The Crows have lost one of the best players in the competition, and have, in return, brought in a bunch of talented kids. While these kids may set the Crows up for a bright future, it goes without saying that they won’t be able to replicate the standard of football Dangerfield produced in 2015. Does this mean the Crows will go backwards in 2016? Well, not necessarily. While I’ve labeled the new additions to the list ‘a bunch of kids’, guys like Paul Seedsman and Troy Menzel are experienced and talented enough to come in and have a serious impact. You’d also expect some of the young guys like Cam Ellis-Yolmen, Jake Lever, and Matt Crouch to step up, another pre-season into their careers.
What the Crows will crave more than anything, however, are big years from Brad Crouch and Scott Thompson. Crouch is a gun who has struggled with injuries recently, but the Crows will need him to play 18+ games this year if they’re to play finals. They’ll also struggle for midfield depth if time catches up with Thompson and he starts to drop off. The other big unknown is the effect of new coach Don Pyke. Sometimes a new coach comes in and has a startling effect on a playing group, a la Luke Beveridge last year, but generally it takes a little while for the new game plan to gel.
Notable Ins: Curtly Hampton, Dean Gore, Paul Seedsman, Troy Menzel, Wayne Milera
Notable Outs: Patrick Dangerfield, Sam Kerridge, Brent Reilly, James Podsiadly
The Lions could be one of the surprise packets of the year. At least, they could be if they had a forward line. Their midfield is above average, and their backline isn’t too bad, with some promising key defenders coming through. They just can’t kick goals. The number two draft pick, Josh Schache, is likely to get his fair share of opportunities, and Dan McStay will always provide a target. But they aren’t going to provide the number of scoring shots the Lions would like. This will leave the Lions in the same frustrating position, unable to capitalize on the dominance of a Stefan Martin-led midfield. Still, they’ve got to improve. 10 wins should be the aim, but it’ll end up being closer to 7 or 8.
Notable Ins: Ryan Bastinac, Tom Bell, Jarred Jansen, Josh Walker, Josh Schache, Eric Hipwood, Ben Keays, Rhys Mathieson
Notable Outs: James Aish, Jack Redden, Matthew Leuenberger, Jed Adcock
Ah, Carlton. All eyes will be on them from the very second the ball is first bounced in season ’16. Look, they’re going to struggle. No, they won’t be as bad as Essendon, but that’s not saying a whole lot. What we do know is that the Blues aren’t going to dish up a full season of AFL standard football. They’ll win a handful of games, but I don’t expect it to be any more than 3 or 4. What’s most exciting for the navy blue faithful is getting to watch guys like Jacob Weitering, Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow come in and develop into long term prospects. If one of those guys can come in and have half as good a year as Patrick Cripps did last year, watch out. Carlton fans will declare themselves premiership favourites for 2017.
Notable Ins: Daniel Gorringe, Sam Kerridge, Jed Lamb, Andrew Phillips, Lachie Plowman, Liam Sumner, Jacob Weitering, Harry McKay, Charlie Curnow
Notable Outs: Tom Bell, Lachie Henderson, Troy Menzel, Chris Yarran, Robert Warnock, Andrew Carrazzo, Chris Judd
The Pies have been the most hyped team of the NAB challenge, and it’s easy to see why. They didn’t drop a game, and they played some really impressive footy. Over the trade period they managed to add some good players in James Aish and Jeremy Howe, and a genuine gun in Adam Treloar. They’ve definitely improved their list, and with a young list like the one they’ve got, general improvement across the board is also to be expected. And expected it is. Collingwood are widely tipped to make the top eight this year, and if they happen to miss out, the media expectation is that Nathan Buckley will be in grave danger.
The Pies should be good enough to make the finals, but as with recent years, there are almost eight or so clubs who could (or should, depending on who you’re talking to) finish in that 5-8 zone of the ladder. So they’ll have to be on from Round 1, as every win will be important. I reckon they’ll be able to put a really consistent year together, and granted a good run with injuries, the Pies should see some September action.
Notable Ins: James Aish, Jeremy Howe, Adam Treloar
Notable Outs: Nathan Freeman, Ben Kennedy, Paul Seedsman
Will the Bombers win a game this year? I honestly don’t know. Maybe , if they have a good day and they catch one of the bottom placed teams on a bad one. Anything can happen in football if one team is slightly off. But I don’t feel comfortable picking them to actually knock another team off. I just don’t see the top up players being good enough to carry them to a win. James Kelly, Matthew Stokes and Ryan Crowley were great footballers in their prime, but they’re not great footballers anymore. At best, they’re now solid contributors, at worst, they’re too old and too slow.
Notable Ins: Matthew Leuenberger, Craig Bird, Darcy Parish, Aaron Francis, Mitch Brown
Notable Outs: Jake Carlisle, Jonathon Giles, Jake Melksham, Paul Chapman, Dustin Fletcher, Jason Winderlich
I foresee an almost identical year for Freo. They’ll be hard to beat in the regular season, amassing enough wins to finish in the top four. But when finals come around, they still won’t be good enough to win a premiership. They haven’t done a whole lot to their list during the trade period. Bringing in Harley Bennell could potentially turn out to be a masterstroke, but is that enough? With an ageing Matthew Pavlich to continue as the spearhead up forward, the Dockers are likely to encounter the same issues that have troubled Ross Lyon over the previous few seasons. Unless he manages to come up with some game-changing tactics, they’re in for more of the same September disappointment.
Notable Ins: Harley Bennell, Darcy Tucker, Shane Yarran
Notable Outs: Ryan Crowley, Paul Duffield, Luke McPharlin
The Cats, along with Collingwood, have been the most talked about club over the preseason competition. The excitement down the coast is palpable, with fans dreaming about whether Patrick Dangerfield can help bring the Cats another premiership. His pre-season form has been super impressive; while practice matches generally aren’t particular insightful, he’s arguably been BOG in all three games he’s played, which means he’s fit and desperate to impress his new team mates and supporters.
Other off season additions in Zac Smith and Lachie Henderson will play big roles in determining how far the Cats are capable of going this year. If Smith can stay fit and play the type of football he showed he was capable of a few years back, the Cats will have a ruck combination that other clubs will find difficult to keep up with. Many clubs are trending towards more mobile ruckman, but the Cats will take it to another level if they can manage Mark Blicavs, Rhys Stanley and Zac Smith as their three main rucks. The Cats have gambled with their future to make a premiership assault over the next 2-4 years, and they’ll be dearly hoping it pays off. I’ve got no doubt they’ll make the finals this year, but I’m doubtful of whether they’ll be good enough to knock off Hawthorn, West Coast and the Dockers.
Notable Ins: Patrick Dangerfield, Lachie Henderson, Scott Selwood, Zac Smith
Notable Outs: Steve Johnson, Josh Walker, James Kelly, Hamish McIntosh, Jared Rivers, Matthew Stokes
The Suns cleared some dead wood and bad influences at the end of last year, and were looking forward to brighter times in 2016. But they’ve already been struck down with injury woes to start the year off, with Andrew Swallow being ruled out for the first half of the year, and still no return date in sight for Jaeger O’Meara. The good news? The little master will be back, and ready to give Nat Fyfe a run for his money for the ‘best player in the game’ mantle. Something about the Gold Coast worries me. They’ve got all the talent in the world, but you wouldn’t know it from watching most of their performances last year. Whether it’s a cultural issue or just growing pains, I don’t know, but there is something not quite right with the Suns at the moment. I expect them to struggle again in season 2016.
Notable Ins: Daniel Currie, Jarrad Grant, Matt Rosa, Callum Ah Chee
Notable Outs: Harley Bennell, Charlie Dixon, Zac Smith
2016 could be the year of the Giants. The year they begin their ten year dynasty, which we‘ve been told to expect ever since they were granted some very generous initial draft concessions. I’m expecting the Giants to play finals this year. They’ve now got enough talent and experience in all areas of the ground, and should be ready to take the next step. Yes, they’ve lost a gun in Adam Treloar, and it doesn’t look as if Cam McCarthy wants to be anywhere near West Sydney any time in the future, but they’ve got that many high draft picks ready to fill the void that it honestly doesn’t matter too much. Up steps Jonathon Patton and James Stewart, up steps Jacob Hopper and Jack Steele etc, etc.
I also have high expectations of Ryan Griffen this year. He had a really poor season last year after his high profile move from the Dogs, and while the Dogs and Tom Boyd copped most of the criticism for that deal, it will be the Giants who end up losing out overall if Griffen continues to play like he did last year. Not to worry though Giants fans, I reckon Griffen is set for a massive year. He looks fit, having lost a fair bit of weight, and if he’s able to get back to his best it will go a long way towards the Giants making their first finals appearance.
Notable Ins: Steve Johnson, Dawson Simpson, Jacob Hopper, Matthew Kennedy
Notable Outs: Tomas Bugg, Curtly Hampton, Jed Lamb, Adam Treloar
So the Hawks managed to make it three on the trot and in the process become one of the greatest teams of all time. Can they do the almost unthinkable and win four in a row? Surely not. I mean, of course they can. But surely not. Now I’m confusing myself. The Hawks are, of course, capable of winning another flag in 2016. While a few of the older guys retired at the end of the year, they’ve still got all of their genuine stars, and they haven’t showed any signs of slowing down just yet. I mean, Sam Mitchell just had 45 disposals in a NAB challenge game. Did anyone tell him it was just a practice match?
But as well as a great team, you’ve also got to have your fair share of good luck with injuries to win a flag, let alone four in a row. The Hawks have already had a few injury set backs, with Jarryd Roughead and Liam Shiels set to spend a large chunk of the season on the sidelines. But early season injuries are not something that will bother the Hawks, as long as they have a healthy list come September, they’ll be once again almost impossible to beat.
Notable Ins: Jack Fitzpatrick, Ryan Burton, Kieran Lovell
Notable Outs: Jed Anderson, Matt Suckling
The Dees managed to win three games in a row in the NAB challenge. The games don’t mean anything, but how long has it been since Melbourne has won three games in a row? It’s got to be good for confidence coming into the new season. There are a few fresh faces at Melbourne, with baby faced Clayton Oliver one to look out for as a Rising Star contender, and ex-Giant Tom Bugg looking likely to make an immediate impact at his new club. Unlikely to play finals, but if the Dees can sneak in a few more wins than last year’s seven, and keep building on their offence and ball movement then the season will be a success, and Simon Goodwin will have a lot to work with once Paul Roos hands over the reins come season’s end.
Notable Ins: Tomas Bugg, Ben Kennedy, Jake Melksham, Clayton Oliver, Sam Weideman
Notable Outs: Jeremy Howe, Jimmy Toumpas, Daniel Cross, Mark Jamar
Unfortunately for the Kangaroos, they’re now at that stage where they’re going to have go down to go up. They’re not going to win a flag with this group. They’ve done surprisingly well to make consecutive preliminary finals, but that’s as far as they’re going to get. They’ve got an old list that needs to be regenerated with young talent, so they either need to trade it in or drop down the ladder for a few years and stockpile high draft picks. The problem they face is that their midfield, consisting of Cunnington, Swallow and Ziebell, is good enough to keep from dropping down too far, but not good enough to challenge the best teams. This unfortunate predicament is something Richmond has also experienced in recent years. Will finish somewhere in the 5-10 range once again.
Notable Ins: Jed Anderson, Ben McKay, Ryan Clarke, Mitchell Hibberd
Notable Outs: Ryan Bastinac, Daniel Currie, Leigh Adams, Nathan Grima
Which will the Port Adelaide of 2016 more closely resemble: the powerhouse of 2014 or the 2015 pretenders? It’s hard to say at this stage, and will probably end up being something in between. I’m definitely expecting Port to be much better this year. Last year they were really disappointing, only producing their best footy in small patches, but still, they showed what they were capable of. Charlie Dixon could have a big influence this year, and it will be interesting to see how he pairs of with Matthew Lobbe, as Lobbe and Paddy Ryder never seemed to get a fruitful partnership working last year. The still more interesting aspect will be how the three of them go when Ryder returns for 2017, but that discussion is a bit premature for now. The Power are a difficult team to place right now, but I’d say they’ll either just scrap into finals, or just miss out.
Notable Ins: Charlie Dixon, Jimmy Toumpas, Riley Bonner
Notable Outs: Kane Cornes
They say you need to experience September heartbreak before you’re able to go all the way and win a flag. Well, the Tigers have now had enough heartbreak to win them the next five or six flags. Three elimination final exits in a row has got to sting like nothing else, especially when they arguably should have won two of those three. The Tigers have attempted to address their pace issues by bringing in Chris Yarran and Daniel Rioli, while Jacob Townsend was sought out to play an enforcer type role in the middle to help free up skipper Trent Cotchin. Inclusions that sound good on paper, but only time will tell how effective they are. Yarran has already been ruled out for the first six weeks of the year, while Rioli can’t be expected to have the same impact in his first year as his uncle Cyril did at the Hawks in 2008.
The Tigers should be good enough to once again qualify for finals, and I reckon this year they’ll finally break the hoodoo and make it to the second week. But unfortunately for their success starved fans, they won’t be getting much further.
Notable Ins: Jacob Townsend, Chris Yarran, Daniel Rioli
Notable Outs: Nathan Foley, Chris Newman, Ricky Petterd
The Saints have all the building blocks of a really good football side. They’ve got impressive young talls at either end of the ground, as well as a group of up and coming midfielders and small forwards. They need more time to develop, especially the talls, but you can see what they’re building towards. Nick Riewoldt spending some time on the wings will be a great test for Josh Bruce and Paddy McCartin, to see if they can make the forward 50 their own. They’ll be setting their sights on improving considerably from 2015, but in reality, a similar result will be fine. Get more game time into the young guys, and pick up some more talent at the draft and they’ll be pretty happy. 2017 onwards will be when they need to push up into finals contention.
Notable Ins: Jake Carlisle, Nathan Freeman, Jade Gresham, Bailey Rice
Notable Outs: Farren Ray, Adam Schneider
The past few years the Swans haven’t been up to the heat of finals football. They’ve had injury excuses, but their finals performances still haven’t been up to scratch for a team that considers itself a premiership contender. The Swans have a great best 22, but they don’t seem to have much depth at all. Maybe that’s just what happens when you spend so much cash on your two big forwards. A clear run with injuries would see the Swans capable of going all the way, but as soon as they have a few missing, they aren’t able to play anywhere near the same standard. All the good clubs are promoting the ‘system above personnel’ mentality, stating that if a player is unavailable, there are three or four other blokes waiting to step right in who know exactly what they need to do and what their role within the team is. That’s all well and good, but you can’t just teach a local footballer the system and expect them to come in play like Luke Parker.
This is where the Swans list is lacking, they don’t have enough good footballers in the wings who are able to step in when needed and get the job done. Perhaps Callum Mills, along with the furthur development of Isaac Heeney, will help with this issue, but I’m still afraid that if they cop a few injuries they’re bound to fall back to mediocrity.
Notable Ins: Callum Sinclair, Michael Talia, Callum Mills
Notable Outs: Lewis Jetta, Craig Bird, Adam Goodes, Mike Pyke, Rhyce Shaw
The Eagles had an amazing season in 2015, but they’ll be one of the most driven teams coming into the new season, aiming to go one step further. They’ve brought in some ready made players in Lewis Jetta and Jack Redden, who should have an immediate impact. While Jetta has had a slow pre-season, if he can get up and running the combination between he and Andrew Gaff running up and down the Subiaco wings will give opposition coaches more than a few headaches. With a bit of luck, there’s absolutely no reason why the Eagles can’t make the GF again.
For starters, they’re not going to lose many games in Perth, which automatically puts them in finals and top four contention. If they manage to finish top two and secure a home final, you can almost book them into the last day of September. But can they win on the big stage in Melbourne? I reckon they’ll learn from last year and be as good a chance as anyone to win the 2016 premiership.
Notable Ins: Jonathon Giles, Lewis Jetta, Jack Redden
Notable Outs: Matt Rosa, Scott Selwood, Callum Sinclair, Beau Waters
Can the young Dogs bring their 2015 form into the new season? They won’t have the luxury of creeping up on unsuspecting teams this year. Other clubs will put more time into preparing for them and stopping their run and gun style that was so effective. They also have a tougher draw thanks to a top eight finish. This may mean they have to work harder to achieve the same result, but in terms of the level of football they’re able to produce, I can only see them getting better. While old dogs Matthew Boyd and Bob Murphy had border-line career best seasons in 2015 and were incredibly important, it is the young dogs such as Bontempelli, Stringer, Wallis, Macrae, Liberatore and Dalhaus who are only going to improve and propel the club forward. It also wouldn’t hurt if big Tom Boyd starts to impose himself on a few games and stands up as a forward line focal point.
Expect the Dogs to play finals again in 2016.
Notable Ins: Matt Suckling, Josh Dunkley, Marcus Adams, Jed Adcock
Notable Outs: Michael Talia, Ayce Cordy, Jarrad Grant, Brett Goodes
Premier: West Coast @ $6.00 (Sportsbet)
Wooden Spoon: Essendon
Brownlow: Gary Ablett @ $8.00 (Ladbrokes)