The GWS Giants’ last-ditch hopes of making the finals have been bolstered by key Sydney injuries in the biggest derby since their introduction to the AFL.
Lance Franklin will miss another week with a back injury and Tom Mitchell will join him on the sidelines after copping a poke in the eye on Thursday at training.
Swans coach John Longmire said Franklin’s lingering back trouble had spread to his abdominal area but he was on the comeback trail.
“He did some light skills today but we felt he hadn’t done enough to return this week,” he told the club’s website.
“We will increase his training load heading into the game against St Kilda next Sunday and hope he will be available for that game.”
Longmire said he expected Mitchell to miss “at least one and probably two” weeks with some bleeding behind the eye after the training ground incident.
The injuries have given James Rose, 19, a chance to debut and Longmire backed the clever young forward to “provide some excitement in our forward half”.
With Luke Parker missing with a broken leg, Gary Rohan struggling with knee soreness and Ben McGlynn still out with a hamstring strain, Sydney can at least take comfort from the Giants’ similar injury toll.
Devon Smith (knee) and Phil Davis (hamstring) have been omitted, while Leon Cameron has opted to rest Jack Steele.
In comes Adam Treloar, Stephen Coniglio and Caleb Marchbank for what Cameron is calling the most important game in the club’s short history as they strive for a first finals appearance.
Ninth-placed Geelong are also in the finals hunt and have handed Nathan Vardy his first game in two years after knee injuries.
Cats coach Chris Scott has opted against another comeback kid to play the Saints, with Daniel Menzel’s much-hyped return to AFL football after four seasons likely to come next round.
Vardy is one of three Cats changes, with Tom Lonergan and Jed Bews also returning and Jared Rivers (knee), Mathew Stokes (omitted) and James Kelly (ankle) left out.
St Kilda have made an astonishing seven forced changes, including key man David Armitage, making way for American project player Jason Holmes to debut.
For Friday night, Hawthorn have swapped Daniel Howe for Ryan Schoenmakers against Port Adelaide, which returns Jay Schulz to their line-up.
Against Collingwood, Richmond will look to rubber-stamp their finals appearance with Shane Edwards back after proving his recovery from a hairline fracture.
The Western Bulldogs have lost Liam Picken (back) and Matthew Boyd (soreness) for the trip to play West Coast, but coach Luke Beveridge says they won’t be intimidated in Perth.
“It will be a big occasion because there’ll be a big crowd … we think Subiaco will suit us – we have no fears.”
West Coast have confirmed star ruckman Nic Naitanui will return for their Sunday meeting with the Bulldogs.