After a six-year wait, Hawthorn ruckman Luke Lowden will finally make his AFL debut in Launceston on Saturday against West Coast.
The 204-centimetre 23-year-old comes into the Hawks’ 22 to replace David Hale, who is out with a quad injury. He is one of four changes for the Hawks, stars Cyril Rioli and Jordan Lewis also back along with Matt Spangher. Mitch Hallahan, Will Langford and Jonathan Simpkin have all been dropped.
Lowden, who will be the sixth debutant used by Hawthorn so far this season, was picked up in the 2008 national draft, but has had to bide his time with VFL team Box Hill as a succession of ruckman have been selected ahead of him.
But with No.1 ruckman Ben McEvoy out with a hamstring strain and now Hale injured, the Hawks turned to Lowden to partner the also-inexperienced Jonathon Ceglar against West Coast ruck pair Dean Cox and Nic Naitanui. Lowden impressed in his last VFL appearance two weeks ago before rolling an ankle, but has recovered from the injury in time to play his first game.
Rioli, meanwhile, returns after injuring his hamstring in Hawthorn’s round eight loss to Sydney a month ago. Lewis was a late withdrawal last week against Greater Western Sydney with an adductor injury. The Hawks still remain without McEvoy, Sam Mitchell, Josh Gibson, Brian Lake and Ben Stratton.
The Eagles have lost key forward Josh Kennedy with a fractured cheekbone, but get back key defender and captain Darren Glass after missing last week with a sore hip.
Gold Coast regains key defender Rory Thompson to take on Sydney’s powerful forward set-up of Lance Franklin, Kurt Tippett and Adam Goodes.
The Suns also get back talented forward Harley Bennell, while ‘‘forgotten man’’ Karmichael Hunt has been picked in the Suns’ 25-man squad for potentially his first game of the season.
Sydney could regain ruckman Mike Pyke for his first game since round seven after the Canadian recovered from a hamstring strain.
Western Bulldogs, meanwhile, have picked forward Jarrad Grant for his first game of 2014 after recovering from a pre-season foot injury. Grant has played only two VFL games since his return, but will be a welcome addition to a forward line which has struggled all season.
Brisbane Lions have lost ruckman Trent West for the rest of the season after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament, and has also omitted key forward Jackson Paine, the pair of talls replaced by Stefan Martin and Rohan Bewick.
St Kilda has run out of patience with big man Rhys Stanley, who has been dropped for Saturday’s game against Port Adelaide, along with Tom Curren and Arryn Siposs, while Adam Schneider has a foot injury. The Saints have brought in Tom Simpkin, Tom Lee, Josh Saunders and Sam Dunell.
Port Adelaide will be boosted by the returns of Dom Cassisi, Hamish Hartlett and Tom Jonas, but the Power has lost Paul Stewart and Andrew Moore to injuries.