AFL Barometer: Finals rivals hit by injury curse
NOW is not the time for injuries
However, a host of teams in finals contention are dealing with just that after Round 20.
Cat Jed Bews, Collingwood star Darcy Moore, Giants trio Dawson Simpson, Brett Deledio and Toby Greene and Melbourne defender Joel Smith all find themselves on the injury list this week.
Check out every club's casualty ward and expert selection analysis for Round 21.
INJURIES: Daniel Talia (corked leg) TBC; Paul Seedsman (hamstring) 2-3 weeks; Richard Douglas (ankle) test; Jackson Edwards (ankle) 1 week; Kyle Hartigan (knee) 1-2 weeks; Harry Dear (knee) 1-2 weeks; Andrew McPherson (hamstring) indefinite; Reilly O'Brien (shoulder) season; Brad Crouch (groin) season
ON THE BLOCK: It's hard to change a winning team and the Crows - riddled by injury early in the season - have won three of their past four games to stay in finals contention. But there could be a couple of fall guys if Adelaide, as expected, regains Richard Douglas (ankle/illness) and Mitch McGovern (shoulder). Daniel Talia suffered a corked calf in the final quarter of the epic three-point Showdown win against Port Adelaide but is expected to be fit. Those under most pressure to retain their spot in a team which is playing its best football of the season are David Mackay, Jordan Gallucci and Lachlan Murphy.
ON THE CUSP: Douglas should come back into the side after he finally shook off an ankle injury but then missed the Showdown through illness. Key forward McGovern must pass a fitness test to play. Defender Kyle Cheney is available after serving a one-match suspension but is unlikely to regain his spot. Jake Kelly, who made way for Brodie Smith to return to the team after 11 months out following a knee reconstruction, will also be in the selection mix.
ANDREW CAPEL'S FORECAST: The Crows - beaten grand finalists last year - have come from nowhere to give themselves an outside chance of making the finals. But they will have to win all three games and hope other results go their way to get there. Their run home starts with in-form but injury-troubled GWS in Canberra on Saturday night followed by a home game against North Melbourne and trip to Melbourne to play wooden spoon certainty Carlton.
INJURIES: Marco Paparone (hamstring) 1 week; Corey Lyons (hand) 2 weeks; Tom Fullarton (calf) 2-3 weeks; Charlie Cameron (ankle) season; Matt Eagles (abdominal) season; Jack Payne (shin) season
ON THE BLOCK: Ryan Bastinac forced his way into the side to take on his former club after consistent high possession games in the twos but had little impact and would be under pressure to retain his spot.
ON THE CUSP: Tom Cutler has served his suspension and should walk straight back into the seniors. The club's second pick in last year's draft Zac Bailey (No.15) has been in strong form in the NEAFL and would also be pushing for a recall. Bailey spent time in the seniors during the year before his form wavered but he has regained his mojo and booted three goals in a strong NEAFL showing on Saturday.
ANDREW HAMILTON'S FORECAST: The Lions improve every week and are now at a stage where no opponent will take the lightly. Saturday night against Collingwood at Etihad Stadium will be one of the biggest games they have played under Chris Fagan and they will be desperate to put on a show. It is hard to make a case for a victory, however expect them to be competitive and earn another batch of new admirers.
INJURIES: Jack Silvagni (ankle) TBC; Matthew Kreuzer (heart) test; Cillian McDaid (foot) 1 week; Jesse Glass-McCasker (knee) 2 weeks; David Cuningham (hamstring) 3 weeks; Kym LeBois (hamstring) 3 weeks; Sam Docherty (knee) season; Zac Fisher (lower leg) season; Liam Jones (knee) season; Andrew Phillips (hamstring) season; Lachie Plowman (knee) season; Alex Silvagni (Achilles) season; Tom Williamson (back) season
ON THE BLOCK: You could just about list everyone who played against the Giants on here. Patrick Cripps was clearly the Blues' best and Harry McKay showed some exciting signs, apart from that it's open season if you're talking about form. Nick Graham had just four official kicks - he had two more that were both disallowed goals after play had stopped, including one that cost a 50m penalty.
ON THE CUSP: Jack Silvagni was a late out with an ankle injury and would be a likely inclusion against Fremantle. The news wasn't much better from the VFL with Casey Demons walloping the Northern Blues by 91 points. Pat Kerr kicked two goals and was named in the best.
AL PATON'S FORECAST: After a crazy round of footy the Blues can consider themselves lucky to escape more scrutiny after an embarrassing performance, conceding seven goals to one in the last quarter when GWS at times had just 16 players on the field. Despite all that, a win against the similarly stinky Dockers isn't totally out of the question.
INJURIES: Darcy Moore (hamstring) TBC; Jamie Elliott (hamstring) 3-4 weeks; Jeremy Howe (soreness) test; Ben Reid (knees/calf) test; Jordan de Goey (leg) test; Tyson Goldsack (knee) 1-2 weeks; Flynn Appleby (hamstring) 2-3 weeks; Rupert Wills (hamstring) 2-3 weeks; Adam Treloar (hamstring) 5-6 weeks; Kayle Kirby (heart issue) indefinite; Matthew Scharenberg (knee) season; Lynden Dunn (knee) season; Daniel Wells (foot) season; Tim Broomhead (broken leg) season
ON THE BLOCK: Sadly, Darcy Moore is set for his third stint on the sidelines due to a hamstring this season. Otherwise, don't expect too many changes at Holden Centre this week. Callum Brown's five disposals don't tell you the full story as the Magpies youngster had 10 tackles.
ON THE CUSP: Moore's absence could see former second-round draft pick Sam McLarty get his AFL chance after he kicked two goals in the VFL on the weekend. He was drafted as a key defender. James Aish is now three games into his return from a knee injury and is firming for an AFL return.
BEN HIGGINS' FORECAST: Has the witch doctor who cursed the Socceroos turned his eye to the Magpies? Seriously, the club couldn't be any unluckier with injuries and close results. An Etihad Stadium clash against Brisbane isn't the easy kill is seems on paper. The Lions are full of confidence despite sitting 16th and could spring an upset if Collingwood don't turn up.
INJURIES: Matt Dea (concussion) test; Jake Stringer (ankle) TBC; Matt Guelfi (illness) TBC; Martin Gleeson (ankle) 3-4 weeks; Joe Daniher (groin) indefinite; Patrick Ambrose (hamstring) season; Josh Begley (knee) season; Shaun McKernan (hamstring) season; Mason Redman (ankle) season
ON THE BLOCK: Jake Stringer is expected to play after an ankle issue in the loss to Hawthorn but it was a quieter day for Aaron Francis with just seven disposals to his name. Ben McNeice and Travis Colyer were late replacements and could find themselves back in the VFL in a case of last in, first out.
ON THE CUSP: Former first-round draft pick Jayden Laverde and Dylan Clarke both had big days in the VFL against Port Melbourne with 28 disposals, five tackles and a goal and 30 touches and nine tackles respectively. Matt Guelfi and Matt Dea all face tests for this weekend.
BEN HIGGINS' FORECAST: Essendon's slow start to the season has finally caught up with it after the thrilling loss to Hawthorn on Saturday. The club's finals hopes are now purely mathematical but they can still shape the eight. A clash against St Kilda this week will tell us plenty about the playing group's mindset.
INJURIES: Andrew Brayshaw (jaw) season; Cam Sutcliffe (hamstring) 3 weeks; Lee Spurr (knee) TBC; Ryan Nyhuis (suspended) 1 week; Nat Fyfe (hamstring) 2 weeks; Aaron Sandilands (calf) 2-3 weeks; Michael Apeness (hamstring) season; Connor Blakely (knee) season; Griffin Logue (ankle) season
ON THE BLOCK: In case you've been living under a rock, Andrew Brayshaw will miss the rest of the season with a broken jaw after Andrew Gaff's brain explosion. It over shadowed another shocking performance by the Dockers with the mass changes made on Thursday clearly not working. Adam Cerra could use a rest, Mitch Crowden's return to the senior side netted just seven disposals.
ON THE CUSP: Tom Sheridan took his axing well, responding with 39 disposals, 10 tackles and two goals to power Peel Thunder over East Perth. Youngster Stef Giro was similarly inspired, collecting 27 touches and two goals after he was dropped. One-time SuperCoach favourite Luke Strnadica had 47 hitouts.
BEN HIGGINS' FORECAST: The Dockers were fired up after Brayshaw's injury - and more importantly the cause - were realised so it will be interesting to see if they can draw on that fire this week against Carlton. Ross Lyon will be keen to halt a three-game skid and show fans there is hope for the future. A loss to Carlton would renew pressure on the veteran coach.
INJURIES: Jed Bews (shoulder) TBC; Rhys Stanley (calf) test; Tom Stewart (ankle) 2-3 weeks; Aaron Black (knee) season; Nakia Cockatoo (knee) 6-8 weeks; Cory Gregson (foot) season; George Horlin-Smith (shoulder) 2-3 weeks; Esava Ratugolea (ankle) indefinite; Harry Taylor (foot soreness) indefinite
ON THE BLOCK: Jackson Thurlow was a late inclusion for Rhys Stanley last Friday night, either he or Jamaine Jones could make way for the ruckman's return. Jed Bews injured his shoulder in a marking contest late in the game against Richmond and came off the ground.
ON THE CUSP: Coach Chris Scott indicated after the match Rhys Stanley would likely shake off his calf complaint and be available to take on the Hawks. In the VFL, first-year midfielder Charlie Constable picked up 31 disposals and Wylie Buzza kicked three goals from nine marks in the Cats' big win over the Tigers.
CHRIS VERNUCCIO'S FORECAST: No surprises that the Cats are favourites to beat the Hawks despite sitting four spots lower on the ladder. A goal either way in their respective games last weekend and their ladder positions swap, that's how close the race is for the top eight. The Cats pushed Richmond all the way last Friday night, even outscoring the premiers in the final quarter when the match was on the line, which rarely happens.
INJURIES: Peter Wright (knee) TBC; David Swallow (concussion) test; Charlie Ballard (knee) TBC; Brayden Crossley (cheekbone) 1-2 weeks; Darcy MacPherson (broken leg) 2-3 weeks; Jack Martin (calf) 2-3 weeks; Tom Nicholls (shoulder) 2-3 weeks; Connor Nutting (leg) TBC; Harrison Wigg (fractured ankle) season; Mackenzie Willis (ACL) season; Sam Day (shoulder) season; Aaron Hall (pectoral) season; Josh Jaska (wrist) season; Tom Lynch (knee) season
ON THE BLOCK: We're drawing at straws here but at least the Suns avoided another 100-point loss. As former Sun Jarrad Grant pointed out, coach Stuart Dew said the team needed more experience and then dumped Jarryd Lyons and overlooked Michael Barlow. They paid the price at the MCG with a humiliating loss.
ON THE CUSP: Again, pulling at straws, but on the bright side for those involved in the MCG debacle, Gold Coast had the bye in the NEAFL. Expect Lyons to return to the senior line up and surely Barlow gets a chance. The Suns' treatment of the midfielder has been nothing short of disrespectful.
BEN HIGGINS' FORECAST: We're often reminded of the Sound of Music when it comes to contemplating the Suns' future. How do you solve a problem like Maria? Except in this instance the Maria is Gold Coast. The next three weeks loom as a horror finish to the season with Richmond, Brisbane and Geelong in Geelong to come. The club can either earn some respect or fade into obscurity.
INJURIES: Brett Deledio (calf) TBC; Sam Taylor (hamstring) TBC; Dawons Simpson (ankle) TBC; Toby Greene ( hamstring) TBC; Dylan Shiel (ankle) test; Tim Taranto (knee) test; Sam Reid (knee) test; Aidan Corr (groin) test; Ryan Griffen (hamstring) test; Tom Scully (ankle) TBC; Zac Williams (achilles) TBC; Will Setterfield (knee) season; Lachie Tiziani (knee) season; Jonathon Patton (knee) season
ON THE BLOCK: GWS had four injured players on the bench against the Blues in the last quarter producing the rare sight of 17 and for a few minutes 16 players on the ground. Dawson Simpson (ankle) and Brett Deledio (Calf) will certainly miss but Leon Cameron said Toby Greene and Sam Taylor are still a chance of playing after being taken off with hamstring tightness.
ON THE CUSP: Fortunately for the Giants they have plenty of talent ready to return for Saturday night's important clash with Adelaide in Canberra after Sunday's horror run with injuries against Carlton. Tim Taranto (knee), Aidan Corr (groin), Sam Reid (knee) and possibly Dylan Shiel (ankle) will be available to meet the Crows. Young ruckman Matthew Flynn will be a chance of making his debut.
NEIL CORDY'S FORECAST: The Giants face Adelaide on a six-day break so are highly unlikely to risk star forward Toby Greene and young defender Sam Taylor especially with quality replacements in Tim Taranto, Aidan Corr, Sam Reid and Matthew Flynn who are waiting in the wings.
INJURIES: Ben McEvoy (cheekbone) 2-3 weeks; James Sicily (wrist) 4 weeks; Daniel Howe (suspension) finals week one; Grant Birchall (knee) indefinite
ON THE BLOCK: The Hawks have been rotating a few of their youngsters at the selection table in recent weeks but they might not need to tinker this week given they all played a role in the thrilling victory over Essendon, James Worpel kicked the winning goal while Harry Morrison and Teia Miles showed some encouraging signs.
ON THE CUSP: The mystery that is Jonathan O'Rourke continues. He was dropped last week and again found himself in the best players for Box Hill in its win over Collingwood. Out of favour premiership star Will Langford kicked two goals in the VFL so he could put his name back up there. Alastair Clarkson mentioned after the Essendon win that he was hoping to get Grant Birchall back playing next week.
SCOTT GULLAN'S FORECAST: Don't think there will be any major changes for the finals defining clash with Geelong on Saturday at the MCG. James Sicily is still a couple of weeks away so expect Clarko to back in the troops who did the job against the Bombers.
INJURIES: Joel Smith (shoulder) TBC; Jake Melksham (hamstring) test; Dion Johnstone (quad) 1 week; Michael Hibberd (quad) 2 weeks; Jack Viney (toe) 3 weeks; Jake Lever (knee) season; Corey Maynard (hip) season; Billy Stretch (toe) season
ON THE BLOCK: Joel Smith broke his collarbone and had surgery immediately after the Demons 96-point thrashing of the Gold Coast. Coach Simon Goodwin revealed post match co-captain Jack Viney (foot) is in a bit of limbo. The club won't bother getting him back if they're not playing finals. Sounds like it's going to be a big effort.
ON THE CUSP: Cameron Pedersen looms as a replacement for Smith. He played well in the VFL and has been groomed as a defender in recent weeks. Jayden Hunt also made his return through the VFL at the weekend. Michael Hibberd is another week away
ELIZA SEWELL'S FORECAST: The Demons moved to fourth thanks to a brilliant percentage boost against the Suns. Tough run home with games against Sydney, West Coast in Perth and the barnstorming but injury-ravaged Giants. Defence took another hit with the loss of Smith, but hopefully Hibberd returns soon but at least they'll know where they're at come September. They're still building and could be a smokey to land the 2018 flag.
INJURIES: Shaun Higgins (knee) 1 week; Alex Morgan (calf) TBC; Declan Watson (knee) 1-2 weeks; Billy Hartung (hamstring) 1-2 weeks; Taylor Garner (hamstring) 1-2 weeks; Ben Jacobs (concussion/neck) indefinite; Josh Williams (back) TBC; Cam Zurhaar (ankle) season; Ed Vickers-Willis (knee) season; Sam Durdin (broken leg) season
ON THE BLOCK: Will Walker bobbed up late with an important goal and could not have done much more in just his second game of footy but with Shaun Higgins in the mix and a shot at the finals still alive the youngster looks set to return to the magoos. Paul Ahern only battled after his breakout game the week before but suspect he stays in the team.
ON THE CUSP: The Kangaroos were bullish about Higgins only missing the one game after undergoing minor knee surgery. "He's recovered from the procedure really well," football manager Cameron Joyce said. "We were always confident he was only going to miss the one game so provided he gets through the rest of the week, he'll be declared fit to play." Nick Larkey kicked a bag in the VFL while Luke Davies-Uniacke put in a bold showing.
GILBERT GARDINER'S FORECAST: You don't need to be a rocket doctor to work out what North must do to qualify for the finals. Three wins in three weeks and even then a berth in the postseason isn't assured for the Shinboners, but importantly, they're in the conversation. A tough and gritty win without their ace (Higgins) on the road against the precocious Brisbane Lions should do them a world of good in the run home. But the Bulldogs pose a significant threat, having won four of the past six matches between the two sides. It's been one hell of a rivalry, with 23 points (the Bulldogs way) the biggest margin in that stretch, while the past three meetings have been decided by two, one and three points respectively.
INJURIES: Dougal Howard (hand) 1 week; Todd Marshall (ankle) 1 week; Karl Amon (knee) 2 weeks; Matthew Broadbent (foot) season; Willem Drew (heel) season; Joel Garner (shoulder) season; Hamish Hartlett (knee) season; Sam Hayes (knee) season
ON THE BLOCK: Port Adelaide's defence should regain Dougal Howard (broken hand) putting key defender Jack Hombsch on the edge, particularly when he has been exposed on pace in recent games. Young defender Riley Bonner might find more advice coming his way about his work at the contests, particularly after copping a spray from coach Ken Hinkley at Ballarat against the Western Bulldogs and some uneasy moments in the derby. The three-point loss to Adelaide in the epic Showdown at Adelaide Oval on Saturday was notable for the Power improving its ball movement but not winning enough contested football. There is unlikely to be a response to this issue at selection, but more work at training.
ON THE CUSP: Howard, provided his hand has mended, will give the Port Adelaide defence a critical gain in dealing with West Coast key forward Jack Darling at Adelaide Oval on Saturday. Small forward Sam Gray could be considered as Port Adelaide looks for bite and defensive pressure to test the West Coast defence that has worked superb rebound and transition against the Power at Adelaide Oval.
MICHELANGELO RUCCI'S FORECAST: Port Adelaide needs one win from its remaining three games to meet the 13-win cutoff for next month's AFL finals. And the Power has not beaten West Coast in any of the four matches against the Eagles at Adelaide Oval since 2015. It is going down to the wire for Ken Hinkley's crew that finishes the home-and-away series against Collingwood (MCG) and Essendon (home). Percentage might work to the Power's favour to be the away team in the elimination finals.
INJURIES: Dion Prestia (ribs) test; Shai Bolton (knee) test; Dan Butler (ankle) 1-2 weeks; Mabior Chol (foot) 2-3 weeks; Reece Conca (ankle) 3-4 weeks; Jack Graham (shoulder) 1-2 weeks; Oleg Markov (knee) TBA
ON THE BLOCK: Someone will have to make room for Bachar Houli if he returns, but who? Liam Baker was solid again in his second game but could be the one to make way, while Sam Lloyd was OK in his return.
ON THE CUSP: Premiership defender Bachar Houli enjoyed a promising return to the VFL, playing the first half, and could be back after a lengthy lay-off, while Anthony Miles also delivered a solid showing.
LAUREN WOOD'S FORECAST: The Tigers got a welcome challenge on Friday night but things should be a little easier for them this week. It's off to the Gold Coast for some surf and a clash with the Suns who will be hurting. These Tigers want to keep their form humming heading into the finals and won't let up this week.
INJURIES: Tom Hickey (hamstring) TBC; Josh Battle (concussion) TBC; Logan Austin (groin) test; Nathan Wright (knee) test; Paddy McCartin (foot) indefinite; Shane Savage (hamstring) season; Josh Bruce (leg) season; Dylan Roberton (heart) season
ON THE BLOCK: Tom Hickey injured his hamstring tendon and played out the game but was clearly troubled. Josh Battle was also ruled out of the game due to concussion so will need to be assessed.
ON THE CUSP: The Saints' VFL outfit had a bye on the weekend, while Logan Austin will be tested after suffering that groin injury.
LAUREN WOOD'S FORECAST: Saturday night was a dirty one for the Saints. That third quarter was ugly. Coach Alan Richardson was determined post-game that he would challenge his players and demand a response - we'll see whether it comes against the Bombers on Friday night. There's nowhere to hide.
INJURIES: Heath Grundy (mental health) TBC; Dan Hannebery (calf) 1-2 weeks; James Rose (shoulder) 1-2 weeks; Sam Reid (achilles) 3 weeks; Gary Rohan (hand) 2 weeks; Lewis Melican (hamstring) 5 weeks; Sam Naismith (knee) season; Callum Mills (foot) season; Matthew Ling (toe) season
ON THE BLOCK: Ben Ronke suffered a migraine during the win over the Magpies which forced him off the ground for an extended period. He is expected to be OK to line up against the Dees on Sunday. Dan Robinson is likely to be the unlucky one to make way for Dan Hannebery should he prove his fitness.
ON THE CUSP: Hannebery (calf) almost played against Collingwood on Saturday night and providing he gets through training this week will line up against Melbourne at the MCG on Sunday.
NEIL CORDY'S FORECAST: The Swans revived their season and their finals hopes with their thrilling two-point win over Collingwood but still face a tough run home with Melbourne (MCG), GWS (Spotless Stadium) and Hawthorn (SCG) to come. They have found a bonus with Alex Johnson's successful return in defence and will be boosted by Dan Hannebery's return. They are still a big chance of playing finals for the ninth successive season.
INJURIES: Will Schofield (hamstring) TBC; Josh Kennedy (shin) 1-2 weeks; Brayden Ainsworth (concussion) test; Callan England (quad) test; Malcolm Karpany (rib) 1 week; Eric Mackenzie (toe) season; Nic Naitanui (knee) season
ON THE BLOCK: Safe to say Andrew Gaff won't be playing for a few weeks. In fact, his season could hinge on the mood on the AFL Tribunal on Tuesday night. The Eagles' derby win came at a cost with defender Will Schofield also set for a stint on the sidelines due to a hamstring injury.
ON THE CUSP: Josh Kennedy remains another week away, and otherwise, there's not much else to look forward to. Dom Sheed's yo-yoing season continued with 34 disposals and two goals in East Perth's loss to Peel. Expect him to get a recall in the wake of Gaff's suspension. Luke Partington showed his potential with 20 touches and three goals.
BEN HIGGINS' FORECAST: The Eagles are safety a game and a half clear in second place and should stay there with games against Port Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane to finish. Despite Kennedy's continued absence and Gaff's soon-to-be absence, a home qualifying final beckons and with it a possible home preliminary final and even Grand Final appearance.
INJURIES: Roarke Smith (concussion) TBC; Tom Boyd (back) test; Billy Gowers (ankle) test; Tom Campbell (foot) 1 week; Matt Suckling (achilles) 2-4 weeks; Bailey Williams (foot) 1-2 weeks; Easton Wood (hamstring) 2-3 weeks; Jack Redpath (knee) indefinite; Tom Liberatore (knee) season; Liam Picken (concussion) season; Lukas Webb (neck) season; Luke Dahlhaus (ankle) season; Bailey Dale (foot) season
ON THE BLOCK: Expect the Dogs to take a very cautious approach with Roarke Smith. Just a week after he was in a car crash that saw his head cut and knocked, Smith suffered another concussion. Doubt he will feature this week.
ON THE CUSP: A few AFL listed players ran around for Footscray with Mitch Honeychurch solid, and Shane Biggs huge in defence. Fletcher Roberts also proved promising.
LAUREN WOOD'S FORECAST: They put the foot to the floor on Saturday night and earned a much-needed win, and will be planning a similar assault on the Roos this week. They just love the pace of Etihad Stadium and with Jason Johannisen and Marcus Bontempelli back on song, anything could happen.