Dale Miller with selection snippets for round 21 - who's in, who's out and who's under the pump.
Geelong v St Kilda, Etihad Stadium, tomorrow night
A weakened Geelong side were brave without getting the chocolates against West Coast last Friday night. This time round they will welcome back several guns from injury with James Kelly, Joel Corey and Josh Hunt all expected to return. Ruckman Trent West should also be available to bolster them at the stoppages. Tom Hawkins would remain in serious doubt after last weekend’s serious concussion, while Paul Chapman (calf) looks likely to miss a second straight game.
Another five goals from fill in Beau Wilkes could not come at a better time this week. St Kilda look almost certain to lose skipper Nick Riewoldt to a knee injury, leaving a gaping hole in their forward line. Expect Wilkes, Justin Koschitzke and a range of smalls including Stephen Milne to be asked to fill that void.
Essendon v Carlton, MCG, Saturday
Paddy Ryder and Brent Stanton are in line to return from injury in what would be a major boost for the team. David Zaharakis could finally return from a long-term quad injury, but that may be through the VFL. Essendon’s VFL team didn’t play last week. Plenty of Dons turned the ball over in their loss to North Melbourne and they’ll be under pressure to retain their spots.
That chicken wing tackle feels like a lifetime ago, but captain Chris Judd is only this week eligible to return to the line-up. Judd has officially served his four-game suspension and will slot straight back into Carlton’s midfield. Full back Michael Jamison is expected to be another week away, while Robert Warnock would need to pass a fitness test on a shoulder injury to be available.
GWS v Melbourne, Skoda Stadium, Saturday
Having lost Callan Ward for the rest of the season last week, the Giants have now ruled out key forwards Jonathon Patton and Jeremy Cameron for the final rounds of the year because of shoulder and hip problems. GWS will still get some talented players back. Toby Greene, Taylor Adams, Rhys Palmer and James McDonald are all available for the match against fellow cellar dweller Melbourne.
Jack Watts may have been much maligned throughout his brief career to date, but coach Mark Neeld wants the utility player back if he is fit. Watts has missed the club’s past five matches with an ankle injury, but Neeld is hopeful of the 2008 No.1 draft pick playing following a strong training performance yesterday. Ruckman Mark Jamar is also a chance to return from a calf injury, but more than likely through the VFL.
Fremantle v Richmond, Patersons Stadium, Saturday
Nat Fyfe couldn’t have been much unluckier last weekend in badly rolling an ankle in his hotel room. However, the young Dockers star looks on the road to recovery and should be cleared to play against Richmond. Chris Mayne (concussion) is the one more in doubt. Nick Lower will come under strong consideration after finishing as best on ground in Perth’s WAFL win over East Perth last Saturday.
WA midfielder Reece Conca is gone for the year. Conca reported foot soreness to Richmond medicos earlier in the week only to be told he had suffered a broken toe. He becomes the fourth Tiger ruled out for the season through injury. Defender Jake Batchelor is a solid chance to return from knee soreness.
Collingwood v North Melbourne, Etihad Stadium, Saturday night
The Magpies ended a month of ordinary form by knocking off league leaders Sydney in the previous round and are unlikely to tinker much with their line-up. Dane Swan is still suspended for another week and won’t come in. Dale Thomas was substituted out during the second term against the Swans with a thigh injury, but club officials are maintaining that he’ll be right to play. An ankle injury will rule Tyson Goldsack out for at least another week.
The decision to challenge the AFL match review findings a month ago cost midfielder Jack Ziebell four weeks on the sidelines. The Roo has served his time and will slot straight back into the on-ball brigade this weekend. Small forward Lindsay Thomas should also return from injury. Those inclusions will partially make up for the loss of several first-choice players, with Daniel Wells (calf) sidelined for at least a week and Leigh Adams gone for the year after requiring shoulder surgery. Defender Nathan Grima will also miss the crunch game with hamstring tendonitis.
Brisbane v Adelaide, Gabba, Saturday night
Former Saint Matt Maguire is expected to return from injury, meaning coach Michael Voss will have to decide where to play swingman Daniel Merrett. Kurt Tippett’s potential inclusion for Adelaide could swing the pendulum towards the Lions utility player starting in defence. Jordan Lisle has looked dangerous up forward since coming into the side and should retain his spot.
Tippett will be the talking point at the selection table today. He has now missed three matches after his third bout of concussion for the year, but is expected to be named to face Brisbane. Outside of their key forward, expect Adelaide to resist making other unforced changes with this shaping as their final danger game with soft fixtures against Melbourne and Gold Coast to finish the season.
Port Adelaide v West Coast, AAMI Stadium, Sunday
It won’t be through injury for a change that midfielder Hamish Hartlett is sidelined. The leadership group member has been suspended for two matches over a striking charge, having lost an unsuccessful challenge of the verdict this week. Aaron Young and Steven Salopek were impressive in the SANFL last weekend and are both potential inclusions.
Key forward Josh Kennedy will be cleared for a WAFL return if he pulls up well from today’s training session in an all-important boost for West Coast. Matt Rosa will need to pass his own fitness test to return after a fortnight out with a fractured jaw. Defender Jacob Brennan will no doubt come under the pump after an ordinary game against Geelong last Friday night.
Western Bulldogs v Sydney, Etihad Stadium, Sunday
Brownlow medallist Adam Cooney has put his hand up to make a surprise comeback for the Dogs despite just three rounds remaining and their season over from a finals perspective. Cooney has battled all throughout the second half of the season with ongoing knee soreness and has all but become the forgotten man down at Whitten Oval. That return needed to boost his own self confidence could come against Sydney this weekend.
Forward Sam Reid faces a fitness test to see if he has adequately recovered from a knee injury. Teammate Jude Bolton, who is also struggling with a knee injury, has made substantial progress this week, but is not right to go yet against the Dogs.
Hawthorn v Gold Coast, MCG, Sunday
The questions marks over Lance Franklin’s hamstring injury have extended into another week, with the star forward still no absolute certainty to return. One star who won’t be out there is Cyril Rioli. The team’s excitement machine will miss up to three weeks with a shoulder injury, meaning he may not play again before finals. Defender Josh Gibson is in doubt with an ankle injury.
The Suns’ injury list has exploded to gigantic proportions. Seventeen Gold Coast players are unavailable this week. There’s some quality in that list too, with Nathan Bock, Michael Rischitelli, Karmichael Hunt, Dion Prestia, David Swallow, Zac Smith and Seb Tape all sidelined. Josh Fraser, Alik Magin and Andrew McQualter were the team’s best in the reserves last week.