Adam Goodes will be sorely missed but Sydney will still be strengthened by the return of four key players as they look to snap a two-game losing streak against Adelaide on Saturday.
Goodes has been the unwitting centre of attention all week and has chosen not to play this weekend, weighed down by relentless booing from opposition fans which he believes is racially motivated.
Co-captain Kieren Jack spoke on Thursday about how the saga had affected Goodes and his teammates “because we’re seeing a mate genuinely hurting through this”.
“We’ve lost two in a row and we need to get back and play some good footy, so I think that the best way the playing group can respond to this is by coming out and playing really well on the weekend,” he added.
That cause will be helped by the return of key forwards Lance Franklin and Kurt Tippett, fullback Ted Richards and utility Ben McGlynn, although ruckman Mike Pyke will miss the game with a knee injury.
“We have fallen short over the last couple of weeks and we need to get a lot better,” said coach John Longmire.
“We need to make sure we play a better style of footy and we are hoping that the team we have in place is able to do that.”
Among Adelaide’s two inclusions is key defender Daniel Talia.
After a horror run with hamstring injuries, midfielder Reece Conca will play his first senior match this year for Richmond on Friday night against Hawthorn.
Ruck-forward Ty Vickery also returns after serving a two-match suspension.
The Hawks have recalled three members of last year’s premiership team – Ben Stratton, Liam Shiels and Taylor Duryea – along with fullback James Frawley, who is set to get the big job on Jack Riewoldt.
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley swung the selection axe as the Magpies look to end a five-match losing run against Melbourne on Saturday.
Forwards Jesse White and Jarryd Blair have been ever-present for the Magpies this year but they have been omitted among four changes.
Jamie Elliott is among the returnees for Collingwood, along with Taylor Adams, who has completed a two-match suspension.
But the Magpies resisted the temptation to call up swingman Ben Reid, who has seen no AFL action this year due to a series of soft-tissue problems.
Gold Coast’s threadbare midfield has taken another hit, with vice-captain Michael Rischitelli to miss Saturday’s home match against West Coast due to personal reasons.
With Gary Ablett also out with a season-ending knee injury, the Suns’ engine-room has been decimated, although they do welcome back young star Jack Martin against the high-flying Eagles.
Bottom side Brisbane will be strengthened by the return of two of their very best players, Dayne Beams and Pearce Hanley, for the daunting trip to Simonds Stadium to take on Geelong.
The Cats have made only one change, with Nakia Cockatoo in for fellow young gun Cory Gregson.
Former GWS ruckman Jonathan Giles will finally play his first senior game for Essendon, replacing Shaun McKernan, who has been dropped for Sunday’s game against the Western Bulldogs.
St Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt will miss Sunday’s game against Port Adelaide with a sore calf.