AFL Season preview 2017
Starting today with the regular shite season opener of Richmond v Carlton (which Richmond have just won at a canter), the 2017 Aussie Rules season is back on. The off season had been broken up somewhat by the inaugural womens tournament that will conclude next weekend. It got a fairly good reception to it, but I suppose it’s similar enough to the ladies game here too.
So with the new season back and running, some of the bigger questions will be how do the Bulldogs respond to being the champions? Will the GWS Giants cope with the overwhelming favourites tag put on them? Are we seeing the end of the Swans/Hawks/Cats dominance of the last 12 years, winning 9 of the 12 finals since 2005 and one of those 3 being in 11 of the last 12 finals.
As for the season ahead, it is hard to look past GWS. It’s a great team that has developed nicely and is peaking at the right time with the right mix of players. I find it hard to tip to win it out, but at the same time, I just don’t really fancy any of the other teams around them either. It’s quite open and there are a lot of teams who can challenge in a similar vein as to the Bulldogs who effectively came from no where last year to win it out.
1. Greater Western Sydney Giants
Last year: 4th & prelim finals loss to Bulldogs
The odds on favourite this year and for good reason. They had a good year last year, and their 2 losses to round out the year were a buzzer beater to the Eagles and a 6 point loss in the finals to the Doggies. They added to their squad with Brett Deledio, but how injury free he will be is another question. They have some great players, most notably Stephen Coniglio, Jonathon Patton, Jeremy Cameron, Dylan Shiel and the experience of Heath Shaw, Stevie Johnson and Shane Mumford.
2. Geelong Cats
Last year: 2nd and prelim finals loss to Sydney
I still find it hard to erase them from contention. They do have an aging squad, but its still very good. Dangerfield and Joel Selwood are 2 of the best mids in the game, and with them, they have a huge chance. That is the key though. They need the likes of Steven Motlop and Daniel Menzel to pick up the slack lost by retirees Corey Enright and Jimmy Bartel. Zach Tuohy moved there in the off season, and he has the 4th longest streak in the league for consecutive appearances, which is a great achievement.
3. Sydney Swans
Last Year: 1st and finals loss to Bulldogs
They really tanked in the GF last year and it will have hit them hard. They lost Tom Mitchell, and their squad is one of the oldest in the league. They need Sam Reid to finally make the impact he has been promising in an injury riddles career to date. Buddy Franklin also needs to be more consistent and show he still has the form that has made him one the best ever goalkickers. They will depend a lot on Dan Hennebery and Josh Kennedy and Luke Parker. The wonderfully named Aliir Aliir showed huge promise last year, but they really need big named (and paid) Kurt Tippet to start producing something.
4. West Coast Eagles
Last year: 6th and Elim finals loss to Bulldogs
As per usual, I let the heart rule the head and put the Eagles in the top 4. They will be without Nic Naitanui for the most (if not all) of the year due to injury. They have added experienced forward Drew Petrie to the team and also Nathan Vardy to cover NicNats loss, so they have had time to prepare for it, rather than last year when he went down towards the end of the year. They showed good form without him, can they live a season without him? Sam Mitchell was also picked up from Hawthorn, making sure they set the marker on one of the oldest team in the comp, so is it a case of short terms gains with an old, but good team?
5. Western Bulldogs
Last year: 7th and Champions
The run they had in the finals last year was phenomenal. They beat West Coast, Hawthorn, GWS and Sydeny to win. Really did it in style. I have them in 5th, more so due to the expectations taking their toll and the hangover of such a good season end. They do have Bob Murphy back, added Travis Cloke, and the rise and importance of the likes of Bontempelli, Dahlhaus and Libratore (I’m sure I’ve spelled all those wrong) means they will always be good, but will they have the x factor in other areas to elevate them above the pack again?
Last year: 3rd and Semi final loss to Bulldogs
A lot are predicting the Hawks to finish outside the 8. I’m not yet prepared to rate them there, I still think they have enough ability and experience to get it done. With the loss of Mitchell, Lewis and Hill, they lost some big names. Coming in is Tom Mitchell, Jaeger O Meara and a couple of others to balance that out. As with West Coast and Sydney, they are aging. Burgoyne, Gibson, Hodge may be past their peak, do they still have enough left to make one more surge for finals? They’ll need Hurtung, Shiels and recruits Roughhead and O Meara to show they will be the players to keep them in the reckoning.
7. Adelaide Crows
Last year: 5th and Semi final loss to Sydney
They have a great defence and forward line, and whilst their midfield is good, they come into the season with some major injury doubts on some of their better players Rory Sloane, Scott Thompson and Brad Crouch. Their scoring is the biggest plus on the team, being last years top scorers in thanks to Eddie Betts, Josh Jenkins, Tex Walker and Tom Lynch. I think the lack of depth and star quality in midfield will be their downfall, but they should still have enough to make finals.
8. St Kilda
Last year: 9th
Just out of finals on scoring difference last year, I’ve predicted them to be the only change to the top 8, replacing North Melbourne. The Demons were the only other team I think could push that spot, both teams are young and up and coming. St Kilda still have Nick Riewoldt leading the line and Montagna in the half back line, so have that bit of experience to keep them solid. They have picked off a few fringe players from other clubs, so it will be interesting to see if these recruits are what helps propel them into the 8
9. Melbourne Demons
Last year: 11th
They can thank Paul Roos for their gradual rise and stability. Now they need to keep progressing and push properly for a top 8 spot. Keeping Jesse Hogan was a big plus. Adding Jordan Lewis to the midfield also helps. Max Gawn is the notable ruckman who is one of the best in the game. The end of their squad is quite poor, so if they bridge that gap, then a top 8 is not out of the realms of possibilities.
Last year: 13th
A really disappointing year last year. Expectations were high, but they failed miserably. They have 4 really top top players in Jack Riewoldt, Trent Cotchin, Dusty Martin and Alex Rance, but outside of that, you could give or take the rest.
11. Essendon Bombers
Last year: 18th
Last year was a write off with the drugs ban. So its very hard to predict what they do this year with some of those players back. Do they hit form and make the 8? They certainly have the potential to do so. They have ten payers from the drugs ban to come in. do they jump straight back in or has last years squad earned their spots? Zac Merret, McDonald-Tipungwiti and Joe Danaher showed promise last year. Add back in Jobe Watson, Brent Stanton, Dyson Heppell and Cale Hooker and they have a team that could surprise a lot of people.
Last year: 12th
I have them in much the same spot as last year. Could be good, but eventually flatter to deceive. I think this will be it for coach Nathan Buckley. If he doesn’t make finals, he will be gone. Their midfield is good, and Daniel Wells, if fit, and that’s a big if, adds to it. Adam Treloar showed well last year after his big move. With Pendlebury, only Geelong in my opinion has a better pairing. Darcy Moore is very young to be given the responsibility of main goal kicker, and I think its too much too soon.
13. Port Adelaide Power
Last year 10th
Another team that is hard to read. The potential to push for top 4, but fail to meet expectation. Paddy Ryder returns from his Essendon drug suspension which is a big plus. Robbie Gray and Chad Wingard are the special players who can help lift them above the rest, but can they be consistent to do that all over the ground?
14. Gold Coast Suns
Last year: 15th
Another odd side. Seeing where GWS are should piss them off. They had much the same advantages but approached things differently and are paying for it now. Its nearly like they are restarting again with such a young midfield group. If Gary Ablett can be injury free and in form, he will help retain some consistency. Tom Lynch and Aaron Hall are very good players, but its nearly a rebuilding phase for them again with such a young squad through the middle. Pearce Hanley moved and will add to their midfield.
15. Fremantle Dockers
Last year: 16th
Last year was awful for them. They lost Nat Fyfe, and it made them look like a totally and utter one man team. Cam McCarthty is a nice addition to help goal kicking, as is Brad Hill through the middle. The disgraced Harley Bennell is also there, will he make the side is another question. I think their defence is too weak though to sustain any sort of top 8 finish.
16. North Melbourne
Last year: 8th and elim finals loss to Adelaide
North are my team to drop off theradr this year. They were only hanging around the top 8 by the skins of their teeth last year. With so many experienced departures and seemingly not all on the same page within the club off season, I think they will have a major fall out.
Last year: 14th
A shambles of a set up considering their history. They have some good young players, so this year will be another step on the ladder for rebuilding. They have potential with the likes of Patrick Cripps, Sam Docherty and Nick Graham. Add in older players like Mar Murphy, Bryce Gibbs and Matt Kreeuzer and they have a bit of stability to help them rebuild.
Last year: 17th
Continuing their downward spiral, nothing seems to be going right for them. They are a very young side though, so much like their Queensland rivals, they are on a major rebuilding program. They will be relying on the likes of Tom Orckliff, Mitch Robinson and Daniel Rich to lead from midfield.