We're over a third of the way into the 2022 AFL season, with contenders and pretenders now more noticeable after the opening eight rounds of the year.
Ahead of Round 9 we take a look at all the selection news, with players pressing their case for returns while others are out to prove their fitness.
For all listed injuries, visit our INJURIES AND SUSPENSIONS page.
Close watch on Kennedy in build-up to Demons game
It is understood that the Eagles have hoped to rest their veteran spearhead at some point in the opening rounds of the season, however the club's ongoing battle with COVID complications and an extended injury list have seemingly hampered those chances.
West Coast are anticipated to place Kennedy under some level of assessment closer to the opening bounce of the match, which is scheduled for 5:20pm AEST.
The Eagles currently have Patrick Naish, top-up duo Tom Blechynden and Samuel Fisher, and Hugh Dixon on standby as emergencies for the match, with the latter the most likely option to replace Kennedy if required.
Doubt surrounding Josh Kennedy today for @WestCoastEagles. Has been in need of a rest, but unable given inj/COVID toll.
JK will be assessed closer to game, but Hugh Dixon is on standby to come in.
Patrick Naish the other WC player held out of WAFL. Likely sub.@7NewsPerth
— Ryan Daniels (@FootyRhino) May 15, 2022
Giants forced into late change ahead of Blues bout
Youngster Conor Stone was originally the only listed inclusion for the game, which will be Cameron's last in charge of the New South Wales club.
The Giants will confirm their final team and medical substitute at 2:20pm AEST on Sunday.
Saturday, May 14...
Adelaide defender to miss Lions clash
Butts becomes one of seven outs for the Crows, who are looking to make amends for Round 8's 48-point loss to Carlton.
Friday, May 13...
Eagles lose star duo for Demons bout
West Coast have been forced into a pair of late changes for Sunday's clash with Melbourne after star pair Andrew Gaff (quad) and Shannon Hurn (calf) experienced niggling injuries ahead of the weekend.
Eagles coach Adam Simpson revealed to media on Friday afternoon that the pair will be ruled out of the match at Optus Stadium, leaving the club with 23 AFL-listed players for the game.
On Thursday evening West Coast confirmed the inclusions of Alex Witherden and Bailey Williams, while Greg Clark, Jackson Nelson and Hugh Dixon were named on Simpson's extended bench as top-up players Declan Mountford and Jake Florenca were omitted.
“Unfortunately we won’t have a full strength side again due to injury. We’ve lost Shannon (Hurn) and (Andrew) Gaff. Takes us down to 23 AFL players available. We’ll draw on two WAFL CCPs to make up our squad, hopefully just as emergencies.”
Simpson on injuries
— West Coast Eagles (@WestCoastEagles) May 13, 2022
It now looms likely the Eagles will at least call on top-up players for this weekend as part of their 26-man squad, with their emergencies and interchange to be confirmed at 5pm AEST on Friday.
Port skipper ruled out of Roos clash
Jonas' absence adds to an undermanned Power backline for this weekend, with half-back Riley Bonner sidelined for at least a week with an ankle injury.
Blues lock in debut for small forward
Motlop made the venture from Western Australia to Princes Park as the 27th overall selection in last year's draft, joining Michael Voss' army as a highly-touted small forward.
After biding his time across the opening eight rounds of the season, where he has occupied the VFL for a return of six goals from five games, Motlop will don the navy blue at senior level for the first time in his career.
The Blues will confirm their 22-man side at 5pm AEST on Friday.
Thursday, May 12...
Roos' top draftee hamstrung
Horne-Francis was reported to be on light duties earlier in the week, with SEN's Sam Edmund now stating the South Australian will miss Saturday's game due to hamstring tightness.
Light duties for Jason Horne-Francis at North Melbourne training. Runners on, doing laps#afl
— Drew Jones (@DrewJonesFOX) May 11, 2022
Jason Horne-Francis won’t play for North Melbourne this weekend. The midfielder has hamstring tightness that flared at training earlier this week. Given he’s played every game + the pre-season, the Roos have decided to sit him out of the Port Adelaide game in Hobart on Saturday.
— Sam Edmund (@Sammy__Edmund) May 12, 2022
Horne-Francis has been a standout among the Roos' engine room to start his career, often a leading contested ball winner and clearance accumulator.
Young Docker set for sideline stint
According to 7 News' Ryan Daniels, O'Drsicoll has suffered a hot spot in his foot and will require an extended spell on the sidelines.
The teenager has played seven games for the Dockers this season after making his debut in Round 2, impressing in a wing role under Justin Longmuir.
O'Driscoll's absence will be countered by the returns of several Fremantle players who were ruled out of their Round 8 clash with the Kangaroos due to health and safety protocols.
Longmuir confirmed on Thursday that each of the returning players from COVID protocols will still be required to get through training this week to prove their fitness, while defender Luke Ryan is also needing to overcome an ankle issue.
Dogs' ruck woes worsen
RSN's Mark Stevens reported that Martin's knee has "blown up", adding a further blow to Luke Beveridge's ruck stocks.
First-string tall English has been ruled out through illness, delaying his return after recovering from a hamstring injury.
Jordon Sweet looks an obvious replacement for Martin for his sixth AFL game since being selected in the Rookie Draft in 2018.
Sun sidelined until after bye
Precocious Sun Jack Lukosius has been ruled out until after the bye after re-injuring his knee.
Suns head physiotherapist Lindsay Bull said that Lukosius had once again escaped serious injury, but confirmed that the 21-year-old will miss out on AFL action until after the Suns' round 13 bye.
“He’s reaggravated the PCL that he injured earlier in the season,” Bull told the club's website.
“He’ll be in the rehab group now until at least after the bye week in Round 13.”
Hawks confirm debutant for Richmond clash
The 19-year-old joined Hawthorn as the 23rd overall selection in last year's draft as a highly-rated midfield-forward option from Greater Western Victoria.
“A few minor injuries in the pre-season has meant that Sam has had to wait a little longer for his opportunity to make his AFL debut,” Hawks football boss Rob McCartney told hawthornfc.com.au.
“With some playing continuity over the past month at Box Hill he has continued to improve, this culminated in a strong performance against Essendon in the VFL game at Windy Hill on Sunday.
“Sam is a player with genuine leg speed, who has a good balance between being a dangerous forward who can kick goals and a pressure player who can help create turnovers for others to capitalise on.
“We are all looking forward to Sam taking his first step in his AFL journey on Saturday at the MCG.”
Butler is the younger brother of Sants forward Daniel.
Tiger cub in health and safety protocols
Tarrant has been battling a hip injury in recent weeks and was managed for the Tigers' Round 7 match with West Coast.
Gawn cleared to play for Eagles bout
On Thursday, Goodwin ruled out any chance his star ruckman would be omitted from his selection planning for this weekend.
— Mitch Cleary (@cleary_mitch) May 11, 2022
Despite the Eagles' woes, Goodwin could name a near full-strength side for th clash at Optus Stadium, with defender Christian Salem - who is anticipated to return in the coming weeks - the only notable absentee.
Wednesday, May 11...
Sick Bombers quintet in line for return
After being removed from Ben Rutten's starting lineup to face old enemy Hawthorn last Saturday, Jordan Ridley, Jake Kelly, Sam Durham, Matt Guelfi and Alec Waterman have made their returns to the Hangar following their layoff with illness.
“Those five lads are all improving which is great,” Murphy told essendonfc.com.au on Wednesday.
"They were in (at the club) on Tuesday, trained with the boys and they’re building across the program for the week. Hopefully we’ll see them this weekend, but all things are tracking well for them.”
While Devon Smith faces the prospect of continuing his rehabilitation from a knee complaint instead of playing in the Harbour City, Essendon will also look to welcome back Andrew Phillips and vaunted youngster Nic Cox for their date at the SCG.
Having made the necessary strides to return from an ankle complaint, Cox will likely take part in the Bombers' battle with the Bloods, despite still suffering from mild soreness.
“’Coxy’ didn’t quite get up with that ankle,” Murphy added.
“The six-day turnaround wasn’t quite ideal for him, so he still has a bit of soreness in that ankle.
“He trained with the boys and we expect that to be (his ankle) ok across the week and it will give us a bit of an idea about his availability, but all things are looking good for this weekend.”
Phillips' issues with a hamstring were also said to be rectified, with the former Giant and Blue a live chance to partner with Sam Draper at stoppages this Saturday.
English faces secondary setback, defender to debut
Yet, while this latest setback will mean that the 24-year-old's stretch on the sidelines will now meet the month-long milestone, head coach Luke Beveridge believed English would be in the selection mix before too long.
"Tim unfortunately is ill, he's crook. So he won't play," coach Luke Beveridge told AAP.
"He's recovered from the injury but he's really sick. I think this flu that's going around has got a hold of him and it's knocked him around.
"It's whatever the heavy dose of this flu is, it's really floored him. So we'll miss him this week again."
Beveridge's pack will be bolstered by the return of defender Alex Keath following a lay-off due to his own hamstring concern.
Keath will be joined in the back six by mid-sized interceptor Luke Cleary after the Whitten Oval side announced that the 20-year-old would be making his debut at Marvel Stadium this weekend.
The Sandringham Dragons product will replace Tim O'Brien behind the ball after the former Hawk succumbed to a calf complaint in the City of Churches in Round 8.
Pies pair learn differing fates
While the 29-year-old has not pulled on black and white stripes since injuring himself during the Pies' shock Round 4 loss to West Coast.
Still, according to Andrew McCormack of 7News, head coach Craig McRae may well wait on placing the sharp-shooter back in his best-22, despite the fact that fellow livewire Jack Ginnivan is a current absentee from the club's Swan Street headquarters due to illness.
Jamie Elliott set for an early return next week from shoulder surgery.
Completed main session today.
— Andrew McCormack (@_AMcCormack7) May 11, 2022
Jack Ginnivan in doubt for @CollingwoodFC Friday night clash against Dogs.
— Andrew McCormack (@_AMcCormack7) May 11, 2022
McRae will have until Thursday evening to delineate exactly where his pair of offensive targets stand ahead of their latest clash against a 2021 finalist.
Gawn cleared of structural damage
The incident happened during the second quarter, with the star ruck playing out the rest of the 38-point win.
Gawn underwent precautionary scans and has been given the all clear to train this week, with the Demons due to face West Coast on Sunday afternoon in Perth.
Essendon confident in regaining virus hit group
All five Bombers players hit by a virus last week joined the main group at training on Tuesday, just days after the club was forced into five late changes ahead of their Round 8 clash with Hawthorn.
Jordan Ridley, Jake Kelly, Matt Guelfi, Alec Waterman and Sam Durham were all late outs on Saturday night after the Bombers were hit hard by a virus, but look like good chances to retake their spots for Round 9.
"We had a few boys go down last week but got them back in amongst the club now" skipper Dyson Heppell told media.
"They'll try to blow a bit of steam out the first couple of sessions early in the week but they should be right to go this week."
Cunningham sidelined until the bye, Hickey a chance for Round 9.
Hickey, who injured his knee in the Swans' Round 3 clash against the Bulldogs, had a strong outing over the weekend, ending the match 23 disposals, 26 hit-outs, six clearances and a goal.
“We wanted to get some more training into him and get a game into him that next level down, which he was able to do on the weekend" Longmire told media on Tuesday.
“He got through that and has pulled up really well so he’s a chance this weekend and we’ll make that decision in the next couple of days.
“Coming off the back of that that knee and missing four weeks it was good to get him a game on the weekend."
“Harry’s been ruled out until after the bye, he’s got that abdominal strain" Longmire said.
Butler a chance to take on Cats
Elsewhere at the Saints, Nick Coffield is set to hit the running track this week for the first time since rupturing his ACL during the pre-season.
Monday, May 9 ...
Star Demon under injury cloud
Gawn picked up the injury in the second quarter and managed to play out the game, but the club is still yet to confirm the seriousness of the injury.
Dockers forward out with concussion as cavalry return
Fremantle will face several changes heading into this weekend's clash with the Suns.
Forward Sam Switkowski was concussed during Freo’s last match against North Melbourne, with the 25-year-old set to miss next week’s clash with Gold Coast. Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir said Switkowski was "feeling really good” after the game so signs are positive for a return the week after.
Michael Frederick, Griffin Logue, Blake Acres, Travis Colyer, Rory Lobb and Lloyd Meek are all a chance to return after being forced to miss the weekend due to COVID protocols. Longmuir is confident that the team will be able to fit the six players back into the side comfortable without damaging the team’s momentum.
On positive news, Luke Ryan will travel with the team to the Gold Coast after rolling his ankle against the Roos. The injury is not serious and the team expect him to recover fully over the nine-day break.
Crows star, Blues pair make case for returns
Adelaide midfielder Matt Crouch put his hand up to be recalled after a standout performance in Adelaide’s VFL team. Crouch had an equal game-high 36 disposals, 10 clearances, eight marks and six tackles in the Crow’s massive 54 point victory over West Adelaide.
Draftee Jake Soligo also stood out with 29 disposals, 11 tackles and a goal of his own.
Paddy Dow continued his hot run of form in the reserves with an impressive 33 disposals and two goals. Dow is still yet to play a game for the senior side but is continuing to impress in the VFL.
Dogs likely to lean on more depth
The Doggies are also set to name several changes after sustaining a number of injuries in last round’s clash with Port Adelaide.
Laitham Vandermeer also sustained a high-grade hamstring injury and is likely to miss several weeks.
Defender Tim O’Brien also had complaints over calf soreness at three-quarter time, however no updates on the extent of his injury have been revealed.
Lions face selection dilemma after forward's setback
Brisbane key forward Daniel McStay was discharged from hospital after undergoing x-rays to determine the seriousness of an ankle injury. The results show the left ankle is not broken, but the injury was enough to cause the Lion to leave the game in serious pain.
McStay is set for further scans to reveal the extent of the injury in the coming days.