WHO IS a chance to play in round three?

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 R3 ins and outs. Check it out.

Rory Sloane underwent a scan on the adductor issue that saw him subbed out of Saturday's loss to Collingwood, but was confident on Monday he'd be fit for Friday's Showdown. If he doesn’t get up, onballer Rory Laird is closing in on an earlier-than-expected return from a hand injury suffered in the pre-season. Midfielders Jackson Hately and Sam Berry were busy in Adelaide's final SANFL trial game on Saturday and will be in contention. Key forwards Darcy Fogarty, Elliott Himmelberg and Lachlan Gollant only managed one goal between them against the Magpies, but Adelaide may leave Riley Thilthorpe out again as they want more of a contest from him. Lachlan Murphy has overcome a pre-season neck injury and kicked two goals in the SANFL trial game, so he could replace Luke Pedlar who only had five touches playing as a small forward.

R2 medical substitute: Jake Soligo (replaced Rory Sloane)

Verdict: Laird and Murphy for Soligo and Pedlar. – Ben Somerford

Rory Laird in Showdown action, round eight, 2021. Picture: Getty Images

Not too much to decide for the Lions this week off the back of a second straight win and with no fresh injuries. Mitch Robinson is back from suspension, and after a quiet game in his place, Harry Sharp seems the obvious change on the wing. Ryan Lester and draftee Kai Lohmann both impressed at VFL level but will have to keep knocking on the door until a spot either back or forward becomes available.

R2 medical substitute: Jaxon Prior (unused)

Verdict: Robinson in for Sharp. Deven Robertson to play as medi-sub to give Prior a game in the VFL. - Michael Whiting

Brisbane's Mitch Robinson in action against Port Adelaide in round one, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

Adam Cerra and Jack Martin will be vital inclusions, having exited the AFL's health and safety protocols ahead of Sunday's clash with Hawthorn. Who they replace is another question, given the side's hot run of form to start the year. Lachie Fogarty appears the man on the bubble to accommodate Cerra's return. Could they take a cautious approach with Martin and start him as the medical substitute ahead of Lachie Plowman? It might be an option, given the club has been impressed with small forwards Matt Owies and Corey Durdin as well as the two-ruck set-up featuring Marc Pittonet and Tom De Koning. New recruit Lewis Young looks the natural replacement for Oscar McDonald, who will miss at least a week with a back injury. Liam Stocker (syndesmosis) will play VFL this week, while Paddy Dow won 32 disposals and kicked a goal in the reserves last Friday night.

R2 medical substitute: Lachie Plowman (replaced Oscar McDonald)

Verdict: Cerra, Martin and Young into the 23 in place of Fogarty, Plowman and McDonald. - Riley Beveridge

Jack Martin celebrates a goal in Carlton's round one, 2022 win. Picture: AFL Photos

American Pie Mason Cox looms as the likely replacement for Nathan Kreuger this Saturday night after recovering from the ankle issue that forced him to miss the win over Adelaide. Kreuger was replaced by Darcy Cameron in the final quarter on Saturday and Cameron could hold the spot, but Cox has edged ahead of the former Swan over the past couple of months. Beau McCreery is out for the next month due to a hip flexor injury. Tom Wilson was the unused sub in round one and kicked four goals in the VFL on Sunday. Callum Brown pressed his case for a senior recall, collecting 32 disposals and five clearances after being named as an emergency for the game against the Crows. Gun defender Brayden Maynard will return from suspension to face the Cats.

Round 2 substitute: Darcy Cameron (replaced Nathan Kreuger)

Verdict: Cox and Maynard to replace Kreuger and McCreery. Not like-for-like with McCreery, but there are plenty of smalls inside Collingwood's forward line to cover the loss. - Josh Gabelich

Brayden Maynard gets the ball away in the 2022 AAMI Community Series. Picture: Getty Images

The Bombers will lose Zach Merrett to an ankle injury and Nik Cox will miss due to his ankle issue from late in last week's game. Nic Martin should return from missing last week due to health and safety protocols, while Dylan Shiel could be a chance if he recovers from his side strain to take on the Demons on Friday night. Tex Wanganeen was the medical substitute last week and will be pushing for a spot in the starting 22. Kaine Baldwin (three goals, 17 disposals) and Ben Hobbs (21 disposals) were busy at VFL last week and could be in the mix while Alec Waterman will also be a chance to come in.

R2 medical substitute: Tex Wanganeen (unused)

Verdict: Merrett and Cox to miss through injury and Aaron Francis omitted, with Martin, Wanganeen and Baldwin coming into the starting 22. - Callum Twomey

Tex Wanganeen warms up before round two, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

Sean Darcy (ankle) is in doubt for Sunday's Western Derby after badly rolling his ankle in the 10-point loss to St Kilda. Matt Taberner is closing in on a return from a hamstring injury and could come in for Darcy, with Rory Lobb sharing the ruck duties with Lloyd Meek. Nathan Wilson will face a fitness test later in the week to return from a shoulder injury. David Mundy and Brennan Cox entered health and safety protocols last week, with the former's stint set to extend ruling him out of the derby but the latter should be available. Two-time Brownlow medalist Nat Fyfe will six weeks after undergoing a small back procedure last week. For Peel, Fremantle's 2021 No.10 pick Neil Erasmus pushed his case for a debut with an impressive display while Joel Western kicked three goals.

R2 medical substitute: Nathan O'Driscoll (replaced Sean Darcy)

Verdict: Taberner, Wilson and Cox for Darcy, Banfield and Hamling. – Ben Somerford

Fremantle forward Matt Taberner. Picture: AFL Photos

Chris Scott stressed that Shaun Higgins didn’t have any problems with his body after being rested in round two. The former Bulldog and Kangaroo could force his way back into the 22 after a disappointing performance against Sydney at the SCG. Irishman Mark O'Connor is available for senior selection after making a return in the VFL on Saturday, where Quinton Narkle pressed his claim for a spot in the senior side after collecting 25 disposals and six clearances, hours after landing in Melbourne after being the unused sub in Sydney. Sam de Koning is available for selection after missing the chance to witness history last weekend due to concussion. Gryan Miers also put his hand up by collecting 20 disposals and kicking two goals in his first game back from a syndesmosis injury.  

Round 2 substitute: Quinton Narkle (unused)

Verdict: Max Holmes and Luke Dahlhaus might be feeling the pinch with O'Connor and Higgins pushing for a spot in the 22. Tyson Stengle was quiet in his second game in the hoops, but after booting four in round one he shouldn’t be in any danger of losing his spot to Miers, with Brad Close producing the best game of his career last Friday night. - Josh Gabelich

Shaun Higgins celebrates a goal against Carlton in round 17, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Although the Suns were gallant in their 13-point loss to Melbourne, there's likely to be a couple of changes ahead of Saturday's trip south to play Greater Western Sydney. Izak Rankine (quad) should return in the forward line, as will running defender Lachie Weller from health and safety protocols. Sam Flanders and Alex Sexton really struggled to make an impact against the Demons, while Rory Atkins was steady given his opportunity. Stuart Dew could possibly leave Atkins in and push either he or Dave Swallow from half-back to half-forward if he wanted to juggle things.

R2 medical substitute: Darcy Macpherson (unused)

Verdict: Rankine in for Flanders and Weller for Sexton, pushing Swallow from defence into attack. Flanders to be used as the medi-sub. - Michael Whiting

Gold Coast teammates celebrate an Izak Rankine goal. Picture: AFL Photos

Expect a few changes to play Gold Coast on Saturday after the last-start loss to Richmond. Phil Davis (hamstring) and Daniel Lloyd (shoulder) are injury casualties, while a couple of players would be nervous after quiet outings. No.3 draft pick Finn Callaghan could be in line to make a debut after a strong performance in the VFL, while Jacob Hopper (managed) will miss again as he battles a knee issue. Braydon Preuss should be in consideration to play his first game in Giants colours alongside Matt Flynn to help combat the Suns' ruck tandem of Jarrod Witts and Mabior Chol.

R2 medical substitute: Matt de Boer (replaced Lloyd)

Verdict: Lachie Keeffe for Davis, Preuss for Jarrod Brander, Callaghan for Lloyd. Xavier O'Halloran to play as medi-sub. - Michael Whiting

Jacob Hopper bursts away from the pack in round 14, 2021. Picture: Getty Images

Gun defender Will Day is set to play his first AFL game of the year after returning via the VFL over the past fortnight. The South Australian has overcome the ankle issues that limited him to just five games last year and is now set to bolster Hawthorn's electric backline. Chad Wingard is a chance to take his place despite being replaced at half-time by Tom Phillips after hurting his hamstring against Port Adelaide on Saturday night. Max Lynch is available after missing last weekend due to concussion, but the return of Ben McEvoy and the form of Ned Reeves might make it hard for Sam Mitchell to fit all three in the same side. There aren’t many players banging on the selection door at Box Hill right now, with Daniel Howe the one who would be in the discussion after collecting 17 touches and kicking two goals against Collingwood's VFL team. 

Round 2 substitute: Tom Phillips (replaced Chad Wingard)

Verdict: Hard to make too many changes to the side that disposed of Port Adelaide by 64 points at Adelaide Oval, but Day should come in and replace Wingard if the Hawks decide to err on the side of caution.  

Will Day in action during round one, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

With the club ruling out Jake Lever (foot) and Michael Hibberd (calf) for at least another week, don't expect too many changes ahead of Friday night's clash with Essendon. The reigning premiers did have a number of handy performers in the VFL, though. Mitch Brown kicked seven goals, last week's medical substitute Toby Bedford booted three more, last year's first-round pick Jacob van Rooyen also kicked three, while 2020 first-round pick Bailey Laurie won 22 disposals to go with two goals. The option to call upon those players is there for Simon Goodwin. Whether he opts to do so is another question.

R2 medical substitute: Toby Bedford (unused)

Verdict: Bedford is due a run of games, but don't expect any changes this week.

Toby Bedford controls the ball in round one, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

The club will lose star midfielder Luke Davies-Uniacke (concussion) for Saturday night's clash with Brisbane, while Tarryn Thomas (internal bruising) could miss up to two months. In better news, expect key defender Ben McKay to return from the AFL's concussion protocols to bolster the backline. Jaidyn Stephenson could also come straight back into the team after being dropped last week. Eddie Ford kicked five goals in the VFL on Sunday and could be another option to add some creativity to the team's attack. Callum Coleman-Jones won 25 disposals, 17 hitouts and kicked one goal in that VFL clash, but the two-ruck set-up featuring Todd Goldstein and Tristan Xerri looks the way forward at the moment. Charlie Lazzaro was quiet in a win over West Coast and might make way for the grunt and energy of Ford.

R2 medical substitute: Aiden Bonar (replaced Luke Davies-Uniacke)

Verdict: McKay, Stephenson and Ford to replace Davies-Uniacke, Thomas and Lazzaro. - Riley Beveridge

North Melbourne's Ben McKay runs with the ball during round eight, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Port may be 0-2 but will likely resist making major changes ahead of the Showdown. Robbie Gray and Charlie Dixon are guns closing in on returns to bolster a forward line which only managed seven goals in the Hawthorn loss. Five-time Showdown medalist Gray (knee) is yet to be cleared but appears more likely to play than Dixon (ankle) with Port cautious with the big spearhead. Their returns will put pressure on Jackson Mead, Josh Sinn and Todd Marshall to hold their spots. Trent McKenzie was subbed out with an ankle injury against Hawthorn which was deemed only a sprain, so he'll be assessed during the week. With fellow tall defender Aliir Aliir (ankle) and Tom Clurey (knee) already out, the next in line is raw youngster Jake Pasini, but a Showdown debut may be a stretch. Miles Bergman and Trent Dumont, who both had pre-season injuries, may be considered.

R2 medical substitute: Jackson Mead (replaced Trent McKenzie)

Verdict: Gray for Mead. – Ben Somerford

Robbie Gray chases down the ball in round eight, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Dylan Grimes was a late omission against the Giants after pulling up sore following training last week, but is expected to be back to face St Kilda this week, while Jack Riewoldt is also due to return after thumb surgery. Grimes will likely take the spot of Ben Miller, who came in as his replacement against the Giants. Thomson Dow was substituted out of the game in the last quarter with a knee issue for Jake Aarts, who could retain his place in the selected 22, but Dow is also a chance to be passed fit to play which will make for some tight selection calls for the Tigers.

R2 medical substitute: Jake Aarts (replaced Thomson Dow)

Verdict: Grimes and Riewoldt in the 22 for Miller and Dow, with Dow to be the sub. - Callum Twomey

Dylan Grimes in action during Richmond's round one clash with Carlton on March 17, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Veteran ruckman Paddy Ryder is set to return to the senior side this weekend after blowing out the cobwebs in the VFL on Sunday. The 34-year-old has been plagued by Achilles issues over the summer but looks ready to go again after playing close to a full game against the Casey Demons. All eyes will be on what Brett Ratten and the match committee inside RSEA Park does this week with Jack Hayes. Can they play Hayes, Ryder and Rowan Marshall in the same 22? Dougal Howard missed the trip to Western Australia due to health and safety protocols and will return this weekend. Mitch Owens put his hand up for another opportunity by collecting 20 disposals and nine tackles in the Zebras' 83-point loss, while former captain Jarryn Geary took another step forward in his return from a shoulder reconstruction.

Round 2 substitute: Cooper Sharman (unused)

Verdict: Ryder to return to the 22, but not at the expense of Hayes. Given the limited preparation for the veteran ruckman, the Saints might manage Ryder's minutes in his first AFL game since July. Howard swapping with Darragh Joyce makes most sense, while Mason Wood could be the one that makes way if the Saints choose to stick with Hayes in the 22. - Josh Gabelich

Paddy Ryder (right) at St Kilda training ahead of the 2022 season. Picture: saints.com.au

The Swans are flying, and with no new injuries are in a great place to have an unchanged line-up to face the Western Bulldogs on Thursday night. Justin McInerney could return from a knee niggle, which would leave a real headache for coach John Longmire with the younger, vulnerable players all excelling against the Cats. Wait for the headaches when Tom Papley is likely to return the following week!

R2 medical substitute: Angus Sheldrick (unused)

Verdict: Unchanged

Why would you change this team?

The Eagles are likely to get a swathe of players back following stints in health and safety protocols led by gun forward Josh Kennedy who returned to training on Tuesday. Jack Redden, Tom Barrass, Nic Naitanui, Josh Rotham, Jamaine Jones, Jake Waterman, Brady Hough, Hugh Dixon, Zac Langdon and Harry Edwards will all be assessed once they come out of protocols too. Back-up ruck Bailey Williams is understood to have entered protocols this week. Andrew Gaff (foot) missed the round two loss to North Melbourne and wasn’t at training on Tuesday thus is in doubt for Sunday's derby. Jackson Nelson ran laps after being a late withdrawal with a knee injury against North with both facing tests. Elliot Yeo was also on the track but is not yet ready to return from a calf complaint. If Gaff or Nelson are declared fit, Xavier O'Neill or Luke Edwards could be squeezed out.

R2 medical substitute: Luke Edwards (replaced Brayden Ainsworth)

Verdict: Kennedy, Redden, Barrass, Naitanui, Rotham, Jones, Waterman, H.Edwards, Gaff and Nelson for J.Williams, Giro, Jamieson, B.Williams, Dewar, Ainsworth, Mountford, Black, O'Neill and Edwards. – Ben Somerford

Jarrod Witts tussles with Nic Naitanui in round one, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Bailey Smith is set to return from his hip injury that kept him out of last week's loss to Carlton. Hayden Crozier hasn't been ruled in or out of playing this week after his illness during last week's clash against the Blues, but would have to be in some doubt, as is Aaron Naughton with his calf injury. If Naughton doesn't get up then the Dogs could choose between Stefan Martin and Josh Schache, while Robbie McComb is pushing for an AFL debut after starring at VFL last week with 36 disposals and a goal.

R2 medical substitute: Bailey Williams (replaced Hayden Crozier)

Verdict: Smith in for Crozier. - Callum Twomey

A dejected Bailey Smith leads the Bulldogs off the ground after round one, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos