Dale Miller with selection snippets for round 20 - who's in, who's out and who's under the pump.
West Coast v Geelong, Patersons Stadium, tomorrow night
All Eagles fans will love the fact that skipper Darren Glass is back. Matthew Pavlich carved up West Coast’s depleted defence last weekend without Glass and the Eagles now have to shut down another danger forward in Tom Hawkins. Matt Rosa won’t play despite suggestions at the top of the week that he could return in time from a fractured jaw. Brad Sheppard is a likely omission. The half forward is battling a badly corked thigh and has not been in the best of form anyway over the past fortnight. Others whose spots could come under the pump are Ashton Hams and Patrick McGinnity, while Mitch Brown should automatically go out to make way for Glass’ return. Wingman Andrew Embley appears set to return as the substitute.
Mature-age ruckman Orren Stephenson proved his value to the side last Friday night with 14 disposals, 23 hit-outs and seven clearances. It guarantees his spot in the side in the absence of an injured Trent West, although things don’t get much tougher than taking on Dean Cox and Nic Naitanui. Geelong coach Brad Scott said on Tuesday night he was still keen to inject more speed into the side. That means he will consider veteran speedster David Wojcinski returning after one hit-out in the VFL.
St Kilda v Melbourne, MCG, Saturday
The Saints just aren’t having much luck this season in the close ones. After a heartbreaking loss to Collingwood last Saturday, they are almost out of finals contention, meaning they could risk giving some kids a chance. One old stager in Jason Blake has been given the all clear to return from an ankle injury. He has not played since having surgery post round 14 and will be a much needed boost to the Saints defence and rucking stocks.
Former Melbourne captain Brad Green has now kicked 15 goals in the past four rounds. He has announced he will retire at the end of the season and given his form has no worry about holding his spot between now and then. Expect the Demons to go in with a similar line-up, with no one player putting their hand up for selection with a strong performance for VFL affiliate Casey Scorpions.
Adelaide v Fremantle, AAMI Stadium, Saturday
Key forward Kurt Tippett will be named in the side to play Fremantle this week, but is no certainty to make the final 22. Tippett has missed Adelaide’s past two matches following three bouts of concussion in five weeks and coach Brenton Sanderson said further consultation with club medical staff was required. Small forward Jason Porplyzia and midfielder David Mackay, who suffered shoulder and foot injuries respectively against Essendon last week, should be cleared to play. Scans showed no structural damage to Porplyzia’s troublesome shoulder, only bruising.
The only real change to Fremantle’s line-up in the wake of their crushing 65-point derby win will be one forced by the AFL tribunal. All-Australian contender Luke McPharlin has been suspended, meaning one of Alex Silvagni, Antoni Grover or Peter Faulks must come into the side. Silvagni is the most obvious choice. The form of Faulks at WAFL club Peel Thunder has been superb, but the mature-aged defender has failed to win a single AFL game this year in a suggestion he is out of the selection frame. Matthew Pavlich and Matt de Boer both escaped with reprimands from their charges and are free to play.
Gold Coast v GWS, Metricon Stadium, Saturday
The Suns had a shocking weekend of injuries against Melbourne. Zac Smith (ankle) and Dion Prestia (hamstring) didn’t see out the game and Michael Rischitelli played in the forward pocket protecting a knee injury, so the midfielders could rotate off the bench. Karmichael Hunt hurt his shoulder and David Swallow is struggling with his knee. The Suns need all hands on deck for a winnable game against GWS, so expect any big body to get picked. Kyal Horsley and Aaron Hall will be looked at.
Can the Giants win successive games? They’re coming up against Gold Coast and they beat them earlier in the year. Rhys Palmer would have to be a strong chance to come into the team. Jonathon Patton had some shoulder problems during the game against Port Adelaide, so that could open the door for Israel Folau to play. But it’s hard to change a winning team, even though the Giants have constantly rotated their players this year.
Sydney v Collingwood, ANZ Stadium, Saturday night
It’s a hard task cracking into a side that is sitting top of the league and now has nine straight wins. However, injuries look like opening the door a little. Canadian import Mike Pyke is one Sydney player in doubt, with the ruckman needing to pass a fitness test on a rolled ankle to be available. Former Eagle Mark Seaby reinjured his calf on the training track and doesn’t look like being a replacement if Pyke misses. Midfielder Jude Bolton will be sidelined for a month after badly hyper extending a knee against Carlton.
Dream Team coaches face a serious dilemma. What to do about Dane Swan? The prolific ball winner has been suspended for the next two matches by the club for breaching team protocols by drinking six days before their clash with Sydney. His replacement could come from outside the midfield group, with veterans Chris Tarrant and Alan Didak both possibilities to return.
Carlton v Brisbane, Etihad Stadium, Saturday night
The Blues are hanging on to grim death in terms of their finals aspirations. They have a good chance at extending that battle for at least another week with Andrew Walker and Mitch Robinson both expected to return to bolster an improved line-up. Michael Jamison won’t play due to a hamstring problem, but Robert Warnock could be recalled to allow Matthew Kreuzer to push forward.
With Daniel Merrett shunted back into defence, Brisbane will be expecting Jordan Lisle and Patrick Karnezis to stand up and help out Jonathon Brown in the forward line. Aaron Cornelius booted seven goals for Brisbane’s reserves to put his hand up for selection. Ryan Lester similarly impressed with 38 disposals, while Claye Beams and Cheynee Stiller were also standouts.
Hawthorn v Port Adelaide, Aurora Stadium, Sunday
Hawthorn says Lance Franklin is a strong chance to return from a hamstring injury after four weeks on the sidelines. It may not be the worst time to reintroduce their forward star, with tough matches against Sydney and West Coast still around the corner. Chance Bateman and Xavier Ellis have both been listed as possibilities to replace the suspended Liam Shiels. Ruckman Max Bailey will be available, although whether Hawthorn select him is another story.
The Power have bigger things to worry about this week than team selection. They have no coach for next year and their president has also resigned. Expect them to start testing out which players will stay and which will move on at the end of the year. Expect the likes of Mitch Banner and Cameron Hitchcock to be firmly under the pump. Hamish Hartlett came through unscathed in his return from injury last weekend in one positive and should play successive matches.
Richmond v Western Bulldogs, MCG, Sunday
Richmond emerged unscathed from last week’s much-needed win over Brisbane and will be confident the same line-up can get the job done against the struggling Western Bulldogs on Sunday. The Tigers’ engine room was particularly impressive in the 48-point win. However, Brad Miller (four goals) and Addam Maric (25 possessions) are pushing for selection after being the shining lights in Coburg’s VFL loss on the weekend. Big men Tom Derickx and Todd Elton also played well, booting two goals apiece.
The Dogs’ season just keeps getting worse. Two of their best young players will be unavailable for the rest of the year. Tom Liberatore, son of Brownlow medallist and father Tony, has been suspended by the club after being found unconscious in a Melbourne nightspot in possession of illicit drugs. Luke Dahlhaus is also gone for the rest of 2012, with an ankle injury behind his omission.
Essendon v North Melbourne, Etihad Stadium, Sunday
In what has been too regular an occurrence this year, the Dons have again lost players to soft-tissue injuries. Jason Winderlich and Ben Howlett broke down last week, but the Bombers have a host of players pushing to return for a must-win game against North Melbourne. Dustin Fletcher (shoulder) and Stewart Crameri (hamstring) are likely to play. Brent Stanton (soreness) is a strong chance to return and Michael Hibberd (quad) must pass a fitness test.
A four-game winning streak capped by a comfortable win over the Western Bulldogs will make it hard for Brad Scott to make too many changes this week. Midfielder Leigh Adams was rested last week and could return, while defenders Luke and Cam Delaney could be called upon to help cope with the likes of Essendon forwards Michael Hurley and Stewart Crameri. Lindsay Thomas is still suspended, which could give Aaron Edwards, Ben Warren or Ben McKinley the chance to step up. Ruckman Hamish McIntosh has opted to have season-ending LARS surgery after pulling up sore in the VFL last week. McIntosh, 27, has played without a posterior cruciate ligament for the past four years and was returning from rehabilitation from a knee injury suffered in round seven.