EVERYONE has their predictions for the 2019 AFL season. Tigers to be premiers, Fyfe to win the Brownlow, Carlton to win the spoon, we’ve heard most of them before. Most of them. Instead of your generic SBF forecasts for the footy year, I’m sticking my neck out with some ‘out there’ estimates of what we will see unfold before 2019 comes to a close. Some of them are more ‘bold’ than others, but I tried to think outside the box and come up with some hot takes on the eve of a new season.
All numbers/stats provided are sourced from AFL Fantasy
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1. Josh Kelly will be the best AFL Fantasy player this season
AFTER failing to suit up during the JLT Series it would be unwise to take the punt and start with Josh Kelly in your fantasy side, especially given his injury-interrupted season a year ago. All signs point to the Giants gun being back to full health though and I’d be shocked if he didn’t line up for GWS against Essendon on Sunday afternoon. A lot of coaches are opting to pick his star teammate in Stephen Coniglio (22% of coaches to be exact), but I think Kelly is the one who’ll end the year scoring more fantasy points than any other player – yes, even Jack Macrae.
2. Gold Coast will win more games than last year
FOLLOWING a 4-18 season it’s hard to fathom that the Suns had an even worse off-season. Losing the likes of Aaron Hall, Kade Kolodjashnij, Michael Barlow, Jarryd Lyons, Matthew Rosa, Tom Lynch, Jack Scrimshaw and Steven May has gutted the Gold Coast team, with some even predicting zero wins for the Suns in 2019. While there are definitely tough times ahead, I’m not ready to draw a line through Stuart Dew’s men yet. A change in culture at the club and building from the ground up again could see them catch some teams off guard with the Suns 2.0 capable of winning more than the four games they did in 2018. With a lot of jokes being made at their expense after a woeful 12 months, look for Gold Coast to catch a few teams off guard this year.
3. Bailey Smith, not Sam Walsh, will win the Rising Star Award
THERE has been a lot of buzz surrounding No. 1 overall pick Sam Walsh after Carlton elected to select one of the most ready-made talents in recent times. While Walsh is set to wow from day dot, the same can be said for the seventh selection in the same draft Bailey Smith. The Bulldogs pup had an equally impressive lead up to the draft, but his positioning was impacted by an Achilles injury. With Smith under the guidance of a professional AFL club now, doing all the right things for his body, even if he has a slow start, there’s every chance he can be the best player in this draft class.
Image from foxsports.com.au
4. Rory Lobb will win Fremantle’s goalkicking award
FULL disclosure, I had this hunch before Jesse Hogan’s confirmed absence to start the year against the Roos. Now that Hogan’s return date is uncertain, this might not seem like such a bold prediction, but with a career-best haul of 29 goals, Rory Lobb isn’t exactly a Coleman threat. Fremantle has been crying out for a reliable key forward with Cam McCarthy, Matthew Taberner, Brennan Cox and Shane Kersten being trialled in the past, but Lobb’s contested marking ability is a notch above the aforementioned players. Hopefully, a healthy Sean Darcy and Aaron Sandilands can keep Lobb closer to the sticks where he becomes the first Docker to kick 40+ since Hayden Ballantyne back in 2014.
5. We’ll have a tie in the Brownlow Medal
SIX times in the last 50 years have we seen a tie in the Brownlow with the last one coming in 2012 after Jobe Watson had his award stripped. The numbers suggest that we are due for a tie at the top of the Charlie and I’m thinking of going with the vanilla picks of Patrick Cripps and Patrick Dangerfield. Both Patty’s are contested ball winning beasts and given the way the new rules are structured I’d find it hard to see them not polling at least 20-25 votes this year.
6. Sydney and Hawthorn will make the Finals…again
YOU have to wind the clock back to 2009 to find the last Swans season that didn’t end in the finals. Hawthorn has an impressive record of their own with just two finishes outside the top-8 in the last 11 years. A lot of the experts in the game are predicting both sides to slide down the ladder given the age of their squads, with both teams in the top half of the league for average age and the Hawks topping the list. With age comes experience though, so don’t be surprised if the two perennial finals reps are in the mix once again.
7. Essendon won’t win a Final…again
ON the other side of the coin the Essendon Football Club hasn’t experienced success in the postseason for a lengthy amount of time. While the Dons have made the finals four times in the past 10 seasons, they have failed to record a W with their last September victory coming in 2004. The likes of James Hird, Scott Lucas and Matthew Lloyd won’t be able to save Essendon in 2019 with fans expressing cautious optimism that this can be the season where the Bombers break their hoodoo. Even the recruitment of Dylan Shiel won’t be able to get them over the line, even if they break into the eight by season’s end.
8. Alan Richardson AND Ken Hinkley will be fired before the bye rounds
TO say Alan Richardson and Ken Hinkley are on the hot seat isn’t exactly a note-worthy take. However, a down start to the season could spell doom for not one, but both AFL head coaches before the mid-season break. Richo has a winning record in the last two seasons, so his firing might not come as swiftly, but I have a hunch he’ll be the first man to be relieved of his duties given the lack of star power across their list. Hinkley has won double-digit games in all of his six seasons at Alberton, however, the team has just one finals appearance in the past four seasons. An ugly 0-7, 2-9 start to the season could see both men shown the door.
9. Archie Smith will take the lead ruck reigns from Stefan Martin
WHILE we have seen plenty of AFL players star during their 30’s there aren’t a lot of ruckmen in the group of veterans. Stefan Martin (32) has struggled with his health this pre-season forcing Archie Smith to take the reigns in JLT 1. The young Lion cub won the ruck battle with 25 hitouts in that contest and as Martin’s body inevitably starts to break down I wouldn’t be shocked if Brisbane employed Smith as their full-time starter. It would be a big jump for the 23-year old who failed to add any AFL experience to his resume last year, but I don’t think it’s too big a gap to bridge.
Image from lions.com.au
10. The Western Bulldogs will win the wooden spoon
THIS one might be a bit harsh given the talent in the Bulldogs’ midfield, but the rest of their squad leaves a lot to be desired. Aaron Naughton looks like a great player for their future, but I have serious doubts over who can kick all their goals. Billy Gowers topped the goalkicking charts last year with just 26, the second lowest tally behind the Dockers and with the bottom four scoring side failing to add any firepower this offseason I think they’ll struggle to put a winning score on the board.
11. Lance Franklin will retire at seasons end
THERE are still three years running on Lance Franklin’s contract so I might be jumping the gun by 12 months. However. Injuries are starting to wreak havoc for Buddy with his offseason hampered by multiple issues that have him in doubt for Round 1 this weekend. By the end of his current deal Franklin would be in his 18th AFL season at the age of 35 and with the exception of moving up the all-time goalkickers list, you have to wonder what’s left for him to achieve. Buddy needs 54 more goals to move into 6th all-time, with a further 60 goals then separating him from Gary Ablett Sr. It’s possible he concedes his chase up the leaderboard at season’s end and bows out a 4x Coleman Medalist, 2x premiership player and one of the greatest forwards to lace em’ up.
12. Melbourne will be 2019 premiers
MELBOURNE hasn’t won a flag since 1964, the same year that footy personalities like Jason Dunstall, Eddie McGuire and Dermott Brereton were born! 55 years is a long time between drinks and there’s no doubt after a preliminary final finish last year that the Demons’ premiership window is now wide open. It goes without saying that they need to stay healthy, but on paper, they may have the best/deepest list in the AFL. This isn’t exactly bold with a lot of people predicting a Melbourne flag this year, but considering they haven’t achieved that feat in 50+ years there’s some risk with this estimate. Barring any slip-ups, you can expect them to be firmly in the conversation six months from now.
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