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United by Purple Backline stocktake

Brennan Cox: His strong-marking ability saw Cox thrown forward for stints last season but wayward goalkicking – he booted 4.11 – negated his effectiveness. Is more at home down back, although the second-year tall could still swing forward in 2018.

Taylin Duman: Was in the mix for a late-season debut in 2017 after showing progress for Peel and averaging 17 disposals. Rangy 192cm rookie also pushed onto a wing and will be aiming to crack into the AFL line-up this year. 

Joel Hamling: Enjoyed a standout first season in purple, finishing sixth in the best and fairest, showing he is someone the Dockers can build their defence around. Is receiving more aerial support now that Alex Pearce has made a welcome return.

Ethan Hughes: Provided some dash from defence in 18 games last year, a significant step forward after six appearances in 2015 and '16. Should be aiming to fully-establish himself in the rebuilding line-up this year.

Michael Johnson: Was slow to get going last year before a back-up ruck stint ignited his form and he finished seventh in the Doig Medal. The 33-year-old is likely entering his final season but his experience remains valuable to an evolving backline.

Griffin Logue: Played 13 games in his first season and showed his competitive streak. Missed both JLT Community Series games and likely to start the year in the WAFL given Freo's abundance of tall defenders.

Ryan Nyhuis: Produced a stunning club-record four-goal debut against North Melbourne in round 16 as a defensive half-forward last year. Playing four games was a promising effort and should be aiming to break into the line-up as a shutdown defender in 2018.

Alex Pearce: Hasn't missed a beat since coming back from nearly two years out with a broken leg. Highly-respected leader of the playing group who has already stiffened the Dockers' developing backline.

Luke Ryan: Mature-age recruit showed he belonged in 11 games last year, and earned a NAB AFL Rising Star nomination after taking nine intercept marks against Gold Coast. Uses the ball well, makes smart decisions and is already an important member of Freo's defence.

Tommy Sheridan: Is facing a make-or-break year after signing a one-year contract extension. The elite runner has made 68 appearances in six years but only played nine games last season and will have to fight for a spot in 2018.

Lee Spurr: Still has a role to play as a lockdown defender on small forwards but, in the final year of his contract, the 30-year-old risks being squeezed out of a youthful backline.

Cam Sutcliffe: Managed 13 games last year but was dropped twice and faces a critical campaign in the final season of his contract. Can dominate WAFL games but needs to show more poise at the top level.

Darcy Tucker: Pacy small defender from country Victoria who managed 19 games last year and re-signed until the end of 2019. Showed a bit in the JLT Community Series and is one of many youngsters Freo hopes will kick on to speed up the rebuild.

Nathan Wilson The former Giant looms as a vital inclusion across half-back in a team that struggled with its ball movement from defence last year. Boasts a booming kick which, coupled with his run and carry, makes him a crucial 80m player. - Travis King 

Luke Brown: Highly rated within the club as one of the premier lock-down small defenders in the competition. Played his role in both JLT games. 

Kyle Cheney: Didn't play a senior game last season after struggling with injuries. Back to full fitness, but was left out of the team for the final JLT game. Looked OK in the SANFL trial without standing out.

Tom Doedee: Earmarked to take the spot in the backline left vacant by Jake Lever's departure. Did enough in the two JLT games with his intercept marking and disposal to suggest he'll be there in round one, but the Crows could go with a more experienced option such as Cheney.

Kyle Hartigan: Proved himself against the competition's best key forwards. Rested for the first JLT game, but looked solid in the second.

Alex Keath: The former state cricketer will be back-up for Hartigan and Talia, or could play as a third tall depending on the opposition's forward structure. Picked up an ankle injury against Port Adelaide in the final JLT game and sat out the second half.

Jake Kelly: Enjoyed an outstanding season last year to establish himself in the club's best 22 with his toughness and ability to play on medium-sized forwards. Played both JLT games, and had 20 possessions against Port Adelaide.

Rory Laird: Established himself as one of the competition's elite half-backs with selection in the All Australian team. Finds plenty of the footy and has also played some time in the midfield during the club's intra-club and JLT Series games.

Andrew McPherson: The No.40 overall selection in last year's NAB AFL Draft, the half-back flanker has been managed during the pre-season. McPherson, the under-18 South Australian vice-captain, is slowly building up his training loads and didn't play any of the trials.

Wayne Milera: Looks set to make a permanent move to half-back having played there during a SANFL trial against West Adelaide. Hampered by knee tendinitis during the pre-season and may need time in the SANFL before being considered for the AFL side.

Andy Otten: Was the Crows' Mr Fix-It last year, showing strong hands as a forward and filling in down back. Missed out on selection for the club's final JLT game, but was best on ground in a SANFL trial against West Adelaide to give the coaching staff plenty to think about.

Brodie Smith: The attacking half-back flanker will spend most of the campaign recovering from a torn ACL. The signs are encouraging with his rehab, with a good chance he'll return at the back end of the season.

Daniel Talia: One of the leading key defenders in the League. A rolled ankle meant he missed the Crows' first JLT game and their intra-club the following week, but proved his fitness against Port Adelaide, playing 91 per cent game time. - Lee Gaskin 

Harris Andrews Took a big step forward in 2017 when manning the opposition's best forward every week. Ideally would be used as a second key defender to allow him more chances to intercept mark, but until Jack Payne develops, is best served at fullback. At just 21, Andrews has been elevated to the deputy vice-captain role.

Claye Beams Career looked all-but over at the end of last season, but the club threw him a lifeline with a rookie spot. Beams has played 54 games in seven seasons and at his best is a penetrating rebound defender. Needs continuity to push for senior selection.

Liam Dawson The versatile 22-year-old is desperate for a big year to keep his career progressing. Dawson has been given few chances – just 18 games in three seasons – but has struggled to grasp them with his inconsistent form. Has played his best as a tall half-back.

Matt Eagles One of the feel-good stories of last season, Eagles came from 'The Recruit' television program and earned himself a new contract with a brilliant second half of the season. Loves to intercept mark and was a big influence in the Lions' winning the NEAFL premiership over Sydney.

Jack Frost Had a horror first season after heading north from Collingwood. Was dropped early in the year and suffered repeat concussions in the NEAFL, cutting his campaign short. Is right to play now but has a lot of work to do to win senior selection.

Darcy Gardiner Has a well-earned reputation as the club's most rugged, and versatile, defender. Gardiner played 19 games last year and split his time between marking the opposition's third tall and sometimes even smaller players. Dislocated his elbow in round 15 against Essendon but was back just three weeks later.

Mitch Hinge A polished left-foot half-back who developed nicely in the reserves. Hinge played almost the entire NEAFL season to earn himself another rookie deal.

Luke Hodge A huge coup for the Lions luring the four-time premiership Hawk out of retirement. Hodge will not only add a cool head in the defensive 50, but more importantly, plenty of guidance for a young backline that has very few players over the age of 23.

Sam Mayes Fresh off a fifth-place finish in the club's best and fairest, Mayes has found a home at half-back. Improved his one-on-one defence and gained more confidence as the season wore on with the ball. Now 23 and with 95 games to his name, should be entering his best year.

Dan McStay A player that has been swung between key forward and key back, McStay has played his best footy alongside Harris Andrews in defence. He's strong, quick off the mark and always improving.

Marco Paparone Hamstring tendonitis has cruelled his past couple of years and again the versatile Paparone has been struck down this pre-season. Had surgery on his back to relieve the hamstring issues and will be ready to go early in the NEAFL season.

Jack Payne A Lions Academy product that is physically mature beyond his 18 years, Payne has made big strides in his first pre-season. Standing 197cm and weighing 95kg, he played both pre-season matches and didn't look totally lost against Lance Franklin. Club sees him as a long-term fullback option.

Daniel Rich One of the biggest wins for coach Chris Fagan was unlocking the best season of Rich's career. Stationed at half-back, the booming left-footer played all 22 games, averaged 21 disposals and was consistently one of the Lions' best players.

Nick Robertson Tough and uncompromising, Robertson flourished as a small defender last season. Needs to continue working on disposal and decision-making, but he's disciplined and reliable and will play plenty of matches again.

Alex Witherden Once getting his chance in the senior team, Witherden was brilliant. Played nine of the final 10 games and used his lethal right boot to springboard many attacking forays. - Michael Whiting

Ciaran Byrne: Irishman who returned late last season after almost a year out with a ruptured ACL. Has been impressive in the JLT Community Series with his run and carry and vision, set to play round one.

Sam Docherty: All Australian defender and runner-up in last year’s best and fairest award will be sadly missed after rupturing his ACL in a pre-season training mishap last November. The joint vice-captain is providing leadership and guidance off the field as he recovers.

Jesse Glass-McCasker: Rookie tall defender showed impressive signs in his second season at Ikon Park last year. Needs to continue his development this year and show more consistency.

Liam Jones: The former forward was a revelation when he switched to defence last season, earning himself a new two-year deal. Looked at home during the JLT Community Series and looms as an important player in the Blues’ back half.

Harrison Macreadie: Courageous tall defender who played eight games in his debut season in 2017. Reads the game well as he showed with his intercept marking and shows plenty of courage, but needs to improve his decision-making and be more composed.

Caleb Marchbank: Former Giant who made a significant impact in his first season at Ikon Park. Known for his fierce attack on the ball and his versatility, he stands out with hisintercept marking and possessions, and is ready to take the next step.

Cillian McDaid: Former Gaelic footballer possesses elite kicking skills and the Blues believe he can develop into a versatile attacking defender.

Aaron Mullett: His ability to run and carry the ball could be invaluable for the Blues as they look to cover Docherty’s absence. The former Roo has shown he can push into the midfield and his form in the JLT Community Series has been encouraging.

Cameron O’Shea: Earned another opportunity at AFL level after winning the best and fairest with the Northern Blues last season. Can play on a variety of opponents and could be an asset with his intercept marking and decision-making.

Lachie Plowman: Versatile and reliable defender who uses the ball well and generally makes good decisions. Courageous, strong in the air and can play on smaller or much bigger opponents. Has been elevated to the Blues’ leadership group this season.

Sam Rowe: Popular, reliable defender’s 2017 was cut short after tearing the ACL in his right knee in round nine. Faces a battle to regain spot when he returns early in the season, but has shown he can be used effectively in the ruck and up forward.

Kade Simpson: The durable and courageous left-footer will provide direction and leadership. Still wins plenty of the ball and is set to reach the 300-game milestone this season.

Alex Silvagni: Made a sensational debut with the Blues last season, shutting down Swans star Lance Franklin in round six, before knee injuries restricted him to seven games. Has been added to the leadership group this season.

Jacob Weitering: Finished his second season strongly after a flat patch mid-year. Can play forward as well, but better suited down back. Oozes leadership qualities and is cool under pressure.

Tom Williamson: Uses his penetrating left boot to advantage and is composed with ball in hand. Struggled with a back injury during the pre-season, but is highly regarded and will be determined to make the most of his opportunities. - Howard Kotton 

Flynn Appleby: The medium-sized rookie has impressed the Pies in his first AFL pre-season and showed promise in the practice match against Greater Western Sydney.

Jack Crisp: The former midfielder spent the back half of last season in defence and has been earmarked for a more permanent role there in 2018, where his pace and left-foot delivery could prove assets.

Lynden Dunn: The veteran ex-Demon key defender exceeded all expectations last year in his first season at Collingwood, where he is valued highly for his body work, kicking penetration and leadership, and will once again be a key member of the Pies' back six.

Jeremy Howe: One of the AFL's intercept specialists, and one of the keys to the Pies' backline, the high-flyer was grounded by a calf issue but was superb in the JLT Community Series win over the Western Bulldogs.

Tom Langdon: Versatile and a terrific contested mark for his 190cms, Langdon appears set to put two years of injury-related frustration behind him and return to top form. Terrific in both matches against the Giants and the Bulldogs.

Jack Madgen: While playing AFLX the mature-aged former basketballer displayed great dash and a straight-ahead style. Can play on talls and smalls. Will start in the VFL.

Brayden Maynard: Has trained to play more in the midfield but at this stage of his development still appears more valuable in the back half with his scything left foot and hardness. Has improved his endurance but didn't win much midfield ball in two JLT Community series games.

Sam McLarty: The key-position prospect enters his second season with the prospect of spending more time in the ruck, where he held his own in Collingwood's intra-club hitout.

Brody Mihocek: The big-bodied, rookie-listed former VFL star has made such a smooth transition to the elite level that it would surprise if he didn't achieve his dream of playing AFL football this season.

Darcy Moore: After a challenging initiation as a key forward, the talented young tall is tipped to relish his relocation to defence, where he will further his education before an expected return to attack down the track. Showed he was over an Achilles complaint with an assured performance against the Dogs.

Nathan Murphy: The lean, flexible runner is likely to start his time as a Magpie in the VFL in defence, where his superb kicking, composure and decision-making skills appear best suited at this stage.

Sam Murray: The former Swan appears odds-on to make his AFL debut in round one after an eye-catching effort against the Bulldogs. The Pies' back six was enhanced by his speed, adventure and kicking skills.

Adam Oxley: Rookie-listed after five unfulfilled seasons on the primary list, the lightly-built Queenslander will start further behind the eight ball after sustaining a shoulder injury against GWS.

Matt Scharenberg: After an horrific run with injuries, the cool-headed South Australian appears ready to capitalise on the continuity and belief he gained last year. Body permitting, he should finally cement a spot and reward the Pies for their patience.

Josh Smith: The adaptable runner became a fringe player in his second season when he finished in the VFL, and his task of re-establishing himself should only become harder on a developing list. One of the Pies' hardest workers, he will need to maximise his senior opportunities. - Ben Collins

Patrick Ambrose: Essendon loves Ambrose's tough and combative approach in defence, where he has held some of the competition's key forwards to quiet games. Ambrose isn't as tall as other key backs, but makes up for it with sheer aggression, competitiveness and a thirst for the contest.

Mark Baguley: Baguley is usually handed the task of shutting down the opposition's most dangerous small forward, a role he handles with courage and discipline. Gets the job done without too much fuss and will always put his body in dangerous positions for the betterment of his side.

Mitch Brown: The Bombers will likely look to Brown to be one of the main options to fill the spot of Martin Gleeson during his time on the sidelines. Brown is versatile and can also be thrown forward at times, where he kicked 20 goals in 2016.

Matt Dea: The ex-Tiger played six games last season, having resurrected his career with 21 games in 2016 as a 'top-up' at the Bombers. Given his medium size, Dea can be tasked with taking on smaller or taller forward types, presenting the Bombers with some extra versatility.

Aaron Francis: Francis returned to the club last week after a month away due to a mental health issue. The talented youngster will need to pick up some of the fitness and conditioning he has lost during that period before being ready to play, but it is a good sign for the club that the No.6 draft pick is back at Tullamarine.

Martin Gleeson: Gleeson's season hit a major roadblock two weeks ago, when he injured his ankle against Geelong in the JLT Community Series. The much-improved intercepting half-back will miss up to four months with the injury but will be aiming for a return later in the year.

Brendon Goddard: With the retirement of James Kelly and move of Andrew McGrath to the midfield, Goddard is likely to patrol more across half-back this season. The veteran remains one of Essendon's best ball users.

Michael Hartley: Hartley appears likely to be given the job as Essendon's other tall defender alongside Michael Hurley to start the season. Often Hartley takes the best key forward, which allows Hurley to be a more attacking weapon out of half-back.

Michael Hurley: The two-time All Australian defender had two off-season surgeries, but returned to training in good condition and was noticeably lighter. Had a hiccup when he hurt his wrist in an intra-club match in February, but returned to play in Essendon's pre-season win over Geelong.

Luke Lavender: Essendon signed the former cricketer as a category B rookie in October last year. He is athletic and tall and is being groomed as a flexible key position player. Seems unlikely to make an impact at senior level this year.

Conor McKenna: McKenna emerged last season to be one of the more exciting young half-backs in the competition. The Irishman's pace and foot skills make for a great combination, and he is entrusted at Essendon to get things moving from the defensive 50.

Ben McNiece: McNiece joined a select group of players to make their Essendon debut on Anzac Day when he ran out for the Bombers in their win over Collingwood. The small defender is tidy by foot and has a mature body so can come in and fill a role.

Jordan Ridley: Essendon has high hopes for Ridley, having selected him at No.22 in the 2016 NAB AFL Draft. He's a tall half-back and a very classy kick. Has had injury concerns in his first 18 months at Essendon, with a back injury last year and an ankle issue over this pre-season.

Adam Saad: Essendon landed Saad during their busy trade period last season, and he brings more zip to their back half. The former Gold Coast backman showed his run and carry skills in the first minute of the Bombers' JLT Community Series game against Richmond, when he ran from half-back and kicked a long goal.  

Brandon Zerk-Thatcher: New to the club via last year's draft, Zerk-Thatcher was taken by the Bombers when they identified they were short on young key backs on their list. Will take – and be given – time to develop. - Callum Twomey

Jed Bews: After a breakout 2017 where he played a career-high 19 games, Bews earned a two-year extension. Expect more one-on-one contests against the likes of Eddie Betts, Isaac Heeney and Jamie Elliott – players he beat last year.

Ryan Gardner: Learning under the tutelage of assistant coach Matthew Scarlett and playing on Tom Hawkins in match simulation has the Tasmanian ready for AFL in his third season. Captain Joel Selwood told the retirement of Tom Lonergan will see greater opportunities for Gardner this season.

Cam Guthrie: Used in a variety of roles in his seven years at the Cats, Guthrie looks to have settled in the back half this pre-season. Will add more rebound for a side that relied heavily on Zach Tuohy last year. 

Zach Guthrie: Has added 3kg this pre-season as he looks for bigger jobs down back. Featured in both JLT matches after nine games in 2017 – including two in September – before he was dropped for the preliminary final.

Matthew Hayball: Delisted and re-rookied, Hayball enters his third year at Geelong. Overlooked for JLT matches, he will need a string of strong VFL performances to be considered for selection.

Lachie Henderson: Off-season knee surgery continues to linger as he ramps up his running capacity, eyeing a return inside four weeks. Will be asked to play on the big forwards of the competition. 

Jack Henry: Even the Cats remain uncertain as to where the 19-year-old athletic prospect is best placed. He looked at ease playing as an intercept defender in a VFL practice match on Friday night. Was listed as a senior emergency for round 21 last year and was thrown into the ruck at times in the VFL, defying his 191cm standing.

Timm House: Finished the 2017 VFL season in defence after time in attack following collarbone/shoulder setbacks. A strong presence in the air, House will need a consistent run in the VFL to be vying for a key defensive post with Gardner. 

Jake Kolodjashnij: Ideally Geelong would see Kolodjashnij higher up the ground but the retirement of Lonergan, and injury to Henderson, will see him play back, particularly early in the season. Joel Selwood: "He's got a great engine and he's quite a good thinker with the ball in hand." 

Tom Stewart: Ranked the competition's fifth best first-year player in 2017, Stewart will have greater responsibility as he adds to his 21 games. The ability to play one-on-one with Dustin Martin or as the loose interceptor, the 25-year-old provides flexibility.

Harry Taylor: Fresh off a contract extension which sees him through until the end of 2019, the 31-year-old returns to his natural habitat in defence. Will ideally be used as the intercept defender, but with no Lonergan, and Henderson missing for the first month, he may be called upon to play as a lockdown.

Zac Tuohy: Third in his debut best and fairest at Geelong, Tuohy's attacking presence will increase following Andrew Mackie's retirement. Incredibly durable, the Irishman hasn't missed a game since round 16, 2012 and averaged 26 disposals in both JLT outings this pre-season. - Mitch Cleary

Pearce Hanley: The Irishman dislocated his shoulder in the second JLT Community Series clash against Brisbane and will miss the first few rounds. It continues a wretched run since moving to the Suns that included a foot injury and broken hand in 2017. Still a damaging half-back when fit.

Jarrod Harbrow: The veteran defender seems to get better with age. Had a scintillating first half of last season before going slightly off the boil. Harbrow is now 29 but with the departure of Adam Saad, offers the only genuine speed from the back half. Is still so crucial to the Suns' success.

Josh Jaska: A key defender with good closing speed and an ability to win one-on-ones, Jaska helped Geelong to the TAC Cup premiership. Had a good pre-season but needs to add strength and will spend the season developing in the NEAFL.

Jesse Joyce: Has continued to improve over the past two seasons with his composure and disciplined defending. Joyce is a rock-solid back pocket with a no-fuss approach and should be a regular in 2017.

Kade Kolodjashnij: Had the final 10 weeks of last season wiped out with problems following a concussion. Kolodjashnij had just started to recapture some of the form that shot him to prominence over his first two years. Will play with headgear at half-back.

Jack Leslie: Emerged as a genuine option in key defence when either May or Thompson missed games last season. Leslie is a strong man and loves to go for his marks. Will most likely start in the NEAFL but is knocking on the door.

Steven May: The club's co-captain is the heartbeat of its backline. May has a great mix between aggression and skill and improved as last season wore on. Is at his best when taking the opposition's best forward, and his form is often a barometer for his team.

Connor Nutting: Another Academy product that is being groomed as a key defender. Nutting is quick, agile and a safe kick but needs to work on his endurance. Can also be swung to the other end of the ground to play as a key forward.

Michael Rischitelli: One of coach Stuart Dew's first positional moves has been to relocate Rischitelli from the midfield to defence. The veteran spent most of last season recovering from a ruptured ACL but has had a flawless pre-season and should provide a cool head in the defensive 50.

Jack Scrimshaw: Just like his first 12 months at the club, Scrimshaw has spent much of his pre-season trying to improve his strength and fitness. Ideally is an attacking half-back but still seems a fair way of being a regular senior player.

Max Spencer: Progressed ahead of time last year, playing the final five games of the season. Standing 190cm, he played as a key defender, was competitive with the ball in the air and on the ground and showed he didn't mind linking up in attack. 

Rory Thompson: Has struggled for continuity over his career, but with Leslie breathing down his neck for a spot, has put in one of his best pre-seasons yet. Thompson is a reliable shutdown defender that complement's May well.

Harrison Wigg: After moving north from Adelaide, Wigg fractured his ankle in his first month at the club. The 21-year-old has a penetrating left boot and is being groomed as a half-back. Wigg has recovered well and should be available early in the season.

Mackenzie Willis: Was thrown a second chance by the Suns when they re-rookied him last year. Willis has played five senior games in two seasons but spent most of his time NEAFL. The Tasmanian, is strong-bodied and ideally plays in the midfield but has turned himself into a reliable half-back. - Michael Whiting 

Matt Buntine: Progressing well after last year's knee reconstruction and running solidly, a return to full training shouldn't be too far away.

Aidan Corr: A minor groin problem kept him out of the JLT community Series but the key defender got through a NEAFL practice game last week and is in the mix for round one.

Isaac Cumming: Looked to be in the box seat to grab a spot across half back when Zac Williams went down but suffered a minor calf injury and failed to play a pre-season game. Should be right to start the NEAFL season on April 7th.

Phil Davis: The co-captain had another faultless pre-season and returned to play the second JLT match against Sydney. Will anchor the defence again in 2018.

Jeremy Finlayson: The athletic tall defender had an outstanding pre-season and pressed his claims for a spot in round one with an impressive JLT campaign. Should slot in nicely with his kicking ability.

Ryan Griffen: After months of solid training over summer things looked to be going well after last year's ankle issues, but they returned the day before the first JLT game, and he's no chance of facing the Dogs this week. A worrying sign.

Nick Haynes: Sat out the first JLT game but was solid against the Swans in the second game and looks set for a big year. A vital part of the GWS backline with his intercept marking.

Lachie Keeffe: Got an opportunity in both JLT games but failed to make an impact playing as a tall defender and isn't likely to feature early in the season. Valuable back-up at both ends of the ground.

Adam Kennedy: Nearing full training after undergoing a knee reconstruction last year and should be ready to play in the next 4-6 weeks if there are no setbacks.

Tim Mohr: Got a taste of senior action against Collingwood in the first JLT match and was solid as usual, but will struggle to get a chance during the regular season unless injuries take out some key defenders.

Harry Perryman: Showed some positive signs against Collingwood but has struggled with a back problem since. Quality foot skills and cool under pressure, he's a chance to play across half-back as soon as he's fully fit.

Heath Shaw: The veteran had been pencilled in for a move up the ground but injuries to Williams and Griffen have halted those plans. Starred in the JLT and looks fresh after being given an extended off-season break.

Jake Stein: The strong-bodied former decathlete has made some strides since crossing to his new sport in late 2016, but still looks a fair way off playing senior footy.

Sam Taylor: The draftee will send the year developing in the NEAFL and spending plenty of time in the gym, but he looks a prospect across half-back.

Adam Tomlinson: As always a star of the pre-season and enters the season proper coming off a stint of AFLX and two solid JLT games. With Davis and Corr, Tomlinson will be a pillar of the back six.

Lachie Whitfield: The surprise packet of the summer after starring in a move to half-back, the gifted runner has enjoyed his new role and looks like a natural defender. Could be there all year if he maintains his excellent form.

Zac Williams: A ruptured Achilles means the star defender is unlikely to play again this year, but both he and the club haven't given up hope of a return in 2018. Would be a long shot. - Adam Curley

Grant Birchall: The 30-year-old will have his troublesome right knee operated on for the third time since last August and will be out for at least the first half of the season. It looms as a major concern for the four-time premiership Hawk, who can provide a cool head to the backline.

Kaiden Brand: A key backman, the 23-year-old played the final 13 games of 2017 and showed he can defend well. However, many of Hawthorn's backline stars were injured so it will be tougher for him to maintain his spot in the side.

Ryan Burton: Immensely talented, Burton played much of his junior footy up forward and could eventually be a midfielder, but is tipped to again line up in defence. The 21-year-old reads the game well and can man opponents of all sizes.

James Frawley: Turf toe meant the former Demon didn't play after round eight last season. He suffered a groin injury in February but is back and will add size and experience to the defence.

Conor Glass: The exciting Irishman offers plenty of dash out of the back half. Glass lined up in Hawthorn's final six matches of the season and could be one of its big improvers.

Blake Hardwick: Formerly a small forward, Hardwick looked at home last year shutting down smalls after moving to defence. A precise right boot means the 21-year-old can help the Hawks' rebound.

Kurt Heatherley: A New Zealand product who has the size at 193cm to be a tall backman, Heatherley is competitive and good in the air. The 23-year-old managed four matches last season.

David Mirra: Well known at the club after a successful tenure as the captain of VFL affiliate Box Hill, Mirra was picked up as a 26-year-old rookie. Provides intercept marking and run out of the backline.

Harry Morrison: Made his debut in the final match of 2017 against the Western Bulldogs and looked polished. Likely to keep playing across half-back but could be moved around the ground. Coach Alastair Clarkson believes there are signs Morrison could be a star.

Conor Nash: Hamstring issues plagued the Irishman in his first season at the club but the 197cm key-position player can line up at either end of the ground, although he spent more time in defence last year for Box Hill. Has impressive running power for someone his size.

James Sicily: Touted by Clarkson as one of the best at reading the football off the boot in recent times, the 23-year-old's fiery temperament can be exploited by the opposition. Sicily is comfortable up forward but is expected to stay down back.

Ben Stratton: Knee surgery in round eight last year ended his campaign. It was a huge blow for the Hawks as the 29-year-old has proven a very important stopper, but he took part in both JLT Community Series matches in a sign he is fit again. - Dinny Navaratnam 

Sam Frost: Had a strong pre-season and has made significant ground in regard to his defensive positioning. Played the final JLT game against St Kilda but may miss out on the round one side given the Demons are likely to prefer Oscar McDonald and Jake Lever in the key posts.

Michael Hibberd: Won All Australian honours in 2017 after a superb first season at Melbourne. Hibberd was a strong performer in both the Demons' JLT games, averaging 25 disposals from his two pre-season games. 

Jayden Hunt: The Demons speedster is one of the brightest young talents on Melbourne's list and one of the most attacking half-backs in the AFL. Hunt spent time in defence and on the wing in the JLT Community Series. 

Neville Jetta: Still severely underrated by those outside Melbourne. The lockdown defender is often charged with negating the opposition's most dangerous small forward. Had to manage a tight calf and knee soreness across the pre-season, but is ready to go for the home and away season. 

Declan Keilty: The developing defender found his niche down back in the second half of last season and that appears to be his spot. Faces a tough challenge to break into the senior team with Jake Lever, Oscar McDonald and Sam Frost ahead of him, but could come in and do a job when required.

Jake Lever: The marquee recruit has been everything the Demons expected him to be when they were scouting him at Adelaide last year. Lever is as vocal as any player on Melbourne's list and has shown that he's not afraid to organise the defence. Crucial to Melbourne's finals hopes in 2018. 

Jordan Lewis: The veteran is expected to be fit for round one despite suffering a calf strain in the club's first JLT Community Series clash against North Melbourne. His expert ball use and leadership will be called upon in defence this season after a summer spent training in the backline. 

Oscar McDonald: With brother Tom to play forward, Oscar is the Demons' first-choice key defender alongside Lever. Has added size to his frame and has made great progress over the pre-season. Suffered back tightness in the Demons' last JLT game, but will be right to play in round one. 

Pat McKenna: Spent most of the pre-season in rehab after a serious hamstring injury sidelined him for almost the entire 2017 season. The former Giant has started running and will soon integrate into training. Getting him back on the park will be the Demons' first priority. 

Harrison Petty: Had a delayed start to his pre-season after injuring his elbow prior to Melbourne drafting him with pick No.37 in last year's NAB AFL Draft. The key defender will spend the majority of the year in the VFL honing his craft. 

Joel Smith: Did not join in full training until well after Christmas after suffering a serious leg injury in August last year. Has started to integrate into full training as of the last three weeks. Will start the year in the VFL and build up form before pushing for senior selection.

Bernie Vince: The oldest player on Melbourne's list, Vince, 32, is expected to get the nod for round one. His ability to use the ball precisely off half-back is still a key component of Melbourne's team. Will be interesting to see whether the Demons can play both Lewis and Vince in the same team as the year goes on. 

Josh Wagner: Played in the Demons' two JLT Community Series games and is right on the cusp of selection. His ability to play on multiple opponents gives Wagner a chance, given that he is versatile enough to play on talls and smalls. May just miss out based on the strength of Melbourne's half-backs. - Ben Guthrie

Ryan Clarke: Did not take part in contact work before Christmas because of a shoulder injury, but has enjoyed a good preparation since, playing in both of North's JLT Community Series games. Enjoyed a solid run of form late in 2017 after being moved from the midfield to half-back, and looks set to continue in defence this year. The hard-running Clarke appeared to cement a round one position with a good performance against Richmond in the Roos' second JLT game.

Majak Daw: The long-time forward/ruckman has been reinvented as a defender this pre-season with mixed results. Has the speed to cover opponents on the lead and is a good intercept mark, but has work to do on his one-on-one defending. Struggled in North's first JLT game against Melbourne and was overlooked for the Richmond match, but rebounded impressively in North's VFL practice match against Williamstown last Saturday. In the selection mix for round one. 

Sam Durdin: The fourth-year tall can play at both ends of the ground, but appears likely to spend most of his time in defence this season. Was quiet as a defender in North's opening JLT game and also struggled to have an impact when moved into attack for the Williamstown practice match. Locked in a battle with Daw, Ben McKay and Daniel Nielson to play as the Roos' third tall in defence.

Mitchell Hibberd: Had a disrupted start to his pre-season because of a shoulder injury but was once again one of the pacesetters in the Kangaroos' time trials. Played both of North's JLT games but faces a tough task to cement a senior spot given the Roos' plethora of half-backs. His quest to do so will be bolstered if he can fine-tune his kicking.

Jamie Macmillan: Restricted by a finger injury at the start of pre-season and was a late withdrawal from North's first JLT game with a severe migraine. But the leadership group member returned to be one of his team's best players against Richmond and appears primed for round one. Again looms as a key member of the Roos' back six, but will be used up the ground at times in 2018.

Ben McKay: The third-year tall is a fierce competitor and has continued his encouraging development over the pre-season. Earned a spot in North's JLT game against Melbourne and the Roos will be keen to give him more matches throughout 2018. Likely to start the home and away season in the VFL, but a run of good form should earn him early senior opportunities.

Alex Morgan: The former Bomber has enjoyed a solid first pre-season at Arden St and will be desperate to make his AFL debut after failing to play a senior game in two seasons at Essendon. Worked hard in defence in North's opening JLT game, but was overlooked for the following match against Richmond. The speedster will likely start the year in the VFL, but the Kangaroos will be keen to unleash his speed off half-back before too long.

Declan Mountford: Missed the JLT Community Series after injuring an AC joint in February but is close to resuming full training. Showed encouraging signs playing the final 11 games of last season as a defender and run-with midfielder, and should press for more senior opportunities once he has regained fitness and form in the VFL.   

Tom Murphy: The first-year rookie has quickly made an impression at Arden St, his impressive pre-season earning him a JLT spot against Richmond, a game in which his composure across half-back earned praise from senior Roo Ben Brown. At 20, Murphy is physically ready for senior football, while he has a booming right foot and good speed off the mark.

Daniel Nielson: Broke through to play seven senior games in his third season last year, impressing with his appetite for one-on-one contests. Was overlooked for both of North's JLT matches, but Lachlan Hansen's departure at the end of last season means there is a vacancy in the Roos' defence for a third tall. Nielson appears behind Daw, Durdin and McKay in the race to fill that role.

Robbie Tarrant: Had been enjoying a strong pre-season until he suffered a bruised kidney in North's final JLT series game against Richmond. Expected to be fit for round one and will again shoulder a heavy load in 2018 as the Kangaroos' premier key defender.

Scott Thompson: Likely entering his final season, but is again expected to share North's key defensive duties with Tarrant in 2018. The veteran's decision to play on will enable North to transition emerging youngsters Durdin, McKay and Nielson into its back six without throwing them in at the deep end. Thompson turns 32 in May but his strong pre-season will give the Kangaroos confidence they can depend on him for at least one more season. 

Ed Vickers-Willis: Looked to have cemented a position in defence last season before a knee injury in round 11 prematurely ended his season. Likely to slot straight back into the Roos' back six from round one after a strong pre-season, in which he played both JLT games. At 190cm, Vickers-Willis gives North's backline flexibility as he can play as a third tall or mind smaller opponents.

Declan Watson: The second-year defender has been stuck in the rehab group all summer as he recovers from a left knee reconstruction last July. Not expected to return until the middle of the season at the earliest.

Marley Williams: Had a delayed start to the pre-season following back and shoulder surgery. The former Magpie seamlessly slotted into North's backline in his first season at Arden St last year and his form in the JLT series suggests he'll be a key member of the back six again in 2018. 

Sam Wright: Finally appears ready to put a horror run of ankle and foot injuries behind him. Sidelined from North's senior team since round 11, 2016, Wright has completed a modified pre-season program – which included working with Australian Ballet principal physiotherapist Sue Mayes – and is on track to return next Saturday (March 31) in the VFL against Collingwood. The 27-year-old was a valuable member of North's defence before his injuries and, if he can regain fitness and form, his experience and composure will be welcomed back. - Nick Bowen

Riley Bonner: Looked at home in the backline when he was ushered into the side late last season. Impressed with his run and carry and ability to break the lines in the second JLT Community Series game. Should hold his spot.

Matthew Broadbent: A troublesome ankle injury will delay the experienced defender's start to the season. It's unknown when he will return.

Darcy Byrne-Jones: Can find plenty of the footy in the backline, but can also do shutdown roles on small forwards. Had a groin issue during the pre-season, but 30 disposals against Adelaide show he's in good nick.

Tom Clurey: Tasked with the responsibility of taking the opposition's best key forward every week. Was solid in the two JLT games.

Joel Garner: The first-year player reads the ball well and his aerial work one-on-one has been a strength. Did some nice things in the club's SANFL trial with Woodville-West Torrens.

Hamish Hartlett: Getting better heading into his second season playing across half-back after starting his career in the midfield. Was solid during the JLT series and retained in the club's leadership group.

Jack Hombsch: The key defender missed the end of last season with hip surgery. Has been squeezed out of the club's best 22 and played in a SANFL trial instead of the final JLT game.

Dan Houston: Looks right at home across half-back after making his debut last year. Did some nice things in both JLT games with his kicking and run out of the back half.

Dougal Howard: Very impressive in defence with his physical approach and intercept marking. Had 18 possessions at 88 per cent efficiency and 10 marks against Adelaide to book his round one spot.

Emmanuel Irra: The Category B rookie has improved his one-on-one defensive work and the aim is to build more offence into his game off half-back. Overlooked for both JLT games and played in a SANFL trial.

Tom Jonas: Retained in the leadership group as a sign of how highly the key defender is regarded. Was strong in both JLT games, including 16 disposals and nine marks against Adelaide.

Jarrod Lienert: A handy back-up key defender who looks strong at SANFL level. Strengths are his intercept marking and long kicking.

Trent McKenzie: The former Gold Coast superboot was on a modified program in his first pre-season with the Power. After not playing in the first JLT game, he looked good in the second half against Adelaide, with 10 disposals across half-back.

Jasper Pittard: Will miss the start of the season with a hamstring injury sustained against Adelaide in the final JLT game. Was dropped a couple times last season and needs to improve his consistency.

Jimmy Toumpas: It's a big season for the former Melbourne defender/winger, who is off contract at the end of the year. Didn't play in Port Adelaide's SANFL trial because of back soreness. - Lee Gaskin 

David Astbury: An outstanding 2017 could easily have been rewarded with All Australian selection. Post-season shoulder surgery saw the key defender putting in the kilometers early in his preparation for 2018 and avoiding contact drills, but he is now primed.   

Nathan Broad: A club-imposed suspension has ruled him out for the first three rounds and the 24-year-old will need to fight for his spot back. Structurally important at the end of 2017 with his flexibility and has been a star on the track among the defenders.

Reece Conca: Looked good through the JLT Community Series as a running defender as he jockeys for a spot in round one. Bachar Houli's injury and Nathan Broad's ban could see him picked against Carlton if there are two spots vacant.

Derek Eggmolesse-Smith: A Next Generation Academy selection, the quick defender played five games for Richmond at VFL level last season and has fitted in well on the track with the senior squad. The Tigers are pleased with his progress. 

Brandon Ellis: Cemented his move to half-back with an excellent 2017 that saw the former wingman play a key role in the premiership. Has continued to place an emphasis on winning the ground ball this pre-season.   

Ryan Garthwaite: Put in an eye-catching performance in the opening JLT Community Series game against Essendon with his strength in the air and composure for a young tall. Still has a way to go but promising signs this summer.   

Dylan Grimes: The glue of the backline has enjoyed an uninterrupted pre-season, which is significant for a player with Grimes' injury history. A career-high placing of fifth in last year's Jack Dyer Medal shows Grimes is at the top of his game.  

Bachar Houli: Battling a calf injury, which has him in some doubt for the season opener against the Blues. The Grand Final hero, who could have won the Norm Smith Medal, pulled up sore from the opening JLT Community Series game. 

Alex Rance: Treated carefully through the JLT Community Series games, Rance has got the game time he needed and then been rested. The best defender in the game, his mix of one-on-one strength and intercepting ability will again be a key to the Tigers' premiership hopes.      

Jayden Short: An in-form option to replace Nathan Broad, the running defender looks a likely selection for round one. Short racked up 25 possessions and 10 marks in the JLT Community Series game against North Melbourne and used the ball well with a team-high six rebound 50s.    

Nick Vlastuin: Kicked one of Richmond's goals of the finals against Geelong last year, but did his best work all year as a small defender. An intercept player and excellent kick, his pre-season performances were top notch. - Nathan Schmook 

Logan Austin: The cousin of retired Saint Sean Dempster played 13 games for Port Adelaide before being traded at the end of last year. An aggressive key backman, the 22-year-old will need to show good form in the VFL if he is to supplant Nathan Brown.

Nathan Brown: Last year was Brown's first at St Kilda after crossing from Collingwood as a restricted free agent and he finished 10th in the Trevor Barker Award. Hasn't been in his best form in the JLT Community Series but the 29-year-old should improve.

Jake Carlisle: Improved throughout 2017 in his first year back from a doping ban and managed to finish fourth in the best and fairest. He generally has a lighter load at training, having suffered hip and back injuries in the past, so will hope to be in better form after a couple of pre-season games.

Oscar Clavarino: Drafted at No.35 last year, it would be a surprise to see Clavarino make his debut this season considering talls take time to develop. However, his ability to read the ball well should be on show for Sandringham.

Nick Coffield: Hard to see last year's No.8 selection missing out on round one after a very impressive pre-season. Has elite pace and showed composure when required. Will help fill the hole left at half-back by Leigh Montagna's retirement.

Jarryn Geary: The captain will aim to keep up his form from the past couple of years, when he finished in the top-three of the Trevor Barker Award. Few at the club can match his running ability and while Geary defends smalls better than most, the 29-year-old is also aggressive with his rebound.

Sam Gilbert: No other regular members of St Kilda's Grand Final era remain. At 31, Gilbert remains fast and versatile but was dropped for the Saints' second pre-season clash. However, the left-footer is experienced and should play an important role this year.

Hugh Goddard: After a couple of injury-interrupted seasons, Goddard enters the final season of his contract needing to prove he can make it at AFL level. Will likely need to prove himself for Sandringham first though.

Darragh Joyce: The Irish rookie stands at 194cm and generally mans tall forwards but is athletic enough to play on smaller types. Expect 2018 to be another development year for Joyce.

Daniel McKenzie: Shifted to half-back last season but the left-footer can also play on a wing. Tough and quick but prone to sometimes being wayward with his kicking, the 21-year-old has shown potential but needs to take advantage of his chances in the firsts when they come.

Bailey Rice: It would be surprising if the son of former Saint Dean didn't make his debut this year. One of the most popular players at the club, the 21-year-old can win contests but then rebound well with his pace and accurate foot skills.

Dylan Roberton: Named in the All Australian squad of 40 last season. Offers important run out of defence and the 26-year-old is often seen impacting contests in the back half. His pre-season was interrupted in a most unusual way, when Roberton suffered a ruptured testicle while playing cricket indoors with his teammates.

Shane Savage: Showed in St Kilda's final pre-season game against Melbourne his foot skills can be very important. The 27-year-old cemented a spot when he played the final eight games of 2017 and will be needed in a side that can lack class.

Jimmy Webster: The Tasmanian was a regular last year, missing games only through suspension and a broken right hand. Accurate by foot, hard to beat one-on-one and with dash out of defence, the 24-year-old could improve again.

Brandon White: Has the traits and the backing of the club to become a first-choice backman. The tough left-footer is a long kick but could improve his endurance. Has impressed in his four games but with St Kilda well stocked for mid-sized defenders, the 21-year-old will need to dominate in the VFL to stand out from the pack. - Dinny Navaratnam

Aliir Aliir: Suffered a minor ankle injury during the JLT Community Series but should be right for round one, and a return to senior footy after a disappointing 2017 season.

Robbie Fox: Showed some fantastic form as a defender during the JLT Series and has put himself in the mix for round one. Played three games early last year and looked at home.

Heath Grundy: The veteran has battled a calf injury this year but got through a NEAFL scratch match last week and should be right to play West Coast. Could be a big selection call.

Alex Johnson: The luckless defender had groin surgery in February and won't be fit to play until at least the first or second NEAFL game next month. Just can't get a run at it.

Matthew Ling: The highly rated draftee had his battles with some niggling injuries but shouldn't be too far away from playing. Likely to get an opportunity once fully fit.

Jake Lloyd: Racked up the possessions across half back last year to be a star and has started 2018 in similar fashion. Finds the footy at will and rarely wastes a disposal.

Jack Maibaum: Struggled for form at NEAFL level last year but is a good size and continues to develop. Needs to increase his presence and use his size to impact games.

Harry Marsh: The reliable medium defender isn't likely to feature early in the season unless Grundy and Aliir don't get up but is a great depth player and can do a job if called upon.

Jarrad McVeigh: The former co-captain was in great shape until he suffered another calf injury in February and is virtually no chance of playing round one. The Swans are likely to be cautious given his history with soft tissue injuries.

Lewis Melican: After a breakthrough season in 2017 the young key defender is locked in a battle with Aliir to fill the role as the third tall in defence alongside Grundy and Rampe. Ultra-reliable especially deep.  

Callum Mills: Should start the season in his customary role across half-back, but a move up the ground into the midfield isn't far away. Cool under pressure and courageous, Mills could have a huge influence onball.

Nic Newman: Played 20 games last year and used his lethal left boot to set up plenty of attacking moves from the back 50. Also capable of being a damaging wingman, his role could change week to week.

Colin O'Riordan: The Irishman has a solid pre-season but didn't have a great JLT Community Series and will start the season in the NEAFL. Senior footy awaits if he can find some form.

Dane Rampe: The 2016 All Australian was sorely missed early last season but returned to his usual form to help the Swans to the finals. The key man in the backline with his ability to shut down opponents, while still finding plenty of footy.

Nick Smith: Had his challenges last season with some mobile small forwards but is rarely beaten two weeks in a row, and will fill that important role again this year. An excellent leader under pressure. - Adam Curley 

Tom Barrass: Played 19 games last year after starting in the WAFL and will be relied upon heavily to shut down opposition key forwards in Eric Mackenzie's absence. A strong intercept mark, Barrass has a bright future at full-back.

Tom Cole: Is right in the mix for round one after appearing in both JLT Community Series games. The club hopes the 20-year-old will push for a regular berth this year after six games in two seasons.

Shannon Hurn: The ever-reliable half-back is one of the lower-profile skippers in the League but almost never plays a bad game and his leadership will be important to an evolving line-up. Has retained the captaincy for a fourth season.

Eric Mackenzie: Underwent toe surgery last October but then a change in his running style caused stress fractures and the 2014 club champion is now facing a lengthy stint on the sidelines. Fighting for his career upon his return.

Jeremy McGovern: The lynchpin of West Coast's defence. McGovern was deservedly All Australian for the second-straight year in 2017 and is the best intercept mark and one-on-one defender in the game, with his best arguably still to come.

Jackson Nelson: The tough backman was in and out of the line-up last year due to injuries and form but has all the tools to make it at the top level. Likely to start in the WAFL after missing out on both JLT matches.

Josh Rotham: Had a reasonable season for East Perth last year but at his best shows promise as a rebound half-back. The 20-year-old will play the early rounds in the WAFL but ideally the Eagles would want him to be in the mix for senior selection before long.

Will Schofield: The 164-game veteran was a sporadic pick for the AFL line-up last year and has trimmed-down in a bid to become more versatile as competition for spots heats up in the Eagles backline. Still has a role to play.

Brad Sheppard: One of the most underrated small defenders in the competition. Takes on some of the AFL's most dangerous goal sneaks on a weekly basis with a minimum of fuss and is rarely beaten.

Francis Watson: Ankle injury probably prevented Watson from making his debut last year after a blistering start to the WAFL campaign. The dashing defender has a lot of good qualities – including his pace and defensive ability – but just needs to tidy up some of his disposals and decision-making. - Travis King 

Marcus Adams: The hulking key defender appears to have overcome the serious foot injuries that have plagued him in his first two seasons at the Dogs. Has held his own against the best key forwards in the AFL, but just needs to be a bit smarter with ball in hand.

Shane Biggs: Like many of his teammates, the running defender had an indifferent 2017 campaign. When at his best, the 26-year-old gives plenty drive off half-back and had a solid first JLT encounter before missing the second with back spasms.

Kieran Collins: It looms as a make-or-break season for the third-year key defender after he was only offered a one-year deal late last year. Debuted amid an injury crisis in 2016 but hasn't played another senior game since. Has worked hard on his agility and pace off the mark. Didn't play in the intra-club match and wasn't selected in the JLT series.

Zaine Cordy: The versatile 21-year-old has the ability to play on talls and smalls and was serviceable when opposed to the AFL's best key forwards last year. The aggressive stopper looks part of the club's round-one plans after being solid in both pre-season games.

Hayden Crozier: The former Docker has impressed as a defensive playmaker this pre-season after spending the majority of his career as a half-forward. Has been given a licence by Luke Beveridge to kick start the side's offence with daring run and carry. Bravery has also been a standout attribute.

Brad Lynch: The dashing defender's progress was stalled by hamstring injuries last season, and he'll need make every post a winner this year as it will be his third year on the club's rookie list. Needs to work on his physicality in the contest.

Dale Morris: The veteran is expected to be sidelined until at least mid-season after partially tearing his ACL at training in February. After breaking his leg and arm last season, the 35-year-old is due for some luck in what may be his last season in the AFL.

Aaron Naughton: The first-round draftee has been a revelation since arriving at the club, with his contested marking and positioning on show across the whole pre-season. The West Australian, who only turned 18 in December, looks set to make his debut in round one.

Ed Richards: The first-round draftee has impressed in his first pre-season with his work as a defensive playmaker. The lightly built teenager, who has similar attributes to recently retired club great Robert Murphy, will be given time to develop in the VFL.

Fletcher Roberts: Largely out of favour last year, the seventh-year key defender hasn't been a part of the club's pre-season hit-outs. The 24-year-old premiership player appears to be insurance if the club's first-choice tall defenders aren't available.

Roarke Smith: The luckless 21-year-old has recovered well from his second knee construction in as many years and will be given time in the VFL to recapture his touch. The Dogs rate the running defender highly and redrafted him after he spent the maximum three seasons on the rookie list.

Matt Suckling: Played predominately across the wing and half-forward last season, it appears the former Hawk will be reprising a role in defence if the JLT series is anything to go by. While not the best one-on-one exponent, the 29-year-old usually hits a target with his extravagant left foot.

Bailey Williams: In and out of the side in his first two seasons at the club, the running defender impressed in seven straight games to finish 2017. The South Australian, who has a cool demeanour and uses the ball well, looks set to face the Giants in round one after playing both JLT games.

Lewis Young: After making a stunning debut last year, the South Australian had his up and downs across seven games. The 19-year-old key defender hasn't featured in the pre-season hit-outs, so expect him to start the year in the VFL. - Ryan Davidson

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs