PERTH, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 22: Nic Naitanui of the Eagles talks with Keegan Brooksby at the quarter time break during the round 11 WAFL match between the East Fremantle Sharks and West Coast Eagles at New Choice Homes Park on June 22, 2019 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Essendon vs Greater Western Sydney 

Marvel Stadium 7:20pm (AEST) Thursday 27th June

Team news: The round opener will see a forgotten defender don the sash for the first time in 656 days, with Martin Gleeson recalled to replace the injured Matt Guelfi. The light-framed Bomber missed two years of AFL action following the 2017 elimination final, plagued by injuries ever since.

For the Giants, out comes the injured Matt De Boer (shoulder) to be replaced by first-year mid Jackson Hately – much to the delight of the fantasy football world. Reliable defender Nick Haynes comes in for Jake Stein, who debuted before the bye. The final change will see pacey forward Zac Langdon return to the senior side following good form in the NEAFL, at the expense of Matt Buntine.

Prediction: Essendon must win if they’re serious about September, but the Giants will make it tough and be up for the occasion. Giants by 22.

Geelong vs Adelaide 

GMHBA Stadium 7:50pm (AEST) Friday 28th June

Team news: Two top-six teams do battle in Geelong, and for Chris Scott it’s another big week at the selection hearing. Gary Rohan was victim to another unfortunate concussion on the weekend, and will likely miss following the six-day break. The unlucky news continues, with Esava Ratugolea (hamstring) expected to miss again, meaning will Darcy Fort serve for another week, but Ratugolea is their preferred option. Lachie Fogarty has been excellent in the VFL, and should come in for Rohan.

Prior to the bye we saw Josh Jenkins (knee) go down, the verdict wasn’t serious but he’ll miss at least two, which will open the door for young Elliot Himmelberg to prove his worth. The other concern for the Crows will be the fitness of Wayne Milera (back), with either Riley Knight or Bryce Gibbs the next best candidates.

Prediction: Hard to go past the Cats at the fortress, two losses to South Australian clubs would be worrying. Cats by 14.

Hawthorn vs West Coast 

MCG 1:45pm (AEST) Saturday 29th June

Team news: Following omission, young on-baller James Cousins collected 32 disposals in a best-afield performance for Box Hill. Paul Puopolo had just one kick last week, the exciting small has been unable to find his feet in 2019, young Ollie Hanrahan is every chance of taking his spot. Mitch Lewis and Jackson Ross are the VFL key-forwards Clarkson could opt for if he is looking to shake things up. Harry Morrison to come out for Cousins almost a guarantee.

It’s a big week for the premiers, while Jeremy McGovern sits following suspension, in comes star ruckman Nic Naitanui and premiership defender Tom Barrass. Also, back into the side after serving suspension is Willie Rioli. The changes here seem obvious, with Oscar Allen the unlucky tall to help balance the side while Jarrod Cameron – despite being lively on debut – is behind Rioli for that goal-sneak position.

Prediction: Eagles too strong, a chance to get some form at the ‘G. Eagles by 28.

Sydney vs Gold Coast 

SCG 4:35pm (AEST) Saturday June 29th

Team news: There shouldn’t be too many changes for the Swans, but the injury to Lance Franklin means he’ll be stuck on 299 games for a handful of weeks. Both Isaac Heeney (thigh) and Callum Sinclair (concussion) were notable injuries last week, but all reports say they’re good to go. Tom McCartin showed plenty of signs when Buddy was out earlier this season, and will have a chance to sign with fellow young forward Nick Blakey.

The Suns are expected to have vice-captains Touk Miller and Pearce Hanley available, both players had time away recovering from quad injuries. They’ve chopped and changed this year, and don’t be surprised if two midfielders are dropped with George Horlin-Smith and Nick Holman currently on the fringe. With their NEAFL side having the bye, there isn’t anyone challenging for spots.

Prediction: Sydney to move as high as 10th if they can win big. Swans by 38. 

Collingwood vs North Melbourne 

Marvel Stadium 7:25pm (AEST) Saturday June 29th

Team news: Jeremy Howe’s calf injury will open the door for two strong candidates. Matt Scharenberg has enjoyed a run of form in the VFL, with a best-on-ground 33 possessions off the half-back last week. First-round draft pick Isaac Quaynor found his feet again with 22 disposals and a goal, but it’s likely Buckley will go with experience first.

Taylor Garner will play in the VFL this weekend, after he was involved in a bar fight in Sydney. The awkward situation makes enough room for Paul Ahern, while youngster Kyron Hayden has had his name thereabouts for a number of weeks. Jamie Macmillan is set to return from a calf complaint, coach Rhyce Shaw will opt for experience with Sam Durdin expected to be omitted.

Prediction: Magpies looked edgy at Marvel last week, but the Roos will need everything to go right. Pies by 15.

Port Adelaide vs Western Bulldogs 

Adelaide Oval 7:40pm (AEST) Saturday June 29th 

Team news: The decision to drop Justin Westhoff and Paddy Ryder paid off, with Port defeating ladder-leaders Geelong last Saturday night. Disappointing news for Karl Amon and swing-man Dougal Howard, who were suspended during the Cats game and sentenced earlier this week. Two players who have been eyeing off a return, William Drew and Peter Ladhams are seemingly likely replacements. There’s plenty of options in the wings, with Sam Powell-Pepper and Todd Marshall also missing the round 14 victory.

Following round 14 omission, Toby McLean was emergency for the senior game, not getting the chance to earn a recall through the reserves. McLean was victim of fewer midfield minutes, but should see more AFL action as the year closes out. There aren’t any returning players, however, iron man Dale Morris is expected to return to the VFL following ACL injury at the beginning of pre-season.

Prediction: Port to get it done, but not without a doggies fight. Power by 16

St Kilda vs Richmond 

Marvel Stadium 1:10pm (AEST) Sunday 30th June

Team news: The Brisbane game last week was a wake-up call for the Saints, who haven’t been able to find a winning formula. Several players will be worried ‘Richo’ may swing the axe and it’s difficult to predict who will be at the forefront of omissions. Both Jimmy Webster (hand) and Brandon White (thigh) will face fitness tests prior to this one. Small forward Dean Kent suffered an injury at training Thursday morning, his pending availability could save someone from omission.

When one returns, they all return. The Tigers will delightfully make Trent Cotchin, Shane Edwards and David Astbury available – while Kane Lambert will be touch and go. The big changes here could see ruck Ivan Soldo return in place of Mabior Chol. Also likely decisions, Astbury in for Ryan Garthwaite, Edwards for Connor Menadue and Cotchin for Jack Higgins (who hasn’t missed a game in 2019). If Lambert can get up, then Dan Butler or Daniel Rioli are the next to go.

Prediction: Yet another difficult week for the Saints, they have to face a near-full-strength Richmond outfit. Tigers by 39. 

Brisbane vs Melbourne 

Gabba 3:20pm (AEST) Sunday 30th June

Team news: A big win for the Lions will ease the thought of playing September in Melbourne, but they were head and shoulders above the opposition. No need to change a winning team however young defender Zac Bailey was exceptional in the NEAFL side’s big win. Inside bull Jarrod Berry (knee) to come back through the reserves.

Jordan Lewis proved why he is still around, with 40 disposals in the VFL over the weekend, there’s an opportunity here for him with Michael Hibberd (collarbone) expected to face fitness tests. One of those two will replace Josh Wagner, while news on Jake Lever’s knee sounds troubling, and should be given another week to recover.

Prediction: The Demons to be brought back down to earth with a heavy defeat up north. Lions by 38

Fremantle vs Carlton 

Optus Stadium 5:20pm (AEST) Sunday 30th June

Team news: With Hogan out, Cam McCarthy will be brought back into the frame due to lack of options. The other injury scare to Stephen Hill will make way for young Adam Cerra to return. Both Nathan Wilson (ankle) and Sean Darcy (ribs) will face fitness tests. The best news out of the Dockers’ camp, Michael Walters escaped suspension and is available.

The Blues will be ready for the toughest road trip in football, and we could see a shake-up in David Teague’s lineup. Liam Jones finally becomes available after missing seven weeks with concussion symptoms. Levi Casboult would normally be the first name pushed down, but his form has added plenty of pressure on the likes of Caleb Marchbank and Lachie Plowman. Expect Jack Silvagni to at least travel as an emergency following a big day in the VFL two weeks ago.

Prediction: A must-win for the Dockers, given they are only inside the eight on percentage. Dockers by 30.