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AFL tipsters' guide: Up and comers unchanged

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Resurgent St Kilda has named an unchanged team for Saturday’s clash against Adelaide.

It’s the first time coach Alan Richardson has fielded an unchanged line-up since he joined the Saints.

Adelaide is also stable, making just one change. Pacy utility Ricky Henderson comes in for injured midfielder Rory Sloane (broken cheekbone).

Port Adelaide omitted Aaron Young and “back tightness'” will keep key defender Alipate Carlile out of Sunday’s must-win away game against Brisbane. Karl Amon, Sam Colquhoun, Jarman Impey, Jake Neade and Cameron O’Shea have been named in the extended 25-man squad.

Brisbane added three players to their squad – Lions academy product Liam Dawson, James Aish and Rohan Bewick.

Across the border, the Carlton and GWS selections for their match this weekend perfectly reflect the two clubs’ fortunes.

The Blues made a whopping seven changes – six of them unforced – as they try to turn around a wretched start to the season.

Coming off the best win in their short history, the Giants made no changes to the team that beat reigning premiers Hawthorn.

It is the first time since they joined the AFL in 2011 that GWS have named an unchanged lineup.

Carlton lost veteran defender Andrew Walker to a knee injury and also dropped Liam Jones, Dylan Buckley, Mark Whiley, Blaine Boekhorst, Nick Graham and Clem Smith for Saturday’s Etihad Stadium game.

But the good news for the Blues is there are some handy inclusions – Chris Yarran returns from suspension and Andrew Carrazzo is back from injury.

Troy Menzel is an obvious replacement for Jones, while Simon White, Jason Tutt, Matthew Watson and Matthew Dick were also recalled.

A week after he started as the substitute, Melbourne’s much-scrutinised top draft pick Jack Watts was dropped for Saturday’s match against Hawthorn at the MCG.

It will be the first time since Watts has been out of the senior team since round six in 2013, when he was sidelined for three games with a hamstring injury.

James Frawley will play against his old club, with the Hawthorn defender recovering from a pectoral muscle injury.

The Demons also dropped Ben Newton and Cam Pedersen, while Jay Kennedy-Harris has a groin injury.

Rohan Bail, Jack Grimes, Viv Michie and Matt Jones come into the side.

The Hawks also recalled Angus Litherland, with Brendan Whitecross and Jed Anderson the omissions.

Essendon regained veteran defender Dustin Fletcher for Friday night’s game against fierce rivals North Melbourne.

They lost David Zaharakis (ankle), dropped James Gwilt and Will Hams, while youngsters Jason Ashby and Kyle Langford were the other recalls.

North rested Mason Wood for Jamie Macmillan.

Geelong regained Mathew Stokes from his Achilles injury and former Melbourne utility Sam Blease will play his first game for the Cats.

Josh Cowan (hamstring) and Nakia Cockatoo were the omissions for Saturday night’s game against Sydney at ANZ Stadium.

The Swans promoted Dean Towers for Isaac Heeney (knee).

West Coast has brought back Mark Hutchings and left out Jackson Nelson for Saturday night’s home game against Gold Coast.

As expected, the undermanned Suns recalled Danny Stanley, Trent McKenzie, Brandon Matera and Harley Bennell from their club suspensions.

They also promoted Jack Leslie, but lost Rory Thompson (hip), Clay Cameron (calf) and Adam Saad (hamstring) and dropped Mitch Hallahan.

Fremantle could regain Luke McPharlin, while Richmond might give Ty Vickery another chance.

Richmond pair Liam McBean and Connor Menadue are set to make their AFL debuts, as is Western Bulldogs midfielder Bailey Dale.

Form guide and our tips

FRIDAY, May 15

Essendon v North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium, 7.50pm

Head to Head: Bombers 96, Kangaroos 54, drawn 1

Last clash: Elimination final, 2014 – Kangaroos 14.9 (93) bt Essendon 12.9 (81) at MCG.

Tab Sportsbet: Bombers $2.45 Kangaroos $1.55

William Hill: Bombers $2.45 Kangaroos $1.55

Is anyone else feeling a major case of deja vu right now? Just when we all thought the supplements scandal had been put to bed, it has reared its ugly head yet again following WADA’s decision to appeal. Off the field, it spells another headache for Essendon. Coach James Hird already had enough headaches on the field, with the Bombers’ patchy form causing plenty of worries. North Melbourne are another team struggling to find their best form, but they will be aiming to feast on a distracted Bombers outfit.

Key: Emotion. Is the Bombers’ well completely dry? Or will the latest chapter in the supplements scandal help them produce yet another stirring victory? It could go either way.

Tip: Kangaroos by 15 points

SATURDAY, May 16

Adelaide v St Kilda at Adelaide Oval, 1.45pm

Head to Head: Crows 22 Saints 15 drawn 1

Last clash: Round 23, 2014 – Crows 22.9 (141) bt Saints 9.8 (62) at Adelaide Oval

Tab Sportsbet: Crows $1.18 Saints $4.90

William Hill: Crows $1.20 Saints $4.60

It was a euphoric occasion for the fledgling Saints last week – coming from 55 points down to beat the Bulldogs. But here’s a sobering warning for them: If they produce an equally bad first half this week, then there’ll be no coming back against Adelaide on enemy territory. The Saints are young, and with it comes unpredictability. Adelaide possess more battle-hardened veterans, and they also boast the talent up forward to finish the job. The Crows beat the Saints by a combined 165 points in their two meetings last year.

Key: Middle ground. With Adelaide boasting the more potent forward line, St Kilda can’t afford to merely split the midfield battle – they need to win it comprehensively.

Tip: Crows by 42 points

Hawthorn v Melbourne at MCG, 2.10pm

Head to Head: Hawks 83 Demons 74 drawn 0

Last clash: Round 20, 2014 – Hawks 17.13 (115) bt Demons 9.11 (65) at MCG

Tab Sportsbet: Hawks $1.12 Demons $6.25

William Hill: Hawks $1.13 Demons $6

Hawthorn have lost their mojo, but it will take a brave person to write off their three-peat chances just yet. Languishing in eighth spot with a 3-3 record, Hawthorn are desperate to get their flag tilt back on track. Melbourne are a team slowly on the improve, showing glimpses of their potential in wins over Gold Coast and Richmond. But having lost their past 11 matches to the Hawks, they’ll probably be nothing more than a mere road bump yet again.

Key: If Melbourne are to have any chance, they need to make the Hawks nervous with a lightning-quick start.

Tip: Hawthorn by 45 points.

Carlton v GWS at Etihad Stadium, 4.35pm

Head to Head: Blues 2 Giants 1 drawn 0

Last clash: Round 14 2014 – Giants 15.10 (100) bt Blues 14.8 (92) at Showground

Tab Sportsbet: Blues $2.45 Giants $1.55

William Hill: Blues $2.40 Giants $1.58

Carlton coach Mick Malthouse is on a sinking ship, but he’s determined not to jump overboard just yet. And last week’s loss to the struggling Lions showcased just how low the Blues have sunk. In contrast, GWS are a team on the rise and with a top-eight berth in their sights after dismissing defending premiers Hawthorn last week. Forward Jeremy Cameron was unstoppable with seven goals, and he’ll be looking to run riot this week against the competition’s second worst defence.

Key: Carlton’s leadership team voiced their unanimous support for coach Mick Malthouse during the week. If that passion can transfer onto the field, the Blues stand a chance.

Tip: Giants by 17 points.

Sydney v Geelong at ANZ Stadium, 7.20pm

Head to Head: Swans 96 Cats 119 drawn 0

Last clash: Round 11 2014 – Swans 22.16 (148) bt Cats 5.8 (38) at SCG

Tab Sportsbet: Swans $1.28 Cats $3.75

William Hill: Swans $1.27 Cats $3.70

Geelong aren’t going to go away quietly. Just as critics began questioning their top-eight credentials, the Cats put in a ruthless performance against the Magpies. And revenge will be on their mind this week as they attempt to atone for their 110-point to Sydney last year. The Swans are yet to hit top gear this season, but they’re doing enough to stay with the top-four pack.

Key: Some prankster put doughnuts in Lance Franklin’s locker this week after he failed to kick a goal in the win over Melbourne. How ‘hungry’ will he be to avoid a repeat of that?

Tip: Swans by 25 points.

West Coast v Gold Coast at Domain Stadium, 7.40pm

Head to Head: Eagles 5 Suns 0 drawn 0

Last clash: Round 23 2014 – Eagles 23.13 (151) bt Suns 15.9 (99) at Carrara Oval

Tab Sportsbet: Eagles $1.12 Suns $6.25

William Hill: Eagles $1.10 Suns $7

If you’re a Suns player and not on crutches, you’ll probably get a game this weekend. Gold Coast’s injury woes are so bad they only had 20 fit players on the training track earlier this week. The return of Harley Bennell, Brandon Matera, Trent McKenzie and Danny Stanley from club-imposed suspensions help. But they face an uphill battle to beat a West Coast unit brimming with confidence following three straight wins. The Eagles shed their ‘flat track bullies’ tag with a shock win over premiership fancies Port Adelaide last Sunday. But the Eagles still love beating up on struggling sides.

Key: Elliot Yeo has starred during his recent move into the Eagles’ midfield. If the Suns can shut him down, it will rob West Coast of one of their major drivers.

Tip: Eagles by 56 points

SUNDAY, May 17

Western Bulldogs v Fremantle at Etihad Stadium, 1.10pm

Head to Head: Bulldogs 14, Dockers 11 drawn 0

Last clash: Round 11 2014 – Dockers 13.11 (89) bt Bulldogs 6.15 (51) at Etihad Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Bulldogs $4.35 Dockers $1.22

William Hill: Bulldogs $4.10 Dockers $1.25

Fremantle have shot to premiership favouritism after going two games clear on top of the table. The only criticism of them this year has been their knack of producing second-half fadeouts. But who cares if you slacken off after regularly building leads in excess of 50 points? Oops, the Bulldogs are listening. They led St Kilda by 55 points last week before imploding on the way to a seven-point loss. It was a massive thud back to earth for the fledgling side, and how they respond will be a big test of their character.

Key: Can the Bulldogs match it with Fremantle’s midfield? It seems mission impossible to stop Nat Fyfe, Stephen Hill, David Mundy, Michael Barlow, Lachie Neale, and Danyle Pearce in the same game.

Tip: Dockers by 42 points

Richmond v Collingwood at the MCG, 3.20pm

Head to Head: Tigers 84 Magpies 116 drawn 1

Last clash: Round 4 2014 – Magpies 16.14 (110) bt Tigers 10.12 (72) at MCG

Tab Sportsbet: Tigers $2.15 Magpies $1.70

William Hill: Tigers $2.10 Magpies $1.72

You’ve got to feel for Richmond supporters. On their day, the Tigers are sublime. The only problem is they rarely live up to their potential. At 2-4, Richmond is struggling. Collingwood were brought crashing back to earth in last week’s heavy loss to Geelong. Given the nature of their rebuilding list, it’s games like this they need to win if they are to finish in the top eight.

Key: Richmond have lost their past seven games to Collingwood – most of them by big margins. Can they break the psychological edge the Magpies hold over them?

Tip: Tigers by 3 points

Brisbane v Port Adelaide at the Gabba, 4.40pm

Head to Head: Lions 14 Power 13 drawn 2

Last clash: Round 4 2014 – Power 24.15 (159) bt Lions 7.4 (46) at Adelaide Oval

Tab Sportsbet: Lions $5.10 Power $1.17

William Hill: Lions $5 Power $1.17

Are Port Adelaide struggling to cope with a new set of tactics, or are they simply out of form? The Power have been hit-and-miss this season, but they still possess all the ingredients needed to challenge for the premiership. Brisbane beat Carlton last week to finally notch their first win of the season. But they’ve been thrashed when faced with quality sides this season, and another mauling could be on the cards.

Key: The Power have leaked way too many inside-50s to their opponents in recent weeks. If they can fix that area, they’ll be hard to beat.

Tip: Power by 32 points.

– with AAP

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