Curnow back for Blues, Hooker gets axed

Cale Hooker's Essendon axing has raised question marks about his future at the club.
Cale Hooker's Essendon axing has raised question marks about his future at the club.

Carlton forward Charlie Curnow and Collingwood's Jeremy Howe will make their long-awaited returns from injury this week, but the future of Essendon veteran Cale Hooker is up in the air after he was axed.

Curnow has overcome a string of knee injuries and will play his first AFL match since round 15, 2019 when he lines up in Friday night's clash with St Kilda at Marvel Stadium.

Harry McKay also returns for the Blues, with the duo set to form a potent attacking weapon.

Veteran Carlton forward Eddie Betts (ankle) and Zac Williams (hamstring) will miss the match through injury, while Matthew Cottrell and Sam Petrevski-Seton were dropped.

St Kilda welcome back ruckman Rowan Marshall following his lonely stint in isolation in Perth, while Hunter Clark, Tom Highmore and Jack Higgins also return.

The out-of-contract Hooker has kicked a team-high 33 goals for Essendon this season, but it wasn't enough to save him from the selection axe ahead of Saturday night's encounter with Sydney.

Fellow veteran David Zaharakis and youngster Brayden Ham were also dropped.

Aaron Francis will make his return from mental health leave, while Kyle Langford and Dylan Clarke were also included.

The Swans welcome back Callum Mills and Harry Cunningham.

Collingwood recalled Howe for his first game since injuring his hamstring in round five, while Chris Mayne, Will Hoskin-Elliott and Josh Thomas were also inclusions for Saturday's match against West Coast at the MCG.

Skipper Scott Pendlebury, who fractured his leg last week, is the most notable omission.

West Coast lost Liam Ryan to a hamstring injury, but have been bolstered by the return of Jack Redden (leg) and Jack Petruccelle (hamstring).

The Bulldogs welcome back star midfielder Josh Dunkley (quarantine) and veteran Easton Wood for Saturday's encounter with Adelaide in Ballarat, but they lost Alex Keath (hamstring) and Ed Richards (concussion).

Key defender Nick Murray and forward James Rowe return for the Crows.

Fremantle have lost skipper Nat Fyfe (shoulder), veteran Michael Walters (hamstring), and defender Alex Pearce for Sunday's crunch encounter with Richmond in Perth.

Richmond welcome back Dion Prestia from a hamstring injury, while Josh Caddy, Thomson Dow, Callum Coleman-Jones and Ben Miller were named on an extended bench.

Gold Coast dropped rising star Izak Rankine for Saturday's clash with Melbourne at Metricon Stadium following his lean run of form, while Rory Atkins (dropped), Caleb Graham (dropped), and Oleg Markov (hamstring) also go out of the side.

Joel Jeffrey has been named for his AFL debut after booting 12 goals in the past two games in the VFL, while ruckman Zac Smith, forward Darcy Macpherson, and defender Jy Farrar were recalled.

Shaun Higgins returns for Geelong against North Melbourne for his 250-game milestone, but the Cats lost key defender Lachie Henderson and forward Gryan Miers to injury.

The Kangaroos will be without Ben Cunnington after the star midfielder's shock testicular tumour discovery, while Tarryn Thomas (concussion), Cam Zurhaar (shoulder) and Shaun Atley (omitted) are also out.

Robbie Tarrant headlines the inclusions.

GWS welcome back star Toby Greene (isolation) for their crucial clash with Port Adelaide on Sunday, with the Power naming Orazio Fantasia in an extended squad.

Hawthorn midfielder James Cousins is the only confirmed omission so far for Sunday's match against Brisbane, with the Lions weighing up whether to include Nakia Cockatoo in their final 22.

Australian Associated Press