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.
Senior midfielder Matt Crouch could not have done more in the SANFL to earn a recall, winning 42 disposals, 11 clearances and kicking two goals. More attacking with the ball, he also had eight inside 50s but is no guarantee to return this week. Shane McAdam is pushing to return from an ankle injury and shapes as a replacement for the injured Josh Rachele, while Will Hamill should emerge from concussion protocols. Lachlan Gollant booted three goals in the SANFL, while some extra height in defence could be provided by Billy Frampton if needed, with Josh Worrell another option. Brayden Cook had 17 disposals and five inside 50s in the SANFL and could be an option if development becomes an increasing priority in the final rounds.
R16 medical substitute: Lachlan Sholl (unused)
Verdict: McAdam and Cook for Murphy and Rachele. – Nathan Schmook
A 10-day break between games won't be enough for captain Dayne Zorko and fellow veteran Daniel Rich to overcome hamstring injuries, meaning the Lions will have to find a couple of new faces to line-up against Essendon on Sunday. Jaxon Prior was terrific coming in as the medical substitute last week and would seem a good replacement for Rich. Rhys Mathieson (39 disposals) excelled again in the VFL, while Nakia Cockatoo (23 and two goals) also put his hand up. Deven Robertson and Tom Berry could also be options.
R16 medical substitute: Jaxon Prior (replaced Dayne Zorko)
Verdict: Prior for Rich (pushing Ah Chee into defence) and Robertson for Zorko. – Michael Whiting
The Blues should finally have important defender Jacob Weitering (shoulder) back for Sunday's trip to Optus Stadium to face the Eagles. Brodie Kemp would be the most likely to make way, giving Michael Voss' team some much-needed height in the backline. Sam Durdin (knee) is also available, but may not be needed. Lachie Fogarty (back) and Matt Owies (calf) should both be fit and could provide different forward options, though Jack Martin (calf) is unlikely. Josh Honey could make way, having not kicked a goal since his return to the senior side. Ed Curnow (calf) will finally make his return this weekend, but will likely do so through the reserves. The club had the VFL bye last weekend, meaning no one on the fringes of the team was able to push their case for selection.
R16 medical substitute: Will Setterfield (unused)
Verdict: Weitering and Owies to replace Kemp and Honey. – Riley Beveridge
Jeremy Howe is set to return on Saturday after missing the win over Gold Coast due to a stomach virus. Mid-season rookie recruit Josh Carmichael continued his push for an AFL debut with a third strong showing in the VFL, collecting 25 touches, eight inside 50s and five clearances. Jack Madgen played his second game after undergoing shoulder surgery and could come into calculations. Finlay Macrae produced one of his best games of the season, collecting 29 disposals and nine clearances against Richmond. Trent Bianco was named in the 26-man squad for the Suns clash and then kicked two goals from 26 touches. Caleb Poulter was busy again with 23 disposals.
R15 medical substitute: Isaac Chugg (unused)
Verdict: Jeremy Howe to return from illness. It could be a straight swap for Darcy Moore if he isn’t cleared to play. – Josh Gabelich
Not only is Essendon coming off a strong win over Sydney, but it also delivered an impressively even performance in its fourth win of 2022. Andrew McGrath is set to return from an adductor injury, but whoever makes way will be unlucky. Ben Hobbs was set to be the medical substitute in round 16, but instead performed well after replacing Archie Perkins (calf) in the starting 22. Adding to the trickiness for the Dons this week is the fact they have a bye in the VFL. Harrison Jones is battling for form, but with Peter Wright needed to support Sam Draper in the ruck, his spot seems safe. Will Snelling (11 disposals, three tackles) and Matt Guelfi (13 disposals, two tackles) were quiet against the Swans, with the former yet to recapture his best form since returning from injury.
R16 medical substitute: Andrew Phillips (unused)
Verdict: McGrath in for the unlucky Snelling. – Dejan Kalinic
The Dockers have the option of replacing injured key forward Matt Taberner with fellow tall Josh Treacy or opting for a more mobile option now that they have Griffin Logue and Nat Fyfe in attack. The mobile options include Sam Sturt, who has been an emergency in recent weeks, midfielder Neil Erasmus, who can play forward, or medical substitute Bailey Banfield. In the backline, Heath Chapman is pushing to return from a hamstring injury and has become a key player worthy of an immediate return if fit. There would be an unlucky omission if Chapman returns, with Ethan Hughes and Nathan Wilson both enjoying strong games against Port Adelaide.
R15 medical substitute: Bailey Banfield (replaced Matt Taberner)
Verdict: Chapman and Banfield for Taberner and Hughes, who moves to medical substitute. – Nathan Schmook
Joel Selwood and Sam De Koning will both return after missing the triple-digit win over North Melbourne on Saturday night. De Koning was a late withdrawal but has been cleared to face Melbourne on Thursday night. Jake Kolodjashnij will be unavailable due to concussion. Brandan Parfitt is a chance to return from a broken hand. Luke Dahlhaus was rested last weekend but is available for selection. Esava Ratugolea got another game under his belt at VFL level after an injury-interrupted start to 2022. Francis Evans kicked two goals in another impressive performance in the VFL.
R15 medical substitute: Shaun Higgins (unused)
Verdict: Selwood to return, Quinton Narkle to be squeezed out. De Koning to replace Kolodjashnij. – Josh Gabelich
The Suns' small defensive stocks took another hit with confirmation Connor Budarick ruptured his ACL against Collingwood. Already missing Wil Powell and Lachie Weller to long-term injuries, the Suns need to find some pace ahead of facing Richmond at Metricon Stadium. Rory Atkins and Brayden Fiorini have been terrific in the VFL and could both play half-back, or Stuart Dew could push Brandon Ellis into defence and bring Jeremy Sharp or possible debutant Elijah Hollands on to a wing.
R16 medical substitute: Brayden Fiorini (unused)
Verdict: Sharp for Budarick, pushing Ellis into defence. – Michael Whiting
The weekend's win over Hawthorn has the Giants sitting at three wins from six matches under interim coach Mark McVeigh, so it's hard to see too many changes ahead of playing Port Adelaide on Saturday. Jacob Hopper played his first game since round one at the weekend when he ran out in the VFL and finished with 18 disposals. Jarrod Brander, Jake Stein and Braydon Preuss all played well in the reserves, although Matt Flynn looks like he has a nice grip on the No.1 ruck role at the moment.
R16 medical substitute: Zach Sproule (unused)
Verdict: Hopper for Xavier O'Halloran. – Michael Whiting
Sam Mitchell will be forced to make at least two changes with James Worpel injuring his shoulder and Will Day copping a one-game suspension. Josh Ward is well placed to return for his first AFL game since round eight after producing a strong showing in the VFL. The 2021 pick No.7 has had to overcome concussion issues in the middle of the year, but after collecting 27 disposals, eight clearances and a goal, Ward is ready to return. Finn Maginness also put his hand up for another opportunity by gathering 28 touches for Box Hill against the Giants. Daniel Howe was dropped from the 26-man squad but produced a strong response at VFL level in the curtain raiser at Giants Stadium.
R15 medical substitute: Liam Shiels (unused)
Verdict: Ward and Maginness deserve another go at senior level after a strong game for Box Hill. – Josh Gabelich
The Demons will put captain Max Gawn (ankle) and youngster Luke Jackson (knee) through fitness tests on Wednesday to determine their availability for this week's top-of-the-table clash against the Cats. Their potential returns would be a welcome boost after forward pair Sam Weideman and Mitch Brown took on the brunt of the workload in Saturday's win over the Crows. It would appear likely that Mitch Brown would lose his place should Gawn be fit, while Weideman – or a smaller forward like Toby Bedford – could be at risk if Jackson is back as well. Kade Chandler had 29 disposals and kicked five goals at VFL last week to press his claim for a place in the senior side.
R16 medical substitute: Adam Tomlinson (unused)
Verdict: Gawn to replace Mitch Brown, with Jackson to come in for Weideman if fit. – Riley Beveridge
The Kangaroos will finally get No.1 pick Jason Horne-Francis back from suspension, while captain Jack Ziebell (face) should also be fit in some much-needed good news for under-fire coach David Noble. However, Aaron Hall (quad) and Kayne Turner (concussion) will go out of the team so defensive reinforcements will be required. Bailey Scott (hip) should be right to go, though Jackson Archer (hip) and Aiden Bonar (hamstring) are unlikely. Potential debutant Josh Goater is another option after impressing in the VFL, winning 19 disposals and laying eight tackles. Tarryn Thomas may also return after missing last week's game due to personal reasons. Atu Bosenavulagi, Charlie Lazzaro and Jack Mahony only came into the side last week, but at least one of those will need to make way to accommodate the inclusions. Young ruck Callum Coleman-Jones (24 disposals, 34 hitouts) and forward Eddie Ford (16 disposals, three goals) also put their hands up for selection through the VFL last week.
R16 medical substitute: Phoenix Spicer (replaced Aaron Hall)
Verdict: Horne-Francis, Scott and Ziebell to replace Bosenavulagi, Hall and Turner, while Thomas could replace either Lazzaro or Mahony if deemed ready and available. – Riley Beveridge
The Power seem content with their makeshift ruck duo at the moment, but that could change as Scott Lycett recovers from shoulder surgery which has sidelined him since round four. Sam Hayes was unavailable against Fremantle because of health and safety protocols but has also been overlooked recently in favour of a more mobile duo. Zak Butters is expected to return from a medial ligament injury, while Tom Clurey will be clear after a stint in health and safety protocols. Xavier Duursma was a late withdrawal against Fremantle with a quad issue but is expected to be fit.
R15 medical substitute: Steven Motlop (replaced Lachie Jones)
Verdict: Butters and Clurey for Jones and McKenzie, with Duursma replacing Motlop as medical substitute. – Nathan Schmook
After getting close to full strength a few weeks back, the Tigers are now finding a few of their bigger names on the sidelines. Dustin Martin won't face Gold Coast this week after the club confirmed “a small hamstring strain”, while reliable defender Nick Vlastuin has accepted a one-match suspension. Dion Prestia's recovery from concussion seems on track and he should return, but Trent Cotchin is at least another week away. So too is Noah Balta who would have been handy in Vlastuin's absence. Kane Lambert grabbed just three touches through the second half after replacing Martin and, with a six-day turnaround, interstate travel and his chronic hip concerns, the club favourite may stay in Melbourne for a lighter VFL run. If the Tigers want a defender to replace Vlastuin they may call on Rhyan Mansell or the more versatile Matt Parker, who stood out in the VFL last round. Yet-to-debut midfielder Tyler Sonsie impressed again, as did Thomson Dow and either could get a run if Prestia doesn't come up.
R16 medical substitute: Kane Lambert (replaced Dustin Martin)
Verdict: Prestia and Parker in for Martin and Vlastuin. – Howard Kimber
St Kilda will need to make some forced changes following Friday night's win over Carlton. Darragh Joyce could be considered after being the unused medical substitute in round 15 and an emergency last weekend, especially given Fremantle's tall targets inside 50. He replaced Dougal Howard when the vice-captain didn’t make the trip to Perth in round two. Ben Long and Ryan Byrnes were dropped after the loss to Sydney. Daniel McKenzie could be available after missing with a calf strain, while Mitch Owens is a chance to be available after missing the past three weeks with concussion.
R15 medical substitute: Tom Highmore (replaced Dougal Howard)
Verdict: Tom Highmore should remain in the 22 and fill the void left by Howard. Daniel McKenzie to replace Hunter Clark if he proves his fitness. – Josh Gabelich
Just how aggressive John Longmire is at the selection table following Saturday's upset loss to Essendon will be interesting. Josh Kennedy could be available after missing the past seven weeks with a torn hamstring, but still has intense training to tick off first. After missing the previous week to health and safety protocols, defender Harry Cunningham returned through the VFL and dominated with 35 touches and 15 marks. Hayden McLean also impressed with four goals.
R16 medical substitute: Ryan Clarke (unused)
Verdict: Cunningham for Braeden Campbell. – Michael Whiting
After being managed for the trip to face Richmond, champion forward Josh Kennedy should return. The Eagles need to replace the bounce out of the defence that Elliot Yeo has provided, with medical substitute Samo Petrevski-Seton a likely candidate to move there. Half-backs Luke Foley and Alex Witherden are other options. With Carlton's twin forwards looming, Harry Edwards would be a wise inclusion to free up young backman Rhett Bazzo. Young ruckman Bailey Williams and Callum Jamieson are jockeying to play the support role to Nic Naitanui each week.
R14 medical substitute: Samo Petrevski-Seton (replaced Yeo in the third quarter)
Verdict: Petrevski-Seton, Kennedy and Edwards for Yeo, Rotham and West, who moves to medical substitute. – Nathan Schmook
The Dogs are expected to regain ruckman Tim English and half-back Ed Richards from their respective concussion issues for Friday night's clash with Sydney, while the club is confident Adam Treloar will be right to go despite his hamstring tightness last week. Josh Schache could make way for English, while Robbie McComb could be squeezed out with Richards returning.
R16 medical substitute: Riley Garcia (unused)
Verdict: English and Richards in for Schache and McComb. – Callum Twomey