Essendon have been hit hard by injury but fans are set to be excited by the potential selection of Irving Mosquito against Carlton at the MCG on Sunday. Jake Stringer and Dylan Shiel have been added to the injury list while the inclusions will come from Dylan Clarke, Mark Baguley, Jordan Ridley, Zac Clarke, Mitch Brown and Mosquito.
Carlton, meanwhile, have given veteran Kade Simpson a rest. Dale Thomas – suspended by his club for drinking two nights before a match – and Mitch McGovern are the other omissions with Jarrod Garlett, Patrick Kerr, Angus Schumacher, Cameron Polson, Alex Fasolo, Darcy Lang and Will Setterfield added to their squad.
Hawthorn welcome back premiership player Isaac Smith for Saturday night’s trip to face Brisbane at the Gabba while St Kilda captain Jarryn Geary will return after a gruesome leg injury for Sunday’s biggest road trip of them all – versus Port Adelaide in Shanghai.
Cotchin hasn’t played since round three when Richmond lost to Greater Western Sydney. His return will bolster the Tigers, who face a suddenly dangerous Kangaroos outfit after last week’s departure of former coach Brad Scott.
Daniel Rioli was, surprisingly, omitted by the Tigers.
Cotchin’s injury lay-off was his longest during a season since 2009, and Hardwick conceded the 29-year-old would need to shake off some rust.
“We were touch and go last week but we always had the North Melbourne game as our aim,” Hardwick said on Thursday.
“He’ll probably be a little bit rusty, I reckon, with regard to his touch in and around the contest … but we just love his physicality and his ability to run and cover ground.
“He’ll get better as the game goes along.”
After training on Thurday, Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley described Varcoe as the ideal replacement for Wells.
“He was fit. I don’t need the medicos to tell me whether he can go or not,” Buckley said about the former Cat.
“We would have loved to have him in the side last week as well. He’s paid his penance and he’ll be back for us.”
With Jamie Elliott (hamstring) and Taylor Adams (groin) unavailable until after the bye, Buckley still has the likes of prime mover Brayden Sier, Josh Daicos and exciting draftee Isaac Quaynor putting their hands up in the VFL.
“The VFL [players] are performing better,” Buckley said.
“After a slow start to the year we’re starting to see an upwards trend in the way that we play footy at that level and the individuals within it are pretty keen to take their chances when they come.”
St Kilda coach Alan Richardson was rapt to include Geary after the captain had a compartment syndrome injury. Geary has not played since round five.
From the outset, the Saints skipper set Sunday’s Shanghai match as the target for his return.
“It’s quite remarkable, really,” Richardson said.
“I wouldn’t have thought he’d be back so soon, but the surgery went really well and his rehab has gone quicker than expected and he’s a determined bugger.
“It’s great to have our captain back.”
Port Adelaide have lost Tom Rockliff, who only did some running at Thursday’s training, and coach Ken Hinkley later confirmed the onballer will not come up in time from his hamstring injury.
Scott Spits is a sports reporter for The Age