Forward Jack Gunston makes a welcome return for AFL premiers Hawthorn as teams noticeably beef up their pre-season teams ahead of round one.
Fellow Hawks stars Luke Hodge and Sam Mitchell, new Fremantle captain David Mundy and recruit Harley Bennell, high-profile Collingwood signing Adam Treloar and key St Kilda players Nick Riewoldt and Leigh Montagna are among the notable inclusions.
Gunston led Hawthorn’s goalkicking last year, but had missed their first two NAB Challenge matches with a shin injury.
With Jarryd Roughead sidelined for the first half of the season, Gunston will have a more-prominent role in the Hawks’ attack.
Hawthorn and North Melbourne will be close to full strength on Saturday night at Etihad Stadium.
Ex-Hawks speedster Jed Anderson will play against his old club for the first time.
As expected, North will rest Shaun Higgins as he continues to recover from minor knee surgery.
While the Magpies will welcome Treloar, injury-plagued key position player Ben Reid remains sidelined from a squad that looks close to their round-one lineup.
They will play the Western Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon in the first game of the Etihad Stadium double-header.
Will Minson and Jed Adcock are the biggest names missing from the Bulldogs’ squad.
Joining Mundy and Bennell in Fremantle’s squad is forward Hayden Ballantyne, who suffered a hamstring injury in their opening pre-season match.
They will host Geelong on Saturday afternoon, with Cats captain Joel Selwood still out of their team.
Daniel Menzel and Corey Enright also will not play for Geelong.
Brisbane will host GWS at Gold Coast’s home ground on Sunday, with Lions captain Tom Rockliff still out of the team as he recovers from a hamstring injury.
Mitch Robinson, Dayne Zorko and Pearce Hanley are back for Brisbane.
The Giants hope ruckman Shane Mumford will recover from an ankle injury in time and play.
Melbourne key forward Jesse Hogan will be back for Sunday’s Etihad Stadium match against St Kilda, who will have Riewoldt, Montagna, David Armitage and Sam Fisher in their squad.
Geelong premiership players James Kelly and Mathew Stokes will play their first games for Essendon on Sunday against West Coast in Perth.
The Eagles squad includes Luke Shuey, recruit Jack Redden and Dom Sheed.