IT’S been a while since I have done a write-up for the AFL. So with season 2018 around the corner, now seems like as good a time as any to preview the upcoming year of footy! A huge offseason, surprisingly, hasn’t moved the needle a huge amount and I think that we are in for a similar outcome like 2017. That being said the middle of the pack is very, very competitive making the race for the top-8 one of the best in recent memory.
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Offseason Stories That Mattered
Gary Ablett to Geelong
THE prodigal son returns. Gary Ablett Jr rejoining the Geelong Cats, a team that he previously played 192 games for, gives them another lethal string to their bow in the midfield. Already boasting the likes of Patrick Dangerfield, Mitch Duncan and the Selwood brothers Joel and Scott, the Cats might have the best engine room in the comp now.
Sam Docherty’s ACL
ON the first day back of pre-season Carlton fans were hit with devastating injury news. Sam Docherty, an All-Australian defender and the 2016 B&F winner, suffered a torn ACL injury that will see him likely sidelined for the entire upcoming season. Ranking first in the league in total marks and second in total kicks a year ago, Docherty’s drive off the half-back/wing area was crucial for the Blues and will be sorely missed in 2018.
Return of the Jäeger Bomb
SEASON No. 1 at Hawthorn really didn’t go according to plan for Jaeger O’Meara. After playing just six games last season, O’Meara now seems ready to fire after a huge preseason where he reportedly hasn’t missed a beat. If he and his knees/ankles/hamstring/every other body part can hold together then the skies the limit for the 24-year old this year.
Image from heraldsun.com.au
Luke Hodge + No. 1 pick = Smiles in Brisbane
NO one expected Luke Hodge to ever wear Brisbane Lions colours, especially after the Hawthorn champion declared he was retiring late last season. However, the football world was flipped on its head when Hodge announced he was heading North. He wasn’t the only exciting player joining the Lions with new No. 1 overall pick and excitement machine Cameron Rayner set to have a big year for Brisbane. Things are looking up.
A new sunrise on the Gold Coast
ALL but one coach survived the axe after the 2017 season. Gold Coast let former head coach Rodney Eade go with three games remaining last year after a 16-46-1 record with the club. Former Sydney Swans assistant and Power/Hawks player Stuart Dew was elected as his replacement and has been a highly touted coaching candidate for a few years now. Fingers crossed Dew can lift the Suns up the ladder.
Teams on the Rise
Port Adelaide Power
I love the new additions that the Power have heading into this season. After losing in heartbreaking fashion last year, Port Adelaide is set to finish inside the top-6 if everything goes according to plan. Ken Hinkley is demanding results from his players and they seem ready to step up to the challenge.
IT has to be this year right? For 11 straight seasons Demons fans have missed out on seeing their team play finals and everyone is tipping this year to be the one they finally break through. Adding Jake Lever to their defense in the offseason was a big move and if he, Max Gawn and Jesse Hogan can be at their best this Melbourne outfit should be feared.
IN 2016 they were the hunters. In 2017 they became the hunted. Becoming the second team since 2000 to miss the finals after winning the flag (joining the ’09 Hawks), the Western Bulldogs are eager to return with a bang. With their ‘premiership hangover’ in the rear vision mirror, the Dogs look ready to return after adding some height to their young squad. Good signs at Footscray.
Teams on the Slide
FREO had a miserable 2017 season, three times losing in triple figures while languishing towards the bottom of the league. A swift number of moves in free agency and the draft have them building something interesting. It’s a shame that the ‘something interesting’ still lacks the ability to kick a winning score.
Image from thewest.com.au
West Coast Eagles
EVERYONE is tipping the Eagles loss of experience to hurt them this year. An injection of youth and pace might just be what they need, but it will probably take them a few years to see the benefits. Plus, no Josh Kennedy in the square for a month means things could get ugly early.
I’M not in on Essendon’s recruits as much as others. The trio of Smith, Saad and Stringer will be fine, but they aren’t enough to boost the Bombers up the ladder. Daniher will still be a dangerous forward and Merrett could win the Brownlow. Essendon still lacks the overall class to make finals in my opinion.
Coleman Medal – Lance Franklin
IF Kennedy misses a handful of games to start the season then the Coleman seems like Franklin’s to lose. The likes of Joe Daniher, Tom Lynch and Jesse Hogan could all be up there, but no one is dethroning Buddy.
Rising Star – Alex Witherden
THE top three of this years draft class could all challenge for the Rising Star award as they will be given every chance to shine in their new colours. However, a player who broke out in the second half of last season and a teammate of the top overall pick will claim those honours. Witherden will thrive playing down back alongside Luke Hodge and should be in for an awesome year.
Brownlow Medal – Patrick Dangerfield
IT will be tough for Danger to top what Martin achieved last season. Dusty won’t hand the Brownlow back without a fight and there are plenty of other noteworthy challengers including Fyfe, Sloane, Merrett, Kelly and Bontempelli. Still, expect the 2016 winner to claim his second ‘Charlie‘ in three years.
1. Geelong Cats – My pick to win it all.
2. Adelaide Crows – Another year of heartbreak on the big stage could be coming.
3. Sydney Swans – Underrated chance to win it if they can dodge the injury bug.
4. Richmond Tigers – Did someone say back-to-back?
5. GWS Giants – Call me a hater, I’m out on the Giants this year. Tons of pressure.
6. Melbourne Demons – This should be the year they end their heartbreak. Should.
7. Western Bulldogs – The redemption tour is underway.
8. Port Adelaide Power – Boom or bust year for the Power.
9. West Coast Eagles – Close, but no cigar. Losing JK for the first month hurts.
10. Hawthorn Hawks – Not quite sure to expect from Clarko. There are better finals teams than them though.
11. St Kilda Saints – Could be a much lower finish after the loss of some true icons.
12. Essendon Bombers – Fall back after a run into the finals last season.
13. Carlton Blues – Starting to trend in the right direction.
14. Collingwood Magpies – They have a much easier schedule, but I don’t have faith. Farewell Bucks.
15. Brisbane Lions – Need to start climbing up the ladder. Now.
16. Fremantle Dockers – Not enough firepower to contend for the finals. Watch out for the kids/Fyfe though.
17. Gold Coast Suns – Rough start for Dewy, but promising signs.
18. North Melbourne – North are a few years away from being a few years away.
Image from theroar.com.au
A lot of my ladder picks haven’t moved much from their 2017 finish. There are some that rise and fall as is the way every year, but I think that we are once again in for a fascinating race for the top eight. I have faith in the Cats to take out the premiership looking ahead, probably over the Crows or Tigers. Geelong’s midfield and star power will be a beauty to behold and I think it will take them all the way.
IN regards to the race for the spoon, North Melbourneise young and uninspiring in the eyes of many and I think they stay at the bottom. Fremantle, Gold Coast and Carlton have to be careful though. With round one kicking things off in just a few days all our questions will be answered eventually. Bring on the new year!