So the new AFL season is upon us, and it’s time to join in and do some predictions.
It sounds tough, but it’s amazing how often you end up with a very similar overall score to your week-to-week footy tipping – a sure sign you can get too bogged down in week-to-week form throughout the season. Obviously you underestimate some teams, but it works both ways as you overrate others.
Anyway, one thing submitting all of our AFL tips at once does tell you is exactly how many wins you think each club will have, and therefore your predicted ladder. It really clarifies and quantifies all your thoughts about each team.
After I’d totalled everything up the first thing I found is that in my predictions, clubs fit pretty neatly into four bands: I have three clubs clearly at the top, positions 4–9 are reasonably close, then 10–14, and finally a bottom four which is a bit of a way off the rest of league.
My bottom four was North Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Collingwood. I suspect the first three names there won’t surprise many – it’s just where they’re at – though others may not be as down on Collingwood this year. But they’re a club who’ve been on a downward trajectory for few years now, and I don’t think that trend’s going to reverse yet.
I think their list has major structural issues (chiefly, a lack of key position players) and they don’t seem to have addressed that at all through trades or free agency. They’ve got a solid midfield with some real grunt inside, but aside from that, their list looks it needs some major renovations.
Of the other three, I think Gold Coast are the one I’m most likely to get wrong. They clearly still have a stack of talent, and with a fresh, young coach, could surprise a few teams.
Anyway… to my top 8 for this year:
I have the Cats going backwards this year – though only by a couple of wins. It’s just the extremely even nature of the ladder that sees them fall so many spots. I don’t know that they’re necessarily going to be ‘worse’, I just think there’s a quite a few other teams who have more scope to improve and go past them.
Ablett is the obvious big addition, though he’s no spring chicken and his output will depend a lot on avoiding injury. I don’t think the midfield was their area of need anyway… but it goes without saying, if he plays plenty of football he still has a big influence.
Nothing ever really seems to change at Sydney. They pump out consistent season after consistent season, and I see 2018 being much the same. There’s been no major list changes and they retain that superb midfield and extremely potent forward line. Business as usual.
#6 West Coast
Like Sydney, I have West Coast basically holding firm. They haven’t lost much and have great key position talent at either end, which is extremely important.
The X-factor is Nic Nat… after not playing at all in 2017, the former All-Australian ruckman could be an enormous should he recover quickly from the knee injury. The new stadium will be interesting and has the potential to be an even tougher place to visit than Subiaco was, with 60,000 feral (sorry, ‘passionate’) Eagles going nuts.
A couple of improvers now, starting with Melbourne. They showed a fair bit last year, and another year under their belts should help add some sorely-needed consistency.
Missing finals on percentage after that pathetic capitulation in the last round surely must burn them into some sort of action. The coach kicked off the pre-season by showing some fairly un-Melbourne-like ruthlessness regarding the Jack Watts situation, so perhaps the Dees are finally ready to make some sort of statement. Jake Lever is a great addition too.
All things considered, I think 2017 was a fairly successful season for Essendon. They had the core of their team to re-integrate after missing all of 2016, which can’t have been a simple task for John Worsfold after he’d spent his first year at the helm without them.
They won 12 games and had three really stupid losses against Carlton, Brisbane (where they were 6 goals up and then just switched off), and Sydney (which they somehow conspired to lose despite leading by two kicks with a minute left). Arrest those lapses in concentration, get three more wins and they would’ve been top 4… I think they’ll get there this year. Daniher is ready to go to the next level and they recruited well.
As I said, I had the top three clearly above the rest, and Adelaide are again among them. They finished on top last year with 15 wins and I don’t think they’ll be far off that sort of result again.
Lever is a loss, but losing a key player is basically an annual event at the Crows (think Bock, Davis, Tippett, Gunston, Dangerfield), and they always seem to just kick on. Gibbs is nice mature addition to go with their extremely underrated midfield.
#2 Greater Western Sydney
By design the Giants have an incredibly talented list, and after two straight preliminary final appearances I expect them to be well inside the top 4 again.
They’re stacked with quality and depth right across the ground, though they have lost some important leaders in Stevie J and Mumford. How well some of the younger players step into that void may well dictate their season. I think they’re ready.
I have the reigning premiers ruling again – for the home and away season anyway! They out-pressured a lot of teams last year, so it’ll be interesting how they respond to being the hunted as reigning champs.
I think they’ll handle it fine: Martin, Cotchin and Rance are out-and-out superstars and Riewoldt leads an extremely even forward line full of contributors. Hardwick is a thoroughly underrated coach who more than deserves a flag next to his name for what he produced with this team last year. For mine, there’ll be more good times at Tigerland in 2018.
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