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The Western Bulldogs are set to welcome back a star in the nick of time.

Plus some key calls loom at Melbourne and North Melbourne.

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AFL ROUND 18 FIXTURE AND TEAMS (All times AEST)

WESTERN BULLDOGS v ST KILDA

Friday July 15, 7:50pm at Marvel Stadium

Dogs’ team

B: Richards, Gardner, Scott

HB: Williams, Keath, Dale

C: Hunter, Macrae, Bedendo

HF: Johannisen, Ugle-Hagan, Liberatore

F: Bontempelli, Naughton, Weightman

FOLL: English, Dunkley, Treloar

I/C: West, Hannan, Garcia, Schache

EMG: O’Brien, McComb, Cleary, Sweet

Team Tips: There could be some handy ins for the Dogs this week and just in time given how precarious their finals hopes now are. Bailey Smith will come straight back into the side after serving his suspension under the league’s illicit drugs policy, while Josh Bruce kicked four goals in the VFL on Sunday. That’s a solid month in the seconds for him despite some hamstring tightness at training a fortnight ago, so the decision is Luke Beveridge’s as to whether he’s ready to come in off a five-day break. Toby McLean is another player returning from an ACL injury and he had 27 disposals in that same game alongside Bruce. Tim O’Brien was dropped but the defence didn’t exactly thrive without him, so he won’t be far away from a recall either this week or next.

Saints’ team

B: Battle, Joyce, Wilkie

HB: Sinclair, Highmore, Webster

C: Hill, Ross, Billings

HF: Crouch, Membrey, Jones

F: Higgins, King, Marshall

FOLL: Ryder, Steele, Gresham

I/C: Wanganeen-Milera, Windhager, Wood, Butler

EMG: Long, Byrnes, Lienert, Sharman

Team Tips: Mitch Owens hasn’t played since getting concussed a few weeks back, but has joined in full training recently and his pressure is desperately needed in a side that wilted against Fremantle. Darragh Joyce could potentially make way but there isn’t necessarily a key defender of his size to take his place, which they’ll need coming up against Aaron Naughton. Jarrod Lienert and Ben Paton are on the fringes. Hunter Clark could push for an early return from his facial injury. Daniel McKenzie should be available for selection following a calf injury.

What’s wrong with the Dogs? | 03:57

ADELAIDE CROWS v COLLINGWOOD

Saturday July 16, 1:45pm at Adelaide Oval

Crows’ team

B: Doedee, Butts, Dawson

HB: Smith, Murray, Parnell

C: Hately, Laird, Jones

HF: Milera, Fogarty, Soligo

F: McHenry, Walker, Rowe

FOLL: O’Brien, Keays, Berry

I/C: Crouch, Thilthorpe, Schoenberg, Hamill

EMG: Himmelberg, Davis, Sholl, Murphy

Team Tips: There could be a few changes as Matthew Nicks tries to find the right mix for a group that just isn’t playing consistently well enough to challenge even sides around them on the ladder like Hawthorn. James Rowe was very quiet and Chayce Jones still isn’t showing enough consistently. Ned McHenry was another who struggled. Probably time to give the likes of Mitch Hinge, Brayden Cook and Shane McAdam in and give them a chance to solidify their form. At the moment, it’s looking like some change is needed.

Pies’ team

B: Pendlebury, Howe, Quaynor

HB: Murphy, Maynard, Crisp

C: Sidebottom, N.Daicos, Hoskin-Elliott

HF: Elliott, De Goey, Mihocek

F: McCreery, Cameron, Noble

FOLL: Cox, Daicos, Adams

I/C: Lipinski, Ruscoe, Ginnivan, Henry

EMG: Brown, Macrae, Kelly, Carmichael

Team Tips: The Pies will need a midfield replacement for Taylor Adams. Adams was concussed in the dying minutes of the win over North Melbourne and will now be sidelined under the AFL’s concussion protocols. Finlay Macrae looms as a likely inclusion. He had 34 disposals in the VFL, 10 clearances and nine tackles after being the emergency for Saturday’s AFL clash. The Pies will be unlikely to make wholesale changes to the team that’s now won seven straight.

Is Ginnivan playing for free kicks? | 04:11

GWS GIANTS v BRISBANE LIONS

Saturday July 16, 1:45pm at Manuka Oval

Giants’ team

B: Kennedy, Taylor, Cumming

HB: Haynes, Davis, Keeffe

C: Bruhn, Green, Kelly

HF: Peatling, Himmelberg, Whitfield

F: Lloyd, Hogan, Greene

FOLL: Flynn, Ash, Coniglio

I/C: Ward, Brown, Taranto, Wehr

EMG: Sproule, Hopper, Riccardi, O’Halloran

Team Tips: Connor Idun was out due to health and safety protocols and could slot straight back in. Phil Davis’ latest hamstring injury opens the door for someone like Jake Stein to come back into the side. Mark McVeigh has been making Braydon Preuss earn his spot and maybe he finally comes back into the side, but we wouldn’t be holding our breath. Jacob Hopper had 32 disposals despite being tagged in the VFL, while Jake Riccardi kicked three goals and took 10 marks. There are no shortage of options for McVeigh after a heavy loss.

Lions’ team

B: Fullarton, Payne, Answerth

HB: Bailey, Adams, Starcevich

C: Robinson, McCarthy, Tunstill

HF: McCluggage, Hipwood, Rayner

F: Lester, Daniher, Cameron

FOLL: McInerney, Lyons, Neale

I/C: Cockatoo, Sharp, Fort, Michael

EMG: T.Berry, Madden, Robertson, Mathieson

Team Tips: Let’s start with the health and safety protocols withdrawals. Of the five, Chris Fagan says all but Noah Answerth should be available, so that means Keidean Coleman, Harris Andrews, Daniel McStay and Callum Ah Chee should come back into the side. Then you’ve got the injured players, which Fagan says are all a chance to return but are less certain, so that leaves Daniel Rich, Dayne Zorko, Jarrod Berry and Jaxon Prior in a race against time. In any case, expect more than a few changes, albeit probably not the nine they had to spring ahead of the game against Essendon. Rhys Mathieson, Carter Michael and James Madden are among the names that could come out.

Will teams lockdown as Covid hits? | 01:42

NORTH MELBOURNE v RICHMOND

Saturday July 16, 4:35pm at Marvel Stadium

Kangaroos’ team

B: Scott, McKay, Young

HB: McDonald, Corr, Lazzaro

C: Powell, Davies-Uniacke, Greenwood

HF: Curtis, Larkey, Stephenson

F: Zurhaar, Ziebell, Taylor

FOLL: Goldstein, Simpkin, Anderson

I/C: Bonar, Coleman-Jones, Spicer, Perez

EMG: Mahony, Walker, Ford, Dawson

Team Tips: The big question facing David Noble and his selection committee is does Jason Horne-Francis come back in after just one game in the VFL? The prized draft pick was sent back to the lower level coming back from suspension and racked up 29 disposals, seven clearances, six marks and a goal. But without him, the Roos almost secured victory over the red-hot Magpies. Jaidyn Stephenson has come under fire for his defensive efforts and didn’t see out the game, potentially paving the way for at least one change. Kallan Dawson had 19 touches and six marks in the VFL, after being named an emergency for Roos’ in Round 17.

Tigers’ team

B: Miller, Tarrant, Grimes

HB: Baker, Broad, Rioli

C: Pickett, Short, McIntosh

HF: Rioli, Bolton, Aarts

F: Riewoldt, Edwards, Lynch

FOLL: Nankervis, Prestia, Ross

I/C: Ralphsmith, Soldo, Graham, Castagna

EMG: Mansell, Sonsie, Dow, Cumberland

Team Tips: Richmond will need to rethink its ruck setup for the clash with North Melbourne. Toby Nankervis (knee) is in a race to prove his fitness while Ivan Soldo (thumb) and Tom Lynch (hamstring) have been ruled out through injury. Marlion Pickett could provide a back up ruck option if the Tigers didn’t want to go with another tall. Noah Balta, Trent Cotchin and Josh Gibcus could all return from injury/illness. Noah Cumberland could also be promoted to the starting side, after playing as the medi sub in the loss to the Gold Coast.

Defiant Noble has ‘unfinished business’ | 02:47

CARLTON v GEELONG CATS

Saturday July 16, 7:25pm at MCG

Blues’ team

B: Saad, Young, Plowman

HB: Newman, Weitering, Docherty

C: O’Brien, Cripps, Kennedy

HF: Cottrell, C.Curnow, Silvagni

F: Motlop, McKay, Owies

FOLL: De Koning, Walsh, Hewett

I/C: Newnes, Cerra, Fisher, C.Durdin

EMG: Honey, Hayes, Setterfield, S.Durdin

Team Tips: It was great to see Jacob Weitering come back unscathed and he should be all good to back it up this week against Geelong. Jack Newnes may find it tough to get up off a six-day break with a corkie that saw him subbed out on Sunday. Mitch McGovern has commenced full training and is aiming to play at either VFL or AFL level this week as the Blues continue to get their key position players back. Jack Martin didn’t play but should be ready for the Cats, while Ed Curnow returned via the VFL and Sam Durdin was an emergency. Marc Pittonet should be ready to return next week.

Cats’ team

B: Z.Guthrie, S.De Koning, J.Bews

HB: J.Henry, M.Blicavs, Z.Tuohy

C: M.Duncan, J.Cameron, I.Smith

HF: T.Atkins, T.Hawkins, P.Dangerfield

F: B.Close, G.Rohan, T.Stengle

FOLL: R.Stanley, C.Guthrie, J.Selwood

I/C: S.Menegola, M.Holmes, M.O’Connor, G.Miers

EMG: F.Evans, Q.Narkle, M.Knevitt, S.Neale

Team Tips: It’s doubtful Geelong make too many changes to the side that toppled Melbourne last week. Jon Ceglar played his second VFL game for the club and first in a while last week, recording 36 hitouts, 20 disposals and eight clearances. Francis Evans kicked five goals and Quinton Narkle looks a class above. Gryan Miers’ spot has been under pressure but he had eight score involvements and two goal assists in the seniors and so might continue to play at AFL level.

Betts shares special moment with Walters | 00:45

FREMANTLE v SYDNEY SWANS

Saturday July 16, 7:30pm at Optus Stadium

Dockers’ team

B: Aish, Ryan, Young

HB: Cox, Clark, Walker

C: Banfield, Brayshaw, Hughes

HF: Schultz, Fyfe, Logue

F: Taberner, Lobb, Walters

FOLL: Darcy, Brodie, Serong

I/C: Mundy, Frederick, Colyer, Wilson

EMG: Banfield, Crowden, Meek, Henry

Team Tips: Alex Pearce likely to return after he was a late withdrawal for the win over St Kilda. Pearce reported calf tightness and the club took no risk with the star defender. He’ll be assessed on Wednesday. Bailey Banfield is once again likely to be the man to make way, as he was initially for Round 17. Blake Acres, Nathan O’Driscoll and Heath Chapman are all in the mix after overcoming injuries. Chapman was one of Peel’s best last weekend in the WAFL and could earn a senior recall. Acres and O’Driscoll are likely to make their returns through the WAFL this weekend.

Swans’ team

B: R.Fox, T.McCartin, D.Rampe

HB: J.Lloyd, P.McCartin, J.McInerney

C: E.Gulden, C.Mills, O.Florent

HF: I.Heeney, L.Franklin, W.Hayward

F: T.Papley, S.Reid, J.Amartey

FOLL: P.Ladhams, L.Parker, J.Rowbottom

I/C: C.Warner, D.Stephens, B.Campbell, N.Blakey

EMG: R.Clarke, L.McDonald, J.Bell, H.Cunningham

Team Tips: The Swans are confident Tom Hickey will overcome the illness that kept him out of the Round 17 win. Veteran Josh Kennedy looms as a big potential inclusion after completing his required hamstring rehabilitation last week. He’ll have to prove himself fit before being cleared for the trip west to face Fremantle. Angus Sheldrick made a successful return through the VFL to be in contention while Harry Cunningham, an emergency for last week, is also in the mix after his stint in the health and safety protocols.

Dockers dominate the Saints | 02:52

HAWTHORN v WEST COAST EAGLES

Sunday July 17, 1:10pm at MCG

Hawks’ team

B: Blanck, Scrimshaw, Grainger-Barras

HB: Impey, Sicily, Hardwick

C: Jiath, Newcombe, Morrison

HF: Breust, Nash, Lewis

F: Koschitzke, McEvoy, Moore

FOLL: Reeves, Mitchell, O’Meara

I/C: Macdonald, Ward, Maginness, Morris

EMG: Howe, Shiels, Serong, Hartigan

Team Tips: Its been two weeks since Chad Wingard’s latest hamstring setback, meaning he could be in the frame for a return, even though the Hawks will play it ultra-conservative. Ben McEvoy is back at AFL level and got through the game well. Max Lynch made his return via the VFL and got through unscathed, with 25 hitouts, 12 disposals and a goal. Daniel Howe was great in the VFL with 26 disposals and seven inside 50s, while Tom Phillips was solid again as he tries to break back into the senior side. There won’t be too many changes given the win over Adelaide.

Eagles’ team

B: Hurn, Barrass, Bazzo

HB: Jones, Edwards, Duggan

C: Hough, Kelly, Redden

HF: Rioli, Darling, Petruccelle

F: Waterman, Kennedy, Ryan

FOLL: Naitanui, Shuey, Gaff

I/C: Petrevski-Seton, Foley, Trew, Williams

EMG: Witherden, O’Neill, Clark, Culley

Team Tips: West Coast are confident Jamie Cripps will be right to go, after he missed the loss to Carlton under the AFL’s health and safety protocols. Coach Adam Simpson joked the club would consider flying him separately to the team in a bid to get him to Melbourne to take on the Hawks. Patrick Naish (32 disposals) and Josh Rotham are pushing for a senior recall after impressing in the WAFL. Zac Langdon also got through his return from injury in the WAFL. Jeremy McGovern returned to the training track last week for the first time since breaking his ribs, but is not yet cleared for AFL duty in a big blow to West Coast’s hopes for late season wins.

Flightless Eagles buried by Blues | 01:04

MELBOURNE v PORT ADELAIDE

Sunday July 17, 3:20pm at TIO Traeger Park

Dees’ team

B: H.Petty, J.Lever, S.May

HB: C.Salem, M.Hibberd, J.Bowey

C: A.Brayshaw, C.Oliver, E.Langdon

HF: K.Pickett, L.Jackson, T.Bedford

F: A.Neal-Bullen, B.Brown, C.Spargo

FOLL: M.Gawn, C.Petracca, J.Viney

I/C: J.Harmes, J.Jordon, B.Fritsch, T.Sparrow

EMG: J.Melksham, A.Tomlinson, S.Weideman, J.Hunt

Team Tips: Clayton Oliver’s incredible run of consecutive games is set to end after undergoing surgery on a fractured thumb following the loss to Geelong. It opens the door for Jake Melksham or Luke Dunstan to come back into the side for a week, with Oliver expected back in round 19. Adam Tomlinson and Harrison Petty have been trading places in the senior side this year and it’s another move Simon Goodwin could potentially spring. Ben Brown had another quiet day while Sam Weideman bides his time in the VFL.

Power’s team

B: Burton, Jonas, McKenzie

HB: Byrne-Jones, Aliir, Houston

C: Amon, Drew, Farrell

HF: Butters, Marshall, Rozee

F: Gray, Dixon, Powell-Pepper

FOLL: Finlayson, Wines, Boak

I/C: Bergman, Georgiades, Burgoyne, Mead

EMG: McEntee, Duursma, Clurey, Mayes

Team Tips: Scott Lycett should be ready to end his long AFL absence and play his first game since round four. Riley Bonner just missed out on returning for the win over the Giants but has been cleared to play this week, while Lachie Jones is another who could return from injury. Brynn Teakle could be available far sooner than expected, while Josh Sinn is another in contention to return. It won’t exactly be easy making too many changes after such a comprehensive display against the Giants.

‘Taking the piss’ – King unloads on rule | 01:35

ESSENDON v GOLD COAST SUNS

Sunday July 17, 4:40pm at Marvel Stadium

Bombers’ team

B: Zerk-Thatcher, Laverde, Heppell

HB: D’Ambrosio, Hind, Kelly

C: McGrath, Shiel, Martin

HF: Langford, Guelfi, Hobbs

F: Wright, Stringer, Jones

FOLL: Draper, Merrett, Caldwell

I/C: Snelling, Phillips, Durham, Ridley

EMG: Waterman, Ham, Menzie

Team Tips: Massimo D’Ambrosio was subbed out with a corked quad, so his recovery will determine whether he remains in the side this week. Aaron Francis is still a week away, while James Stewart and Michael Hurley should return via the VFL in the next week or two. There aren’t a whole heap of changes Ben Rutten is likely to make given the win over the Lions.

Suns’ team

B: Lemmens, Collins, Graham

HB: Bowes, Ballard, Ellis

C: Swallow, Anderson, Sharp

HF: Rosas, Ainsworth, Casboult

F: Holman, Chol, Day

FOLL: Witts, Rowell, Miller

I/C: Fiorini, Flanders, Lukosius, Oea

EMG: Atkins, Burgess, Tsitas, Macpherson

Team Tips: Malcolm Rosas Jnr was subbed out of the game with a hamstring injury and will miss this week. Hewago Oea dislocated his finger late in the match but the Suns say he remains available for selection this week. Charlie Constable put in a strong performance at VFL level along with Darcy Macpherson, while Chris Burgess kicked a couple of goals.

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