NATURALLY, every AFL team will enter a brand new season full of optimism and hope and this year is no different. Some squads will quickly realise their dreams aren’t going to be fulfilled, but that doesn’t mean they can achieve something relevant within the next 12 months. Premiership flag aside, how can your team be a winner in the 2020 season?
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In 2020 Adelaide needs to: Not fall off a cliff
WITH a ton of turnover in their playing group and coaching staff, it’s tough to know what the 2020 edition of the Adelaide Crows will dish up. They are far from doomed, but having lost eight veterans who played a combined 1,139 AFL games, it wouldn’t be crazy to see the Crows tumble down the ladder as they usher in the Matthew Nicks era. If they can get help from the likes of Paul Seedsman, Bryce Gibbs, Wayne Milera, Tom Doedee and Chayce Jones to lift the floor of the team then there might be no drop off in production at all.
In 2020 Brisbane needs to: Get Cam Rayner in the right role
A year ago I challenge the Brisbane Lions to ‘build a fortress’ at the Gabba and they certainly did that, losing just one game at home to post an AFL best 10-1 record. This time around their task is just as important with 2017 No. 1 overall pick Cam Rayner, yet to find his niche in the AFL. Having being utilised as a glorified forward pocket, Rayner currently averages under a goal a game and just 11.4 touches from his 46 career games. Brisbane would be wise to swing him through the middle of the ground or as a higher half-forward and allow Rayner to display all of his abilities, giving the Lions another dangerous weapon who oozes game-changing talents.
In 2020 Carlton needs to: Find their firepower
WHILE the nostalgia of seeing Eddie Betts back in navy blue is exciting for Carlton fans, it would be unfair to expect him to shoulder a lot of the goalkicking responsibilities this year. Not since Betts himself back in 2012 has a Carlton player averaged two goals a game for an entire season with the Blues unable to find the right balance in front of the sticks. There is plenty of goalkicking talent on the roster with new recruit Jack Martin set to complement Mitch McGovern, Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay, but someone needs to stand up as the premier forward and help the club end their reign as a consistently poor scoring side.
In 2020 Collingwood needs to: Find future midfielder contributors
FOR a long time Scott Pendlebury has been my favourite footballer, with his Pies teammates Adam Treloar, Dayne Beams, Taylor Adams and Steele Sidebottom annually giving Collingwood one of, if not the best midfield group in the league. However, with all five of those players in the back half of their careers, it’s important for the Magpies to start ushering in generation next in the middle of the ground. In 2019, they continued to unearth potential candidates with the likes of Rupert Willis, Tom Phillips, John Noble and Brayden Sier all poised to one day take over the reins. Getting more AFL minutes into them plus their newest draft crop will be crucial for the Pies to avoid a severe drop off once their veterans do call it quits.
In 2020 Essendon needs to: Still, win a final
IT’S plagued Essendon fans for over a decade and despite finishing inside the 8 last year, they still are chasing a coveted finals win. A 5-point win against Melbourne in 2004 was the last time the club tasted success in September with names from yesteryear like Jason Johnson, Matthew Lloyd and Dean Solomon leading the charge. I’m predicting the Bombers to take a step backwards in 2020, but if they can stay healthy and once again qualify for postseason action, claiming a valuable finals win is still the highest priority.
In 2020 Fremantle needs to: Unleash the kids
WITH Justin Longmuir steering the ship down at Fremantle now, we could see a dramatically different Dockers outfit take shape in the next few seasons. Based on average age, Freo has the youngest list in the entire AFL and to eventually build a long-term winner they’ll need to turn their scrawny kids into professional footballers. It’s not going to happen overnight, but handing a healthy amount of senior games this year to recent draftees Hayden Young, Liam Henry and Caleb Serong along with Luke Valente, Griffin Logue, Adam Cerra, Andrew Brayshaw, Sam Sturt and Sean Darcy, can help Fremantle start to establish their blueprint for the future.
In 2020 Geelong needs to: Capitalise on their premiership window
IT’S closing Cats fans – fast. Since tasting premiership success in Chris Scott’s first year as head coach back in 2011, Geelong has been unable to qualify for another Grand Final, with the clock closing in on midnight for their premiership aspirations. Gary Ablett and Harry Taylor seem set to hang ’em up at seasons end, with key personnel Joel Selwood, Zach Tuohy and Tom Hawkins all on the wrong side of 30 too. It’s now or never for the Cats, who certainly have the capability to claim the clubs 10th flag within the next few seasons. 2020 presents them with a golden opportunity though and they can’t afford to keep letting these chances slip through their fingers.
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GOLD COAST SUNS
In 2020 Gold Coast needs to: Tighten the screws
A year ago Gold Coast allowed the most disposals, clearances, tackles, inside-50’s and points per game to their opponents. Ouch. After bolstering their list with some talented youngsters, the Suns are still a few years away from being a few years away, but they can certainly take a step in the right direction this season. To do so, it’s going to take an entire, team-based focus, with the worst scoring and defending side from a year ago out to rebuild their tattered reputation. 2020 could be another season full of heavy L’s, but with the foundation in place, it’s time for Gold Coast to start competing like an AFL side week in, week out.
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY
In 2020 GWS needs to: Avenge their 2019 Grand Final drubbing
RESIGNING Jeremy Cameron would be at the top of the list internally at GWS, but let’s be honest, this year is about winning it all. After qualifying for the club’s maiden Grand Final following an epic four-point preliminary final win against Collingwood, the Giants were embarrassed on the big stage the following week. Not only did they go down by nearly 15 goals, the Tigers held GWS to their lowest score in the club’s eight-year history. Expect the Giants to come out breathing fire against Richmond when they play in Round’s 7 & 15 but this year won’t be about wins and losses in the home and away season, they’ll be out to go one better when the real festivities kick-off.
In 2020 Hawthorn needs to: Get Tom Mitchell healthy
IT may mean missing some games, but Hawthorn can’t afford to screw around with Tom Mitchell’s body. It doesn’t appear like they are with the 2018 Brownlow Medalist slowly but surely edging towards a return from a broken leg, currently slated to play at least some minutes in the Marsh Series this preseason. AFL Fantasy coaches and Hawks fans alike are salivating at the prospects of Mitchell returning to the field, but with the ball magnet just hitting his prime, I’m sure Hawthorn will prioritise his long term health, even if he misses a few matches throughout the 2020 campaign.
Image from heraldsun.com.au
In 2020 Melbourne needs to: Temper expectations
AFTER falling off a cliff face in 2019, Melbourne fans will be hoping the Dees can quickly catapult themselves back into finals calculations in the upcoming season. Their 2018 heroics saw them end an 11-year finals drought and come just one win away from playing on Grand Final day. There is plenty of talent in the Demons playing group, but expecting them to yo-yo back from the bottom tier to the top of the food chain is going to be a mighty task to achieve in just 12 months time. My advice would be to focus on each week at a time and the rest will take care of itself.
NORTH MELBOURNE KANGAROOS
In 2020 North Melbourne needs to: Get help from their middle-tier
I’VE bashed the North Melbourne list once or twice before, but upon further reflection, they have some players to be proud of. Quality veterans in the form of Todd Goldstein, Ben Cunnington, Robbie Tarrant, Ben Brown and Shaun Higgins have done a lot of the heavy lifting in the past, but for North to achieve something of note this year, they’re going to need support from the rest of the list. The Kangaroos’ kids leave a bit to be desired so that assistance is going to have to come from the middle portion of their squad, who have roughly 50-150 AFL games under the belt. A few names that spring to mind include Ben Jacobs, Luke McDonald, Dom Tyson, Kayne Turner, Aaron Hall and Jed Anderson and if that group can stay healthy to ably support their elder peers, North has a realistic chance of becoming a top-8 side.
PORT ADELAIDE POWER
In 2020 Port Adelaide needs to: Keep Tom Rockliff at 100%
FOR Port to achieve this task in the upcoming season, they may have to face a difficult truth that Rockliff isn’t the same player he once was. His Round 1 display last season (44 touches, 10 marks, 8 tackles vs. Dees) suggests otherwise, but Rocky has battled injury issues, mainly in his shoulders for the better part of five years. The Power may have to accept his body can’t take the same hefty hammering it once did, forcing Rockliff to adjust both his playstyle and his role with the team. He can still be an aggressive tackling machine, but they’ll be wise to utilise him in bursts while also spelling him up forward, potentially splitting time with Brad Ebert who’s had his own injury woes in the past.
In 2020 Richmond needs to: Keep their veterans fresh for the finals
LAST year injuries were the reason Trent Cotchin and Jack Riewoldt played a smaller number of games in the home and away season, but resting them and reducing the load on Dustin Martin in the middle of the ground is a smart tactic for Richmond. They have enough depth to cover their absences and still waltz to 15+ wins with the Tigers surely aiming to join Hawthorn (’13-’15) and Brisbane (’01-’03) as the only back-to-back premiers in the 21st century. That might not mean playing Cotchin and Riewoldt in half the games this year, but keeping them to say 18 matches apiece would leave them cherry ripe for the real season in September.
ST KILDA SAINTS
In 2020 St Kilda needs to: Successfully implement Brett Ratten’s game plan
A year ago St Kilda couldn’t save Alan Richardson from the axe, leading to Brett Ratten taking over as the interim coach for the final six rounds. Ratten helped the Saints finish the year 3-3, but a .500 record in the upcoming season won’t cut it for a club that hasn’t made the finals since 2011. St Kilda has the chance to win more than half their games in 2020, but they’re going to need to quickly adjust to Brett Ratten’s full-time game plan, especially given their tough start to the year (facing three of the four 2019 prelim finalists in the first seven rounds). If they can do so, things will finally be looking up for the Saints.
In 2020 Sydney needs to: Allow Lance Franklin to finish on a high
WITH their list going through a ton of change, we are entering a new era for the Sydney Swans, with Lance Franklin, Callum Sinclair and Josh Kennedy currently the only 30-year-olds on their list. There could be some lumps and bumps in store for the Swans early on, so while they get some valuable games into their new crop of kids, I’m sure I speak on behalf of the general AFL community in saying we want to see Buddy go bang as his career winds down. The 300-game veteran is 7th on the all-time goalkicking list right now, needing just 56 majors to bring up the 1,000 goal milestone. Before he hangs ’em up, here’s hoping Franklin still has some fuel left in the tank.
Image from sportingnews.com
WEST COAST EAGLES
In 2020 West Coast needs to: Find the right midfield mix
ON paper the Eagles are the proud owners of the best midfield group in the entire league (in my opinion), boasting a slew of stars and wicked depth at the position. That was even before they added mature-age maestro Tim Kelly into the mix, so West Coast is now spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing their on-ball brigade. That can be both a blessing and a curse, with some natural mid’s forced to play out of position and adjust their game to accommodate their star power. For the Eagles to once again reaffirm themselves as a premiership outfit Adam Simpson will need to quickly establish which players can alter their game and play a different role to help them win their second flag in three years.
In 2020 the Western Bulldogs need to: Help Tim English become Brodie Grundy 2.0
THERE’S a lot to like about the Western Bulldogs and Tim English’s further development could see them become a force of the competition over the next few seasons. With just 29 games to his name, it might be a tall task to expect a lot from English in just his fourth pro season, but his success could be the key to unlock greatness for the Bulldogs. Much like the game’s premier ruck talent Brodie Grundy, English has displayed good skills around the ground, with his ever-developing kick becoming one of his main weapons. If he can take a giant leap in production in 2020 and essentially give Footscray another midfielder at ground level – watch out.