AFL 2013 Season Preview

Andy’s Time Capsule


1st: West Coast
2nd: Adelaide
3rd: Hawthorn
4th: Sydney
5th: Collingwood
6th: Geelong
7th: Carlton
8th: Fremantle
9th: Richmond
10th: North Melbourne
11th: Essendon
12th: Brisbane
13th: St Kilda
14th: Port Adelaide
15th: Melbourne
16th: Western Bulldogs
17th: Gold Coast
18th: GWS

Brownlow Medal: Trent Cotchin (Richmond)
Coleman Medal: Taylor Walker (Adelaide)
Rising Star: Jaeger O’Meara (Gold Coast)

All your end of season odds can be found by clicking here.


Team Previews

Adelaide ($16)

Prediction – 2nd

Last Season: Preliminary Final

Key Player: Taylor Walker

Look Out For: Matthew Wright

Summary: The big off-season news coming out of Adelaide was the departure of beanpole forward Kurt Tippett to Sydney. Contrary to popular speculation, I don’t think Tippett’s departure will hinder the Crows too much this season. After a string of nasty concussion injuries, Tippett’s promising start to 2012 eroded and he was among his team’s best players in only two matches after Round 12.

I think Adelaide’s best team is as good as any, with Taylor Walker amongst the most deadly power forwards in the competition, Sam Jacobs a dominant force in the ruck, Paddy Dangerfield an explosive midfielder to complement the grunt work done by Scott Thompson, while Ben Rutten and Daniel Talia are arguably the league’s best key defensive duo.

The tools are all there for the Crows, however their lack of depth might just count against them over a long and gruelling season.


Brisbane ($85)

Prediction: 12th

Last Season: 13th

Key Player: Tom Rockliff

Look Out For: Patrick Karnezis

Summary: The pre-season could not have gone any better for Brisbane! The NAB Cup Premiers managed to post wins over fancied Victorian sides Hawthorn and Collingwood, before knocking off a much hyped Carlton team in the final last week.

Former Rising Star winner Daniel Rich was best on ground in the NAB Cup Final and looks set to improve from a good to a very good player in 2013, making for a dangerous on-ball combination alongside Tom Rockliff, Jack Redden, Simon Black and Brent Moloney. Ex-Melbourne man Moloney is very much a grunt midfielder and his physical presence will be a boost to some of his skilful teammates.

Other Lions to watch in 2013 will be dashing defender Pearce Hanley and developing wingman Patrick Karnezis, however I still consider the Lions to be a developing squad and, although finals would be nice, their initial aim will be to improve on last season’s 13th placed finish.


Carlton ($11.50)

Prediction: 7th

Last Season: 10th

Key Player: Jarrad Waite

Look Out For: Matthew Kreuzer

Summary: After a dismal finish to last season, optimism has returned to Carlton in the lead up to this campaign as the club enters the Malthouse era. Mick Malthouse is a polarising figure in football circles, but there is a buzz down at Princes Park that the triple premiership coach has the experience to take the Blues back to the top.

As Carlton’s 2012 proved, any club is susceptible to the dreaded injury curse, and the Blues were certainly hit hard as serious injuries to key players were endured on a seemingly weekly basis. In my view, Carlton’s most valuable player is Jarrad Waite, however the lion-hearted forward is often watching on from the sidelines and has only averaged 12 matches per season since 2009. That figure needs to increase if the Blues are to progress deep into September finals action.

Pleasingly, Malthouse has shown a willingness to play former number 1 draft pick Bryce Gibbs on the ball during the pre-season. I think this move will be very productive as Gibbs will surely be most useful and damaging in a creative role in the middle of the ground than when he was plugging holes and being dragged out of the play in the backline.

Despite all the upside with Carlton, I think there are still too many ifs for them to win the flag in Malthouse’s first season.


Collingwood ($8)

Prediction: 5th

Last Season: Preliminary Final

Key Player: Ben Reid

Look Out For: Luke Ball

Summary: A lot of you reading this will have almost fallen off your chairs after reading that I have rated Ben Reid at Collingwood’s key player, so I better explain myself. The Magpies have clearly got enough ball winning ability with superstars Scott Pendlebury, Dane Swan and Dayne Beams all in the team, while Travis Cloke has a new burly sidekick in Quintin Lynch to share the goal kicking load up forward. But it is in defence where Reid is the calm influence that keeps things running smoothly. Very rarely does Reid panic when in possession and his 50m left foot bullet passes are also under-rated by most in the media.

Like arch-rival Carlton, Collingwood’s 2012 season was also cruelled by injury, but the Magpies still somehow managed to scrap their way to a Preliminary Final against the Swans before running out of puff. With less injury interruptions, the Magpies are more than capable of winning the premiership this campaign, but they might just be lacking in the ruck department as Darren Jolly’s body starts to get a bit of wear and tear. It will also be interesting to see how Luke Ball returns after a season-ending knee injury early last year. Ball’s tough in and under tackling and defensive work was missed in his absence last year.

And it wouldn’t be a typical football season without a Collingwood off-field saga sensationalised by the press (e.g McGuire v Malthouse, Cloke contract saga, Swan’s unapproved drugs interview). It’s never boring at Victoria Park!


Essendon ($25)

Prediction: 11th

Last Season: 11th

Key Player: Jobe Watson

Look Out For: Brendan Goddard

Summary: Let’s get it out of the way quickly. Essendon, peptides, the weapon and the pharmacist. Nobody outside of the club or ASADA (Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority) probably has a clue what punishment, if any, will be handed down to the club and the players in the wake of the explosive admission that ASADA was investigating the club over the supply of unspecified supplements to its players last season. I don’t know whether the club will be sanctioned this season, but I am assuming no punishment will come until after the season.

The drugs story took the gloss off the signing of ex-St Kilda star Brendan Goddard during the free-agency period at the end of last season. Goddard was a little down on form last year, but was a superstar of the competition during when the Saints made Grand Finals in 2009 and 2010. Goddard joining forces with last season’s Brownlow Medallist Jobe Watson in Essendon’s midfield must be a mouth-watering prospect for Bomber fans.

If the Bombers are to press forward for a finals place then as yet unfulfilled talents like Michael Hibberd and David Myers must realise their full potential. Both Hibberd and Myers are the perfect size for rebounding defenders and are lovely left-foot kicks.

Meanwhile, a massive shout-out needs to go veteran defender Dustin Fletcher, who will be strapping on the boots for his 21st season with the Bombers! It is amazing to think that Fletcher will probably attend a 20 year reunion with his teammates from Essendon’s 1993 Premiership, before going out to play alongside his current teammates, some of who weren’t even born in 1993!


Fremantle ($16.50)

Prediction: 8th

Last Season: Semi Final

Key Player: Aaron Sandilands

Look Out For: Michael Walters

Summary: Fremantle were one of the form teams during latter stages of last season, quickly adapting to the newest game trend of team defence and quick ball movement on the counter-attack to an open forward line. That game-style that propelled them to a sensational victory over Geelong in an Elimination Final at the MCG, and almost a follow up victory away to Adelaide in a Semi Final.

One player that thrived in an open forward line was Michael Walters. Walters is a livewire and I believe he is capable of kicking 50 goals in a season, which will help take a considerable load off Docker spearhead Matthew Pavlich.

Unfortunately for Fremantle, Aaron Sandilands has been struck down by a serious hamstring injury and will miss the first month of football. Sandilands missed a considerable chunk of last season and Fremantle seriously struggle without their dominant rucking giant. Still, Fremantle’s game style should ensure the Dockers progress to the Finals for the second successive season.


Geelong ($13)

Prediction: 6th

Last Season: Elimination Final

Key Player: Tom Hawkins

Look Out For: Josh Caddy

Summary: I’ll admit that I thought the Cats were starting to look like they were on the slide last season, but there are plenty of reasons you would be foolish to write them off for this season.

Pre-season form isn’t always the best guide, but I watched the Cats closely and noted their three successive victories over the near full-strength sides turned out by Adelaide, North Melbourne and Collingwood. It would appear Geelong are still the masters of slick ball use, which is a key feature of modern football.

Geelong’s beastly forward Tom Hawkins looks like he is getting even better at using his sizeable frame to out-body opponents, while ex-Gold Coast youngster Josh Caddy has slotted in nicely and is a great goal kicking prospect from midfield. The Cats VFL team were Premiers last season and fans can expect a relatively smooth regeneration of the club over the next few seasons without the need to bottom out like many do after a successful period. I see no reason why Geelong won’t be a finalist for the seventh straight year.


Gold Coast ($751)

Prediction: 17th

Last Season: 17th

Key Player: Gary Ablett

Look Out For: David Swallow

Summary: Gary Ablett is the only reason I don’t have Gold Coast finishing on the bottom this season. The bald ball magnet is in a class of his own and is propping his team up while the youngsters develop at a slower than expected rate. My fear for Gold Coast is that by the time the Suns become a force in the completion, GWS will be better and Ablett will be on the verge of retirement. Anyway, that is looking too far into the future, time to get back into the present.

I am looking forward to seeing what David Swallow can do after missing a buch of his second season through injury. Swallow and Harley Bennell are Gold Coast’s brightest young stars and will hopefully be joined by highly anticipated newcomer Jaeger O’Meara. The Suns midfield and ruck stocks (Zac Smith looks the goods) appear to be progressing fine, however I would like to see some improvement in the forward line and defence.

Like the last few years, Gold Coast will shock one or two teams, but that will be all.


GWS ($1001)

Prediction: 18th

Last Season: 18th

Key Player: Callan Ward

Look Out For: Toby Greene

Summary: I was massively surprised by how competitive this very young playing group was in their first season as an AFL club. Without too many big-name recruits, the Giants were mostly fielding 18-19 year olds last season. The kids were sensational and I think they are on course to be challenging for a flag four years from now. Can you imagine what a side of 22-23 year old Toby Greene’s, Stephen Coniglio’s, Jonathon Patton’s, Adam Treloar’s, Jeremy Cameron’s and plenty more will be like? Scary!

For now though, the other clubs will have to make the most of the size advantage they have while it lasts! GWS will again be competing against Gold Coast to avoid the wooden spoon.


Hawthorn ($5)

Prediction: 3rd

Last Season: Grand Final

Key Player: Lance Franklin

Look Out For: Brian Lake

Summary: I am probably being a bit unkind to Sydney, but I think Hawthorn lost last year’s Grand Final as much as the Swans won it. The Hawks were on their home ground and had kicked seven of the last eight goals to storm to an 11 point lead early in the last quarter, carrying all the momentum. Losing from that position, especially considering the Hawks had five more scoring shots will have haunted the players over the summer period. How Hawthorn bounce back from a second successive finals heartbreak will define whether Alastair Clarkson is remembered as a very good Hawthorn coach or a great Hawthorn coach.

The Hawks still believe they are in the premiership race, recruiting veteran Bulldogs defender Brian Lake to assume the crucial key defensive post that the maligned Ryan Schoenmakers has consistenly struggled to handle during crucial games across the past two seasons.

I still believe Hawthorn’s best is the best there is, the brown and gold’s are irresistible at times, however I can’t have them as Premiers this year because they have accrued too many mental demons during the past two September’s.


Melbourne ($301)

Prediction: 15th

Last Season: 16th

Key Player: Nathan Jones

Look Out For: Jack Watts

Summary: Melbourne was a bit of a mixed bag in the trade period at the end of last season. I think Chris Dawes was an excellent acquisition from Collingwood and will join Mitch Clark as a menacing forward double act in 2013. However the signings of Geelong discard Shannon Byrnes and ex-Richmond and Port Adelaide midfielder David Rodan are a little strange. Byrnes is a particularly peculiar selection given he might be taking game time away from developing half forwards like Sam Blease and Jeremy Howe.

At least Melbourne has a good crop of young kids coming through, with Jack Viney and Jimmy Toumpas the cream of the crop. I also think 2013 could be the making of former number 1 pick Jack Watts. Watts has had to live in the shadow of Nic Naitanui (taken at number 2 in the same draft), with supporter expectation seeming to weigh him down, however Watts might have finally found his niche as a rebounding defender.

Unfortunately for Demons fans, 2013 looks set to be another painful year.


North Melbourne ($55)

Prediction: 9th

Last Season: Elimination Final

Key Player: Andrew Swallow

Look Out For: Shaun Atley

Summary: North Melbourne is the ultimate camouflage club. You sort of know that they’re around, then you forgot about them until they pop up and appear in the finals. Well, that certainly happened last season, when Brad Scott’s no frills outfit subtly and skilfully snuck into 8th spot.

North were well served last season by mark anything man Drew Petrie and the clean grabbing forward will again be a difficult proposition for opposition defences this season. North have a core group of young onballers that are graduating to tough senior players, with Jack Ziebell, Ryan Bastinac heading that class, while I’m tipping Shaun Atley to have a break-out season and push for All Australian selection as a half-back flanker.

Ultimately I’m tipping the Kangaroos to just miss out on the finals as I think they just lack a touch of the x-factor, but that is the sort of criticism that North Melbourne players and fans thrive on, and they will probably prove me wrong again!


Port Adelaide ($251)

Prediction: 14th

Last Season: 14th

Key Player: Travis Boak

Look Out For: Hamish Hartlett

Summary: During last season Travis Boak was widely tipped to leave Port Adelaide, however as we head into this season, Boak has stayed and it is some of his teammates that have left. Key defender Trent Chaplin and skilful midfielder Danyle Pearce both departed the club in search of teams with better finals prospects.

Port Adelaide has surprisingly knocked off West Coast and Sydney in the last two weeks, raising expectations ahead of the new season. I’m tipping the Power to be one of this season’s most exciting teams to watch as Boak is joined by creative teammates Hamish Hartlett and Brad Ebert, however the defence looks very shaky without Chaplin. Expect lots of high scoring matches for Port Adelaide this season, but still not many wins.


Richmond ($29)

Prediction: 9th

Last Season: 12th

Key Player: Trent Cotchin

Look Out For: Troy Chaplin

Summary: Long suffering Richmond fans will be praying this is the year the yellow and blacks finally return to finals action. It has been a long wait since 2001, but there is a good chance this could be the year the Tiger army roars again!

I couldn’t squeeze Richmond into my top 8 for this season, but the Tigers will be ready to pounce if any of the more fancied teams slip up. Any side with Jack Riewoldt up forward, Trent Cotchin in the midfield and Ivan Maric in the ruck will definitely be in the mix. My only concern with Richmond is the depth of their squad. If somebody like Riewoldt or Maric goes down for an extended period of time, then the impact will be severely felt.

On a more positive note, Richmond’s main weakness last season was in defence, so the pick-up of Troy Chaplin was a very tidy piece of business and the Tigers may have found the missing piece to their finals jigsaw puzzle.


St Kilda ($60)

Prediction: 13th

Last Season: 9th

Key Player: Nick Riewoldt

Look Out For: Jack Steven

Summary: Sorry Saints fans, but I think you are in for a few years of pain. Brendan Goddard is the first high-profile departure from the grand final team of 2009 and 2010, and although it might provide some short term anger, it is probably a good thing for the club in the long run, hopefully speeding up the recovery process and acquiring a decent draft pick. In the next few years, expect fellow club favourites Lenny Hayes, Nick Dal Santo and Nick Riewoldt to gradually head towards retirement.

Who is going to fill the void left by these champions? Jack Steven should develop into a very good midfielder, while Ben McEvoy will become a very good ruckman, maybe even elite. Youngsters Arryn Siposs, Tom Simpkin and Jack Newnes will all be looking to cement a spot in the senior team this year.

Like last season, the Saints will be very watchable but not always successful.


Sydney ($7.50)

Prediction: 4th

Last Season: Premiership Winners

Key Player: Josh Kennedy

Look Out For: Nick Smith

Summary: Sydney peaked at just the right time last season and secured football’s holy grail – the premiership. The manner of their finals victories was also very instructive for how you can expect football to be played this season. It is all about being able to defensively absorb opposition pressure, then breaking with pace and skill to an open forward line. Sydney comfortably beat Adelaide by 29 point in the first final despite conceding 22 more inside 50’s, then backed that up with a Grand Final victory over Hawthorn even though the Swans conceded 18 more inside 50’s.

A key feature of Sydney’s backline resilience has been unheralded stopper Nick Smith. The tough back pocket player takes the most dangerous opposition small forward every week and very rarely gets beaten. Keep an eye on Smith this season as, he really should receive more recognition.

The Swans will be thereabouts again this campaign, however some of their older bodies only just held up last season and I think another long year might just be too much.


West Coast ($7)

Prediction: 1st

Last Season: Semi Final

Key Player: Nic Naitanui

Look Out For: Andrew Gaff

Summary: West Coast has had an advantage over every other team since the introduction of the substitute determined all teams need a backup ruckman who can play forward. The Eagles have Dean Cox and Nic Naitanui, two dominant ruckman who are also very dangerous inside 50.

Despite being destroyed by injuries last year, the Eagles still nearly made the top 4. This time around, with a healthier list, West Coast is the team everybody else will have to chase. They have strength and depth across every line. From Cox and Naitanui in the ruck, to Darren Glass, Eric Mackenzie, Beau Waters and Will Schofield in defence, then Jack Darling, Josh Kennedy and Mark LeCras in attack, while Matt Priddis, Scott Selwood, Daniel Kerr and Luke Shuey form a fantastic midfield that will be joined by the super-talented Andrew Gaff. I expect Gaff to build on a promising 2012 to become one of the most dangerous midfielders in 2013.

West Coast is the real deal and a road trip to Perth is once again the toughest test in football. The house of pain returns!


Western Bulldogs ($500)

Prediction: 16th

Last Season: 15th

Key Player: Ryan Griffen

Look Out For: Clay Smith

Summary: The Bulldogs will struggle again this season, primarily because they don’t have a functioning forward line. Developing a few dangerous weapons in attack should be the Doggies main aim this campaign.

The midfield still contains the explosiveness of Ryan Griffen, the quantity of Matthew Boyd and the future of Clay Smith and Tom Liberatore, while Will Minson is a decent ruckman. The defence is also reasonably solid with Dale Morris returning from injury, however the absence of Brian Lake means coach Brendan McCartney also needs to unearth a big defender capable of minding the opposition power forwards.

I like the way the Bulldogs are going though. It will take time, but I have faith that they will be contending for the finals in a couple of years.

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