As the 2018 AFL season kicks off, expectations are high of record profits, record attendances, record broadcast ratings, and even a new recording of the club theme songs. Latcho Drom from the Fizza Sports Desk runs his ruler over the eighteen starters.
1. Adelaide Crows
It’s been a tough three years for the Crows, losing former coach Phil Walsh to tragic circumstances; star player Paddy Whathisname to Geelong; and last year’s AFL Grand Final to Richmond. This year they have already lost a Crouch brother to injury, and could well lose Rory Sloane to free agency. That’s a lot of losing. On the upside, they have the Adelaide Oval, hands down the best sporting stadium in the country. Plus they picked up Bryce Gibbs, who actually wanted to move to Adelaide by choice, like, without being told he had to go there.
2. Brisbane Lions
The only way is up for the Lions. After disappearing for longer than MH370, Chief Investigator Luke Hodge is now on the case, along with Forensics Coach Chris Fagan. This means a game style based on actual effort, teamwork, tackling pressure, skill execution, and stuff like that. They have some good young players too, and could go all the way, all the way to 12th on the ladder.
3. Carlton Blues
How you can take out the two best players on the list (the aforementioned Gibbs and the long term injured Sam Docherty) and then claim to be a better team is a matter of some conjecture. They do have some great talent at the Old Dark Navy Blues. including Juddy on the board of directors and a top young coach, but not a lot of talent in the fifty metre arc unfortunately. Four prime-time Friday night games will only add to the public spectacle of mediocrity.
4. Collingwood Magpies
Sadly, this season does not auger well for the Carringbush. I don’t believe poor old Nathan Buckley’s two year contract extension will make one iota of difference to his workplace pressure cooker, not when the on-field losses and off-field misdemeanors start to pile up. But oh for some perspective people. It has only been seven seasons since the Pies’ last premiership: Melbourne, Carlton, St. Kilda, and Fremantle have all been waiting a whole lot longer.
5. Essendon Bombers
Everyone’s favourite pharmacists are back, and are being widely spruiked as the big improvers of 2018. But let’s not forget that forward strike power alone is not enough to win premierships. You need midfield depth and a formidable defensive six as well, neither of which the Bombers have discovered in their secret laboratory.
6. Fremantle Dockers
No matter what your job, if you had to fly across the country every two weeks to get to work, you would be tired and confused too. It’s simply not fair, and the East Coast hegemony so easily forget just how hard Freo have it. I know Ross Lyon puts on a brave face with his “anyone, anytime, anywhere,” mantra, but the very least the cashed-up AFL could do for the Dockers is kit them out with their own private jet, and/or let them play their away games on X-Box.
7. Geelong Cats
Coach Chris Scott has reminded us that none of his star midfield trio Dangerfield, Ablett, or Selwood are exactly spring chickens, with only Paddy on the right side of thirty. The Cats have mortgaged their future to win the flag this year, but are probably only more one hamstring away from having a lot of egg on their face. I do hope it all works out for Gaz and the gang, but the AFL competition is running desperately low on fairy tales.
8. Gold Coast Suns
The other half of a new golden age in Queensland football, the Suns are finally ready to take on the Commonwealth Games and leave the whole Rodney Eade thing behind them. They say new coach Stuart Dew is a relationships man, whatever that means. Seriously though, I expect the Suns to move into upswing this year, just as Gold Coast property values start to go in the opposite direction.
9. Greater Western Sydney Giants
Israel Folau’s old club are again highly fancied among pundits to win their first premiership this year. However, would that outcome really be fair on all the hard-working, decent Australians who have not enjoyed the same hand outs, leg ups, and draft concessions? No one likes queue jumpers in this country, and the last two premiership winners may well provide the best clue yet that the Giant’s owners at AFL House might have actually gone off the fee-fi-fo-fums. Think about it. First the Bulldogs broke their premiership drought, then Richmond followed suit last year. Stand in line Giants. It’s Melbourne’s turn to win a flag, then St. Kilda’s, then Fremantle’s, then Carlton’s. Not good news for Brett Deledio I’m afraid.
10. Hawthorn Hawks
Super Coach Alistair Clarkson has told AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan that he (Clarkson) expect the Hawks to finish “anywhere between 1st and 12th.” I wouldn’t argue with Clarko there. Hawthorn are the true wild cards of the AFL. Either that or the AFL’s equalisation policy is finally working.
11. Melbourne Demons
No one outside of Toorak and South Yarra likes Melbourne, due to their cosy historical relationship with the Melbourne Cricket Club and other blue blood toffs. And let’s not forget, the Dees have been absolutely despicable on the field for much of this century. Then they get a few high draft picks and develop a couple of players, and they persuade Paul Roos to help them out for a year or two, and now all of a sudden we are meant to speak of them in hushed, reverent tones. Spare me.
12. North Melbourne
Poor old Shinboners. Ricky Ponting’s team. Tim Rogers’ team. I lived in Melbourne during the 1990’s and North Melbourne were the dominant team in the AFL, with premierships in 1996 and 1999. Writing this season preview is making me feel very old indeed.
13. Port Adelaide Power
The second South Australian entry and champions of the working class, Port have seemingly fared better in enticing players to live in Adelaide than have their cross-town rivals, with several big names making the sea change during the off-season. But is the whole greater than the sum of its parts? And will the local blokes who grew up near the West End brewery welcome the blow-ins from other clubs just because Ken Hinkley says so? Will Club President David Koch accept yet another year of “coulda, woulda, shoulda?”
14. Richmond Tigers
In case you have been living under a rock for the past six months, Richmond are the current AFL premiers, and the darlings of the competition. They have the best haircuts, the best tattoos, the best bling, the best pin-up boys, and the best song. They want for nothing, except back-to-back flags, which sounds ridiculous given that less than a year ago all they wanted was for the football world to stop laughing at them.
15. St. Kilda Saints
The long awaited move back to their spiritual home of Moorabbin has the Sainters poised for a return to their good old days, Or is that their bad old days? Last time St. Kilda moved to Moorabbin, in 1966, they won the flag the following year. Now, we are not conspiracy theorists here at the Fizza Sports Desk, however if Melbourne win this year then we can start to join the dots….
16. Sydney Swans
A few years ago, Sydney were given an extra salary cap allowance so that they could pay their young players a bit extra, due to the high cost of living in Sydney. However, they spent all that money on superstar Lance Franklin. At the time people thought the Swans were either crazy or just plain cheats. Now, with player payments up by some 20%, Buddy’s contract looks like an absolute bargain for Sydney, and merely an average wage for a player of Buddy’s calibre. I wouldn’t be surprised if Buddy now seeks a part-time job to supplement his income. Sydney is like that.
17. West Coast Eagles
No chance, unless my AFL X-Box idea takes off, and then they might be able to recruit someone semi-competitive.
18. Western Bulldogs
Who doesn’t love the Doggies? They must be back this year, surely? Having recovered from their premiership hangover and free of all expectations, surely the Doggies will play finals this year? Yes and no. Yes, they have the right coach, a decent enough playing list, and a sound club culture. However, apart from The Bont, they lack real superstars and midfield depth. They will go OK, but I fear the Dogs are already yesterday’s news and simply too run-of-the-mill to make much of a dent at the pointy end of the season. Now there’s a mixed metaphor for you.
Block "on-the-broom-video" not found