WHO IS a chance to play in round 18?

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 R18 ins and outs. Check it out.

Forward Shane McAdam is pushing to return from an ankle injury and should boost a misfiring forward line. Mitch Hinge will be available after one week off due to health and safety protocols. Defender Josh Worrell (17 disposals and six marks) remains an option if the club wants to build his senior experience, with wingman Brayden Cook (16 and seven) also hungry for opportunities. Fischer McAsey booted three goals in the SANFL, while Lachlan Sholl (25 and a goal) was handy. Young midfielder Luke Pedlar will likely return at SANFL level after a period sidelined with a groin injury.  

 R16 medical substitute: Ben Davis (unused)

 Verdict: McAdam, Worrell and Hinge for Rowe, Jones and McHenry. – Nathan Schmook

Shane McAdam and Taylor Walker celebrate a goal against West Coast in round 12, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

It would be easier to throw darts at a board blindfolded than guess the Lions' team this week as injury and COVID-19 rips through the club. Keidean Coleman, Callum Ah Chee, Dan McStay and Harris Andrews will all exit health and safety protocols before Saturday's match against GWS, although Andrews will become available just hours before the team flies south. Ruckman Oscar McInerney and small defender Noah Answerth are the latest casualties and will miss through health and safety protocols. Dayne Zorko (hamstring), Jarrod Berry (hamstring), Daniel Rich (hamstring) and Jaxon Prior (quad) will all face fitness tests on Thursday. Rhys Mathieson has banged the door down in the VFL for weeks, while Darcy Gardiner (lungs) could also close in on a return.

R17 medical substitute: Rhys Mathieson (unused)

Verdict: Coleman for Carter Michael, Berry for Harry Sharp, McStay for McInerney and Ah Chee for Tom Fullarton in defence. But really, who knows? Michael Whiting

Daniel McStay handles the ball under pressure during Brisbane's round 16 match against the Western Bulldogs at The Gabba on June 30, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

The Blues will put Mitch McGovern through a fitness test later this week, having missed close to four months with a serious hamstring injury. But, even if he passes that, there's every chance he returns via the VFL. Jack Martin (calf), Jack Newnes (corked leg) and Matt Owies (calf) will also face fitness tests before Saturday night's blockbuster against the Cats, but Marc Pittonet (knee) is another week away. Will Hayes has been close for a while and made his club debut as the medical substitute last Sunday, while Lachie Fogarty (30 disposals, seven tackles) was again impressive at VFL level last week. Both could be adequate replacements for Newnes, who is the only player at risk of exiting last week's side through injury at this stage. Josh Honey appears the most likely player to go out of the team should Owies be deemed fit to play.

R17 medical substitute: Will Hayes (replaced Jack Newnes)

Verdict: Owies to replace Honey if fit, while Hayes will be on standby for Newnes. Expect McGovern to return via the VFL. Riley Beveridge

Mitch McGovern looks on after the R2 clash between Carlton and Western Bulldogs on March 24, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Darcy Moore is a chance to return after missing just one game following that gruesome incident in Queensland. The star defender will need to prove his fitness at Thursday's main training session. Finlay Macrae is in line to replace Taylor Adams after collecting 34 disposals, 10 clearances and nine tackles in the VFL on Saturday. Trent Bianco also amassed 35 touches, while Ash Johnson was impressive with two goals from 17 disposals. Will Kelly was an emergency last weekend and might be considered if Moore doesn't get up to combat Adelaide's tall forward line.  

R17 medical substitute: Tyler Brown (unused)

Verdict: If Darcy Moore can prove his fitness, he will come straight back in. Taylor Adams will be replaced by Finlay Macrae. Josh Gabelich

01:45 Mins
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VFL Showreel, R16: Finlay Macrae highlights

Enjoy Finlay Macrae's standout VFL performance for the Pies

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Essendon has mixed and matched with its ruck options this year and opted for Sam Draper and Andrew Phillips in the win over Brisbane. The Suns play with only one in Jarrod Witts, leaving the Bombers with a decision to make again. Essendon is set to regain Mason Redman from health and safety protocols, and he could replace Massimo D'Ambrosio, who suffered a corked quad and was substituted against the Lions. Redman's absence handed Jake Kelly a reprieve and the former Crow, perhaps unlucky to be dropped initially, was excellent on Charlie Cameron. It will be hard to make unforced changes after back-to-back wins over top-eight teams even as Archie Perkins (calf) gets closer to a return, while Darcy Parish (calf) is out for at least the next three weeks. The soft tissue injuries are beginning to mount and Essendon's depth is being tested, with Brayden Ham and Alec Waterman options if the Bombers decide to play Draper as solo ruck.

R17 medical substitute: Brayden Ham (replaced Massimo D’Ambrosio)

Verdict: Redman in for the injured D’Ambrosio.  Dejan Kalinic

Essendon players celebrate a Mason Redman goal against Sydney in R16, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

There will be unlucky omissions at the Dockers this week, with three key players pushing to return from injury. Alex Pearce is on track to return after missing one match with calf tightness and will be tested ahead of Wednesday's main training. Heath Chapman starred in his WAFL return after recovering from a hamstring injury and is part of the Dockers' best backline. Blake Acres emerged as a standout wingman before his hamstring injury in round 13 and the Dockers are confident he will be ready to play this week. Difficult selection decisions will revolve around Ethan Hughes, who has done a good job on the wing and in defence, regular medical substitute Bailey Banfield, who has not let the team down when called on, revitalised half-back Nathan Wilson, and half forward Travis Colyer. All will be unlucky if out of the side this week, such is the Dockers' strength and depth right now.

R17 medical substitute: Liam Henry (unused)

Verdict: Chapman and Pearce for Hughes and Banfield, who moves to medical sub. – Nathan Schmook

00:36 Mins
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Acres emotional after cruel injury blow

Blake Acres is visibly upset on the bench after appearing to hurt his hamstring in this play

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Jake Kolodjashnij will need to prove his fitness later in the week after entering concussion protocols against North Melbourne. Brandan Parfitt is available for selection after missing five games with a broken hand. Quinton Narkle starred against Casey after being the unused substitute the night before, collecting 29 disposals and six marks. Francis Evans kicked five of Geelong's nine goals in a standout effort at GMHBA Stadium. Jonathon Ceglar produced a strong performance that suggests he could play senior football if needed in the next couple of months, amassing 36 hitouts, 23 disposals and seven clearances.  

R17 medical substitute: Quinton Narkle (unused)

Verdict: Hard to make an unforced change to this side right now. Josh Gabelich

02:03 Mins
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VFL Showreel, R16: Francis Evans highlights

Enjoy Francis Evans' standout VFL performance for the Cats

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The Suns should have some more options at their disposal for Sunday's must-win match against Essendon with Izak Rankine and Oleg Markov due out of health and safety protocols early in the week. Versatile defender Jy Farrar missed the previous week due to the same circumstances, and after exiting quarantine late last week, played in the VFL and could come in to strengthen the backline. Charlie Constable was strong at the lower level.

R17 medical substitute: Rory Atkins (replaced Mal Rosas jnr)

Verdict: Rankine for Rosas, Markov for Jeremy Sharp and Farrar for Brayden Fiorini, pushing Brandon Ellis back to the wing. Michael Whiting

00:44 Mins
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Rankine magic rises another gear with spectacular soccer goal

Izak Rankine puts through his third after ridiculous soccer out of the air

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A few changes on the menu ahead of Saturday's game against Brisbane in Canberra, following injuries to veteran Phil Davis (hamstring) and Adam Kennedy (concussion). In positive news for the Giants impressive Connor Idun will be available after coming out of the League's health and safety protocols. Midfield ace Jacob Hopper had 33 disposals in his second VFL game back from a long lay-off and should come into strong consideration, while Jarrod Brander (24 and one goal) also impressed.

R17 medical substitute: Xavier O'Halloran (replaced Phil Davis)

Verdict: Idun for Kennedy, Hopper for Davis, with Keeffe, Taylor and Haynes tall enough to defend Brisbane's three tall forwards. Michael Whiting

00:29 Mins
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Disaster for Giants with Davis subbed out

Former GWS captain Phil Davis has been subbed out for the match with a suspected hamstring injury

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Will Day will be available after missing one-game due to suspension. The Hawks are hoping Jack Gunston will also be available after he missed the win against Adelaide following the passing of his father. Daniel Howe keeps pressing for another opportunity after gathering 27 disposals and six clearances against Southport. Tom Phillips also found some form at Box Hill, finishing with 26 touches and eight tackles. Max Lynch got through his first game since suffering a concussion against Brisbane in round 10. The former Magpie finished with 25 hitouts, 12 disposals and a goal at Box Hill City Oval. Kyle Hartigan was the carryover emergency and was spotted completing a running block on Marvel Stadium well after everyone had left on Sunday night. Jai Serong was also included in the 26-man squad.

R17 medical substitute: Liam Shiels (unused)

Verdict: Hard to see Sam Mitchell making too many changes to a side that won for the first time since Round 10. Will Day to return from suspension. Josh Morris might be squeezed out. Jack Gunston to return if available. Josh Gabelich

01:13 Mins
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Hawk on report after clipping Kelly high

Hawthorn's Will Day goes in the book for catching Josh Kelly high in this incident

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The Demons are holding out hope that Clayton Oliver will recover from a fractured thumb in time for Sunday's trip to Alice Springs to face the Power, but he remains unlikely. Should he fail a late fitness test, as is expected, the reigning premier has depth to call upon in reserve. Luke Dunstan won 31 disposals in the VFL last weekend and would be the obvious replacement, having filled an inside midfield role at senior level earlier this season. But youngster Bailey Laurie is also making an impressive case for an AFL debut, having kicked three goals to go with 30 disposals for Casey last week. Expect both Blake Howes (foot) and Daniel Turner (face) to return via the VFL this weekend.

R17 medical substitute: Jayden Hunt (unused)

Verdict: Dunstan to replace Oliver. Riley Beveridge

Bailey Laurie at Melbourne training on September 15, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

The Kangaroos will likely recall No.1 pick Jason Horne-Francis for interim coach Leigh Adams' first game in charge against the Tigers this weekend. He returned from suspension with 31 disposals and a goal in the VFL last Saturday. Kayne Turner has exited the AFL's concussion protocols and should also be available, while defensive duo Kallan Dawson (19 disposals, six marks) and Atu Bosenavulagi (17 disposals, eight marks) were impressive at VFL level. Jaidyn Stephenson (hip) is unlikely to play, while the game might come too soon for Aaron Hall (quad). A decision will need to be made on whether Tarryn Thomas returns.

R17 medical substitute: Jack Mahony (replaced Jaidyn Stephenson)

Verdict: Horne-Francis to replace Stephenson, with Turner and Thomas also a chance to return. Dawson is closing on an AFL debut.  Riley Beveridge

01:17 Mins
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VFL Showreel, R16: Jason Horne-Francis highlights

Enjoy Jason Horne-Francis' standout VFL performance for the Shinboners

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Defender Riley Bonner is ready to return from a fractured cheekbone and eye socket and should be recalled at AFL level immediately. Wingman Xavier Duursma is also pushing to return after playing in the SANFL on the way back from a quad issue. Ruckman Scott Lycett had 13 hitouts and five clearances in the SANFL after returning from shoulder surgery but could face a challenge breaking into the 22 this week. Steven Motlop (32 disposals, seven clearances and eight inside 50s) was the best performed Power player at state league level if more changes are required, while Lachie Jones could return from a hamstring injury.

R15 medical substitute: Jed McEntee (unused)

Verdict: Bonner and Duursma for Mead and Burgoyne, who moves to medical substitute. – Nathan Schmook

01:00 Mins
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Bonner extends lead with long-range ripper

Riley Bonner produces this brilliant goal from beyond the arc to further extend his side's lead

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The Tigers had injuries added to insult from the round 17 loss, with Tom Lynch (hamstring), Ivan Soldo (thumb) and Toby Nankervis (knee) all on the sidelines as the Suns stormed home. Nankervis is a chance to face North Melbourne but the other two will miss. Nick Vlastuin and Josh Gibcus will return to bolster the backline, with Ben Miller the most likely to make way. Trent Cotchin and Noah Balta are also expected to be available, putting last-man-in Thomson Dow in the gun. Last round's medical sub Noah Cumberland made the most of his opportunities, putting pressure on the small forwards. Maurice Rioli jnr is averaging just five disposals and 1.5 tackles through the last month, while Jason Castagna or Jake Aarts could pay the price for costly final-quarter misses. 

R17 medical substitute: Noah Cumberland (replaced Tom Lynch) 

Verdict: Vlastuin, Cotchin, Balta, Gibcus come in with Cumberland moving into the starting 22, replacing Lynch, Soldo, Miller, Dow and Castagna. – Howard Kimber

00:34 Mins
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Cumberland makes amends and nails first career goal

Noah Cumberland put his earlier miss behind him as he ran this goal home, his first at AFL level

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St Kilda could be boosted by the return of wingman Daniel McKenzie for Friday night's game against the Western Bulldogs. McKenzie has missed the past month due to concussion and a calf injury. Ryan Byrnes put his hand up for another opportunity at AFL level after collecting 26 disposals and 10 clearances in Sandringham's loss to Footscray. Tom Campbell was enormous in the game, while Leo Connolly produced one of his best games of the year, finishing with 29 disposals and 10 marks. Ben Long was quiet in the VFL on Sunday after being the unused substitute against Fremantle on Saturday night. 

R17 medical substitute: Ben Long (unused)

Verdict: The Saints were disappointing in the second half against Fremantle, but Brett Ratten might choose to go with a similar team in Friday night's crucial game against the Western Bulldogs. Josh Gabelich

00:52 Mins
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McKenzie magic gets the Saints their first

Daniel McKenzie gets the Saints on the board with a terrific goal

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The Swans have a huge test this weekend, facing Fremantle at Optus Stadium, and will be without ruckman Peter Ladhams after he broke his thumb in the win over the Western Bulldogs. Tom Hickey (illness) missed that game and will have to prove his fitness on Thursday to be available. The VFL team had a bye last weekend, but medi-sub Harry Cunningham is knocking on the door after 36 disposals at that level the previous week.

R17 medical substitute: Harry Cunningham (replaced Peter Ladhams)

Verdict: Hickey for Ladhams and Cunningham for Dylan Stephens. Michael Whiting

Harry Cunningham runs out before the R7 clash between Sydney and Brisbane on May 1, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

Forward Jamie Cripps should emerge from health and safety protocols in time to play and Adam Simpson is keen to recall him immediately. He shapes as a replacement for Jack Petruccelle (hamstring) or the out-of-form Liam Ryan, who had three touches against Carlton and might benefit from a rest. Young midfielder Xavier O'Neill has pushed for selection with strong WAFL form, while Greg Clark would relish a full game. Mid-season recruit Jai Culley had 16 disposals and seven tackles in the WAFL and should play before the end of the season. A smaller forward line is an option this week if Josh Kennedy is rested for the flight to Melbourne. Dropped defender Josh Rotham responded well in the WAFL, while wingman Patrick Naish had 32 touches.

R17 medical substitute: Greg Clark (replaced Jack Petruccelle)

Verdict: Cripps, O'Neill and Clark for Petruccelle, Trew and Ryan. – Nathan Schmook

01:51 Mins
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WAFL Showreel, R12: Patrick Naish highlights

Enjoy Patrick Naish's standout WAFL performance for the Eagles

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The Dogs will likely make multiple changes for their do-or-die clash against the Saints on Friday night with their finals hopes hanging by a thread. Bailey Smith will make his return from his AFL suspension and will be a welcome boost, while Josh Bruce, who kicked 4.5 last week in the VFL, and Toby McLean are in the running to make their AFL returns from respective knee reconstructions. McLean's form in particular should give him a strong chance to come in, while the club is likely to consider the five-day break between the VFL game on Sunday and the Saints clash with Bruce. It could also depend on Aaron Naughton’s fitness with his knee injury. Louis Butler and Sam Darcy continue to show good form in the VFL, with Tim O'Brien and Zaine Cordy also options. 

R17 medical substitute: Robbie McComb (replaced Anthony Scott)

Verdict: Smith, McLean in for Scott, Dom Bedendo.  Callum Twomey

02:59 Mins
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VFL Showreel, R16: Josh Bruce highlights

Enjoy Josh Bruce's standout VFL performance for the Bulldogs

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