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In the mix: finals, week one

Premiership Tiger Kane Lambert is expected back after an ankle issue - 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
Premiership Tiger Kane Lambert is expected back after an ankle issue

Get them in: Defensive star Jeremy Howe will return after missing four games, Adam Treloar and Darcy Moore are pressing, while veteran Tyson Goldsack has played two VFL games and is also hoping to make the trip to Perth for the qualifying final against West Coast. Other candidates include big man Sam McLarty and midfielder Callum Brown.

Under the pump: Depending on the fitness of others, Adam OxleyJack Madgen or Nathan Murphy could be squeezed out.

Medical room: Howe (thigh) is finally back, but hamstrung pair Treloar and Moore are less likely. There is some doubt over Travis Varcoe following his sister's tragic death.

Verdict: At the very least, Howe will come in, probably at the expense of either Oxley or Murphy. - Ben Collins

Darcy Moore, Adam Treloar and Jeremy Howe are all chances to return. Picture: AFL Photos

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Get them inIn VFL coach Shane O'Bree's words, first-year livewire Lachie Fogarty was "miles" ahead of his teammates on the weekend. Conditions in Casey did little to continue Zac Smith's impressive month of form, while Quinton Narkle, Sam Simpson and Jordan Cunico are always in the frame. Jackson Thurlow appears the next defensive option in line.

Under the pump: Irishman Mark O'Connor is yet to nail down his spot, while Jordan Murdoch has been through the revolving door this season. Since being edged out of the defence by Harry Taylor and moving to a wing, Jake Kolodjashnij needs to fight for his spot. Ruckman Ryan Abbott's place hinges on Rhys Stanley's availability.

Medical room: Stanley appears a long shot be risked off a calf injury, however will be given every chance after his performance against Max Gawn in round 18.

Verdict: The closer it gets to Friday night, the more it appears the Cats will go in unchanged. If fit, Stanley for Abbott. Potentially Fogarty for O'Connor. Would mean Kolodjashnij or Cam Guthrie rolling back into defence.- Mitch Cleary

Will Lachie Fogarty come into focus along with Tom Hawkins in the forward line? Picture: AFL Photos

Get them in: Star forward Toby Greene, Zac Williams, Sam Taylor, Matt de Boer, Brett Deledio, Ryan Griffen and Aidan Corr will all put their hands up to play, but coach Leon Cameron won't pick them all.

Under the pump: Defenders Lachie Keeffe, Matt Buntine and Jeremy Finlayson, forward Daniel Lloyd and draftee Aiden Bonar will be those looked at.

Medical room: Greene, Taylor, de Boer and Deledio have been training solidly, while Griffen and Corr have done less on the track but should still be fit to play.

Verdict: Greene, Taylor, Williams and de Boer for Keeffe, Finlayson, Bonar and Buntine. - Adam Curley

Toby Greene will be a welcome addition to the Giants forward line. Picture: AFL Photos

Get them in: Midfielder Daniel Howe had 28 touches in three quarters and was managed through the VFL elimination final on the weekend, in his first match back after serving a five-match suspension. James Cousins, Taylor Duryea and Brendan Whitecross also played well in the dramatic extra-time win over Port Melbourne.

Under the pump: Teia Miles and Kaiden Brand played the full VFL game on Saturday, meaning it is unlikely they would play five days later in Hawthorn's qualifying final.

Medical room: James Frawley (back) and James Sicily (wrist) will significantly bolster the Hawthorn backline. There remains great intrigue about Grant Birchall (PCL), who coach Alastair Clarkson said he would recall in a "heartbeat" despite not having played at all this year.  

Verdict: Sicily and Frawley for Miles and Brand are certainties. Howe for David Mirra a good chance. Ruck/forward Jonathan Ceglar is also a possibility, which would mean one of Ryan Schoenmakers or Conor Nash making way. Then there's Birchall. Surely not ... - Ashley Browne

James Sicily hasn't played since round 17 due to a wrist injury. Picture: AFL Photos

Get them in: Co-captain Jack Viney is ready to return after overcoming a potentially season-ending foot injury. Mitch Hannan booted three goals from 12 disposals in the VFL at the weekend and took a huge specky to remind the selectors of his talents. Joel Smith (two goals), Cameron Pedersen (22 disposals and four goals) and Tom Bugg (24) were other key contributors.

Under the pump: Midfielder Jay Kennedy Harris has been on the fringe all season and could be unlucky, if Dom Tyson (arm) is cleared to play.

Medical room: Viney, who has not played since round 16, just started training with the main group on Saturday so will be slightly underdone. Dean Kent (AC joint) will miss, while Tyson (arm) is under a cloud despite Melbourne’s hope that he will be fit.

Verdict: Viney for Tyson, Hannan for Kent and Joel Smith for Kennedy Harris. - Ben Guthrie

Co-captain Jack Viney is set for a long-awaited return. Picture: AFL Photos

Get them in: Kane Lambert is expected to return from the ankle injury he sustained in round 21. Dan Butler is the other big discussion point this week with the premiership forward picking up three touches and kicking a goal in his limited VFL minutes on Saturday night. Ryan Garthwaite and Sam Lloyd were held over from the same game given the short turnaround to Thursday night.

Under the pump: Tough question. Nathan Broad has been down in a number of key areas lately but is a major part of their backline while Brandon Ellis and Reece Conca could be discussed as options as well.

Medical room: Jacob Townsend is out for the season with an ankle injury but Lambert and Butler should both be physically fit to be selected. Trent Cotchin is sore but will play, while Liam Baker's chances of a finals recall have taken a hit with the small forward offered a one-match VFL suspension for rough conduct against Williamstown.

Verdict: If Lambert returns, someone has to make way. The run of Ellis and Kamdyn McIntosh will be important against the Hawks while Conca's work in the middle could enable Jack Graham to be released to focus on Tom Mitchell. It'll be little consolation to the unlucky omission – especially if Butler plays and Jack Higgins is squeezed out – but the brutal fact remains, only 22 get to play. - Jennifer Phelan

Ryan Garthwaite was held over from last weekend's VFL qualifying final. Picture: AFL Photos

Get them in: Superstar forward Lance Franklin and gun midfielder Luke Parker should both be right to return from groin issues, but must get through training without any setbacks this week.

Under the pump: Midfielder Robbie Fox and forward Jordan Dawson were the players to come in for Franklin and Parker, and look likely to go out when the big guns come back in.

Medical room: Sam Reid (Achilles) could be a chance to play in the Swans' NEAFL final on Saturday.

Verdict: Franklin and Parker for Dawson and Fox. - Adam Curley

All Australian captain Lance Franklin will be straight in for the Swans. Picture: AFL Photos

Get them in: Star spearhead Josh Kennedy is finally ready to return from a hairline fracture in his shin for his first game since round 18, and Lewis Jetta (calf) is good to go after sitting out the round 23 trip to Brisbane.

Under the pump: First-year tall Oscar Allen is set to make way for Kennedy, and either versatile backman Will Schofield or Tom Barrass looks like being squeezed out given Collingwood's small forward line.

Medical room: The Eagles will be close to full strength with only Nic Naitanui (knee), Eric Mackenzie (toe) and Andrew Gaff (suspension) out of contention.

Verdict: Kennedy and Jetta come straight back in, Allen misses out and Schofield looks most likely to make way with full-back Barrass a better match-up for Pies giant Mason Cox. - Travis King

Josh Kennedy is finally set to return for the clash against Collingwood. Picture: AFL Photos


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