Geelong’s cavalry is back after naming champions Gary Ablett and Joel Selwood for its pre-finals tune-up against Sydney on Sunday.
Dual Brownlow Medallist Ablett will feature for the first time since Round 7, having exited the Gold Coast hub to return to Victoria in July to be with his son, Levi, who has a rare degenerative disease, then needing to quarantine for 14 days in Queensland.
Cats skipper Selwood last played in Round 12 due to a knee injury.
Gary Rohan and Jack Steven are the other two ins for Geelong, which has dropped one-gamer Ben Jarvis, Lachie Fogarty and Brad Close, while Tom Atkins is out injured.
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Sydney will be boosted by James Rowbottom, Callum Sinclair and Jordan Dawson returning.
The Western Bulldogs have made two changes for their must-win game against Fremantle, bringing back Easton Wood and Patrick Lipinski at the expense of Toby McLean (knee) and Matt Suckling (injured).
In a potential boost for the Dogs, the Dockers will be without star Michael Walters because of a foot problem.
Ex-Richmond midfielder Reece Conca and Liam Henry come into Fremantle’s line-up, while Tobe Watson has been omitted.
Retiring three-time premiership defender Ben Stratton will get a farewell game with the Hawks on Sunday.
The Hawthorn skipper is one of two ins for Alistair Clarkson’s side for the clash with Gold Coast at Adelaide Oval, along with fellow backman James Frawley.
Finn Maginness has been dropped, while Daniel Howe is being managed.
Jy Farrar will make his debut for Gold Coast, which has made three changes.
At Melbourne, coach Simon Goodwin has made the one change with defender Michael Hibberd replacing the omitted Neville Jetta for Saturday’s crucial clash with Essendon.
Defender Michael Hurley, Jayden Laverde and Mason Redman all return to the Bombers side.
Mitch Hibberd, Andrew Phillips and Jacob Townsend have all been omitted in coach John Worsfold’s last game in charge.
Carlton have brought Jack Martin, Marc Pittonet, Matt Kennedy and Cam Polson in for their final game of the year against Brisbane on Saturday night.
Co-captain Sam Docherty, Will Setterfield and Zac Fisher are all injured, while Lochie O’Brien has been dropped.
Lions ruckman Stefan Martin returns from a back injury in his first game in two months.
The Tigers are hopeful Lynch and Bolton will return for their first final and 2019 best-and-fairest winner Dion Prestia is also in the mix.
“Dion joined in some training today … he’s probably still looking at the first week of finals. We’ve got some players coming back which is really important for us,” coach Damien Hardwick said on Thursday.
“Shai (Bolton) had a corked calf, it probably hasn’t responded as we would have liked. We’d rather take the cautious approach.”
Prestia hasn’t played since Round 5 after suffering a syndesmosis injury, while Lynch suffered a minor hamstring injury in the third quarter of the powerful win over the Cats.
“Our guys have been really positive with Tom. His scans came back on the minor side, he’s running now and doing some strength training,” Hardwick said.
“It’s my understanding he’ll be available for the first week of the finals at this stage. What we also know is that he’s really important to us, so we’ll make sure he’s right to go.
“We only get one chance of getting it right, so we won’t rush it.”
Hardwick also celebrates a milestone this week, the two-time premiership coach drawing level with Richmond and AFL legend Tommy Hafey for the most games as Tiger coach.
It will be Hardwick’s 248th game in charge of the Tigers, the same number as Hafey, who coached the club from 1966-76, winning four premierships throughout his magnificent career at Richmond.
GIANTS RECALL SKIPPER
St Kilda has rolled the dice on hamstrung midfielder Dan Hannebery for Friday night’s crucial clash against Greater Western Sydney, while Giants’ captain Stephen Coniglio’s banishment is over.
After Saints coach Brett Ratten declared Hannebery a “risk worth taking”, the Saints have rushed in the 29-year-old just days after leaving the AFL quarantine hub.
Hannebery returns for his first game since Round 5 after recovering from hamstring tendon surgery, which was initially feared would end his season.
After becoming the first skipper to be dropped in 22 years in a selection bombshell for last week’s clash against the Demons, Coniglio is back for the Giants.
Coniglio became the first full-time captain since John Worsfold in 1998 at the West Coast Eagles to be dropped.
But after the Giants’ five-point loss to Melbourne, the onballer has made a swift return as the Giants make one last-gasp bid to qualify for the finals.
“We’ll welcome Stephen back into the side,” Giants’ coach Leon Cameron said.
“We understand it was a big decision last week to leave him out but he’s freshened up, trained really well and is looking forward to playing the footy we know he can.
“Jake also comes back in after being managed last week.”
Hannebery is one of two inclusions for the Saints, who have also named defender Jake Carlisle to return for his first game since Round 13 as the club chases its first finals berth in nine years.
The pair replace the injured Zak Jones and Nicholas Hind, who has been omitted for the match at the Gabba.
Coniglio comes into the GWS side alongside Jake Riccardi, while Adam Kennedy and Harry Himmelberg have been omitted.
UNLUCKY DOG SET TO MAKE WAY FOR WOOD
Western Bulldogs are likely to recall Pat Lipinski and premiership captain Easton Wood for Sunday night’s finals-shaper against Fremantle in Cairns.
The Bulldogs are arguably the AFL’s form team on the cusp of the finals and Wood only needs to train again on Friday to show he has overcome a hamstring strain, while Lipinski is favoured to replace Toby McLean (knee).
But the selection squeeze is on with no obvious candidate for the second omission due to the Dogs’ even spread of contributors.
The Bulldogs have 40 healthy players and it is likely that match committee will ultimately end up considering whether Taylor Duryea, Matthew Suckling or Ed Richards should make way for Wood.
The Bulldogs sacked operations manager Ben Graham this week due to the reduced soft cap although Graham has remained in the hub and is set to see out the season.
Over the past five rounds the Bulldogs are 4-1, with their sole loss coming against Geelong in a game they led by 37 points during the second quarter.
From Rounds 12-17 the Dogs are also ranked No.1 for points (75.4), No.1 for points from stoppages (35.8), No.2 for inside 50 differential (+9.4), No.2 for contested possession differential (+13.6) and No.2 for clearance differential (+5.6).
The charge took off when Beveridge’s pre-game boxing theme – where he showed black and white footage of the 1958 light-heavyweight championship fight – helped inspire his players against Melbourne.
FULL ROUND 18 TEAMS
NORTH MELBOURNE v WEST COAST EAGLES
Thursday September 17, 7.10pm at Metricon Stadium
B: E.Vickers-Willis, R.Tarrant, F.Perez
HB: S.Atley, B.McKay, L.McDonald
C: B.Scott, J.Simpkin, J.Polec
HF: C.Zurhaar, J.Walker, J.Ziebell
F: T.Garner, N.Larkey, S.Higgins
FOLL: T.Goldstein, J.Anderson, T.Dumont
I/C: L.Davies-Uniacke, S.Durdin, T.Murphy, A.Hall
EMG: M.Wood, M.McGuInness, T.Campbell, L.Hosie
IN: S.Durdin, T.Murphy
OUT: M.Wood (omitted), A.Bonar (injured)
B: T.Cole, T.Barrass, B.Sheppard
HB: S.Hurn, W.Schofield, L.Duggan
C: J.Nelson, D.Sheed, J.Waterman
HF: B.Ah Chee, J.Darling, J.Petruccelle
F: O.Allen, J.Kennedy, L.Ryan
FOLL: N.Naitanui, T.Kelly, A.Gaff
I/C: L.Foley, B.Williams, B.Ainsworth, J.Rotham
EMG: J.Brander, X.O’Neill, J.Cameron, H.Edwards
IN: D.Shee, B.Ah Chee, L.Foley, B.Williams
OUT: H.Brayshaw (omitted), X.O’Neill (omitted), J.Brander (omitted), J.McGovern (injured)
ST KILDA v GWS GIANTS
Friday September 18, 7.50pm at Gabba
B: J.Carlisle, D.Howard, C.Wilkie
HB: N.Coffield, J.Battle, B.Long
C: D.Hannebery, S.Ross, B.Hill
HF: J.Billings, T.Membrey, D.Butler
F: M.King, R.Marshall, J.Geary
FOLL: P.Ryder, J.Steele, H.Clark
I/C: D.Kent, J.Sinclair, B.Paton, J.Lonie
EMG: R.Byrnes, S.Savage, J.Marsh, L.Dunstan
IN: J.Carlisle, D.Hannebery
OUT: N.Hind (Omitted), Z.Jones (Injured)
B: C.Idun, L.Keeffe, H.Shaw
HB: L.Whitfield, N.Haynes, Z.Williams
C: J.Kelly, J.Hopper, H.Perryman
HF: J.Cameron, J.Riccardi, M.de Boer
F: T.Greene, J.Finlayson, B.Daniels
FOLL: S.Mumford, S.Coniglio, T.Taranto
I/C: C.Idun, D.Lloyd, J.Buckley, T.Green
EMER: B.Hill, M.Flynn, J.Caldwell, I.Cumming
IN: J.Riccardi, S.Coniglio
OUT: A.Kennedy (Omitted), H.Himmelberg (Omitted)
ESSENDON v MELBOURNE
Saturday September 19, 2.10pm at Metricon Stadium
B: J.Ridley, B.Zerk-Thatcher, M.Gleeson
HB: D.Smith, M.Hurley, A.Saad
C: T.Cutler, Z.Merrett, B.ham
HF: W.Snelling, J.Stewart, M.Guelfi
F: J.Stringer, J.Daniher, A.McDonald-Tipungwuti
FOLL: S.Draper, D.Shiel, D.Parish
I/C: J.Laverde, M.Redman, D.Clarke, K.Langford
EMER: J.Begley, A.Phillips, C.Hooker, K.Mutch
IN: M.Hurley, J.Laverde, M.Redman
OUT: M.Hibberd, A.Phillips, J.Townsend (all omitted)
B: J.Smith, S.May, M.Hibberd
HB: T.Rivers, J.Lever, C.Salem
C: E.Langdon, C.Petracca, A.vandenBerg
HF: J.Hunt, S.Weideman, A.Neal-Bullen
F: K.Pickett, M.Brown, C.Spargo
FOLL: M.Gawn, J.Viney, C.Oliver
I/C: J.Melksham, A.Tomlinson, B.Fritsch, O.Baker
EMER: L.Jackson, M.Hannan, T.Sparrow, N.Jetta
OUT: N.Jetta (Omitted)
ADELAIDE v RICHMOND
Saturday September 19, 5.10pm at Adelaide Oval
B: L.Brown, D.Talia, J.Kelly
HB: B.Smith, K.Hartigan, A.McPherson
C: D.Mackay, M.Crouch, L.Sholl
HF: H.Schoenberg, E.Himmelberg, T.Lynch
F: T.Stengle, T.Walker, S.McAdam
FOLL: R.O‘Brien, R.Sloane, R.Laird
I/C: C.Jones, B.Crouch, B.Keays, D.Fogarty
EMG: L.Murphy, W.Hamill, B.Frampton, J.Butts
IN: D.Talia, D.Mackay, T.Walker
OUT: J.Butts (Omitted), B.Gibbs (Retired), B.Frampton (Omitted)
B: D.Astbury, D.Grimes, N.Balta
HB: L.Baker, N.Vlastuin, B.Houli
C: K.McIntosh, J.Graham, M.Pickett
HF: J.Aarts, K.Lambert, D.Martin
F: M.Chol, J.Riewoldt, J.Castagna
FOLL: T.Nankervis, S.Edwards, T.Cotchin
I/C: J.Caddy, J.Short, D.Rioli, J.Ross
EMG: O.Markov, R.Collier-Dawkins, N.Broad, B.Miller
IN: D.Astbury, M.Chol, S.Edwards, J.Caddy
OUT: O.Markov (Omitted), T.Lynch (Injured), I.Soldo (Injured), S.Bolton (Injured)
BRISBANE v CARLTON
Saturday September 19, 7.40pm at Gabba
B: D.Rich, D.Gardiner, J.Payne
HB: Z.Bailey, R.Lester, G.Birchall
C: H.McCluggage, M.Robinson, C.Ah Chee
HF: D.Zorko, D.McStay, C.Rayner
F: O.McInerney, E.Hipwood, C.Cameron
FOLL: S.Martin, J.Lyons, L.Neale
I/C: L.McCarthy, K.Coleman, C.Ellis-Yolmen, B.Starcevich
EMG: S.Skinner, M.Hinge, A.Witherden, R.Mathieson
IN: S.Martin, L.McCarthy, B.Starcevich
OUT: N.Answerth (Managed), M.Hinge (Omitted), A.Smith (Omitted)
B: T.Williamson, L.Jones, K.Simpson
HBs: S.Petrevski-Seton, J.Weitering, L.Plowman
C: M.Murphy, P.Cripps, J.Newnes
HF: M.McGovern, L.Casboult, J.Martin
F: M.Gibbons, H.McKay, E.Betts
FOLL: M.Pittonet, M.Kennedy, S.Walsh
I/C: C.Polson, E.Curnow, T.De Koning, D.Cunningham
EMG: H.Macreadie, M.Cottrell, L.O’Brien, M.Owies
IN: J.Martin, M.Pittonet, M.Kennedy, C.Polson
OUT: L.O’Brien (Omitted), S.Docherty (Injured), W.Setterfield (Injured), Z.Fisher (Injured)
HAWTHORN V GOLD COAST
Sunday September 20, 1.05pm at Adelaide Oval
B: Blake Hardwick, Ben Stratton, Shaun Burgoyne
HB: James Cousins, Sam Frost, Chad Wingard
C: Ben McEvoy, Jaeger O’Meara, Jack Scrimshaw
HF: Luke Breust, Mitch Lewis, Harry Morrison
F: Paul Puopolo, Tim O’Brien, Jack Gunston
Foll: Jonathon Ceglar, Liam Shiels, Tom Mitchell
I/C: Damon Greaves, Will Day, James Frawley, Dylan Moore
Emer: Darren Minchington, Finn Maginness, Conor Glass, Dan Howe
In: B.Stratton, J.Frawley
Out: F.Maginness (omitted), D.Howe (managed)
B J.Harbrow, S.Collins, J.Bowes
HB: J.Lukosius, C.Ballard, W.Powell
C: J.Sharp, H.Greenwood, B.Ellis
HF: B.Ainsworth, B.King, J.Corbett
F: A.Sexton, S.Day, I.Rankine
Foll: J.Witts, D.Swallow, T.Miller
I/C: L.Weller, N.Anderson, C.Graham, J.Farrar
EMG: B.Fiorini, S.Flanders, P.Wright, D.Macpherson
In: J.Sharp, B.Ainsworth, J.Farrar
Out: N.Holman (injured), D.MacPherson (omitted), S.Lemmens (quad)
SYDNEY V GEELONG
Sunday September 20, 3.35pm at Metricon Stadium
B: C.Mills, A.Aliir, H.Cunningham
HB: J.Thurlow, L.Melican, J.Lloyd
C: D.Stephens, J.Kennedy, N.Blakey
HF: J.McInerney, S.Reid, W.Hayward
F: Bell, T.McCartin, J.Rowbottom
FOLL: C.Sinclair, LParker, T.Papley
I/C: O.Florent, J.Dawson, R.Clarke, R.Fox
EMG: M.Ling, C.O’Riordan, Z.Foot, S.Wicks
In: J.Rowbottom, C.Sinclair, J.Dawson
Out: S.Wicks (omitted), L.Taylor (foot), J.Amartey (ankle)
B: J.Bews, H.Taylor, J.Kolodjashnij
HB: J.Henry, M.Blicavs, T.Stewart
C: Z.Tuohy, J.Selwood, S.Menegola
HF: L.Dahlhaus, G.Rohan, J.Steven
F: M.O’Connor, T.Hawkins, G.Ablett Jnr
FOLL: E.Ratugolea, P.Dangerfield, B.Parfitt
I/C: L.Henderson, M.Duncan, G.Miers, C.Guthrie
EMG: B.Close, L.Fogarty, Z.Guthrie, J.Jenkins
In: J.Selwood, G.Rohan, J.Steven, G.Ablett
Out: B.Jarvis (omitted), L.Fogarty (omitted), B.Close (omitted), T.Atkins (injured)
Fremantle v Western Bulldogs
Sunday September 20, 6.10pm AT Cazalys Stadium
B: Reece Conca, Brennan Cox, Nathan Wilson
HB: Stephen Hill, Luke Ryan, Taylin Duman
C: Adam Cerra, Nat Fyfe, James Aish
HF: David Mundy, Matt Taberner, Mitch Crowden
F: Lachie Schultz, Rory Lobb, Jesse Hogan
R/Fol: Sean Darcy, Caleb Serong, Andrew Brayshaw
I: Michael Frederick, Blake Acres, Ethan Hughes, Liam Henry
E: Travis Colyer, Luke Valente, Tobe Watson, Hugh Dixon
In: R.Conca, L.Henry
Out: M.Walters (foot), T.Watson (omitted)
B: Easton Wood, Alex Keath, Caleb Daniel
HB: Bailey Williams, Ryan Gardner, Hayden Crozier
C: Bailey Smith, Jack Macrae, Jason Johannisen
HF: Ed Richards, Josh Bruce, Mitch Wallis
F: Tom Liberatore, Aaron Naughton, Lachie Hunter
R/Fol: Tim English, Marcus Bontempelli, Josh Dunkley
I: Zaine Cordy, Taylor Duryea, Pat Lipinski, Roarke Smith
E: Jackson Trengove, Ben Cavarra, Bailey Dale, Jordon Sweet
In: E.Wood, P.Lipinski
Out: T.McLean (knee), M.Suckling (injured)
*Remaining team announcements will be made the day before the scheduled match