AFTER a long and excruciating wait, we can all finally stop spending our weekends aimlessly staring at the turned-off TV reminiscing about the good ol’ days when the footy was on. Because the AFL is finally back in a season that proves to be the most unpredictable and exciting to date, although not in the form you’d expect with round 1 being played with no crowds and many teams being predicted to have to play 5 rounds worth of games in a 2-4 week block (An average of a game every 4 days). Nonetheless, Footy is back so let’s get into it with some season predictions.
Wooden Spoon Prediction: Sydney Swans
This is perhaps one of the hardest years to predict the wooden spoon. There are no clear candidates to take home the honour like in past years. Gold Coast will improve upon their 2019 campaign, with young midfielders Bowes, Brodie, Lukosius, Fiorini likely to benefit greatly from another pre-season. MacPherson, in particular, is one that looks to take the next step, after two strong Marsh Series games and a likely increased role in the Suns’ midfield. Their acquisition in Ellis will help add a senior presence to the group whilst Greenwood has the chance to elevate his game to another level with the Suns. Rowell looks to be the best rookie in the draft whilst Rankine and Anderson are also very solid. The Suns look to be going towards an upwards trajectory during 2020. However, a team that I see deteriorating even further is Sydney. Sydney’s 2019 was only the second time in 16 years that Sydney missed out in a finals campaign with the other being in 2009, which is a testament to their playing group and the coaching staff. However, I don’t see this as being a ‘one-off’ and think that they will suffer an even worse fall in 2020. They have lost a multitude of experience in Grundy, Jack, McVeigh, and Smith due to retirement. Losing Zak Jones is also a big loss to them, providing grunt to the team. The teams that finished below them apart from the Suns were Carlton and Melbourne who both should improve dramatically and perhaps even challenge for the 8. Bearing this in mind, I don’t see the Swans being better than any team in the AFL during 2020.
Sneaky chance to make the 8: Essendon ($2.4)
If you were to base your top 8 prediction around expert tips, you wouldn’t be wrong in assuming that Essendon has suffered massive pre-season casualties. The reason for many choosing to omit the Bombers from their 8’s is baffling to me. Perhaps it has something to do with all the media attention surrounding Daniher (who they missed for most of 2019), or the first-round loss in the finals to the Eagles in Perth. Essendon has managed to retain all of its players during the off-season, even adding depth in the form of Phillips and Cutler. Many predicted them to challenge for the top 4 in 2019 with this current list, and I don’t see why they can’t at the very least challenge for the top 8. Essendon will be hoping that some of their ‘middle tier’ players can take the step into the Elite category. In particular, Mcgrath, Parish, and Langford. If one of these players can improve their game in 2020, it will go a great way in aiding the likes of Heppel, Merrett, and Shiel whilst simultaneously improving their already dynamic forward line with increased opportunities.
Brownlow Medal: Patrick Cripps ($6)
Carlton should be on the improve again this year, winning more games they did in 2019. In 2018, Carlton won 2 games and Cripps still managed to tally 20 points to come an equal 4th in the Brownlow. In 2019, Carlton improved their record to 7 games and as a result, Cripps improved his tally to 26 points to come an equal third. The formula is simple. Carlton winning more games=More Brownlow points for Cripps. Expect a big year from Cripps.
Coleman Medal: Josh Kennedy ($10)
Josh Kennedy is fit and firing ahead of his 15th AFL season, mainly since this will have been his first uninterrupted pre-season in three years. The addition of Kelly should also seem to improve the quality of their forward 50 entries, benefiting Kennedy. In terms of his competition, Cameron looks set to play a slightly different role, playing as a high half-forward at times rather than a genuine full forward. Similarly, Martin is expected to play more forward this season which I expect will mean Lynch won’t kick as many goals as he otherwise could have due to their unselfish nature. It should be a race between Brown and Kennedy, but at $10, Kennedy proves to be better value.
Premiership Winners: GWS ($8)
Some would see GWS’s two preliminary losses and their 89 point grand final loss as an opportunity gone begging. I see it as invaluable experience for a list who are still at their prime. Taranto’s injury is a big blow, but they have more than enough depth to cover his loss during the regular season, especially with Ward expected to return to AFL level around round 5. The Giants should be hungry and motivated to make it back to the grand final and redeem themselves, and they have all the tools to do so. Can they get the job done?
Predicted top 18:
1. West Coast Eagles
4. Greater Western Sydney
5. Brisbane Lions
6. Port Adelaide
9. Western Bulldogs
10. St Kilda
14. North Melbourne
15. Adelaide Crows
16. Fremantle Dockers
17. Gold Coast Suns
18. Sydney Swans