WITH off-season list changes now well and truly in the rear vision mirror, all 18 AFL clubs are getting stuck into their pre-season regimes ahead of the 2019 season. Some of them will be out to rise up the ranks and prove to everyone they can contend for a premiership, while some squads are still a few years away from being a few years away. Every team may believe they are a chance of winning it all in the coming seasons, but just how open is your AFL club’s premiership window?
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Gold Coast Suns
LET’S not spend too much time here. The Suns’ window is firmly shut and they seem set to finish in the bottom portion of the ladder yet again. If they can develop the right culture over the coming years, there’s no reason why they can’t contend in the future.
St Kilda Saints
I know I’m not alone in my opinion of the Saints, but I think they still have a way to go before they start rising up the ranks. Their top pick this year in Max King could be Nick Riewoldt 2.0, but he’ll need time to reach his potential and they lack superstar talent across the board. If they’re not careful they could cost Alan Richardson his job with another lacklustre season.
SIMILAR to the aforementioned Suns, thinking about a flag isn’t a fair expectation for Blues fans. Another promising haul of youngsters can help steer them in the right direction, but Carlton will have their eyes on the short term looking to improve from their 2-win season a year ago.
Image from hepburnadvocate.com.au
SPLASHY signings in the off-season won’t solve Freo’s problems overnight, but it’s a step in the right direction. After being anchored (pun intended) at the bottom of the ladder for years, the Dockers are likely to see a rise and if all things go right then there’s a chance they’ll finish as high as 9th/10th (I refuse to mention the F word). Don’t be fooled though, there is still plenty of work to be done before Fremantle fans can start dreaming big.
YES, I’m well aware that the Hawks finished the season 4th on the ladder after the home and away season last year, but this list is a ticking time bomb. With the oldest playing squad in the competition, the sustained success that has seen Hawthorn miss the finals just twice in the last 12 years is nearing an end as their veteran players slowly wind down their careers. The ‘Alastair Clarkson’ effect won’t see them fall off the face of the Earth like some expect, but without Tom Mitchell in uniform I’d be surprised if we saw the Hawks make another legitimate run.
SINCE their dream run to the flag in 2016 things haven’t gone according to plan for the Western Bulldogs. A lot of their younger pups are going to take another jump in development, but the question over who will kick all their goals still raises concerns. Their talented midfield alleviates some of the match-winning concerns, but after finishing each of the past two seasons as a bottom-4 scoring team you have to wonder how they’ll put a competitive score on the board. Failing to do so won’t see them win another one for some time yet.
Image from foxsports.com.au
Port Adelaide Power
THERE may not be a squad teetering as dangerously close to the edge as Port Adelaide. They went out and spent big in the 2017 offseason to try and bolster their team for a run at the flag last year, only to finish on the outside of the finals picture looking in. With the club losing talents like Jared Polec and Chad Wingard this off-season, the only thing keeping them in the mix for the cup is if their youngsters take a huge step up and their midfield overachieves. Not impossible, but not likely.
Greater Western Sydney
SPEAKING of teetering on the edge we could see a fall off from the Giants in 2019. This year marks the end of their ‘handouts’ from the AFL and moving forward they will have to function like every other club which could signal the start of their decline. Still, they have been ravaged by injuries in the past few years and are aiming for a fourth straight finals appearance, something that doesn’t happen by accident. If they can stay healthy there’s no reason why they can’t keep their finals streak alive and be a contender.
North Melbourne Kangaroos
WHILE the Roos’ window isn’t closing, it’s not exactly open either. Arguably the toughest team to peg we saw North bounce back from a down 2017 to challenge for a finals spot right up until the final weekend of last season. While they haven’t been able to land the big fish they so desperately covet in the trade period/free agency there are still hopes they are only one star away from cementing themselves truly in the mix.
SIMILARLY to North, the Brisbane Lions are on the come up and are the sexy pick to be the most improved team this season. After calling the bottom of the table home for what feels like an eternity, Chris Fagan has the Lions set to rise after showing some positive signs last season and aiding their cause with a healthy influx of talent in the off-season. While a premiership is still out of their grasp there’s no doubt they’re trending in the right direction.
COULD this finally be the year that the Swans miss out on postseason action? After qualifying for the finals for the umpteenth time last year, Sydney is bound to fall off sooner or later, right? Full credit to John Longmire’s men, who continually find a way to defy the odds and win more than their fair share of games, but their time at the top is seemingly coming to an end. With the wheels set to fall off the wagon any year now, they might be able to squeeze the orange and claim one more premiership before things come crashing down, but they’d better act quick.
I’M still sour on Geelong for not living up to the hype last year after I picked them to win it all. Premierships aren’t won on paper though and as we saw last season, these Cats aren’t the same ones that tore the competition to shreds a decade ago. With a lot of their stars near or overtaking 30, their clock is ticking for Geelong to potentially snap up one more banner before they’ll inevitably fall out of the race. A triumphant return as a full-time midfielder for Patrick Dangerfield would be a smart move to give them a sniff.
EVEN though they fell flat on their face after their trip to the Grand Final in ’17, I have high hopes for the Crows. They can point their finger at injuries and a bunch of other issues for their previous woes and while the loss of Mitch McGovern and an aging Eddie Betts hurts their forward line, they still boast one of the most potent attacking groups in the sport. Any team that can kick 20 majors in one outing and solidly defend their total still stands a chance of winning it all.
BREAKING their finals hoodoo a year ago has Demons fans struggling to keep a lid on it right now. You can’t blame them for jumping on the hype train after landing Steven May in the trade period and boasting one of the best top-to-bottom lists in footy. It’s been a long time between drinks for Demons fans (55 years to be exact) so let’s not go handing them the cup yet. That being said, I wouldn’t be shocked if they were the last team left standing eight and a half months from now.
AFTER some smart acquisitions in the past few years, Essendon seems set to challenge for a top-4 spot as early as next season. We could see the Dons go on a surge to start the year if this unit clicks, as they are poised to be a finals staple for years to come. It might be jumping the gun, but the only way I expect Essendon to go from here is up.
West Coast Eagles
IT’S hard to not love West Coast’s chances of repeating as premiers this season. Some may argue they stole the cup from Collingwood’s grasp thanks to one straight Dom Sheed kick, but there’s a lot to like about this list. Going on the run they did without their best ruckman (Nic Natanui), arguably their best midfielder (Andrew Gaff) and their best rebounding defender (Brad Sheppard (sorry Shannon Hurn)) only extends their flag winning timeline. Should they be able to keep key pillars Jeremy McGovern and Josh Kennedy on the park, watch out.
WHAT do you do if you fall short of defending your premiership? You add one of the best young key forwards in the comp of course! With Tom Lynch joining Coleman Medalist Jack Riewoldt in front of the sticks, the Tigers duo will give them a new dimension when they go inside 50 and should only enhance their chances of winning two flags in three seasons. You could make the case that Richmond is still the team to beat and their window doesn’t look like closing any time soon.
MOTIVATED to not play the role of bridesmaids again this year, the Pies will be hard to stop in 2019. Looking ahead they are set to dominate the engine room led by the competitions best ruckman in Brodie Grundy and cool heads like Scott Pendlebury and Adam Treloar. I had my doubts over their younger kids stepping up to the plate last year, but with Collingwood’s juniors only getting better, they have the chance to capitalise on their talents and compete for a premiership in the coming seasons.