AFL Finals are finally here, and with the arrival of September football comes come cut-throat selection calls from the coaches.
Carlton are facing a significant selection squeeze at the right time of the year, while Port Adelaide are hoping to have a quartet of senior figures available for Saturday's qualifying final against the Lions.
Collingwood will regain two top defenders, while their opponents, Melbourne, still need to fill another hole in their forward line.
The Swans and Lions will regain some attacking spark, while there could be contrasting outcomes for the Saints and Giants ahead of their elimination final.
Here we preview each club's selection planning, naming the likely inclusions, omissions, and 23-man sides to play in week one of the finals.
Collingwood vs Melbourne
Thursday, September 7
The Magpies have confirmed Nick Daicos won't be available for at least another week as he continues to nurse a knee injury, with a return in the second week more likely or via a preliminary final if Collingwood is successful on Thursday. Captain Darcy Moore and defender Nathan Murphy have both been cleared to return from hamstring and glute/back issues respectively, while pressure forward Beau McCreery is available after serving a one-game suspension in Round 24. While expected to be available for selection after suffering a concussion in Round 23, young defender Jakob Ryan is unlikely to make his way back into Craig McRae's side. Sharpshooter Ashley Johnson will be unavailable after hiring his arm in the VFL over the weekend. The incoming names will likely force Finlay Macrae out of the 23-man side despite a promising showing in the second half against Essendon two weeks ago, while Billy Frampton is also likely to lose his spot with the returning Moore and Murphy. Mason Cox could be another unlikely Magpie to miss as well, while Oleg Markov or Jack Ginnivan will be in contention for the sub role.
Ins: Moore, Murphy, McCreery
Outs: Frampton, Macrae, Cox
FB: Maynard, Murphy, Quaynor
HB: Pendlebury, Moore, Crisp
C: Hoskin-Elliott, De Goey, J. Daicos
HF: Hill, Mihocek, Adams
FF: Elliott, McStay, McCreery
FO: Cameron, Lipinski, Sidebottom
I/C: Mitchell, Noble, Ginnivan, Howe
EMERG: Macrae, Frampton, Cox
All eyes will be on who replaced Jake Melksham after the veteran forward sustained a season-ending ACL injury in his side's Round 24 win over Sydney. Tom McDonald firms as the likely name to take his place, which would mean the big-bodied Demon will play his first game since Round 11 via a finals return. That call will mean Brodie Grundy misses out on a recall despite his best efforts in the VFL a fortnight ago. Daniel Turner could hold his spot after facing the Swans, with the versatile Joel Smith perhaps taking on the sub role in place of Bailey Laurie. After battling a concussion, veteran defender Michael Hibberd will be considered for a return, with his selection likely a means of finding ideal matchups against Collingwood's attack. Adam Tomlinson will be in consideration also, with several magnets to be moved if Bayley Fritsch is unable to be cleared of a foot issue.
Ins: McDonald, Hibberd
Outs: Melksham, Laurie
FB: Turner, May, Rivers
HB: McVee, Lever, Salem
C: Hunter, Viney, Brayshaw
HF: Langdon, McDonald, Neal-Bullen
FF: Fritsch, van Rooyen, Pickett
FO: Gawn, Oliver, Petracca
I/C: Bowey, Hibberd, Sparrow, Chandler
EMERG: Laurie, Jordon, Grundy
Carlton vs Sydney
Friday, September 8
The Blues will be buoyed by the inclusions of captain Patrick Cripps and ex-skipper Sam Docherty for their first final in a decade. Ruckman Marc Pittonet is also expected to come back into the side and work in tandem with Tom De Koning, while small forward Jesse Motlop will be in the mix after being a late out against GWS in Round 24 due to illness. The quartet of potential inclusions spells omissions for the likes of Zac Fisher, Paddy Dow and Corey Durdin despite recent form, with Michael Voss facing a large selection squeeze at the right time of the year. Wingman Blake Acres is battling a shoulder injury that was sustained in the loss to the Giants but remains a chance to face the Swans. Round 24 sub Caleb Marchbank likely falls out of the side altogether, while first-year Blue Alex Cincotta could take his place as the fifth man on the interchange, with Oliver Hollands, David Cuningham or Lachie Fogarty also a chance to take on the sub role if they're not in the starting side. Midfielder Matthew Kennedy could miss out on a return after recovering from an MCL injury in time for September.
Ins: Cripps, Docherty, Pittonet, Motlop
Outs: Fisher, Dow, Durdin, Marchbank
FB: McGovern, Weitering, Newman
HB: Docherty, Kemp, Saad
C: Acres, Hewett, Hollands
HF: Cottrell, McKay, Cuningham
FF: Martin, Curnow, Owies
FO: De Koning, Cripps, Walsh
I/C: Cerra, Fogarty, Motlop, Pittonet
EMERG: Kennedy, C.Durdin, Dow
The Swans will regain some forward spark as attacking livewire Tom Papley returns from a hamstring injury. Midfield-forward Justin McInerney will also likely come into John Longmire's plans for his first game since Round 20 after battling a calf issue. The duo will likely slot into the forward third, forcing two of Ryan Clarke, Sam Wicks or Dylan Stephens out of the starting 22, however, all three Swans will be considered for the sub role. Round 24 sub Aaron Francis, who went unused in the loss to Melbourne, is likely to fall out of the side. Tall defender Lewis Melican may be considered to give Tom McCartin a helping hand in defence as the Swans take on Coleman Medal-winning pair Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay.
Ins: Papley, McInerney
Outs: Francis, Clarke
FB: McCartin, Rampe, Cunningham
HB: Fox, Blakey, Lloyd
C: Campbell, Ch. Warner, Gulden
HF: Wicks, McLean, Heeney
FF: McDonald, Amartey, Papley
FO: Hickey, Parker, Mills
I/C: McInerney, Rowbottom, Hayward, Florent
EMERG: Clarke, Francis, Melican
St Kilda vs GWS
Saturday, September 9
Star Saints forward Max King will return after a week off to conclude his home and away campaign, while Sebastian Ross (hamstring) and Dougal Howard (wrist) are racing against the clock to be fit in time for Saturday's final. Defender Josh Battle is needed to prove his fitness after suffering a head knock against the Lions two weeks ago, having entered concussion protocols. King's inclusion likely forces Jack Hayes back out of the side, with Cooper Sharman the other forward that could be replaced. Anthony Caminiti is another option that could come back in after his own period in concussion protocols. Jack Billings is still on standby, while neither Daniel McKenzie (calf) nor Zak Jones (knee) are expected to play. Round 24 sub Ryan Byrnes could be expected to hold his role, or earn a promotion onto the field if Ross Lyon sees someone like Zaine Cordy as a more fitting sub - with a move likely to depend on matchups against the Giants.
FB: Battle, Wilkie, Webster
HB: Cordy, Sinclair, Wanganeen-Milera
C: Hill, Windhager, Wood
HF: Gresham, King, Owens
FF: Sharman, Membrey, Phillipou
FO: Marshall, Steele, Crouch
I/C: Clark, Stocker, Butler, Higgins
EMERG: Caminiti, Billings, Hayes
Star defender Sam Taylor needs to prove his fitness after suffering a hamstring injury ahead of his side's Round 24 clash with Carlton. While the Giant will take some satisfaction in managing a win over the Blues without their top stopper, Taylor will be crucial to their September prospects. Small forward Toby Bedford will miss due to a one-game suspension, with a failed bid forcing him out of the side. His absence could open the door for Xavier O'Halloran to play his first game since Round 17, while second-year midfielder Finn Callaghan will also need to find a place in Adam Kingsley's 22. Fellow sophomore Josh Fahey will also be in consideration if further changes are required, while Toby McMullin, Lachlan Keeffe and Ryan Angwin could make way.
Ins: Taylor, Callaghan, O'Halloran
Outs: Bedford, McMullin, Keeffe
FB: Buckley, Taylor, Idun
HB: Ash, Himmelberg, Whitfield
C: Kelly, Green, Perryman
HF: O'Halloran, Riccardi, Daniels
FF: Lloyd, Hogan, Greene
FO: Briggs, Ward, Coniglio
I/C: Angwin, Cumming, Brown, Callaghan
EMERG: Keeffe, McMullin, Fahey
Brisbane vs Port Adelaide
Saturday, September 9
The Gabba, 7:25pm
Small forward Lincoln McCarthy will return from a minor calf strain that kept him out of Brisbane's last game against St Kilda. His replacement, Kai Lohmann, could fall out of Chris Fagan's side after serving as the sub in Round 24, with the second-year Lion among several options to be considered for the tactical role. McCarthy's move into the starting 22 may push Jarryd Lyons or Jaspa Fletcher to the fifth bench role and keep Lohmann out of the 23-man lineup altogether. Veteran forward Jack Gunston won't be available as he eyes a return from his knee injury closer to the final fortnight of September, while Daniel Rich is also unlikely to return despite having a chance of being cleared following his hamstring setback.
FB: Starcevich, Andrews, Payne
HB: McKenna, Lester, Ah Chee
C: McCluggage, Dunkley, Zorko
HF: Cameron, Hipwood, Berry
FF: Rayner, Daniher, McCarthy
FO: McInerney, Neale, Bailey
I/C: Robertson, Wilmot, Coleman, Fletcher
EMERG: Fort, Lohmann, Prior
While the Power will likely be without veteran forward Charlie Dixon (foot), sharpshooter Todd Marshall is expected to return after missing Round 24 with a hip issue. Key defender Trent McKenzie (knee) is also eyeing a return but is no certainty of being cleared to play, while senior ruckman Scott Lycett is tipped to return after making his return from a knee injury through the SANFL over the weekend on managed minutes. The ex-Eagle is expected to take over from Sam Hayes, who held the ruck role for the last three weeks of the home and away season. If Dixon and McKenzie are given the green light, expect youngster Ollie Lord and captain Tom Jonas to make way. Young defender Dylan Williams might hold onto the tactical sub role for another week, with he or Francis Evans - who could be dropped after kicking three goals against the Tigers - in the mix.
Ins: Marshall, Lycett McKenzie
Outs: Hayes, Jonas
FB: McKenzie, Aliir, Jones
HB: Burton, Bergman, Houston
C: Boak, Butters, Duursma
HF: McEntee, Byrne-Jones, Powell-Pepper
FF: Rioli, Marshall, Finlayson
FO: Lycett, Horne-Francis, Rozee
I/C: Farrell, Wines, Drew, Lord
EMERG: Williams, Hayes, Jonas