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In the mix: round eight

The Cats are back in form and will be keen to get Ablett back in - 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,In the Mix
The Cats are back in form and will be keen to get Ablett back in

Get them in: Skipper Taylor Walker (hamstring), vice-captain Rory Sloane (foot), forward Riley Knight (managed) and defender Kyle Hartigan (hamstring) could all return to face Port Adelaide in Showdown 44 on Saturday. Mature-age rookie Patrick Wilson keeps pressing his claims in the SANFL.

Under the pump: Youngsters Darcy Fogarty and Jordan Gallucci are likely to be squeezed out, depending on how many of the injured players return.

Medical room: Half-back flanker Wayne Milera will miss at least one week with a hamstring injury. Walker, Sloane and Knight will be assessed.

Verdict: Depends on how the injured players train at Wednesday's main session. - Lee Gaskin

Adelaide will want Taylor Walker and Rory Sloane in for this week's Showdown. Picture: AFL Photos

Get them in: After a week's suspension, Nick Robertson is eligible to return this week. The rugged defender has missed just two games with Chris Fagan as coach – both through suspension.

Under the pump: Running defenders Jacob Allison and Tom Cutler struggled at the weekend, while Matt Eagles might have a question alongside his name purely for team balance against the small Bulldogs forward line.

Medical room: No major concerns. Cam Rayner had his shoulder iced after Sunday's match, but is expected to be fine.

Verdict: With Robertson back to play a lock-down defensive role, either Allison or Cutler will likely make way. Eagles deserves another chance despite the slightly top-heavy back six. - Michael Whiting

Get them in: Jacob Weitering should be straight back in the seniors this weekend after a superb display in the VFL last Saturday. In his second game back from injury, Darcy Lang impressed with his ball use again.

Under the pump: With several key players set to return, some will have to make way. Nick Graham, Jarrod Garlett, Aaron Mullett and Cameron O'Shea are likely candidates.

Medical room: The Blues will have to find a replacement for key forward Levi Casboult (broken rib). They hope to regain skipper Marc Murphy, forward Charlie Curnow and defender Caleb Marchbank.

Verdict: Expect up to five changes as the Blues welcome back several key players returning from injury. - Howard Kotton

Good form in the VFL could have Jacob Weitering back in the seniors. Picture: AFL Photos

Get them in: Classy veteran Daniel Wells must be in contention to play his first game of the season, a rested Callum Brown could be recalled, fellow midfielder Brayden Sier must be a chance to make his debut, and Alex Fasolo will surely return at some stage. Sam McLarty will enter the frame if ruckman Brodie Grundy’s shin problem flares.

Under the pump: Forward-half trio Ben Crocker, Jarryd Blair and Chris Mayne are yet to cement their spots.

Medical room: Skipper Scott Pendlebury, a noted ultra-professional and fast healer, is battling an ankle injury, while established trio Ben Reid, Brayden Maynard and Tom Langdon face fitness tests.

Verdict: Pendlebury’s likely absence will increase the need for Wells. If passed fit, Reid, Maynard and Langdon will return. If not, Brown and/or Sier to be given the nod. – Ben Collins

Get them in: The Bombers played Orazio Fantasia in the VFL last week for some much-needed game time and will be hoping to get him back in the seniors this week. Matt Guelfi could come back into the side as well.  

Under the pump: Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti and Jayden Laverde had only seven disposals each last week against Hawthorn in Essendon's loss so could be on the fringe of selection.

Medical room: Joe Daniher has been battling a groin injury, which may have been a factor in his form drop-off. Mitch Brown should be available after a calf injury.

Verdict: After three changes last week and no improvements in performance, it's likely Essendon will again mix up their team in a bid to get things right.- Callum Twomey

Will it be Fantasia in, McDonald-Tipungwuti out for the Bombers? Picture: AFL Photos

Get them in: The Dockers need more firepower. They are seemingly reluctant to swing Shane Kersten back into attack, so perhaps Tommy Sheridan or Stefan Giro could be called up to release Nat Fyfe, David Mundy and Lachie Neale forward more often.

Under the pump: Ethan Hughes was among 10 Dockers who laid one tackle or less against Richmond and could make way if Freo wants to swing things around. It will be intriguing to see if Michael Johnson is recalled.

Medical room: There is an outside chance star goalkicker Michael Walters will be fit after a knee injury but it seems unlikely he will be risked. Is Michael Apeness ready to give Aaron Sandilands a rest?

Verdict: It's strange to say after a 77-point thumping, but there might not be many changes. Not many are banging the selection door down. – Travis King

Get them in: Gary Ablett is back, while late out Zac Smith is available after his back flared last week at a local cafe. Harry Taylor will return in AFL or VFL. James Parsons (omitted) and George Horlin-Smith (concussion) both missed last week. Charlie Constable and Wylie Buzza have shown strong form in the VFL despite a bye last week. 

Under the pump: Rhys Stanley was solid after a last-minute reprieve. Zach Guthrie or Jackson Thurlow would seem the most likely to fall out of the back seven. Jordan Murdoch or Jordan Cunico could be the unlucky ones to fall out of the midfield.

Medical room: Daniel Menzel was hobbling last week and missed following a reaction to an infection. The club’s leading goalkicker would seem only a small chance. Brandan Parfitt's foot sees him unlikely.

Verdict: Ablett in for one of Cunico or Murdoch. With Hawkins suspended, Buzza or Smith may earn a call-up to allow Stanley to play more forward. If Taylor is back, Guthrie or Thurlow miss out after Jack Henry's run of form. Tough to see Horlin-Smith coming back. - Mitch Cleary

Get them in: Co-captain Steven May is due back from the infection to his broken finger but will have to pass a fitness test.

Under the pump: Young defender Max Spencer has been a little off the pace in his two matches.

Medical room: Kade Kolodjashnij will be tested again to see if he's overcome concussion, while Peter Wright made his long-awaited return in the NEAFL but needs more match fitness to be considered.

Verdict: May comes straight back in, most likely for Spencer, but apart from a poor final quarter last week, it's hard to see coach Stuart Dew making changes to a young team that competed well. - Michael Whiting

Get them in: young defenders Isaac Cumming and Harry Perryman were outstanding in the NEAFL last week, while draftee Aiden Bonar has been consistent in the reserves all season.

Under the pump: young midfielder Nick Shipley registered just one handball and one tackle against the Cats, while Dylan Buckley and Lachie Keeffe also struggled to have an impact in their first games for the club.

Medical room:  Josh Kelly (groin), Rory Lobb (knee), Jeremy Cameron (toe) and Brett Deledio (hamstring) could all be a chance to face West Coast, if they can get through Wednesday's main session.

Verdict: Cameron should be right to face the Eagles but Deledio might need another week off to be sure he's over his tight hammy. Lobb will be close but Kelly might need more training before he can return. Bonar and Cumming are ready to debut. – Adam Curley

Get them in: Ricky Henderson (gastro) and Will Langford (back spasms) were late withdrawals before the clash with the Bombers. Henderson would seem a certainty to return because of his running capacity, Langford less certain. Late inclusion James Cousins was great in a run-with role on Zac Merrett. Jonathan O'Rourke racks up big numbers at Box Hill but can’t get an AFL look in.

Under the pump: Tim O'Brien is just going OK, but for structural reasons will likely stay in the side. It might get interesting when Jon Ceglar is ready to go at AFL level. Youngster James Worpel was quiet when the heat was on against the Bombers.

Medical room: Langford bears watching this week. He could be right to go, or the spasms might keep him out for longer.

Verdict:  Henderson in for Worpel. And Langford if fit for the unlucky Brendan Whitecross. - Ashley Browne

Get them in: Co-captain Jack Viney is ready to play, but whether it's at AFL level or VFL level remains to be seen. Christian Salem (thumb) may also be right to go, but will have to pass a fitness test later in the week. Tim Smith, Cameron Pedersen, Jeff Garlett and Josh Wagner will also be considered.

Under the pump: If the Demons persist with Sam Weideman, which they should, then Jayden Hunt and Alex Neal-Bullen may find themselves under pressure.

Medical room: Has Viney (foot) had enough conditioning to return straight into the AFL team? The tough midfielder hardly trained over the pre-season, but has been in full training for at least a month now and appears in good nick.

Verdict: Viney's lack of match practice should rule him out of an AFL berth, and potentially it would be more beneficial to give him a run in the VFL first. However, Viney is a unique character and will be pushing hard to play. If Salem is fit, then Neal-Bullen makes way. Otherwise, the Demons go in unchanged. - Ben Guthrie

Get them in: Jarrad Waite is the obvious one after a rest in round seven. Paul Ahern inches ever closer to selection and travelled to Sydney last week as the '23rd man', so he didn't get the chance to push his case again in the VFL. The other one to watch for is Nathan Hrovat, who will be in contention for one of the forward spots.

Under the pump: Cameron Zurhaar has played three games in a row, but is goalless in the past fortnight with a combined 18 disposals.

Medical room: Majak Daw (foot) missed last week's match, but looms as a potential defensive replacement for Ed Vickers-Willis' (right knee) if he's fit. Vickers-Willis missed the last 11 weeks of the 2017 season with the same posterior cruciate ligament injury.

Verdict: There could be up to three changes at Arden St, but that seems high after such a great win. Waite is the only certainty, but Ahern could make his debut, with Vickers-Willis and Zurhaar coming out. Daw will play if he's fit. – Marc McGowan

Get them in: Midfielders Sam Powell-Pepper and Tom Rockliff look set to be recalled for Showdown 44 after the Power were smashed by West Coast in the contest last week. Defender Tom Clurey and Jack Trengove were the travelling emergencies.

Under the pump: Small forward Jake Neade had just five handballs in the loss to the Eagles. Dom Barry and Karl Amon – who will be assessed for concussion - will also be on the fringe.

Medical room: Forward Chad Wingard is an outside chance of returning, but he's only missed one game with a hamstring injury.

Verdict: Powell-Pepper and Rockliff will bolster the Power's midfield, replacing Neade and Barry. Clurey and Trengove also in the mix. - Lee Gaskin

Tom Rockliff and Sam Powell-Pepper could both return for the Power. Picture: AFL Photos

Get them in: Trent Cotchin will come back after missing Sunday's win over Fremantle with complications from the collision knee injury he sustained the week before. Anthony Miles continues to play above VFL level while he waits for his opportunity.

Under the pump: Hard to pick unforced omissions after a 77-point win, but Jack Higgins could be due for a rest after three games in 13 days while Sam Lloyd's status as the 23rd man could see him bounced again despite a decent performance as a late inclusion against the Dockers.  

Medical room: Cotchin returns but Shaun Grigg (hamstring) will likely miss again. Dion Prestia hasn't been entirely ruled out, but his calf soreness won't be taken lightly and he won't play if there's any doubt.

Verdict: Cotchin in for Prestia. Brandon Ellis played in the VFL but didn't set the world on fire, which complicates whether he deserves a recall. Toby Nankervis will likely have a rest soon and Ivan Soldo is ready if it's this week. - Jennifer Phelan  

Get them in: Wingmen Ed Phillips (37 disposals) and Jack Sinclair (33 and a goal) and midfielder Nathan Freeman (31) were prolific in the VFL, while Bailey Rice (23) starred in defence. Brandon White was the carryover emergency for the senior side.

Under the pump: Jack Billings might need a run in the VFL to regain confidence.

Medical room: There will be no Ben Long against Fremantle after he suffered a right foot fracture. Paddy McCartin is battling whiplash and has a sore neck, Sam Gilbert rolled his right ankle, Shane Savage has a corked thigh but Blake Acres should be back from a groin injury.

Verdict: Acres and Sinclair to return while McCartin and Long will miss through injury. – Dinny Navaratnam

Get them in: The Swans need some help for Callum Sinclair in the ruck and forward, so Aliir Aliir, who found some form in the second half of the Swans' NEAFL loss last week, and Darcy Cameron will be strongly considered this week.

Under the pump: If the small forward line set-up is ditched then Robbie Fox could be the one to go, while Harry Cunningham has been inconsistent this year and had a night to forget against North Melbourne.

Medical room: Superstar forward Lance Franklin (bruised heel) and midfielder Dan Hannebery (groin) will be close but might not have done enough to come in for the Friday night clash with Hawthorn.

Verdict: The Swans have favoured Aliir over Cameron so far, and his athleticism and flexibility will likely get him a game against the Hawks. – Adam Curley

Aliir Aliir is ready for another chance at the highest level. Picture: AFL Photos

Get them in: If Nic Naitanui is suspended then in-form Fraser McInnes will be the man to step up if the Eagles want to keep playing two ruckmen. First-year midfielder Brayden Ainsworth could be a chance to replace Luke Shuey, while Brendon Ah Chee will be right in the mix for a club debut.

Under the pump: There wasn't a bad player in the 42-point belting of Port Adelaide.

Medical room: Shuey will miss with his hamstring tear, and it remains to be seen if Dom Sheed (foot) and Lewis Jetta (calf) are ready to return.

Verdict: A lot hinges on Sheed and Jetta's fitness, but if they're not right then expect Ah Chee or Ainsworth to come in for Shuey. – Travis King

Get them in: Midfielder Lukas Webb (28 touches) and Jackson Trengove (20 disposals and 20 hit-outs) were prominent for Footscray on the weekend.

Under the pump: 
Youngsters Ed Richards and Tim English were quiet against the Suns and the duo may be due for a rest after impressive seasons to date. Lin Jong also had limited impact, collecting just the 11 possessions.

Medical room: 
The Dogs will be sweating on the fitness of Marcus Bontempelli (hip) after he was a late withdrawal from the win over the Gold Coast.

Verdict: Bontempelli and Trengove for English and Richards. – Ryan Davidson