both injury-prone players need to get through training this week in order to be picked. Noah Cumberland was the inclusion for Martin last week, and wasn't at his best against Fremantle, while Sam Banks was the substitute but picked up six disposals in the final quarter. Despite the injury woes, the VFL team has been comparatively flying this year, Matt Coulthard and Steely Green kicking two apiece, while James Trezise has been in fine form of late, with 28 touches off half-back last weekend. – Sarah Black

Last week's sub: Sam Banks (replaced Jacob Blight)

Dustin Martin receives treatment during Richmond's match against Carlton in R16, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Seb Ross went back to Sandringham and starred with 30 disposals and nine clearances against Sydney. Hugo Garcia put his hand up for another AFL opportunity with 24 disposals, while Zak Jones finished with 20 touches after being squeezed out of the 23. After a fortnight in Ross Lyon's side, Tom Campbell kicked three goals and had 24 hitouts at RSEA Park. – Josh Gabelich

Last week's sub: Ben Paton (replaced Marcus Windhager)


Callum Mills has been declared a certainty to return this weekend after a long absence and will come straight back into the senior side to face North Melbourne. Luke Parker is also available but might be forced to again bide his time in the VFL, despite Isaac Heeney being unavailable due to suspension. The fact Taylor Adams was the sub last week underlines how tight competition for spots is as finals approach.  Martin Smith 

Last week's sub: Taylor Adams (replaced Matt Roberts)

Callum Mills in action at Sydney training on May 30, 2024. Picture: Phil Hillyard

The Eagles could look to the future and experiment after Adam Simpson's departure, with plenty of scope to still learn about their list in the final seven rounds. Forward/ruck Jack Williams could be elevated from substitute duties, while Zane Trew is a midfielder in need of opportunities before a decision is made on his future. Harry Edwards will likely replace injured key defender Jeremy McGovern, and Ryan Maric should come back into the team to explore what roles he is capable of playing. Midfielder Jai Culley and speedster Coby Burgiel are others out of contract who should get a chance to push their cases. It's only a matter of time until draftee Clay Hall gets a taste at AFL level. – Nathan Schmook  

Last week's sub: Jack Williams (replaced Tyler Brockman)


Luke Beveridge suddenly has personnel problems to key players. The Dogs will be without Aaron Naughton, James O'Donnell and Liam Jones this weekend, but Cody Weightman and Alex Keath could return from injury. Former first-round pick Jedd Busslinger will be considered for a debut against Carlton after another strong game in the VFL. Riley Garcia starred for Footscray with 27 disposals, eight tackles and two goals against Werribee. Luke Cleary finished with 28 touches, while Caleb Daniel collected 20 disposals against Werribee. – Josh Gabelich

Last week's sub: Joel Freijah (replaced Aaron Naughton)