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Hot Topics: Round 17

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 07:  Lance Franklin of the Swans kicks a goal during the round three AFL match between the Sydney Swans and the Greater Western Sydney Giants at Sydney Cricket Ground on April 7, 2018 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Brett Hemmings/AFL Media/Getty Images)
Star Swans forward Lance Franklin sits on 899 career goals ahead of the match with the Roos.

As Sydney and North Melbourne lock horns at Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon, the potential milestone of a star Swans forward, a highly anticipated rucking contest and a raft of other Hot Topics will be at the forefront of the game.

High-stakes clash awaits

A host of teams are stuck in a mid-table logjam as they jostle for top-four or top-eight positions. Just one win separates the fifth-placed Swans and ninth-placed Kangaroos, while the 12th-placed Bombers remain in contention for a finals berth themselves. While a Sydney win on Sunday could see the Swans climb to as high as fourth on the ladder, a loss could see them slip to as low as 10th. A North Melbourne win could see the Roos shoot to fifth but a loss could also knock them down to 10th. The fight for the finals is only set to heat up as September draws closer and for the Swans and Roos Sunday’s clash carries a wealth of weight.

Injuries opening doors

A long list of injuries sustained in the past couple of weeks has kicked open the door for a number of unheralded Swans to earn a shot in the AFL. Jarrad McVeigh (broken collarbone) and Dan Hannebery (calf) headline a spate of injuries suffered between the Tigers clash in Round 15 and the Swans’ match with the Giants in the NEAFL on Saturday. Defenders Nic Newman, Harry Marsh and Colin O’Riordan were just a number of Swans to again put their names before selectors in the NEAFL game, while ruckman Darcy Cameron produced another outstanding performance of his own. Bullocking on-baller Jordan Dawson banked a fourth-straight game on his road back from injury and threw his hand in the air himself. McVeigh and Hannebery have long been torchbearers for the red and white but Swans fans could be set to see new stars arise in the duel with the Roos and beyond.

Franklin’s 900th goal

Star Sydney forward Lance Franklin booted four goals in the loss to Geelong last Thursday to plant himself on 899 career goals. The Western Australian will join rarefied air if he finds the middle of the sticks on Sunday, with St Kilda and Sydney champion Tony Lockett (1360), Collingwood great Gordon Conventry (1299) and Hawthorn legend Jason Dunstall (1254) headlining the eight players to have reached 900 goals. Essendon juggernaut Matthew Lloyd (926) is the only footballer to have cracked the milestone since the turn of the century. Sunday could play host to a shoot-out, with Franklin and North Melbourne behemoth Ben Brown set to collide as the race for the Coleman Medal nears fever pitch. Brown has snared 46 goals to put himself in pole position ahead of Round 17, while Franklin has bagged 39 majors to be nibbling at his heels in second.

Ruck battle

The rucking battle between Sydney’s Callum Sinclair and North Melbourne’s Todd Goldstein promises to have a huge bearing on the outcome of the game. Goldstein has compiled a resume rivalled by few in the AFL – he has done the heavy lifting for the Roos’ rucking department across the best part of the past decade and earned All-Australian honours in 2015. Sinclair has faced a sweep of formidable campaigners since taking on the Swans’ primary rucking duties, including Eagle Nic Naitanui, Docker Aaron Sandilands and Goldstein in Round 7. The Swans and Roos will both take star-studded midfield contingents into the

Etihad Stadium showdown, and Sinclair and Goldstein will both be looking to gain the upper hand as they compete for the Sherrin in the air.

Revenge on the line

The Swans will be out to return serve after falling to the Roos in a two-point loss at the SCG in Round 7. North Melbourne held an eight-point lead at the final change before pocketing a pair of last-term goals to stave off the home side. Roos forward Mason Wood was the hero of the night in a return of four goals.