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Five to watch: R9

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Paul Puopolo

After playing in each of the opening four games of the 2018 season, Paul Puopolo was struck down by a hamstring injury that has held him out since. But the 30-year old looks set to make his return this week, after being named on Hawthorn's Round 9 extended bench. 'Poppy' was in strong form before his time on the sidelines, averaging 1.3 goals and 4.5 tackles per game. The small forward represents an important part of the Hawks’ structure, with his forward pressure set to give the Hawks a big boost ahead of this Round 9 clash.

Read: Hawks add five names to Round 9 squad

Ben McEvoy

Stef Martin has arguably been the Brisbane Lions’ most influential player to this point in the season. Averaging a career-high 35.9 hit-outs and 20.1 disposals, Martin has been difficult to curtail so far this year. That responsibility will fall onto the shoulders of Ben McEvoy this weekend, as the Hawks ruckman looks to go head-to-head with the athletic Lions ruckman. McEvoy is having a strong year himself, averaging 30.1 hit-outs throughout his eight games so far, but he will have his work cut out for him this week as he takes on one of the fellow elite rucks in the competition.

Jack Gunston

Coming off his best game of the season last week against Sydney, Jack Gunston enters this Round 9 clash in strong form. It was the first time Gunston has kicked five goals in a game since Round 12 last year against the Gold Coast Suns. The 26-year old’s eight scoring shots against the Swans was also the most attempts at goal he has recorded over his nine-season, 157-game career. Averaging 2.1 goals and 16.9 disposals per game, Gunston will be looking for another strong outing against the Lions this Sunday.  

Stefan Martin

Despite the Lions going down by 28 points when these sides last met, Martin won his battle in the ruck, registering 63 hit outs to give his side first serve of the Sherrin. The 28-year-old has started 2018 in epic fashion, registering a season-best average of 36 hit outs, while also increasing his disposal numbers from last year, now averaging 20 touches a match. However, Ben McEvoy has also found career best form across the last 12 months, thus the ruck battle looms as one of the most intriguing contests in this match.

Dayne Zorko

Coming off his first All Australian honour in 2017, Dayne Zorko has had an interesting opening two months to this season. Zorko averaged just 15 disposals per game in the first six games of the year, having to deal with a heavy tag throughout. Sightings of the 29-year old’s ability to break a game open with his power and speed were few and fair between. But in the past fortnight, Zorko has rediscovered his best form. He has averaged 29 disposals, 17 contested possessions, 8.5 tackles, nine inside 50s and four goals over a truly dominant two-week stint.

Read: Oppo analysis - Round 9