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In the mix: Who's pushing for selection for round 17?

Lachie Whitfield and Patrick Cripps look certain to return this week, while Grant Birchall could be a surprise inclusion - 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,News,In the Mix
Lachie Whitfield and Patrick Cripps look certain to return this week, while Grant Birchall could be a surprise inclusion

Get them in: The Crows badly need leg speed and Chayce Jones and Riley Knight bring it in spades. If the Crows want to start a youth movement, then forwards Elliott HimmelbergBen DavisDarcy Fogarty and Tyson Stengle will be considered. Veterans Bryce Gibbs (22 disposals in the SANFL) and Sam Jacobs are options, as is inside midfielder Patrick Wilson.

Under the pump: Where do we start after the Showdown 47 debacle? Eddie BettsRichard DouglasJosh JenkinsJordan GallucciDavid MackayKyle HartiganPaul SeedsmanRory Atkins and Lachlan Murphy are among those not guaranteed to face the Suns. 

Medical room: Gallucci will have to pass concussion tests this week.

Verdict: I'm predicting four changes – Davis, Jones, Knight and Stengle come into the side, replacing Atkins, Betts, Douglas and Mackay. Betts needs a break in the SANFL to regain his confidence. – Lee Gaskin

Is Eddie Betts about to get the axe? Picture: AFL Photos

NINE THINGS WE LEARNED Is the Eddie Betts show on its last legs?

Get them in: Untried youngster Corey Lyons gathered 38 disposals to lead the Lions' NEAFL side to a 49-point win over the Giants. Rhys Mathieson had 24 touches and kicked three goals as the Lions maintained their unbeaten record.

Under the pump: Hard to find players who struggled. Marcus Adams worked his way into the game after a slow start and undersized Ryan Lester was outmarked a couple of times by Harry Himmelberg.

Medical room: Ruckman Oscar McInerney is available for selection after missing last week's win with concussion. Eric Hipwood is in doubt after suffering a knee injury against the Giants.

Verdict: McInerney should come straight back in to allow he and Stef Martin to double-up on Scott Lycett. If Hipwood is unavailable, that's a straight swap, but if the lanky forward gets up, it might be at the expense of Lester, allowing the stronger Adams to shift to his preferred defensive position. – Michael Whiting

The 'Big O' is available after his sickening concussion against Melbourne. Picture: AFL Photos

Get them in: The Blues will be desperate for injured trio Patrick Cripps, Harry McKay and David Cuningham to return. Untried defender Angus Schumacher, who has been an emergency a number of times this season, had 27 disposals in the VFL.

Under the pump: Having come into the side last week, Darcy Lang might return to the VFL after winning only 10 touches on Sunday. Does the heat come for Mitch McGovern after another quiet display?

Medical room: The Blues will lose Caleb Marchbank (neck) for the remainder of the year, while Jacob Weitering (broken nose) is also likely to miss this week. However, the side should regain Cripps (foot), McKay (groin) and Cuningham (knee).

Verdict: At least three changes, with Cripps, McKay and Cuningham to return. Marchbank and Weitering will go out of the side, which could put Schumacher or Hugh Goddard in the frame for a club debut. It could also see Levi Casboult or McGovern pushed into defence. Expect Lang to be the other omission. - Riley Beveridge

The Blues expect skipper Patrick Cripps to return this week. Picture: AFL Photos

Get them in: Midfield star Taylor Adams hopes to be back, along with defender Levi Greenwood, while mid-season draftee John Noble, a pacy half-back/wingman, could be in contention after just three VFL games. Wingman/forward Ben Crocker, onballers Tyler Brown and Rupert Wills and young ruckman Max Lynch could also come under consideration.

Under the pump: Mason Cox remains under pressure to lift his output after struggling again in the loss to Hawthorn. The need to combat West Coast's tall defenders will likely save him.

Medical room: Adams (groin), Greenwood (shoulder) and Thomas (hip) will be tested.

Verdict: If fit, Adams and Greenwood will return, while Noble's speed would be handy against the Eagles. Cox, Thomas and Brayden Sier could be in jeopardy. - Ben Collins

Taylor Adams is in line for a call-up against the Eagles. Picture: AFL Photos

BARRETT Weight of expectation could crush Pies' dreams

Get them in: The Bombers will be hopeful captain Dyson Heppell can recover from his foot injury in time to take on North Melbourne on Saturday. He was a late withdrawal against last week. Josh Begley booted three goals in the VFL, while Will Snelling (33 disposals) is also pressing his claims for a call-up.

Under the pump: Ruckman Zac Clarke had no influence on the game, so the Bombers will need to work out what they do in that injury-hit department.

Medical room: The Bombers will be hopeful Cale Hooker is fine to play after struggling with back soreness against the Swans. Zach Merrett suffered a heavy knock early in the game against Sydney but played it out.

Verdict: Heppell will be the big watch here. The Bombers don't have many options with their ruck division, so if Heppell comes back he might replace Kyle Langford, who came into the side late on Saturday after Heppell pulled out. - Callum Twomey

Kyle Langford might make way for Dyson Heppell. Picture: AFL Photos

Get them in: Ross Lyon declared after the Western Derby debacle young ruckman Sean Darcy would almost certainly return against Hawthorn, sparing Aaron Sandilands from the long trip to Launceston. Hayden Ballantyne could return for his first game since round one, and Taylin Duman might be back in defence to free Connor Blakely for more midfield time.

Under the pump: The axe could fall at the selection table, with Sam Switkowski, Travis Colyer and Mitch Crowden among those on the fringes.

Medical room: Stephen Hill (hamstring) ran strongly at training last week, but given his soft-tissue history it might be prudent to give the veteran more time.

Verdict: Darcy, Ballantyne and Taylin Duman in for Sandilands, Switkowski and Crowden. – Travis King

Aaron Sandilands' return to the AFL was underwhelming. Picture: AFL Photos

Get them in: Brandan Parfitt should return after being a late out. James Parsons (23 disposals) continues to rack up big numbers in the VFL with Scott Selwood (20 disposals, 11 tackles) now cherry ripe. Darcy Fort was the carryover emergency and will be considered with Zac Smith should the Cats opt for a second ruck. Wylie Buzza (2.3) was the most dominant key forward on the ground against Box Hill.

Under the pump: Lachie Fogarty hasn't set the world on fire in his two games, while Jed Bews and Jack Henry may be the sacrificial defenders if the Cats want to go with a more traditional ruck and forward/ruck set-up.

Medical room: Jake Kolodjashnij will need to pass a fitness test after he was concussed. The Cats are confident Esava Ratugolea is over his hamstring setback. 

Verdict: Parfitt for Fogarty. A direct swap if Ratugolea is fit and Kolodjashnij is ruled out. – Mitch Cleary

Big man Esava Ratugolea could return after a hamstring setback. Picture: AFL Photos

Get them in: Sean Lemmens was strong in his first NEAFL game after recovering from an ankle injury, while Jordan Murdoch (27 disposals) and Aaron Young (three goals) also played well. Peter Wright was a late scratching in the wet conditions and should be right back in consideration.

Under the pump: Plenty struggled in the horror show against Richmond. Jacob Heron looked a touch off the pace in his first game for the season. Ben King battled from limited forward entries and Brad Scheer played largely negating roles.

Medical room: Teenager Wil Powell suffered a knee injury that will likely sideline him for the rest of the season.

Verdict: The Suns desperately need some speed in their team so Lemmens in for Scheer and Murdoch in on the wing for Powell. Young could replace Heron (with Pearce Hanley or Lachie Weller spending more time at half-back) and Wright back in to give King a rest. – Michael Whiting

Youngster Wil Powell looks to have suffered a season-ending knee injury. Picture: AFL Photos

AROUND THE STATE LEAGUES Big Crow shines, tough Pie stats up

Get them in: Star runner Lachie Whitfield just came up short of resuming last week from a broken collarbone but should be right to face Richmond in a massive clash at the MCG. Ruckman Shane Mumford is also likely to be ready after missing last week with soreness. Small forward Ian 'Bobby' Hill continued to push his case with two goals from 19 possessions in the NEAFL.

Under the pump: With Whitfield set to come back to his role across half-forward and the speedy Hill in good form, Brent Daniels and Zac Langdon could find themselves on the outer along with midfielder Jackson HatelyDawson Simpson will make way for Mumford if Mumford is fit.

Medical room: Star midfielders Josh Kelly (calf) and Stephen Coniglio (knee) were both injured in Sunday's loss to Brisbane, with Kelly almost certain to miss the Tigers clash.

Verdict: Whitfield, Mumford and Hill come in for Daniels, Simpson and Kelly. – Adam Curley

Lachie Whitfield will be a huge boost for the Giants. Picture: AFL Photos

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Get them in: Grant Birchall played close to a full game for Box Hill, after completing the first half of his two previous VFL matches. This is the closest the 2012 All Australian's been to a senior return since his last appearance in round 15, 2017. If the Hawks are after more midfield depth, then the vastly improved Harry Jones and James Cousins are the best options.

Under the pump: Conor Glass had a pair of defensive-50 turnovers and gave away a 50m penalty against Collingwood, so he might be vulnerable because of Birchall's potential inclusion.

Medical room: Chad Wingard (hamstring) and Jack Scrimshaw (knee) have made slow progress, with Alastair Clarkson admitting last week to being concerned with Wingard's continuity. Jarryd Roughead (ribs/side strain) managed to play in the VFL after a week off, but Dylan Moore (groin) came out of the senior side. Marc Pittonet (concussion) missed a second straight VFL game and fellow ruckman Ned Reeves was also out at the weekend.

Verdict: Birchall comes in for Glass. – Marc McGowan

Will Grant Birchall be picked to play his first AFL game for two years? Picture: AFL Photos

Get them in: On return from bone bruising in his reconstructed left knee, Jake Lever came through unscathed in the VFL. Draftee James Jordon collected 26 disposals in the VFL and key defender Oscar McDonald had 17.

Under the pump: In his debut, Kyle Dunkley had 11 disposals in the win over Carlton but would be unlucky to be dropped after one game.

Medical room: There are issues at both ends of the ground. Tom McDonald's season is likely done after knee surgery, Marty Hore suffered a broken collarbone against the Blues and Harrison Petty was concussed. Gun ruckman Max Gawn should be back if he overcomes his left ankle sprain. 

Verdict: Gawn and Lever to replace McDonald and Hore. Despite Gawn's presence, Braydon Preuss keeps his spot and spends more time forward in Tom McDonald's absence. If Petty isn't declared fit, Oscar McDonald comes in. - Dinny Navaratnam

Max Gawn is set to return after missing last week's narrow win over Carlton. Picture: AFL Photos

Get them in: Ben McKay (23 disposals, 14 marks) and Jamie Macmillan (19) – two games back from a calf complaint – are possibly competing for one senior spot despite being different types of defenders. Lachie Hosie might come into contention if Mason Wood (quad) doesn't come up.

Under the pump: Tall backman Sam Durdin (three possessions) seems the most likely Roo to go out if there is a change, but caretaker coach Rhyce Shaw is yet to make an unforced one in five games.

Medical room: Wood (quad) spent large chunks of time off the ground on Sunday but finished the match and will likely have to pass a fitness test to face Essendon. Majak Daw's VFL return from serious hip and pelvis injuries was a success, and the decision on whether he backs up this weekend is yet to be announced. Aaron Hall (mental health) has taken indefinite personal leave, while the prognosis for Dom Tyson (calf) is now 'to be confirmed', after last playing more than a month ago. Tom Murphy faces a fortnight out with an ankle injury, Shaun Higgins (AC joint) is possibly just one week off and Tom Wilkinson (ankle) could return in the VFL.

Verdict: No change, with Durdin to man one of the Bombers' various talls. – Marc McGowan

Ben McKay pressed his claims for senior selection with a strong performance in the VFL. Picture: AFL Photos

Get them in: Former captain Travis Boak is set to be a huge inclusion for Sunday's crucial encounter with Brisbane at Adelaide Oval. Boak injured his back in the warm-up and didn't play in last weekend's Showdown smashing of Adelaide. Hard to see the Power making any unforced changes after such a great win, but defenders Matthew BroadbentJoel Garner and Jarrod Lienert had strong SANFL games, while Billy Frampton kicked four goals.

Under the pump: Sam Powell-Pepper could be the unlucky one to miss out if Boak returns, while Zak Butters might be squeezed out.

Medical room: Boak will be assessed this week. Ruckman Scott Lycett is expected to be available after playing out the Showdown following a knee injury.

Verdict: One change, Boak in for Powell-Pepper. - Lee Gaskin

Travis Boak looks set to play after being a late withdrawal for the Showdown. Picture: AFL Photos

FANTASY FORM WATCH The Pig delivers again on tough week for coaches

Get them in: Spearhead Jack Riewoldt is a real chance to return this week from a PCL injury, no doubt causing headaches at selection after a 92-point win. Liam Baker (29 disposals, eight marks) impressed in defence in the VFL, while Jack Higgins (22 and a goal) continues to press for a recall.

Under the pump: There weren't many who didn't contribute in the thumping victory, but Derek Eggmolesse-Smith may find himself back in the VFL purely on a last-in, first-out basis with Riewoldt pressing and Shane Edwards able to swing back.

Medical room: Versatile tall Noah Balta injured his quad in the VFL, assuring Mabior Chol of another AFL game. Josh Caddy missed the Gold Coast win with a leg injury.

Verdict:  Some very tough decisions to be made this week. Eggmolesse-Smith for Riewoldt (and a few magnet changes), while Daniel Rioli may be the one to make way for Josh Caddy if fit. – Sarah Black

It'll be hard to hold Jack Riewoldt back if he's declared fit this week. Picture: AFL Photos

THE RUN HOME Are there shades of 2017 about these Tigers?

Get them in: On return from a right knee injury, Jack Lonie booted three goals in the VFL. Down back, Jonathon Marsh and Brandon White impressed, while key defender Nathan Brown was the travelling emergency for the loss to North Melbourne in Tasmania.

Under the pump: Up forward, Matthew Parker is going through a quiet patch. Nick Coffield didn't excel but there's a strong argument to keep him in the side for development.

Medical room: Midfielder Dan Hannebery needs to overcome soreness but the club will be conservative with him. Josh Battle is expected to miss with a hip issue.

Verdict: With Esava Ratugolea expected to return from a hamstring injury for Geelong and Tom Hawkins also in attack, the Saints will probably include Brown to replace Battle, but the Saints will mull over bringing in Marsh instead. Lonie likely takes Parker's spot. - Dinny Navaratnam

Forward Jack Lonie has not played in the AFL since round six. Picture: AFL Photos

Get them in: Ruckman Darcy Cameron (quad) will be considered if he can train solidly this week, but veteran Jarrad McVeigh (hamstring) will play in the NEAFL if he gets through a full week on the track. Kieren Jack and Ryan Clarke found plenty of footy in the reserves last week, while travelling emergency Robbie Fox is also in the frame.

Under the pump: Small forwards James Rose and Ben Ronke struggled to have an impact against Essendon last week and might be in trouble if coach John Longmire makes changes.

Medical room: Cameron hasn't played for a month at any level, so his chances depend on how he can perform on the track.

Verdict: The Swans will stick with Aliir Aliir in the ruck after he performed well last week and give Cameron another week of training. No change. – Adam Curley

Small forward Ben Ronke has struggled this year. Picture: AFL Photos

Get them in: Spearhead Josh Kennedy missed the Western Derby through illness and a week off might benefit the battle-worn veteran in the run home. He should be back for the Grand Final rematch against Collingwood on Friday night. Will Schofield might come under consideration for a job on Jordan De Goey.

Under the pump: It's going to be tough changing the side after a 91-point triumph but someone has to miss if Kennedy is healthy. It could be last man in Brendon Ah Chee, Oscar Allen or Jackson Nelson – all of whom would be unlucky.

Medical room: The Eagles will be close to full-strength with Kennedy back, and Mark Hutchings (hamstring) and Nathan Vardy (knee) aren't far off being available and exerting more pressure for spots.

Verdict: Kennedy for Ah Chee, despite the risk of being too tall against the Magpies. – Travis King

Brendon Ah Chee is under pressure to keep his spot. Picture: AFL Photos

Get them in: Midfielder Mitch Wallis made his return from an ankle injury in Footscray's 58-point win over Richmond in the VFL. Wallis, who has been out since round 10, had 22 disposals and six tackles. Veteran defender Dale Morris will no doubt be in the conversation at the selection table following another solid game, but might be another couple of weeks off. First-year Dog and father-son prospect Rhylee West continued his strong body of work in the twos with 24 touches and two goals, while Bailey Dale had a team-high 27 disposals.

Under the pump: It would be very harsh to drop anyone following impressive wins against Port Adelaide and the top-of-the-table Geelong. Defender Roarke Smith had a tough night against the Cats but surely has some credits in the bank after perhaps the best performance of his career against the Power.

Medical room: The Dogs got through unscathed in the ones but weren't so lucky in the twos, with Ryan Gardner out for 7-9 weeks with a knee injury. Tom Liberatore (knee) and Billy Gowers (ankle) are both set to resume full training this week but defender Caleb Daniel is still another week or two away with his hamstring injury. 

Verdict: No changes – the Dogs are well placed to face the injury-ravaged Demons so it's an extra week in the VFL for Morris and Wallis. – Josh Schonafinger

Mitch Wallis might need an extra week in the VFL after returning from an ankle injury. Picture: AFL Photos

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