WHO IS a chance to play in round 17?
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 R17 ins and outs. Check it out.
All eyes will be on the availability of Taylor Walker this week after the veteran left the field in the second quarter of Saturday's loss to Brisbane with a neck strain. Tom Lynch made a strong return in the SANFL with three goals after a long absence with a toe injury and should be right in the frame to take on Essendon on Friday night. Versatile draftee Brayden Cook also impressed at the lower level with four goals, as did Ronin O'Connor.
R16 medical sub: Jackson Hately (replaced Taylor Walker)
Verdict: Lynch for Billy Frampton. – Michael Whiting
After missing last week's win over Adelaide with a calf niggle, Lachie Neale is expected to be available and would come straight back in to play St Kilda on Saturday night. The defensive end of the ground might throw up some selection discussions with James Madden (hand) and Ryan Lester (hamstring) both close to returning following injury. Grant Birchall was exceptional in his return though, while Jack Payne has been strong as a third tall and matches up well with the Saints' three tall targets.
R16 medical sub: Jaxon Prior (unused)
Verdict: Neale for Rhys Mathieson. – Michael Whiting
The Blues are sweating on scan results for co-captain Patrick Cripps, who injured his foot in last week's win over the Dockers. In better news, Zac Williams will return from suspension and Zac Fisher should be fit again after a fortnight out with ankle soreness. Tom Williamson's spot might come under consideration with Williams' return, while the forward set-up might need tinkering to accommodate Fisher's availability. David Teague has hinted at returning to a one ruck set-up in the final weeks of the year, which could come at the cost of Levi Casboult.
R16 medical sub: Matt Cottrell (unused)
Verdict: Fisher and Williams to replace Casboult and Williamson, depending on Cripps' fitness. – Riley Beveridge
Young gun Josh Daicos' finger injury opens up a spot in the midfield/forward mix from the side that lost to St Kilda. Medical substitute Finlay Macrae looms as a contender for the vacancy, while Brayden Sier (30 disposals), Callum Brown (29), Jay Rantall (28), Jack Ginnivan (four goals) and Ollie Henry (two goals) all impressed at VFL level. Trey Ruscoe has also responded strongly to his switch to defence, while Tom Wilson collected a game-high 31 disposals with the pair in the conversation with Mark Keane for a spot in defence. Apart from a glimpse in the final quarter, the Pies' three-pronged attack didn't work against St Kilda with Mason Cox's position again up for conversation. Youngster Caleb Poulter could also need a rest after a quiet fortnight, while Nathan Murphy and Jack Madgen may be looked at.
R16 medical sub: Finlay Macrae (replaced Daicos)
Verdict: Macrae, Callum Brown and Wilson for Daicos, Poulter and Murphy. – Mitch Cleary
The Bombers need to make some changes but the pressure from within for spots isn't strong at this point of the season. Cale Hooker has been struggling for form in recent weeks and the Bombers could toy with bringing Zach Reid in as a defender and using James Stewart in attack. Nik Cox also looks ready for a break after a demanding first season at AFL level, while Tom Cutler had 13 disposals against the Cats but could be forced out. Reid and Brandon Zerk-Thatcher are chances to come into defence, while Matt Guelfi, Ned Cahill and David Zaharakis are possibilities. They could also throw in Nick Bryan and use the ruck pair in attack.
R16 medical sub: Matt Guelfi (unused)
Verdict: Cutler, Cox out for Sam Durham, Reid. – Callum Twomey
Defensive duo Ethan Hughes and Hayden Young are both available to return after overcoming injury. They should earn selection based on early-season form, with the Dockers able to shuffle James Aish and Darcy Tucker into midfield or wing roles. Mitch Crowden is available for promotion from the medical substitute role, while young midfielder Luke Valente waits to make his debut. Captain Nat Fyfe was labelled a week-to-week proposition by coach Justin Longmuir after returning from a dislocated shoulder, with forward Michael Walters again quiet. There are others behind the 2019 All-Australian.
R16 medical sub: Mitch Crowden (unused)
Verdict: Hughes and Young for Travis Colyer and Brandon Walker, who moves to medical substitute. – Nathan Schmook
The Cats will need to weigh up their best forward mix over the next month with Jeremy Cameron to be sidelined for an extended period after his latest hamstring setback. Esava Ratugolea, who was rested last week, presents as a tall option, while the Cats could revert to playing Tom Hawkins as the sole key target as they did for much of 2020. Then they've also got a decision to make on whether they keep Rhys Stanley as Mark Blicavs' ruck partner or continue with Ratugolea and if Shaun Higgins is a walk-up starter after he was managed. Mark O'Connor should be fit to play after his hamstring tightness, while last week's medical sub Max Holmes and emergencies Charlie Constable and Zach Guthrie remain in the frame. Luke Dahlhaus was quiet in attack against Essendon and his spot could be looked at.
R16 medical sub: Max Holmes (replaced Cameron)
Verdict: Ratugolea and O'Connor for Cameron and Dahlhaus. - Mitch Cleary
Coming off arguably the best win in club history, it's hard to see too many changes for the Suns' match with Greater Western Sydney on Sunday. Inside midfield bull Hugh Greenwood has rejoined his teammates after missing the Tigers game for the birth of his second child and will come back into the 22. Lachie Weller (hamstring) has missed two matches but is likely to return and adds nice speed to complement the Suns' grunt. Josh Corbett will miss with concussion, leaving the Suns with the decision of whether to try and find a third tall forward or stick with two. Zac Smith is back from concussion and could push Chris Burgess forward.
R16 medical sub: Darcy Macpherson (replaced Josh Corbett)
Verdict: Greenwood and Weller for Brayden Fiorini and Corbett. – Michael Whiting
Captain Stephen Coniglio made a successful return from injury with 17 disposals and 11 tackles from limited game time in the VFL. The Giants will now consider whether he has the match fitness to take on Gold Coast or will benefit from a full game at the lower level. Jack Buckley's breakout season has ended early after he tore an ACL and medial ligament against Melbourne. Key defender Sam Taylor is available to replace Buckley after recovering from a syndesmosis injury sustained in round 10. Ruckman Matt Flynn was quiet against the Demons and might be under pressure to hold his place as Kieren Briggs impressed in the reserves with 29 hitouts and 18 disposals. Veteran Matt de Boer responded well to being dropped to the VFL with 25 touches and nine clearances, while Jesse Hogan got through his first match since round nine but only gathered eight disposals and three marks.
R16 medical sub: Sam Reid (replaced Jack Buckley)
Verdict: Taylor in for Buckley. - Martin Pegan
Key-position pair Mitch Lewis and Denver Grainger-Barras (both concussion) look set to return if all things go to plan. More will be known about Chad Wingard's hamstring injury this week. Conor Nash (eight touches) found the going tough against Port Adelaide, while last week's inclusion Damon Greaves could go straight back out. Josh Morris (22 disposals) was effective in an unfamiliar role across half-back in the VFL, while Will Day (ankle) was spotted on crutches and in a moonboot on Saturday.
R16 medical sub: Ollie Hanrahan (unused)
Verdict: Lewis and Grainger-Barras to come in for Nash and Greaves. – Sarah Black
The Demons played Ben Brown on restricted minutes in the VFL last week due to the shortened break before Thursday night's clash with the Power, hinting at his return to the forward line. It will likely come at the expense of Tom Sparrow, who was quiet in a shock defeat to the Giants last Saturday. Sam Weideman had 21 disposals, seven marks and three goals in the VFL, but will likely need to bide his time.
R16 medical sub: Aaron vandenBerg (unused)
Verdict: Brown to replace Sparrow. – Riley Beveridge
Is it time for the Kangaroos to recall Jared Polec? He continued his return from a hamstring injury with 30 disposals and a goal in the VFL on the weekend, while Charlie Lazzaro (29 disposals, one goal) and Tom Campbell (26 disposals, 48 hitouts, nine marks, one goal) were also impressive. Campbell could return for Tristan Xerri, who has enjoyed a month-long spell in the senior team, while either Will Phillips or Curtis Taylor could make way for Polec after quiet performances on the weekend. Experienced midfielder Jed Anderson played a half in the VFL on Sunday following a long-term ankle injury but is likely going to need more time before he returns to the senior side.
R16 medical sub: Eddie Ford (unused)
Verdict: Polec and Campbell to return for Taylor and Xerri. – Riley Beveridge
Young star Zak Butters made a successful return from injury in the SANFL, but a five-day break ahead of Thursday night's clash against Melbourne presents a hurdle for his anticipated return. The tough youngster had 21 disposals, two goals and five inside 50s in Port's SANFL win, proving he is ready if the Power believe he can handle the short turnaround. The Power will need to replace Kane Farrell, who ruptured the ACL in his right knee. Important defender Tom Clurey also got through his SANFL return, while Hamish Hartlett impressed with 33 disposals and seven rebound 50s. Clurey's return off the same short break as Butters would require some shuffling in defence, with Trent McKenzie and Jarrod Lienert both worthy of holding their spots.
R16 medical sub: Martin Frederick (replaced Kane Farrell)
Verdict: Butters and Clurey for Farrell and Bonner. - Nathan Schmook
Another horror loss, another horror injury report. Bachar Houli (syndesmosis) will be out for an extended period, while it remains to be seen if Shane Edwards (ankle) and Callum Coleman-Jones (calf) will be right to play. Daniel Rioli and Sydney Stack have been building form in defence in the VFL, while sub Thomson Dow impressed against the Suns. If Toby Nankervis (knee) isn't right to come in for Coleman-Jones, Samson Ryan may be needed to partner Mabior Chol against Brodie Grundy.
R16 medical sub: Thomson Dow (used)
Verdict: Dow into starting line-up for Edwards, with Liam Baker moved to defence. Nankervis for Coleman-Jones, and Rioli for Houli. – Sarah Black
The Saints got through Sunday's win over Collingwood with a clean bill of health and they'll now need to decide if Josh Battle should return to their best 22. The swingman was the unused sub against the Pies and will be eyeing one of Leo Connolly, Ben Long or Mason Wood's spots to face Brisbane. Dean Kent got through another VFL hitout unscathed, while Jack Lonie also put his hand up with two goals. Darragh Joyce was another to perform strongly and could present as an option if Brett Ratten is looking for extra height in defence. Paddy Ryder last week flew to Perth and back inside 48 hours for a family funeral and may need a rest off a six-day break to tackle the Lions.
R16 medical sub: Josh Battle (unused)
Verdict: Battle for Connolly. - Mitch Cleary
The Swans won't be making many – if any – changes after thrashing West Coast by 92 points and finishing the match without any fresh injury concerns. James Rowbottom will hope to find a way back into the starting 22 after being rested due to ongoing soreness and watching the win over the Eagles as the medical sub. James Bell (15 disposals) might be the unlucky midfielder to make way. Ryan Clarke (39 disposals), Lewis Taylor (35), Colin O'Riordan (34) and Dylan Stephens (32) continued their strong VFL form but will have to wait longer for their next opportunity.
R16 medical sub: James Rowbottom (unused)
Verdict: Rowbottom into the starting 22 for an unlucky Bell who moves to medical sub. - Martin Pegan
Coach Adam Simpson has declared he will back his players after a 92-point loss to Sydney, but forced changes are likely after injuries to Jack Redden (knee) and Jamaine Jones (ankle). Andrew Gaff (thumb) was a late withdrawal against the Swans but could return. Star forward Liam Ryan has served a one-match suspension and will return. The ruck was an issue against the Swans and youngster Bailey Williams could replace Nathan Vardy, otherwise Oscar Allen could return to second ruck duties, allowing an extra runner to be selected. Hard-nosed mid-season recruit Connor West is waiting for an opportunity, while Jackson Nelson, Jarrod Brander Mark Hutchings and Josh Rotham are also available. The Eagles have made at least five changes for two weeks running, which Simpson suspected could have unsettled the team.
R16 medical sub: Jack Petruccelle (replaced Jack Redden)
Verdict: Ryan, Gaff and West for Redden, Jones and Vardy. – Nathan Schmook
Aaron Naughton has to be replaced this week by the Bulldogs given his concussion from their win over North Melbourne. It will be fascinating to see which way they go – Josh Schache appears well-placed to come in to the senior line-up and he kicked a goal from 15 disposals last week at VFL level having been named as an emergency. Ed Richards missed last week with illness and also seems likely to return this week, meaning the Dogs have some more tight selection calls to make.
R16 medical sub: Patrick Lipinski (used)
Verdict: Anthony Scott, Naughton out for Schache and Richards. – Callum Twomey