One game in and the 2023 season is already shaping up to be a classic! Carlton and Richmond were forced to split the points last night and spots inside the top-8 this year will be hotly contested. We know that the season won’t unfold exactly the way we expect it to, as some teams/players are bound to either overachieve or fall short of a pass mark. That makes some of the bold predictions below more believable than others, but with a new footy season underway, I feel confident in these 8 takes after looking into my crystal ball.
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Adelaide plays finals footy
Since losing the Grand Final in 2017 to Richmond, the Crows have struggled mightily. Winning just 31.4% of their games since that GF appearance, Matthew Nicks needs his men to find their mojo soon if he wants to keep his job and they’re primed to make a leap this year in my eyes. The continued development of Darcy Fogarty should see him go close to kicking 50+ goals, with Sam Berry another youngster ready to take the next step. That coupled with strong seasons from the veterans on their roster should see the Crows break their finals drought.
Josh Dunkley will win the Brownlow…
It would be unprecedented to see a player winning the ‘Charlie’ in his first season at a new club, especially when that player joins forces with a perennial contender for the award in Lachie Neale. However, I’m convinced that Josh Dunkley is going to DOMINATE with the Lions, so much so that he’ll be in the mix to claim the Brownlow Medal for 2023. Dunks is used to fighting his teammates for votes having shared the field with Jack Macrae and Marcus Bontempelli for his entire career to date, so I’m not concerned by the prospect of Neale also polling strongly. When Chris Fagan unleashes him as a full-time midfielder I expect Dunkley to turn some heads and capture plenty of votes in the process.
…and Jeremy Cameron finishes runner-up
There’s no denying the fact that Jeremy Cameron is one of the best players in the AFL. Traditionally though, key forwards and for that matter, anyone who isn’t a midfielder tends to be ignored when it comes time to collecting Brownlow votes. Last year, Cameron did his best to buck that trend, finishing 9th overall after polling 19 votes and kicking 59 goals in the home and away season. I believe that Geelong’s premier threat in front of goal is in line to bag 70+ goals this season, and if he pulls off that feat, he should be right amongst the contenders for the AFL’s highest individual accolade.
Melbourne only lose 2 games all year
The 2021 premiers got their flag defence off to a flying start, waiting until Round 11 before suffering their first loss. After their 10-0 start, the Dees went 6-6 over the rest of the season before bowing out of the finals in straight sets. That embarrassing end to their campaign would have been at the forefront of their minds in the offseason and a lot of footy pundits are expecting Melbourne to come back with a vengeance and make another serious assault at another premiership. Don’t be shocked if the Demons make light work of the rest of the league during the home and away season and become the first team to chalk up 20 wins since Collingwood back in 2011.
Nat Fyfe kicks more goals than anyone else in WA
Shifting forward in an effort to prolong his career, Nat Fyfe is poised to become a lethal threat in front of goal for the Dockers. The dual Brownlow medalist hasn’t exactly been a sharpshooter throughout his 209-game career, but after training as a forward all summer, Fyfe’s presence inside-50 could be a real asset for Fremantle. The club has been crying out for a consistent, premier threat in front of goal since Matthew Pavlich retired and if he can stay healthy, Fyfe should go close to averaging two goals a game and bagging 40+ majors. That should be enough to not only beat out the rest of Freo’s forwards but also top West Coast’s main threats in front of goal, Oscar Allen and Jack Darling.
Griffin Logue cracks the All-Aus squad
Seeking a fresh start outside of WA, Griffin Logue made the move to North Melbourne this offseason. The Roos’ swingman spent chunks of last year playing in attack for the Dockers, although it’s clear that Alastair Clarkson wants to deploy Logue as a key defender in 2023 and hand him the responsibility of shutting down the game’s most dangerous talls. Logue is more than capable of stepping up to the task at hand and even with Ben McKay sidelined to start the season, I have faith that North’s newest lockdown defender can forge a reputation as one of the best shutdown players in the game. That might not see him crack the All-Australian team this year, but he should at the very least be included in the squad of 40.
Image from thewest.com.au
Ken Hinkley doesn’t last the season
The first half of the new season will make or break Ken Hinkley. Entering his 11th season as the head coach at Port Adelaide, Hinkley and his playing group haven’t been able to break through in the finals, registering a 5-5 postseason record with a pair of devastating prelim losses. A slow start last year ruined their chances of challenging for a spot in the top-8 and if Port begin the new season in lacklustre fashion then it’s hard to see them vaulting themselves back into the finals mix. It might be time for a change of leadership and Josh Carr’s return to the club came with plenty of rumours about him taking the head coaching job in 2024. Should Hinkley and Port underachieve early, we might see Carr handed the reins before the bye rounds arrive.
GWS ‘wins’ the wooden spoon
After winning just six games last season, I’m not confident in GWS turning things around right away under Adam Kingsley. There is still a lot to like about the future for the Giants and a change in game style with a brand new coaching staff might help them catch lightning in a bottle. However, the departure of Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper is bound to impact their midfield and there are still some holes across the rest of their squad that will make it hard for them to start climbing up the ladder. Sam Taylor, Toby Greene, Stephen Coniglio and the other established stars at GWS won’t go down without a fight, but with the Eagles and Roos eager to improve, I won’t be stunned if we see the Giants 18th on the ladder when the season draws to a close.
Banner from lions.com.au