ESSENDON has made brave calls on star duo Zach Merrett and Jake Stringer, with both set to make remarkable returns from injury ahead of Monday's crucial Anzac Day clash with Collingwood.

Merrett has been absent since round two with a syndesmosis injury, while Stringer has been sidelined since round three with a hamstring problem, with both surprise inclusions in Bombers' extended 26-man squads earlier this week.

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Their place in Monday's fixture was subsequently at the forefront of much speculation, though the gun pair both return – alongside young forward Kaine Baldwin – as the Bombers look to improve upon their horror 1-4 start to the year.

15:25 Mins
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FRIDAY KNOCK OFFS: Kevin Sheedy on how Dons can steady the ship

Dylan Buckley is joined by Kevin Sheedy to discuss the Anzac Day game, Essendon's form and more

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Speedy defender Nick Hind and veteran forward Devon Smith have been axed from Essendon's team, alongside Tom Cutler, with ruckman Andrew Phillips going out of the team due to injury.

Collingwood has also named three inclusions, with key forward trio Brody Mihocek, Beau McCreery and Jack Ginnivan all returning from injury. They replace the omitted Callum Brown, Mason Cox and Tom Wilson, as well as the injured Jordan Roughead.

04:18 Mins
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'They fought for our country, all we're doing is playing a game'

Hear from Collingwood, Essendon, Melbourne and Richmond stars ahead of the marquee Anzac Day games

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In Monday's earlier game, Sydney superstar Lance Franklin will make a return against his former side Hawthorn in place of Sam Reid after missing last week's trip to Western Australia with a broken finger.

It means that former Swans captain Josh Kennedy is an emergency again after starting last week's win over the Eagles as the substitute.

The Hawks have four inclusions, led by star Chad Wingard, youngster Will Day and ruckman Max Lynch all returning from frustrating injury-interrupted starts. Finn Maginness also returns.

Changkuoth Jiath, Mitch Lewis, Tom Phillips and Ned Reeves are all forced omissions due to respective injury issues, while veteran midfielder Liam Shiels has been managed for the match.

Sunday, April 24

North Melbourne v Geelong at Blundstone Arena, 1.10pm AEST

NORTH MELBOURNE

In: T.Thomas, P.Curtis, C.Zurhaar
Out: A.Hall (hamstring), J.Stephenson (illness), T.Powell (omitted), E.Ford (omitted)

New: Paul Curtis

Last week's sub: T. Powell (replaced A. Hall)

GEELONG

In: S.Higgins, O.Dempsey
Out: P.Dangerfield (injured), L.Dahlhaus (managed), J.Henry (injured)

New: Oliver Dempsey

Last week's sub: J. Kolodjashnij (replaced J. Henry)

Gold Coast v Brisbane at Metricon Stadium, 4.10pm AEST

GOLD COAST

In: C.Budarick
Out: R.Atkins (omitted), A.Davies (omitted)

Last week's sub: R. Atkins (replaced M. Chol)

BRISBANE

In: K.Coleman
Out: M.Robinson (calf), N.Cockatoo (omitted)

Last week's sub: N. Cockatoo (unused)

Richmond v Melbourne at the MCG, 7.25pm AEST

RICHMOND

In: J.Gibcus, K.McIntosh, R.Mansell, R.Collier-Dawkins
Out: B.Miller (omitted), J.Aarts (omitted), M.Pickett (hamstring), H.Ralphsmith (ribs), M.Parker (omitted)

Last week's sub: J. Aarts (replaced H. Ralphsmith)

MELBOURNE

In: J.Smith, B.Brown, L.Dunstan
Out: J.Lever (HS Protocol), J.Viney (HS Protocol), T.McDonald (omitted), T.Bedford (Medi-Sub)

New: Luke Dunstan

Last week's sub: T. Bedford (unused)

Monday, April 25

Hawthorn v Sydney at UTAS Stadium, 12.30pm AEST

HAWTHORN

In: W.Day, C.Wingard, M.Lynch, F.Maginness
Out: M.Lewis (hamstring), N.Reeves (shoulder), C.Jiath (hamstring), T.Phillips (ankle), L.Shiels (managed)

Last week's sub: J.Worpel (replaced N. Reeves)

SYDNEY

In: L.Franklin
Out: S.Reid, J.Kennedy (Medi-Sub)

Last week's sub: J. Kennedy (unused)

Essendon v Collingwood at the MCG, 3.20pm AEST

ESSENDON

In: J.Stringer, Z.Merrett, K.Baldwin
Out: N.Hind (omitted), D.Smith (omitted), T.Cutler (omitted), A.Phillips (hamstring)

Last week's sub: T. Cutler (replaced A. Phillips)

COLLINGWOOD

In: B.Mihocek, B.McCreery, J.Ginnivan
Out: J.Roughead (finger), M.Cox (omitted), C.Brown (omitted), T.Wilson (omitted)

Last week's sub: J. Noble (replaced D. Cameron)