We're six rounds into the season and the ladder is continuing to take shape, with early contenders emerging from the opening month of action.
With a healthy list often a prerequisite for flag contention, keeping the best names on the track each weekend is vital.
Ahead of Round 7, we take a look at all the selection news, with big names needing to prove their fitness while fringe players hope to retain their place in their respective side's best 22.
For all listed injuries, visit our INJURIES AND SUSPENSIONS page.
Pies' pair return to track, tipped to take on Suns
As reported by 7News' Mitch Cleary, the hampered pair were sighted at Olympic Park on Saturday morning, clearing the way for both to take on the Suns on Sunday afternoon.
Emergency Callum Brown was also among the Pies taking part in the Captain's Run, boosting suggestions that the son-of-a-gun would wear the vest in Round 7.
Seventh name added to Demons' COVID casualty list
Melbourne leadership group member Alex Neal-Bullen has been added to the club's group COVID casualty list, with the offensive outlet ruled out of the clash with Hawthorn on Saturday afternoon after entering isolation.
The Demons confirmed Neal-Bullen's entry in health and safety protocols on Friday night, stating that former Bomber Jake Melksham would replace the 26-year-old in the Redleg's starting lineup.
Former club great and current assistant Adem Yze will lead the Dees against the Hawks at the MCG.
Dockers duo remain sidelined after isolation stint
According to 7 News' Ryan Daniels, neither of the young backmen will fly to Kardinia Park for their bout with the Cats, with Lloyd Meek, Josh Treacy and potential debutant Karl Worner part of Justin Longmuir's squad for the match.
Meek is set to replace Sean Darcy after the Dockers ruckman sustained a concussion in the Round 6 win over Carlton, while a hamstring injury to Matt Taberner will see Treacy brought into Longmuir's side.
Hayden Young and Heath Chapman won't play against @GeelongCats - not quite ready after COVID.
Travelling party for @freodockers did not include Darcy Tucker - new faces are Lloyd Meek, Josh Treacy and potential debutant Karl Worner.
23 players travelled.@7NewsPerth
— Ryan Daniels (@FootyRhino) April 28, 2022
Blues gun no certainty for Roos clash
The ex-Swan suffered a corked calf in Carlton's loss to Fremantle and according to Channel 7's Mitch Cleary, Hewett was limping significantly earlier during the week, with heavy strapping on his calf.
A watch on Carlton’s George Hewett at selection tonight ahead of game v North Melbourne Sat night.
Was walking with a significant limp and had heavy strapping on his calf on Sunday and Tuesday.
Similar calf cork to Patrick Dangerfield
— Mitch Cleary (@cleary_mitch) April 28, 2022
Hewett has begun his tenure at the Blues in fine fashion, averaging 30 disposals, 4.83 tackles, 7.83 clearances and 14.17 contested possessions per game.
The Blues will confirm their Round 7 squad at 5:00pm AEDT on Thursday.
Hawks confirm debut for key forward
With doubt over Mitch Lewis’ recovery from hamstring soreness, the 19-year-old Tasmanian
will take his place in the Hawks’ forward line when they come up against the Dees on Saturday afternoon.
The 195cm teenager has impressed at VFL level, one of Box Hill’s best last weekend against
Frankston, with a 1.2, 12-disposal performance including six marks and 11 hit-outs.
Prior to his selection at Pick 17 in last year’s Mid-Season Draft, Callow left his family in North Launceston to play in the SANFL, pushing his case after being overlooked in the 2020
Head of Football, Rob McCartney, lauded Callow for his hard work and determination on his
way to an AFL debut.
“Jackson’s story is one of perseverance. He has made many sacrifices to get this opportunity and we couldn’t be happier for him,” McCartney said.
“He has continued to improve at VFL level and now gets his opportunity to make his AFL
Dogs lose forward through COVID protocols
At a media conference this morning, Beveridge confirmed Scott’s absence for his side’s clash with the Bombers on Sunday - just the second match Scott will miss so far this season.
“Robbie works extremely hard and he had his opportunities with the footy that we believe that over time he’ll make the most of. He’ll definitely play again this week,” Beveridge said this morning.
The Dogs will host Essendon at Marvel Stadium for the 3:20pm game on Sunday.
Eagles to blood 12th debutant of 2022
The 24-year-old joined the Eagles as the 62nd overall selection in last year's National Draft, venturing from Subiaco as the 2021 Simpson medallist following a best-afield performance in the WAFL Grand Final.
According to 7 News' Adrian Barich, Clark will make his debut as the 42nd Eagles player to feature in Adam Simpson's side this season.
A ready-made midfielder, Clark is set to slot into the Eagles' start-studded midfield in the absence of star Elliot Yeo, who will miss after suffering a head knock in West Coast's Round 6 loss to Port Adelaide.
North lose ruckman for a month
The 23-year-old has enjoyed his start to the 2022 season, averaging 13.17 disposals and 22.50 hit-outs per game in sharing the ruck workload with veteran Todd Goldstein.
Goldstein is now set to regain the first-string ruck duties for David Noble as the Roos chase their second win of the season, with a Saturday night clash with Carlton set to test the Arden Street club.
Wednesday, April 27...
Martin, Cotchin, Tarrant all set to miss flight west
Speaking to richmondfc.com.au, Tigers' General Manager of Football Performance Tim Livingstone claimed the ex-skipper and former Roo would be held out and rested for the Round 7 fixture.
Livingstone also dampened excitement at Punt Road surrounding a shock call-up for the until-recently absent Dustin Martin after the superstar returned to the training track over the weekend.
While the triple Norm Smith medallist reportedly appeared fit as a fiddle during a running session held last Saturday, the club would be keeping their centrepiece on ice for another week yet.
"It is great to see Dustin back at training," Livingstone said.
"The boys are excited to have him back. He has got a couple of good football sessions in this week and is looking fit and strong.
"It has been a five-week break- so that is not the best preparation coming into this round (for Dustin).
"We will have a look again next week and see how he is progressing."
Richmond is set to face historic rivals Collingwood at the MCG in Round 8, and should 'Dusty' be worked back into the line-up, the latest in a long line of clashes will take on an even greater significance.
Melbourne trio to miss Hawks clash due to COVID-19
The Demons have already confirmed senior coach Simon Goodwin will be absent for the Saturday afternoon clash at the MCG for similar reasons, with the news coming after duo Jake Lever and Jack Viney were omitted from Round 6 due to health and safety protocols.
Now, the trio of Jackson, Pickett and Sparrow are set to miss this week's action due to league protocols, the club has confirmed. All three players are expected to be available for the Demons' Round 8 clash with St Kilda.
Reports had begun to speculate in-from tall Luke Jackson will be among the absentees for this weekend, with small forward Toby Bedford seemingly hinting at a stint in lockdown for the pair in a post to Instagram on Tuesday night.
The Demons have not listed Bedford as a potential omission for Round 7, with the forward having been an unused medical sub for the past five rounds.
The Demons are anticipating to see Lever and Viney return for the Hawks clash from their stint in isolation, while defender Michael Hibberd has also been cleared to play after overcoming a calf issue.
Hamstrung Sun to miss Pies clash
The promising backman suffered the setback during his side's loss to Brisbane on the weekend, with Powell anticipated to miss the coming weeks.
"Wil suffered a hamstring strain during Sunday's Round 6 match, which we’ll work with him to rehabilitate over the next two to three weeks," Head PhysiotherapistLindsay Bull told Suns Media.
The Suns have confirmed forward pair Malcolm Rosas and Jack Lukosious will be a test for this weekend, when they travel to the MCG to face the Magpies.
Swans lose duo for Lions clash, Papley in line for return
The duo suffered head knocks in Monday's win over the Hawks, with Longmire revealing both McCartin and McDonald aren't showing worrying impacts of their respective incidents.
"They're fine, they're both really good," Longmire said.
"They obviously go into the concussion protocols. So they won't play this week."
Small forward Tom Papley is a strong chance to play his first game of the season after spending the past three weeks on the training track in his recuperation from a hamstring setback.
Longmire said that Papley has one final hurdle to overcome in order to feature at the SCG this week.
"Over the last week he's been absolutely flat out," the Swans coach stated.
"Trained again today, look really sharp. If he gets through the rest of the week training, which we expect he will, he'll be selected in the squad."
His coach called for patience on the third-year Swan, stating "everyone does come along in a different place".
"I look it's only been a couple of years," Longmire said. "I remember Heath Grundy was on a list for five years.
"I just think we just need to understand that there is a development process and everyone comes along at a different pace.
"We'll look at what the team looks like this week. We'll make the decisions we need to but just understand that everyone does come along in a different place."
Grimes pressing for Round 7 start
Star defender Dylan Grimes is touch and go for this week, with the Tigers set to make a decision later in the week before bringing the 30-year-old back into the 22.
Grimes, who hasn’t played since Round 3 due to a hamstring injury, will be assessed during training this week after showing positive signs in training over the last two weeks.
Physical Performance Manager Peter Burge told richmondfc.com.au that due to a five-day break, the Tigers will be conservative in Dylan’s return and will only be selected if “he’s absolutely ready to go”.
The Tigers could welcome back veteran Kane Lambert this week for their clash against the Eagles on Friday night, with the midfielder-come-forward being managed following a hip injury.
Lambert had joined main training in the build-up to the Melbourne game before deciding to sit out after failing to recover from the previous week’s VFL game.
Burge said the Tigers are “pretty optimistic” that Lambert will return should he get through their last training session of the week.
Ivan Soldo (toe) and Noah Cumberland (knee) look set to be available for AFL selection this week after recovering from injuries, while young midfielder Thomson Dow is “doubtful” to make the trip to Perth after suffering a corked quad.
Burge also confirmed that Marlion Pickett (hamstring), Josh Caddy (hamstring), Hugo Ralphsmith (ribs) and Tom Brown (Calf cork) would all remain unavailable for this week as they make progress in their return from injuries.
Dangerfield, Henry returns outlined
After sustaining a corked calf during the Cats' Easter Monday loss to the Hawks, Dangerfield was held out of the Hoops' big win over North over the ANZAC weekend.
And while it is not yet known whether the Brownlow medallist will make his way back into the selection frame to face Fremantle in Round 7, Geelong's Head of Medical and Conditioning Service Harry Taylor suggested his former teammate was on the mend.
“Patrick is managing a calf cork from the Round 5 game against Hawthorn. Patrick will continue his reconditioning program as planned and we will assess later in the week,” the former defender told geelongcats.com.au.
Henry's return from a foot complaint is also ambiguous according to Taylor.
“Jack had an acute injury to his foot in the Round 5 game against Hawthorn. Jack will follow a reconditioning plan that builds his foot strength and mobility.”
Saints' reserves receive big boost
St Kilda's VFL affiliate Sandringham can expect to receive a seismic leg up in selection this week with recuperating pair Zak Jones and Jack Billings expected to lineup for the Zebras against Frankston this weekend.
While Jones had initially been tipped to join Brett Ratten's men on a flight north to Cairns to face Port Adelaide in Round 7, Josh Gabelich of AFL Media tweeted on Wednesday that the former Swan would be given an extra week to recover from a health and safety hangover.
Zak Jones is set to miss the trip to Cairns after exiting H & S protocols on Tuesday. Jack Billings will return from a hamstring in the VFL on Sunday. Two handy inclusions for @sandyzebs vs Frankston. They won't be too far away from AFL returns. Story on @AFLcomau soon
— Josh Gabelich (@JoshGabelich) April 26, 2022
Billings will recommence his season after sustaining a hamstring injury during the Saints' AAMI Community Series victory over Essendon in March.
The former top 10 draft pick last featured for Trevor Barker Beach Oval side in 2018 after being omitted following a poor run of form.
Saints set to receive massive boost ahead of Cairns visit
Ryder, who has served out a two-week suspension for a bump on Hawthorn's Will Day, will rejuvenate a Saints talls group in much need after young ruck-forward Jack Hayes suffered a season-ending knee injury against GWS last Friday night.
Meanwhile, Jones, who has been in the AFL's health and safety protocols after returning from a leave of absence, is set to be out on Tuesday and in time to put his hand up for this week's contest.
Pies' ANZAC Day victory soured by key position injuries
Grundy, who fell victim to a knee injury but soldiered on and played out the final quarter of Monday's win over Essendon, is likely to miss between 10-12 weeks with a PCL sprain.
On the other hand, Kreuger, who has made a positive impact since moving from Geelong in the off-season, is set to miss the remainder of the season after separating his shoulder.
Mason Cox, omitted for the blockbuster clash against the Bombers, looms as the most likely inclusion. However, untried youngster Aiden Begg is another possibility if senior coach Craig McRae opts to go another route.
Blues star to miss for debutant, defender faces yet another setback
Carlton star recruit George Hewett will be a key absentee for the Blues this weekend as he deals with a corked calf suffered in last week's loss to the Dockers.
Hewett has been a revelation for the Blues this season but will sit out this week alongside injured ruck Marc Pittonet. The former Swan will be replaced by debutant Jack Carroll who has starred in the VFL in recent weeks averaging 25 disposals and one goal per game over the last fortnight.
The bad news doesn't end with Hewett's absence for the Blues with intercept defender Mitch McGovern suffering an injury setback.
McGovern underwent scans on Friday morning to determine the severity of the setback. Head of Football Brad Lloyd said
“It is obviously really unfortunate for Mitch, he was so determined to get back into the side over the next fortnight and was really looking to have an impact with his teammates on the field,” Lloyd said.
“Mitch had been ticking every box required of him during his recovery so he’s understandably disappointed with today’s result. Our primary focus right now is on making sure he is okay and we will focus on getting Mitch ready to have an impact in the second half of the season.”
Essendon top-10 pick nearing 2nd senior game
After only featuring once in his debut season, Reid has shone at VFL level in recent weeks averaging 16 disposals and eight marks in the last two weeks.
Ben Rutten told media on Friday that he had been very impressed with the 20-year-old this season.
“The last couple of weeks have been really about him getting back and playing some good footy ... seeing some of his movements and some of his contest work and intercept marking. He’s doing a lot right, and he’s going to be well and truly in for selection this week,” Rutten said.
Darcy Parish will be given every chance to prove his fitness after he suffered an ankle injury on ANZAC Day.
Pies pair to miss with illness
Collingwood duo Jordan De Goey and Wil Hoskin-Elliot will miss the Magpies' clash with the Gold Coast after they came down with a bout of gastro.
The two forwards were both absent for training on Friday with the club later confirming that the pair would miss the Round 7 clash.