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Midfield stocktake

Jack Gunston 150 Games This weekend will not only launch Hawthorn's 2018 season but will also mark the 150th match for Jack Gunston.

Rory Atkins: Has played every game in the past two seasons, using his pace and running capacity on the wing. Locked into the club's best 22.

Brad Crouch: Coming off the best season of his career as a hard-nosed inside midfielder, who also has pace to burst away from packs. Hasn't played any games during the pre-season and unlikely to play round one due to an abdominal strain.

Matt Crouch: One of the elite inside midfielders in the competition who was the Crows' club champion in 2017, an All Australian and averaged 33 possessions a game. Nothing has changed in the two JLT games this year, and he has been added to the club's leadership group.

Richard Douglas: The veteran turned back the clock, playing almost exclusively in the midfield while also pushing forward. Rested from the first JLT game, but played the intra-club and the game against Port Adelaide. Could see time at half-back to help cover for the loss of Brodie Smith.

Jackson Edwards: The son of Crows great Tyson arrived at the club as a rookie father-son selection. Showed some promising signs in a SANFL trial, but is slightly built.

Cam Ellis-Yolmen: Looked in ripping nick during both JLT games after missing all of 2017 recovering from a torn ACL. Probably not in the Crows' best 22, but the big-bodied mid will be pushing hard to get another crack.

Bryce Gibbs: Slotted in beautifully after coming across from Carlton at the end of last year. Made a superb debut in the JLT Series against Fremantle and appeared a bit across half-back against Port Adelaide while only playing 65 per cent game time. Didn't play the Crows' intra-club game due to a back spasm.

Hugh Greenwood: The former US college basketballer turned into a tackling machine as he burst into the Crows' midfield last year. Had Achilles surgery in November, but played in the Crows' intra-club game and second JLT Community Series match against Port Adelaide. However, only had nine disposals at 44 per cent efficiency.

Curtly Hampton: Looked good through the midfield before a serious ankle injury in round nine derailed his season last year. Impressive in both JLT games with his outside run and ball use.

Paul Hunter: Break if in an emergency. Third in line in the ruck stocks behind Sam Jacobs and Reilly O'Brien. Left out of the final JLT team and expected to spend the year in the SANFL.

Sam Jacobs: One of the best ruckmen in the game. Was dominant in the Crows' intra-club against O'Brien and Hunter, and booted three goals.

David Mackay: The experienced midfielder may roll across half-back this season to help cover for the injured Brodie Smith. Did some nice things against Port in the second JLT game.

Sam Gibson: The North Melbourne veteran took out the 2km time trials at the Crows during the summer. Had 27 touches against Port Adelaide in the second JLT game to book himself a round one berth.

Reilly O'Brien: Will be called up only if there's any injury or suspension to Jacobs. Struggled with a back injury last year, but now fully fit.

Myles Poholke: The second-year midfielder has increased his running capacity during the pre-season. The departures of Scott Thompson and Harrison Wigg will allow him to play predominately in the midfield in the SANFL and continue his development.

Paul Seedsman: Ready for a big season after a groin injury forced the winger to miss most of last year. Did some nice things during the JLT Series.

Matthew Signorello: Spent most of his time at half-forward during a SANFL trial. Drafted to the club as a midfielder, but forward looks to be his role this year.

Rory Sloane: Shouldn't have any problem putting the speculation about his future to one side. Had a solid hit-out in the second JLT game, and will benefit from having Bryce Gibbs take some of the attention from opposition taggers off him.

Patrick Wilson: The mature-age Sturt recruit didn't play in either of the club's JLT Community Series games. Will start the season in the SANFL and looks to be behind a few others. - Lee Gaskin

Jacob Allison: Tall wingman developed nicely in his first season. Allison played the final five games and caught the eye with his speed, ability to mark overhead and long kicking. Should play plenty of senior footy this season.

Zac Bailey: Taken with the club's second pick in last year's national draft – 15th overall – Bailey has slotted in nicely in his first pre-season. He is blessed with blinding speed and an ability to weave through traffic.

Ryan Bastinac: Breathed life into his career in the second half of last season. Was dropped by coach Chris Fagan early on and responded superbly, improving his defensive running and going forward to be a reliable goalkicker. Will have to earn his spot this season, though.

Dayne Beams: Back to his best last year with a mix of inside ball-winning and outside class. Beams had off-season shoulder surgery but recovered well and is as fit as ever. Despite missing both pre-season matches due to the passing of his father, the skipper should again be the midfield heartbeat in 2018.

Tom Bell: After being dropped and breaking his ankle mid-season, 2017 was a year to forget. However, the hulking utility has shown glimpses in the JLT Series that he's taken coach Fagan's advice on board, leading the team in contested football and using his aerobic power to outwork opponents. In a battle for a senior spot.

Jarrod Berry: Another of the young Lions to impress last season. Berry tagged some of the game's best players and showed an ability to win the inside ball and mix it with much stronger bodies. A future leader of the club.

Rohan Bewick: Fell out of the team late in the season and faces a big job to win a spot back. Bewick usually plays wing or half-forward and is a strong runner with a huge leap.

Cedric Cox: Showed glimpses of what he could do in his eight games last year. Cox can play a number of positions, using his speed and exceptional skills off both feet.

Ryan Lester: The quiet achiever of the group, Lester is again in the leadership group after a top-10 best and fairest finish last year. Has played as a spare in defence, as a marking option forward but generally does his best work in the clinches.

Corey Lyons: Spent last year in the NEAFL and the club was delighted with his development. A real inside ball winner with clean hands, it wouldn't surprise to see him get a senior call-up this year.

Stefan Martin: Age doesn't seem to be slowing down the veteran ruckman. Martin is now 31 and with serious challenges from Archie Smith and Oscar McInerney has put in a huge pre-season. A solid tap-ruckman with a big leap, Martin is a terrific link player around the ground when he cuts down his turnovers.

Rhys Mathieson: Entering his third season, Mathieson would be hoping to take the inside midfield spot vacated by Tom Rockliff. He's a bull around the contest and has worked on his running power but will have to improve his consistency across four quarters to win a regular spot.

Hugh McCluggage: Is the player nominated by many around the Lions to have a breakthrough season. The No.3 pick from the 2016 draft had a strong first year, and after adding size to his lean frame, is now ready to mix it up in a more central role.

Oscar McInerney: The towering ruckman has progressed rapidly and is seriously challenging Archie Smith as the backup option to Stefan Martin. McInerney stands 204cm and is improving his marking ability in the forward 50.

Archie Smith: Now in his fifth season, Smith is itching to unseat Stefan Martin as the No.1 ruck option. Has great strength and a terrific leap, but just needs to improve his work-rate around the ground. The ruck battle will be fascinating this season.

Brandon Starcevich: The nephew of AFLW coach Craig, Brandon has made a strong impression in his first pre-season. The West Australian is tall (187cm) for a midfielder and is excellent around the stoppages. He'll likely spend most of the year developing in the NEAFL.

Dayne Zorko: The pocket rocket has developed into one of the most dynamic players in the AFL. Fresh off his first All Australian selection and third best and fairest, the 29-year-old has blinding speed, can win his own ball, kick goals and has a great defensive presence. - Michael Whiting

Patrick Cripps: The clearance king was sadly missed towards the end of last season and made his presence felt during the JLT Community Series. The joint vice-captain is set to spend more time in attack, providing another tall target.

David Cuningham: Speedster who was restricted by injuries in the second half of last season. Plays with plenty of energy and enthusiasm and was used off half-back during the JLT Community Series, but is handy around the goals when pushed forward.

Ed Curnow: Highly respected at Ikon Park and made a welcome return in the JLT Community Series after missing the final nine games of last season with a bruised larynx. A member of the Blues’ leadership group, he finds plenty of the ball.

Paddy Dow: The enthusiastic youngster from Swan Hill has won plenty of admirers during the JLT Community Series with his hard-nosed approach and should play in round one. The Blues' top pick from last year’s NAB AFL Draft has exquisite foot skills and explosive speed from the contest. Has already re-signed a three-year contract extension, tying him to Carlton until the end of 2022.

Zac Fisher: Showed plenty of promise in 17 games in his debut season and was most impressive in the JLT Community Series this year. Creative by hand and foot with plenty of pace, and works hard when he doesn’t have the ball.

Nick Graham: In his sixth season as a Blue and this shapes as a make-or-break year. Has been used as a half-forward, but his skills and decision-making have let him down and he needs to improve those parts of his game.

Matthew Kennedy: The former Giant was lured south for more opportunities and impressed during the JLT Community Series. Hard nut who is strong overhead and will provide plenty of support for skipper Marc Murphy, Patrick Cripps and co.

Sam Kerridge: Inside midfielder who sticks to the task and has a strong work ethic. Was given plenty of game time last season, but the competition for spots might make it difficult for him. 

Matthew Kreuzer: Might be the most important player in the Blues' line-up. Coming off an excellent 2017, he is looking in superb shape for another campaign and has signalled he wants to go forward and contribute to the scoreboard more often.

Matthew Lobbe: Experienced ruckman had limited opportunities at Port Adelaide last year and given a lifeline to provide support for Matthew Kreuzer and Andrew Phillips. Likely to start in VFL, but at his best could be a decent acquisition.

Marc Murphy: In his sixth season as captain, Murphy will carry a heavy load again and his experience and guidance will be vital with so many young players around him. The 2017 John Nicholls medallist has plenty of topline football left in him, as his form in the JLT Community Series indicated.

Lochie O’Brien: The Blues' second pick in last year’s NAB AFL Draft is renowned for his powerful left boot and exceptional endurance. Played in both JLT Community Series games and is still picking up the pace at the elite level.

Sam Petrevski-Seton: Given plenty of opportunities in the midfield in the second half of last season and showed his class. Hampered by injury recently and missed the first JLT Community Series game, but impressed in the second half against Hawthorn.

Andrew Phillips: Despite making good progress after having foot surgery in the off-season, the ex-Giant did not play in either of the JLT Community Series games. Showed what he was capable of in his first season at Ikon Park in 2016, having a nice pair of hands and being an excellent kick for goal.

Angus Schumacher: Medium midfielder/defender who played alongside fellow draftees Paddy Dow and Lochie O’Brien at the Bendigo Pioneers and was a prolific ball-winner in the TAC Cup last season. Did not appear in the JLT Community Series and will learn his craft in the VFL this season.

Matt Shaw: Hard-running winger and half-back who shows plenty of attacking flair. On the Blues' rookie list and will be determined to make the most of another opportunity at AFL level, after moving from Gold Coast. - Howard Kotton

Taylor Adams: Despite spending considerable time in defence this pre-season, it would surprise if the hard-at-it little man didn't play predominantly on the ball, given his gutsy work in the clinches.

James Aish: The light-framed South Australian faces a significant challenge to finally establish himself at Collingwood in the final year of a contract. Fitter and harder-bodied, he is now overcoming a calf problem and will need to find his niche on the wings and flanks.

Tim Broomhead: Another young midfielder from Adelaide who is confronting a make-or-break year, the injury-plagued Broomhead is at long last putting games together but must rise from fringe option to reliable regular.

Callum Brown: The second-year inside player is developing nicely and it wouldn't surprise if he played the bulk of his games at AFL level this year. What he lacks in speed he makes up for with his desperation and sure, quick hands.

Tyler Brown: The father-son draftee is on a steep learning curve as he tries to add weight to his lean frame while building his endurance. Might settle in defence in the VFL.

Levi Greenwood: The experienced run-with player’s campaign has so far been hampered by a lingering knee injury – not a great sign as he enters the last yearof a four-year deal. Under pressure from younger teammates.

Brodie Grundy: The combative young ruckman has become a key to the Pies' with his presence and consistency, and is on track to elevate himself into the upper echelon of big men in the competition.

Will Hoskin-Elliott: The flexible former Giant’s first season at Collingwood was his best at AFL level, and expect the speedy, spring-heeled runner to go to a new level with further familiarity this year.

Max Lynch: The second-year rookie ruckman is still raw and will likely have to serve a long apprenticeship behind Brodie Grundy and Mason Cox. Could struggle for ruck minutes if fellow youngster Sam McLarty continues to thrive in a new ruck role.

Sam McLarty: Theathletic key-position player is being given an opportunity to ruck in the VFL and so far the experiment is showing signs of success. The Pies hope he will become a more than handy back-up option at AFL level.

Scott Pendlebury: The Pies' champion skipper missedthe last six gameswith a finger injury last year and wasn’t been anywhere near his best in pre-season games, finishing the clash with the Bulldogs early with an ice-pack on an ankle. Could spend more time outside the centre square at either end.

Tom Phillips: The hard-running left-footer retained his 2km time trial title at the club and continues to strengthen his position in the Pies’ midfield brigade. Developing impressive consistency for a youngster.

Steele Sidebottom: The reigning club champion spends much of his time as a high half-forward these days but remains critical to the Pies’ ball movement through the middle with his precise delivery on either side.

Brayden Sier: Coach Nathan Buckleyrevealed the youngster saved his career late last season after showing greater professionalism, and he is better placed than ever to make inroads at VFL level.

Jaidyn Stephenson: The Pies' prized draftee will make his AFL debut against Hawthorn on Saturday night after sizzling at training and adapting well to the tempo in pre-season hit-outs. Easily the quickest player on a list that has a need for speed.

Josh Thomas: The Queenslander was a little rusty when he returned last season after a two-year doping ban, but he might well be set for a breakout season. Will be given early opportunities.

Adam Treloar: The gut-running star was sidelined for the Pies’ first JLT Community Series game but he brushed aside any concerns with a super performance against the Bulldogs. Ready to burn.

Daniel Wells: The veteran started this campaign in much better shape than his first at the club but he still picked up an Achilles problem that has limited his preparation. Susceptibility to injury is becoming a major concern.

Rupert Wills: The tall inside midfielder will have to bide his time in the VFL and be ready to grab his chance if and when it comes. In competition with younger, classier types. - Ben Collins 

Tom Bellchambers: Bellchambers won back his place as Essendon's first-choice ruckman in the second half of last season. After a much better run at things this pre-season compared to previous years, he is primed to start as the No.1 man on Friday night against Adelaide. Dangerous when drifting forward too.

Dylan Clarke: Clarke will be hoping he can break into the senior Bombers' side for an AFL debut after spending his first season at the club in the VFL last year. Clarke finds the ball at will and is particularly good at the clearances, so will get a look in.

Sam Draper: The Bombers have been excited about Draper's development since the start of last season, and some even think he might be Essendon's No.2 ruckman now behind Tom Bellchambers. Draper played in the JLT Community Series clash with Richmond and is an athletic, aggressive option.

Dyson Heppell: The Bombers captain averaged 26 disposals a game last year in his return to the field after missing 2016. Remains a vital component of Essendon's midfield, particularly for his clearance work.

Matthew Leuenberger: The former Brisbane ruckman crossed to Essendon at the end of 2015, and was the Bombers' go-to big man in the early stages of last season. Had off-season shoulder surgery which restricted him at the start of the pre-season,  but he is fit for the beginning of 2018.

Jake Long: The club remains optimistic about Long's chances of making it at the top level, despite having the youngster only having played three senior games so far. He is a wiry, skillful player with a turn of pace, and the Bombers are hopeful he can add that through the midfield this season. 

Andrew McGrath: Last year's NAB AFL Rising Star winner looks set for a move into the midfield after spending the pre-season training with that group. He may go back at times, but McGrath's poise, ball-winning ability, step through traffic and toughness will be important in the trenches.

Zach Merrett: Essendon's most consistent player and a gun of the competition after just four years. Merrett claimed his first All Australian jumper last year and is one of the leading accumulators in the AFL. Rarely wastes a disposal and has become the player opposition sides try to tag.

Kobe Mutch: Wasn't far away from an AFL debut last year after showing his capacity to find the ball at VFL level. Mutch had knee surgery in February, sidelining him for approximately six weeks, but he has been running at training and is back building up his load.

David Myers: The finger injury that interrupted his 2017 season required more surgery at the end of last year, which made for some limitations for Myers over summer. The Bombers hope he can be one of their main men inside the contest with his big body and powerful left boot.

Trent Mynott: Essendon's pick in the rookie draft enjoyed a good season last year in the TAC Cup and at school level for Caulfield Grammar. Runs with the footy and is versatile, too.

Darcy Parish: Parish was used as a half-forward for a lot of last year with Essendon's brigade of senior players back from suspension, but his best work is as a midfielder. His quick hands and decision-making, genuine dash with the ball and ability to keep things moving forward makes him a key piece of Essendon's future.

Devon Smith: You can already tell Smith is loving being an important fixture of Essendon's midfield. He didn't get that same exposure at Greater Western Sydney, but he has looked at home there so far in the Bombers' pre-season games. Good user of the ball and brings some pace, too. - Callum Twomey 

Connor Blakely: Enjoyed a breakout year in 2017 playing multiple roles – including as a tagger – but this pre-season has settled across half-back with stints in the midfield. A future star and key part of the rebuild.

Andrew Brayshaw: Is on target for a round one debut after a highly impressive start to his time at Freo. The No.2 draft pick is physically ready to play senior football, as he showed during the JLT Community Series by averaging more than 16 disposals and seven tackles.

Adam Cerra: Arrived at the club with a shoulder issue and has needed to catch up with his fitness but the No.5 pick featured in the Dockers' scratch match against West Coast. His class should see him in line for an early-season debut.

Mitchell Crowden: Nuggety mid-forward from South Australia who is likely to ply his trade mostly at Peel but has already learnt plenty from the likes of Lachie Neale in his first pre-season at the Dockers. 

Sean Darcy: Disproved the theory that all young ruckman take time to develop in an outstanding second half of last season replacing Aaron Sandilands. A calf issue slowed him down after Christmas and Darcy might have to await his chance at Peel early in 2018.

Nat Fyfe: The superstar skipper is in fantastic condition and appears ready to return to his 2015 Brownlow Medal-winning best. Saw his relevance slip with Freo's tumble down the ladder but having a bigger scoreboard impact – a la Dustin Martin and Patrick Dangerfield – will help him regain the crown at the game's No.1 player. 

Stefan Giro: The South Australian speedster lit up AFLX and featured in the opening JLT Community Series clash, suggesting he will be a strong chance to debut this year. Could be a find at pick 21 in last year's rookie draft. 

Bradley Hill: The triple-premiership Hawk enjoyed a standout first season at Freo to clinch the Doig Medal. His running power and elite kicking skills will again be crucial but Hill is racing the clock for round one after an untimely quad strain.

Stephen Hill: Started last year on fire but couldn't regain that form after a hamstring strain in round five stalled his progress. Has had a compromised pre-season battling quad and calf issues and the 27-year-old is ruled out of round one. 

Scott Jones: The 22-year-old finally earned an AFL chance after a shocking injury run and, although he has a physically-mature body, is likely to start the year as the fourth ruckman in line behind Sandilands, Darcy and Meek.  

Ed Langdon: Played consistent senior football early last year before he was cut down by a knee issue. The hard-runner has enjoyed a solid pre-season and will be looking to build on his 10 appearances from 2017.

Lloyd Meek: A powerful 203cm ruckman who appeared on limited minutes in both JLT Community Series matches. Looks a handy addition to the ruck stocks.  

David Mundy: The veteran has looked in sparkling touch over pre-season and still has a huge role to play in the Dockers' engine room or as another marking target in attack. His experience and cool head are vital. 

Lachie Neale: The ultra-consistent Doig Medal runner-up had a late return to main pre-season training after off-season knee surgery and to rest his sore groin, but he tuned up for round one with 36 touches and three goals in the JLT Community Series belting of West Coast.

Tom North: Young midfielder from the Eastern Ranges could find opportunities limited this year but got a chance to pull on purple in AFLX and should learn plenty from training alongside the star-studded Dockers engine room.

Danyle Pearce: Before last season, Pearce had only missed one game since joining Freo in 2013 but found himself on the outer early in 2017 as the Dockers turned to youth. Faces a challenge to re-establish himself, however the veteran finished the JLT Community Series in decent form.

Aaron Sandilands: It may or may not be the warhorse's last campaign but the 35-year-old still remains so important giving Freo's gun midfield first use. Looked in terrific nick during pre-season games after hamstring issues kept him to only 10 appearances in 2017.

Michael Walters: Would probably have won the Doig Medal last year if not for an ill-timed knee injury in round 18 and has relished a midfield shift this pre-season. Proved he can dominate games as a mid-forward in 2017, most notably with a dazzling six-goal, 32-disposal effort against St Kilda. - Travis King 

Gary Ablett: His emotional homecoming hit a hurdle when a pre-season hamstring injury kept him out of the JLT Community Series. But a big session last week has been enough to convince the Cats he's ready to go for round one. Expect him to spend time through the midfield and up forward as he aims to overcome the injury problems he's dealt with for the past four seasons.

Ryan Abbott: Mature-aged ruckman who has had a decent pre-season, capped off by a strong showing in the VFL practice match on Friday night. The 26-year-old local product had 38 hit-outs and kicked a goal against Werribee, and is ready to be called upon if needed.

Mark Blicavs: Did a bit of everything in the second JLT game, including a stint in the ruck and up forward after Rhys Stanley hurt his calf. Also spent time down back and training as a link-up forward over the pre-season, showing he'll again be capable of playing wherever he's required this season after an indifferent 2017.  

Nakia Cockatoo: In the early pre-season, worked on improving the disconnect between his explosive power and how his body copes with it after hamstring injuries derailed his 2017. Was tracking well until a calf complaint robbed him of JLT time but returned to kick two goals and have 15 touches in the VFL practice match on the eve of the season.  

Charlie Constable: Has been earmarked as a future inside midfielder but until he improves his running capacity will aim to play a similar role to that played by retired half-back Andrew Mackie. Had a tonsillectomy before Christmas, which derailed his training, but played both JLT games for 22 touches against the Suns and 18 against the Bombers.    

Jordan Cunico: Played both JLT games but was quiet against the Bombers in limited game time before he lined up in the VFL practice match last week. Made up for it with 26 disposals and two goals in a performance that will put him in the selection conversation for round one.

Patrick Dangerfield: Goes into round one with the most talked-about hamstring in the country. Kept the media on their toes the day after suffering the injury, when he bounced out of training in a getaway car driven by his father in a jovial attempt to avoid questions about his hammy. Seems unlikely to play in the season opener but won't be far away if he misses.  

Mitch Duncan: The challenge has been thrown down with the arrival of Ablett and Duncan has already shown he's up to it. Captained the side in the first JLT game against Gold Coast and then picked up 38 disposals against Essendon. Hasn't missed a session and has worked on the defensive side of his game over summer after a career-best season.

George Horlin-Smith: The depth midfielder played in both pre-season games after a stock-standard pre-season. Had 19 touches against the Suns and 16 against the Bombers but remains up against it to break into the star-studded midfield in the final year of his contract.  

Sam Menegola: Soreness kept him from the second JLT game after he was one of their best against the Suns through the midfield and across half-forward. Was back training the week before round one and showed off his remarkable fitness with extra running after the session.  

Jordan Murdoch: Got his hands on plenty of the ball in a VFL practice match ahead of round one after missing selection for the second JLT game. Has put in a strong pre-season and enters the round one selection frame confident in his fitness, strength and flexibility to play a variety of roles.

Quinton Narkle: Is back running and on track to return in the first half of the season after his June knee reconstruction. Was placed on the long-term injury list in March to allow the elevation of Mark O'Connor, who is a category B rookie, with the Cats denying a setback in his rehabilitation.  

Mark O'Connor: Promotion to the senior list means the Irishman is available to face the Demons after an impressive pre-season. Looked good in a role on the wing against the Bombers and appears poised to add to the two AFL games he played in 2017.  

Joel Selwood: Didn't go to Townsville to face the Suns with his ankle injury from last year needing a slow introduction to pre-season. He showed the extended rest helped against the Bombers with a standard 35 touches and 12 clearances.  

Scott Selwood: Was dealt yet another pre-season blow when he needed an ankle arthroscope in late January after developing pain and stiffness. Is aiming to start running in the next fortnight, so will be a few weeks away at least from joining in full training.

Zac Smith: Has had an uninterrupted pre-season and looks set to carry on from where he left off in 2017 as the Cats' undeniable No.1 big man. Was more influential against the Bombers than the Suns and is expected to lead the ruck brigade this season

Rhys Stanley: Won't play in round one because of a calf strain he picked up against the Bombers, which was deemed low-grade but looks likely to sideline him from round one. Became a father in February with the arrival of son Jagger.    

Jackson Thurlow: Played both games and is looking at spending more time in the midfield in what looms as a make or break year. Has been training for a role along the wing and will be in the mix for round one. - Jennifer Phelan

Charlie Ballard: A tall midfielder whose strength overhead and dash was eye-catching on the wing for South Australia in last year's NAB AFL Under-18 Championships. Still very skinny and will spend most of the season in the NEAFL as he gets stronger.

Michael Barlow: Broke his leg in round 13 last year but recovered well and has completed the entire pre-season. Barlow is a clever footballer that can mix time between the midfield and forward but faces a challenge to win a regular spot.

Will Brodie: Has a strong body and loves winning the contested ball. Brodie played three games in his first year and already looks to have taken a step forward with two strong showings in the JLT Series.

Brayden Crossley: A Suns Academy graduate, Crossley is an aggressive ruckman who mixes skill with passion. Firmly behind Jarrod Witts and Tom Nicholls in the pecking order, but with some improvement in his marking and work around the ground, should progress quickly.

Jacob Dawson: An inside midfielder with good hands in tight, Dawson excelled in a head-to-head battle with GWS bull Jacob Hopper at the end of the last NEAFL season.

Brayden Fiorini: Like Brodie, Fiorini has made a big leap forward physically in the pre-season. The 20-year-old is noticeably stronger and with his ball-winning ability and clever kicking, should push for a regular spot this year.

Aaron Hall: Broke his finger in the final JLT game against Brisbane and will miss the opening round or two. Hall has defensive deficiencies in his game that he is ironing out, and his leg speed from stoppages and thumping right boot add so much to Gold Coast's midfield.

Jesse Lonergan: About to start his sixth season, Lonergan is a midfielder the Suns need more from. Injuries have previously hindered the 23-year-old, but he's had a strong pre-season and should push for an inside role.

Jarryd Lyons: After a slow start, fitted in beautifully in his first season with Gold Coast and should again be a driving force in 2018. Excellent clearance player who is capable of kicking goals.

Touk Miller: As reliable a midfielder as the Suns have. Miller played every game last season, works hard both offensively and defensively and is already in the club's leadership group. Rock solid.

Tom Nicholls: Was passed by Jarrod Witts in 2017 and spent the entire year playing NEAFL. Has had a much better pre-season and showed some good form in the JLT Series.

Matt Rosa: The tall wingman keeps on keeping on. Now 31, Rosa played 19 games last year and is again in line to play a prominent role in 2018. The former Eagle is a good ball user and a calming influence on his young teammates.

Josh Schoenfeld: The aerobic powerhouse can play anywhere from half-back to wing to midfield. Schoenfeld is starting his third season and with a bit of extra size should begin to push his case for more senior games.

David Swallow: In a dismal year for Gold Coast, Swallow was a real success story last season. After missing 18 months with knee injuries, the bull-at-a-gate midfielder returned to finish second in the best and fairest. Almost too brave for his own good, Swallow is the heartbeat of the midfield.

Lachie Weller: After three years at Fremantle, Weller returns 'home' where he spent so much time as a teenager. Well skilled and fresh off a strong pre-season, he should complement the inside likes of Lyons, Miller and Swallow nicely.

Jarrod Witts: The towering ruckman made a huge impact in his first year at the club. More than just a tap ruckman, Witts proved valuable around the stoppages and helped the Suns to be a strong clearance team. - Michael Whiting


Stephen Coniglio: The tough West Australian was sorely missed last season but is now fully fit and looks ready to recapture his 2016 form. Will provide the Giants with outstanding leadership.

Matthew Flynn: The young ruckman has developed nicely in the NEAFL but still has some work to do to make the next step up to senior level. Third in line behind Rory Lobb and Dawson Simpson.

Jacob Hopper: Another frustrating summer for the hard nut and unlikely to be ready for round one, having missed the JLT Community Series with groin issues. Giants will be conservative to get him right.

Josh Kelly: Last year's club champion has rolled into 2018 the way he finished last season and will once again give the midfield plenty of class. Will love the return of Coniglio.

Rory Lobb: Struggled with a groin problem over the pre-season and given he played only one NEAFL scratch match, will be underdone if he's picked for round one.

Tom Scully: Trained well for most of the summer until a knee injury kept him out of AFLX and the JLT Series. His outstanding conditioning means he's a chance to play this week but remains in doubt.

Will Setterfield: The talented youngster had a faultless pre-season after suffering a serious ankle injury last year, but went down with a ruptured ACL in the Giants' practice match against Sydney and will miss the season.

Dylan Shiel: Took a while to get back into full training after off-season shoulder surgery but starred in the JLT Series and looks to be back to his dynamic best. Carried the shoulder most of last season so could be in for a monster year.

Nick Shipley: The club's first draftee from western Sydney showed plenty of promise in the JLT Series playing on a wing and across half forward, and if his form continues, a debut isn't far away.

Dawson Simpson: The retirement of Shane Mumford and Lobb's injury worries have him in the box seat to lead the ruck against the Bulldogs this week. An honest performer who deserves his chance.

Tim Taranto: After being thrown into the midfield in spurts last year, Taranto will spend more time there this season, where his hardness and work around stoppages will add valuable support for the Giants' top tier.

Callan Ward: The co-captain is another who will relish the return of Coniglio and the pair will shoulder the bulk of the contested work. The consistent onballer could spend more time resting forward in 2018. - Adam Curley

Shaun Burgoyne: It seems the champion is immune to slowing down. The 35-year-old has lined up in 105 consecutive games, which is the fourth-longest active streak in the AFL, and hasn't had a noticeable drop-off from his high standards. Also regularly plays up forward or down back.

Jonathon Ceglar: A right knee reconstruction meant the ruckman didn't play last year while a back issue has plagued him in recent weeks and will keep him out of the opening few rounds. Looms as a back-up to Ben McEvoy.

James Cousins: Shoulder surgery last July ended the rookie's season early. He had previously impressed as an inside ball-winner and earned three games in the senior side. Can take an overhead grab as well despite not being overly tall at 185cm.

Ricky Henderson: Crossed over from Adelaide as a delisted free agent at the end of 2016 and managed 18 games. The 29-year-old also spent time across half-back, where his kicking and versatility were important.

Daniel Howe: Showed his wares as a tagger last year when he shut down Adelaide star Rory Sloane in the Hawks' incredible round 14 upset in South Australia. Has previously played in the backline and has the necessary competitiveness to nullify opponents.

Harrison Jones: A hard nut who loves the contest and tackles with ferocity. The rookie impressed with his leaping ability at last year's NAB AFL Draft Combine.

Will Langford: Spent plenty of time as a pressure forward in 2017 but Langford will probably resume as an inside midfielder this year, after he recovers from a broken hand in a month. Suffered a ruptured finger tendon in his other hand last December.

Kieran Lovell: Hawthorn has long had high hopes for the inside midfielder. A major shoulder operation meant he missed for much of last season but Lovell can win the football and avoid congestion with his power and evasive skills.

Ben McEvoy: The ruckman is coming off a career-best campaign. His marking has long been a strength and the former Saint also followed up his ruck work well. Will likely carry a heavy load again.

Tom Mitchell: Can win the football like few others and in 2017 the former Swan broke the record for most disposals in a home and away season with 787. His toughness and competitiveness are elite.

Jaeger O'Meara: It seems the Hawks have figured out O'Meara's right knee issues and can keep him on the park, although the test will be how many games he plays this year. He took part in both of Hawthorn's JLT Community series clashes and, before his injuries, was perhaps the most exciting talent in the competition.

Jonathan O'Rourke: Hamstring issues plagued the former Giant last year and he eventually required an operation. The No.2 pick from the 2012 NAB AFL Draft is talented but has struggled to consistently perform.

Marc Pittonet: Will likely be an emergency most weeks, behind McEvoy. Is impressive when contesting hit-outs and has improved his marking. Pittonet didn't play a game last year after managing three in 2016.

Liam Shiels: Appointed as a vice-captain last year, Shiels was once again important for the Hawks. He is a prolific tackler and runs hard both ways. At only 26, Shiels should have plenty of good football left in him.

Isaac Smith: The other player made vice-captain in 2017, the hard-running wingman is very important to Alastair Clarkson's side. His penetrating left boot is dangerous around goal and the Hawks are hopeful he can hit the scoreboard more this year.

Brendan Whitecross: Tough to categorise a position for Whitecross, because he can and does play all over the ground. The 28-year-old managed eight games last season and will again likely be called upon to plug holes.

Dallas Willsmore: In his fourth year, Willsmore made his senior debut in 2017 and played two matches midway through the season. Generally a wingman but has been trialled in the forward line for Box Hill.

James Worpel: The draftee could make his debut early in the year, such is the maturity of his body. His physicality is a key attribute and although he didn't play a game in the JLT Community Series, the former Geelong Falcon will probably be seen at senior level in 2018. – Dinny Navaratnam 

Oskar Baker: The speedy youngster impressed with his ability to break lines and take the game on in match simulation over the pre-season. Uses the footy exceptionally well for a young player. Will be given time to develop in the VFL, but the Demons have high hopes for a player who possesses a bit of X-factor.

Angus Brayshaw: Was excellent against St Kilda in the JLT Community Series with 19 disposals and two goals. Brayshaw is still wearing the helmet after his concussion issues over the last 18 months, and the Demons just want to see him back out on the field and contributing. The determined midfielder was sick earlier this week but is expected to be available for Sunday's game.

Lachlan Filipovic: The developing rookie ruckman received a one-year contract extension at the end of last year after an injury-interrupted first season at the Dees. Will look to hone his craft in the VFL for most of the year.

Max Gawn: The 2016 All Australian ruckman is in great shape after shedding up to eight kilograms at the end of last season. Gawn's form in the JLT series was extremely encouraging for the Demons, with the 208cm big man back to his dominant best. After an injury-riddled 2017, Gawn's return is a decisive one for the Demons.

Nathan Jones: The co-captain has struggled to shake off a flare up of back spasms in recent weeks but has been declared fit to play. Jones averaged 14 disposals in two JLT games and was solid without being spectacular. Jones' on-field leadership will be important for a team on the precipice of finals.

Jay Kennedy-Harris: Kennedy-Harris did not feature in the JLT series and will have to work his way into senior contention with some good form in the VFL. The speedy midfielder/forward managed just six senior games last year (despite being prolific in the VFL), so 2018 shapes as a crunch year for him.

Mitch King: The young ruckman will start the year as Max Gawn's back up and will continue to learn from his mentor. After coming back from a ruptured ACL, King's form in the back half of last year was encouraging. Still a fair way off AFL footy at this stage of his career.

Corey Maynard: The former basketballer made a quicker than projected progression to life as an AFL footballer in 2017 and will look to take the next step in his development this season. A player who thrives on the contest and physical contact, Maynard averaged 16 disposals and six tackles in the JLT matches.

Clayton Oliver: Will be looking to back up a breakout season in which he won his maiden best and fairest and caught the attention of the AFL world. Oliver looked sharp in the JLT series and looks to have improved his outside game. Will be put through a fitness test at training on Thursday after a knock to the knee.

Christian Petracca: Many are tipping Petracca to take the competition by storm and it's not hard to see why. The powerfully-built youngster trained as a midfielder over the summer and looks set to make an impact on ball or up forward. Has all the tools to be a top-five player in the competition in the coming years.

Christian Salem: A dedicated off-season fitness program saw Salem come back to the club in top nick and that level of commitment allowed him to produce his best football in the JLT games. The Demons have shifted him into an inside midfield role, and after injury and illness have held him back, 2018 could be a big year for Salem.

Billy Stretch: The hard-working wingman was consistent across the two JLT games, averaging 19 disposals. Stretch is one of the most professional players on Melbourne's list and he has given himself every chance of featuring in round one.

Dom Tyson: After overcoming a calf problem, Tyson returned to the team and collected 19 touches and laid eight tackles against the Saints. Tyson's ability around stoppages makes him an important part of the team. The midfielder was best afield in the VFL on Saturday and looks ready to go against the Cats.

Jack Viney: Viney goes into the 2018 season with hardly any training under his belt after off-season foot surgery. The co-skipper will miss round one, but is targeting a return – most likely through the VFL – in round three. Getting him back into the team and fully fit will be hugely important to Melbourne's midfield. - Ben Guthrie 

Paul Ahern: Likely to be used at half-back initially this year as he regains confidence in his twice-reconstructed right knee. Has made steady progress this pre-season but was overlooked for the JLT Community Series after playing in the AFLX competition. Set to start the season in the VFL, but his impressive form in last Saturday's VFL practice match against Williamstown suggests his AFL debut won't be too far away. 

Jed Anderson: Voluntarily started his pre-season early when he joined North's first-to-fourth year players on high-altitude training camp in Utah in late October, and had enjoyed a strong preparation until he underwent thumb surgery shortly before Christmas. Returned last Saturday against Williamstown and starred in the midfield, his strong stoppage work suggesting he can have an impact at senior level in 2018.

Ben Cunnington: One of the competition's best clearance players, the 26-year-old has enjoyed a strong preparation that has him well placed to lead North's on-ball division again in 2018. Likely to be regularly deployed in attack this season where his strength overhead makes him an extremely difficult match-up; he kicked several goals on teammate Ben Jacobs in an intra-club game last month. 

Luke Davies-Uniacke: Last year's No.4 draft pick has lived up to expectations in his first pre-season at Arden St, quickly impressing his senior teammates with his star qualities. Missed the AFLX competition with a minor back niggle, but returned to play in both of North's JLT games. Looks at home at senior level and appears a lock to debut in round one.

Trent Dumont: Has a golden opportunity to cement a regular spot as an inside midfielder following Andrew Swallow's retirement at the end of last season. However, he was quiet in both of North's JLT games and appears a line-ball selection for round one. 

Todd Goldstein: The 2015 All Australian is determined to get back to his best after a trying 18 months. After a near flawless preparation, he has firmly underlined his status as North's No.1 ruckman ahead of Braydon Preuss. Set to play as the Roos' sole ruckman in round one.

Billy Hartung: The former Hawk should make his club debut for North in round one after an impressive pre-season. Was North's best player against Melbourne in the opening JLT game, while his gut-busting run will be a welcome addition to North's on-ball division. 

Kyron Hayden: The 18-year-old's first pre-season has been largely spent in the rehab group after he had shoulder injury in December. The West Australian is nearing a return to contact training but is still about a month away from playing. 

Shaun Higgins: The Roos' classiest midfielder turned 30 earlier this month but has shown no signs of slowing down. Starred in the JLT game against Richmond and looks well placed to back up the outstanding 2017 form that earned him his maiden best and fairest win. 

Ben Jacobs: Finally appears over the foot issues that have sidelined him from North's senior team since round eight, 2016. Played in both of North's JLT games, with his form solid enough to suggest he will make his long-awaited return in round one. An outstanding run-with player, but likely to be given more licence this season to win his own ball.

Tom Jeffries: The Category B rookie remains a work in progress who North is grooming to play in the ruck. The 200cm Queenslander will look to continue his development with the Kangaroos' VFL team in 2018. 

Oscar Junker: A broken tibia ruined the former Western Jet's first season at Arden St, but he has rebounded to complete a solid pre-season. At 193cm, Junker fits the increasingly tall mould of the modern midfielder, but he needs time to develop and will likely spend most of 2018 in the VFL.

Luke McDonald: Had been enjoying a strong pre-season until he was banned from North's second JLT game for drinking on the club's community camp in Hobart last month. Has spent time on the wing in previous seasons, but the feisty left-footer has been earmarked to play in the centre square this season as North looks to give its on-ball unit a makeover.  

Braydon Preuss: Restricted from contact work by a shoulder injury before Christmas but has since worked his way back to full fitness. Yet to overtake Todd Goldstein as the Roos' No.1 ruckman, so will start 2018 in the VFL given North's reluctance to play two genuine ruckmen in the same team. 

Will Walker: North's second selection in last year's NAB AFL Draft is a versatile player who is also likely spend time at half-forward. Impressed in North's VFL practice match last Saturday with his composure and decision-making, and should push for senior opportunities at some stage in 2018.

Josh Williams: Given a small taste of senior football last season and has continued his development over the pre-season. Williams has the speed and line-breaking run North's midfield is crying out for, and the Roos will look to give him as many senior opportunities as possible this year.

Tristan Xerri: The first-year ruckman has acquitted himself well in contests with Goldstein and Preuss over the pre-season, while his performance in last Saturday's VFL practice match was also highly encouraging. Will be given time to develop in the VFL but his tap work and contested marking already has North's coaching staff excited.

Jack Ziebell: The Roos skipper was on a modified program before Christmas after undergoing toe surgery, but has enjoyed a solid preparation since then. Will again shoulder much of North's inside midfield load this season, while the Roos will also look to utilise his ability to pinch-hit in attack. - Nick Bowen

Karl Amon: The winger was busy across the Power's two JLT games. One of the best runners at the club, winning both time trials during the pre-season.

Joe Atley: The Power have a lot of inside midfielders to choose from, but the 19-year-old is one for the future. Had 15 disposals in 52 per cent game time against Adelaide and did some nice things at stoppages.

Dom Barry: A strong chance to debut for the Power in round one after solid performances in both JLT games. Provides lot of pace on the wing and deserves his second chance in the AFL system.

Willem Drew: The second-year midfielder continues to develop his game. Didn't play either JLT match and is behind a few others for a senior spot.

Brad Ebert: Coming off a career-best season, finding plenty of the ball on the inside and putting his body on the line. The 213-game veteran has done everything required of him during the pre-season.

Billy Frampton: Is the Power's second-choice ruckman behind All Australian Paddy Ryder. Working on his forward craft to become more dangerous in attack.

Sam Hayes: Regarded as one of the steals of last year's draft, arriving at the Power with the 47th overall pick. The under-18 All-Australian ruckman needs to put on size and is an exciting prospect for the future.

Cameron Hewett: Has built his fitness and strength and can be dangerous inside and outside the contest. Missed the Power's SANFL trial with a sore shin.

Peter Ladhams: Very athletic for a 203cm ruckman. Moves around the ground well, but needs to work on strength in the ruck and general contests.

Jared Polec: Missed the first JLT game with a hamstring injury, but played 50 per cent of game time in the win against Adelaide. The experienced winger was extremely unlucky to give away the crucial free kick in last year's elimination final loss to West Coast.

Sam Powell-Pepper: The midfield bull injured his shoulder in the first JLT game against West Coast. In a race against time to be fit for round one after playing every game in a sensational rookie season.

Tom Rockliff: The Power have taken no chances with the ex-Brisbane captain, taking a cautious approach with a knee injury. Expected to be right for round one.

Paddy Ryder: Coming off an outstanding season in which the ruckman won the Power's best and fairest and was named in the All Australian team. Done everything required of him during the pre-season.

Jack Trengove: Had 11 disposals in 52 per cent game time in JLT 1, but was left out of the Power's squad for the second game. Impressed in the SANFL trial, and the former Melbourne co-captain has won admirers with his tank.

Will Snelling: Entering his third year on the Power's rookie list, Snelling's endurance is very good and was in the top five in the time trial. Working on his positioning to receive and use the ball on the outside.

Justin Westhoff: Shows no signs of slowing down with age, close to best on ground on a wing in the Power's JLT win against Adelaide. Extremely durable and will also back up Paddy Ryder in the ruck.

Ollie Wines: The Power's vice-captain looks primed for a big season having looked good in both JLT games. Comfortable with where his contract is at, but would be a major shock if he leaves the Power. - Lee Gaskin

Josh Caddy: The most impressive Tiger through the JLT Community Series, Caddy looks primed for a big year. He has moved seamlessly through the midfield and forward line and should again hit the scoreboard regularly as a rotating target.   

Callum Coleman-Jones: The 200cm ruckman suffered a knee injury in the second half of his draft year and he was managed through knee and Achilles soreness early in the pre-season. He emerged from that and has shown his ability to cover the ground well for a big man in training.  

Trent Cotchin: The captain is coming off his best season since his Brownlow year of 2012. He wins fewer possessions now but is a more effective player and an outstanding leader. He knows what do at this time of year and no unnecessary risks were taken during the pre-season competition.

Nathan Drummond: Returning from a second knee reconstruction, Drummond's goal has been to play at some level in round one. He will fall one week short after one month in full training, but it's a long season and the Tigers see a lot of promise in the young midfielder. 

Shane Edwards: One of the stars of last year's finals series, Edwards has built form nicely this pre-season and will again be crucial to the Tigers' forays forwards with his classy ball use. Injury-free all summer.

Corey Ellis: Played both JLT Community Series games, putting him in the extended squad the Tigers are looking at for round one. Has done a lot of his training in the midfield and, with his excellent ball-use, should get a crack in there at some point this year.

Jack Graham: The second-year midfielder is noticeably bigger and ready to build on last year's miraculous five-game cameo. The tackling machine has earned his place in the midfield after a full pre-season, putting his injury issues of 2017 behind him.

Shaun Grigg: Has had a new lease of life on the track this pre-season and will again hold down a wing. The senior Tiger has enjoyed an uninterrupted summer and will play an important role as one of the hardest runners both ways.   

Shaun Hampson: A back disc problem has restricted the ruckman significantly this pre-season. He will require ongoing management and a return to playing is unclear.  

Kane Lambert: Rotated forward in the second JLT Community Series match against North Melbourne and booted four goals in a standout pre-season performance. Always improving, the premiership midfielder could go to another level again in 2018.   

Sam Lloyd: Has trained in the midfield all pre-season and hopes to break into the 22 in that role after being on the fringe of a small forward line. Impressed in the second pre-season game and is jockeying to replace Dion Prestia in round one if required.  

Oleg Markov: Shoulder surgery saw the half-back start pre-season on a modified program and he had not completed enough contact work to participate in the JLT Community Series. Spent most of his time as a wingman in 2017, but was also used forward and back.  

Dustin Martin: The superstar midfielder returned to early pre-season training last November and has reaped the benefits in a drama-free preparation for 2018. While his game time was managed through the JLT Community Series, he showed signs he will replicate his elite best this season.       

Kamdyn McIntosh: A crucial defensive midfielder, McIntosh was an unheralded member of the Tigers' premiership 22. Excellent when sweeping defensively and intercepting, he has room to improve in his attacking game.

Connor Menadue: The hard-running outside midfielder lost his spot in the team in round 16 and didn't get it back. Winning more of the ball and improving his tackling and contested work will lead to more senior opportunities.

Anthony Miles: Was strangely left out of both JLT Community Series games, despite the doubt on Dion Prestia for round one. Appears next in line for an inside midfield spot after tuning up well in VFL practice games.   

Ben Miller: After being eased into his first pre-season, the big utility has taken everything in his stride. Played ruck as a junior but the Tigers know they have a player who can also hold down a post in defence or forward.

Patrick Naish: With his impressive kicking skills turning heads on the track, Naish has the talent to force his way into the team this season if the Tigers decide they need outside run. Hardwick had been keen to expose the father-son selection during the JLT Community Series but he couldn't be squeezed in.   

Toby Nankervis: A head knock in the opening pre-season game was the only concern over the summer for the premiership ruckman, who rebounded impressively against North Melbourne. Expected to again carry the ruck load solo, with minimal support from midfielders such as Shaun Grigg.

Dion Prestia: Likely to fall short in his race to be fit for round one after a hamstring injury on the eve of the JLT Community Series. The premiership midfielder suffered a setback in his recovery and is too valuable to the engine room to rush back.

Ivan Soldo: As back-up to Nankervis in the ruck, Soldo has proven himself ready to play at AFL level when given opportunities. He was also solid in the JLT Community Series clash against North Melbourne, but his opportunities this year will hinge on injuries. - Nathan Schmook 

Blake Acres: Should be set to take his game to the next level and St Kilda need the West Australian to deliver on his immense potential. Acres' strength and running power means he can play on the inside or outside, although his kicking sometimes lets him down.

David Armitage: It will be a relief for coach Alan Richardson to have the Queenslander back at his disposal. Tough inside the contest and a leader, Armitage was missed last year, when he had two bouts of groin surgery.

Jack Billings: Inaccurate goalkicking was probably the only reason the left-footer didn't make the All Australian squad of 40 last year, at the least. The irony is Billings is probably the best kick at the club. Will spend more time on a wing this season.

Luke Dunstan: The South Australian is held in high regard at the Saints for his ability to influence games when required. An indifferent 2017 saw him dropped on three occasions but the hard nut impressed when he returned for the final six games of the season.

Nathan Freeman: Yet another hamstring setback in February required surgery. He has had a terrible run of luck but offers outside run when fit, as he showed in the VFL last season when he managed 13 games.

Tom Hickey: It was a dismal 2017 for the Queensland native. He lost his ruck spot to Billy Longer early in the year and then in August suffered a right shoulder injury that would require a reconstruction. That hampered him for much of the pre-season and Hickey needs to lift to win his spot back.

Doulton Langlands: Picked up as a rookie last year, Langlands offers plenty of class and pace on the outside. Needs more development but if he improves at Sandringham, Langlands has the traits to complement the senior side nicely.

Billy Longer: A calf concern hampered the ruckman during the pre-season, before he hurt his left hip flexor recently, although Longer is not in doubt for round one. A physical big man who throws his weight around.

Jack Newnes: One of the most durable players in the competition, Newnes has played 88 consecutive games, which is the sixth-longest active streak in the AFL. The right-footer has established himself as a leader and a hard-running wingman.

Ben Paton: Thumb surgery will keep the draftee out for another few weeks. He looms as a quick wingman who can use the football on both sides of his body. At 186cm, Paton is a good size.

Ed Phillips: The brother of Collingwood's Tom is an elite runner and played on a wing and across half-back last year for Sandringham. A left ankle injury sidelined him midway through last season but he returned and his form was encouraging. Could make his debut this season.

Seb Ross: A well deserving winner of last year's Trevor Barker Award, Ross has all the traits required of a midfielder. He can win it himself, has a reliable left boot and is quicker than he might seem at first glance. His commitment to the defensive side of the game is impressive.

Jack Sinclair: Broke through last year and cemented a spot in the senior side. Sinclair was given a chance on a wing and showed his speed and class. The Saints are optimistic he can improve once again.

Jack Steele: Few relish tackling like the former Giant does. He ranked second in tackles per game last season (behind Geelong's Scott Selwood), but the next step is to become a more consistent ball-winner because he's capable of doing so. Steele suffered a minor left ankle injury in the last session before the Christmas break but didn't miss any training.

Jack Steven: A left ankle injury in the final pre-season clash against Melbourne is bothering Steven but he should be right for round one. Gone are the hamstring tendinitis issues of last season so the onballer should return to his consistent best. Will have stints up forward.

Koby Stevens: Hard in the contest, Stevens adds to the Saints' glut of inside midfielders. He had both groins operated on at the end of last season and has trained well throughout the pre-season. – Dinny Navaratnam 


James Bell: The rookie is lightning quick and takes the game on when he finds the footy, and looms as an exciting prospect. Could be a Lewis Jetta replacement.

Jake Brown: The Swans academy product is equally at home on a wing or across half-back, but has shown plenty of versatility in the NEAFL, and uses the footy well by hand and foot.

Darcy Cameron: A season-ending knee injury for Sam Naismith opened the door but Cameron failed to take his opportunity to impress during the JLT Community Series. Likely to start the year in the NEAFL.

Harry Cunningham: A serious foot injury cost the speedster plenty of games last year but he's been in blistering form both during the AFLX tournament, and the JLT Series. Looks best suited to a wing but can also play forward and back.

Oliver Florent: Had a solid first season in 2017 and has already shown his development during his second pre-season. Florent's pace and kicking ability makes him a valuable wingman or half-forward.

Jordan Foote: The nuggety inside midfielder racks up the possessions in the NEAFL but faces another long year trying to break into the Swans AFL side. A reliable back-up option.

Dan Hannebery: A calf injury means the elite runner could miss out on the round one trip to play West Coast, but he trained well on Tuesday and isn't far away. Could be risked.

Isaac Heeney: Minor knee surgery interrupted his pre-season but Heeney was solid during the JLT Series and looks ready for an increased role in 2018. Marking ability will see him used regularly as a resting forward.

George Hewett: The underrated onballer is the ultimate team player and finished fifth in the club champion award last year. Can be used as a run-with midfielder or defensive forward, but finds his own ball and places plenty of pressure on the opposition.

Zak Jones: Off-season knee surgery forced him to modify his summer training but Jones played well in the second JLT Series match against the Giants. Might be eased into the season with his minutes but will provide plenty of impact.

Josh Kennedy: The skipper was one of many senior players to be given a light load pre-Christmas but is in fantastic shape and will again lead his team's elite midfield. The contested footy specialist is another who could spend more time forward.

Sam Naismith: The big man suffered a shocking blow when he ruptured his ACL at training earlier this month and will spend the whole year on the sidelines.

Luke Parker: The reigning club champion is the Swans' midfield barometer, along with his captain, and has spoken about kicking more goals this year. Parker resting forward will be a dangerous prospect for opposition sides given his marking ability.

Dan Robinson: Has had no luck with injury over his career but hasn't suffered any setbacks over summer and is in the mix for round one. Could be a battle to play regular senior footy, though, with so many stars in front of him.

Callum Sinclair: Naismith's injury and Cameron's patchy form mean Sinclair will lead the ruck in round one, despite going down with an ankle injury in the first JLT game. Will need to start well because Cameron will be putting plenty of pressure on.

Angus Styles: The rookie has slotted in well alongside the Swans' other draftees and will do some developing in the NEAFL this year. Capable of finding the footy on a wing or across half-back. - Adam Curley

Brendon Ah Chee: Worked hard to gain respect over pre-season and looked on target for a round one debut before going down with a high ankle sprain in the opening JLT Community Series hit-out against ex-club Port Adelaide. Will miss early rounds but should be in the best 22.

Brayden Ainsworth: Has impressed everyone at the Eagles with his competitive edge and willingness to get his hands dirty. His experience playing against men for Subiaco has helped and the Esperance midfield product is in the round one mix.

Hamish Brayshaw: Crosses his 'Ts' and dots his 'Is' with everything he does. Appeared in AFLX and had a run in the Eagles scratch match, although the big-bodied midfielder's starting point this season will be having an impact for East Perth.

Liam Duggan: Fans are keen to see another step forward from the young Victorian in his fourth season. Duggan found a regular niche at half-back last year but the Eagles need the re-signed future leader to develop into a consistent midfielder. 

Callan England: The coming season will be about development for the short-statured rookie. If he can do well at East Perth and push for a late-season debut it would be an excellent result.

Andrew Gaff: West Coast knows what it will get from the running machine and Gaff's consistency home or away shouldn't be understated, but he can take his game to a new level by becoming more damaging forward of centre.

Mark Hutchings: Took to shutdown roles with gusto last year and is likely to be used as a stopper again this season. Never gives less than 100 per cent living on the edge of selection and was consistent throughout pre-season games.

Lewis Jetta: Started to feel at home at the Eagles last year and was hugely influential at the death in round 23 and the elimination final. Has been trialled across half-back over pre-season with encouraging results and could bring necessary dash to the backline.

Scott Lycett: Has a golden opportunity to re-establish himself early this season coming off a campaign ruined by shoulder issues. The Eagles need Lycett, whose form has been solid but not spectacular, to stand up with Nic Naitanui on the comeback and Nathan Vardy set to miss a chunk of football.  

Chris Masten: Remained on the outer during the JLT Community Series matches, despite several spots being up for grabs, and didn’t have much impact in an East Perth practice game last Saturday. The 28-year-old is at the crossroads.

Kurt Mutimer: Broke through for a debut last year and performed solidly enough but has slipped down the pecking order with draftee Brayden Ainsworth and fit-again Daniel Venables pushing ahead in the race for midfield spots.

Nic Naitanui: Made an uplifting return from nearly 19 months out with his knee reconstruction for East Perth last week. Grew in confidence with his leap, jumping and landing on his surgically-repaired left leg, and is pushing for the season-opener. Can't get back quick enough given West Coast's clearance struggles. 

Tony Olango: Has battled a knee issue throughout his first pre-season and is yet to join the main training group. The athletic young ruckman is a project player who will take time.

Luke Partington: Was one of the better Eagles in East Perth's practice match against East Fremantle. Finding the footy at WAFL level isn't an issue, but Partington's ambition is to become more damaging. Should get more senior opportunities this year.

Jack Petruccelle: Burst onto the scene during AFLX and probably would've had a chance during the JLT Community Series if not for a dislocated finger which is still restricting his training. Blistering pace could become an asset if he can perform at East Perth.

Jack Redden: Starred in the Eagles' win over Port Adelaide but like many other senior midfielders had no influence in the shocker against Freo. Found his feet at West Coast late last year and needs to kick on in the absences of Matt Priddis and Sam Mitchell.

Dom Sheed: Another who more will be expected from in 2018. Sheed had some excellent performances last year when others struggled in the midfield but the challenge is to become a reliable week-in, week-out onballer who impacts games.

Luke Shuey: The vice-captain is the Eagles' most dynamic midfielder and needs others to pick up the slack around the contest so he can be unleashed more often where he is most damaging - bursting from clearances and forward of centre.

Nathan Vardy: The injury-plagued former Cat enjoyed the best year of his career as a ruck-forward in 2017 and was right in the mix for round one before being struck down with an adductor issue earlier this month. Will miss the early rounds at least.

Daniel Venables: Has been able to build his fitness base significantly over summer after his first year at West Coast was wrecked by foot and toe issues. His aggression, pace and attacking instincts will be assets for the Eagles but Venables will need time to find his way.

Elliot Yeo: The club champion showed his immense talent last year stationed mainly across half-back but Yeo's challenge is to become the powerful and influential onballer West Coast believes he can be. Has all the tools to be a midfield beast. - Travis King 

Marcus Bontempelli: The Dogs' best midfielder is also their most dangerous forward, so where to play the superstar playmaker should give coach Luke Beveridge plenty to think about. Expect the 22-year-old to play predominately on the ball and rest forward as he did in the JLT Community Series. 

Tom Campbell: Playing just 42 games in seven seasons at the Dogs, the 26-year-old needs to have more impact around the ground. With one year left on his current deal, it looms as a make-or-break year for the former rookie.

Caleb Daniel: The diminutive playmaker is one of the Dogs best decision makers and users of the footy. The 21-year-old also possess elite endurance, so his ability remain on the ground for long periods of time is a huge asset for the Dogs.

Tim English: The Dogs are optimistic the second-year ruckman will have more impact this season. At 208cm, the 20-year-old has added much needed bulk to his once slim fame and appears ready to build on his two career games to date. Just as adept at ground level as he is in the air. 

Lachie Hunter: The creative onballer continues to be a very important player in the Bulldog side. Spent time across half-back last season but plays his best footy on a wing. Uses his elite agility to evade opponents. 

Jason Johannisen: He won a Norm Smith Medal as a running defender, but 25-year-old looks set to play predominately on the wing and up forward. Struggled with taggers last year, so it will be interesting to see if he learned how to shake one. 

Lin Jong: The athletic 24-year-old has recovered from a knee reconstruction and was serviceable in the JLT Series. If he can improve his decision making and disposal, they will add to his explosiveness at stoppages. 

Tom Liberatore: After a season where his commitment was questioned and he dumped to the VFL, the hard nut looked to be getting back to his brilliant best in the club's pre-season hit-outs. The 25-year-old has regained his attacking flair, spreading well from the contest and looking dangerous around goal. 

Jack Macrae: The 23-year-old is the club's most prolific midfielder, averaging 27 possessions a game last year. The left-footer has an uncanny knack of being where the ball is and looks ready to take his game to the next level this year.

Toby McLean: A breakout season in 2017 saw the once crafty forward become an important part of the Dogs' midfield rotation. The 22-year-old complements a hard edge with the ability to hurt the opposition on the outside. Expect the fourth-year Bulldog to become an A-grader by year's end.

Callum Porter: The draftee won a remarkable nine best and fairests as a junior, and will spend time at Footscray developing his outside game. 

Liam Picken: A second concussion inside 12 months in the JLT series will see the 31-year-old sidelined indefinitely. A lack of fear may be catching up Picken, but if he can over overcome his latest setback, the 2016 Grand Final hero still has plenty to offer the Dogs.

Jordan Roughead: The versatile big man is the Dogs No.1 ruckman after stints in attack and down back. Has a tendency to get injured, but his mobility around the ground and contested marking is a big asset. Will lead a young and developing ruck division.

Jackson Trengove: The former Port big man has made an immediate impression at Whitten Oval, with his competiveness and mobility in the ruck impressive in the JLT Series. It was expected he'd play in defence, but the 27-year-old looks set to split his time between the ruck and attack. 

Mitch Wallis: It looms as interesting year for the 25-year-old, as he finds himself one several midfielders at the club that aren't overly quick or reliable by foot. Did well to return from a badly broken leg in 2016 but found himself in the VFL late in the season. Expect the determined ball winner to fight hard to regain his spot. Didn't feature in JLT Series.

Lukas Webb: The classy left-footer has struggled for opportunities in his four seasons at the club, but knocked back rival interest last year to sign a two-year deal. Has developed an inside game to complement his excellent kicking skills. - Ryan Davidson

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs