Now for the pointy end…
8th: Brisbane Lions (15thin 2018)
The Lions are my tip (and plenty of others) as the big risers this year. Five wins in 2018, but their percentage of 89% probably tells a better story of competitiveness. Beams is gone, but Neale is a great in and joins a pretty solid senior core that includes Martin, Zorko, Hodge and Rich.
Younger players McCluggage, Gardiner, Andrews, Berry and Witherden were all top ten in the B&F and are improving along with Rayner and Hipwood. Looking like good times ahead.
7th: North Melbourne (9th)
I like the Roos… they play a tough, solid brand of footy, but have a bit of class on the outside as well. Polec will only add to that.
Missing the finals with 12 wins and 109% is pretty tough and I think they’ll put that right this year. The spine is strong even with the retirement of Waite. Ben Brown is a star and should have his sights on the Coleman.
6th: Essendon (11th)
Who would know with Essendon? On paper they look impressive, but they did last year as well. An awful, awful start to the season ended any hope they had of playing finals, even if they did come home hard.
They’ve gone hard at the trade table again with the addition of Shiel. Should rise sharply if they can put it together for a full season. On recent history however, that’s a big “if”.
5th: GWS (7th)
Gold Coast get all the attention for it, but the amount of talent that’s left the Giants since their inception is not inconsiderable, and Dylan Shiel has joined that group.
But such has been their recruiting, the list remains stacked with enough to have them knocking on the door of the top 4 again. Rock-solid spine and classy midfield.
4th: Collingwood (3rd)
A kick away from a flag in 2018, it’s hard not to have Collingwood competing again given the additions to the list. Beams returns, adding another very classy mid/forward, and Jordan Roughead is a useful, versatile addition.
More than that though, the prospect of having a fully fit list should excite Collingwood supporters. Add in more complete seasons from the likes of Elliott, Treloar, Goldsack and Reid, and the Pies start looking ominous.
3rd: Melbourne (5th)
It ended badly for Melbourne on preliminary final weekend, but that doesn’t detract from the huge strides the club made in 2018.
They’ve added a couple of very well-targeted recruits: in Steven May they get a quality big defender to play on the gorillas, and Braydon Preuss will be handy support for Gawn. Jake Lever will be a welcome returnee who should benefit from the presence of May.
2nd: West Coast (2nd)
Take the premiership side and add in Nic Nat and Andrew Gaff. It’s hard to see West Coast falling away much, if at all.
1st: Richmond (1st)
2018 ended in tears for the Tiges with a bizarrely poor performance in the prelim, where many of their stars didn’t have the best of nights. Neither did the coaches, who seemed intent to allow Collingwood giant Mason Cox to do whatever he pleased for the entire match.
But disappointing ending aside, it was another dominant season for Richmond. They’ve lost nothing of note and have brought in probably the most prized recruit of the off-season in Tom Lynch, who’ll be just another headache for opponents. I can’t see anybody topping the Tigers in 2019.