AFL 2018 Season Preview

The following is a team-by-team preview with futures tips for the 2018 AFL season.



Adelaide Crows

The Crows will be desperate to atone for last year’s grand final day capitulation by going all the way in 2018. Despite the loss of Jake Lever and Charlie Cameron, their list is still good enough to win a flag, and the addition of Bryce Gibbs is obviously going to be a massive boost for both their midfield and their forward line.

Port Adelaide should provide them with a real challenge in the Showdowns, but the Crows aren’t going to lose many games at home so that puts them in top four contention straight away. While their forward line fell apart against the Tigers, most teams are going to have trouble containing them. Whether they try something different during the regular season so that they’ve got a plan B if things don’t go to plan in September will be interesting, but this group should be good enough to secure a top four spot even if they do try a few new things that don’t work immediately.

The Crows are a proud club with strong leaders and you’d expect them to be in the mix again in 2018. A decent run with injuries should see the Crows make it deep into September — I’ll be surprised if they don’t make it to at least preliminary final weekend.

Predicted Ladder Position: 2nd



Brisbane Lions

The Lions will be hoping this is the year they take a significant step forward and begin their climb up the ladder. It was another poor year in 2017, but there are some real positives for them to take into the new season. The addition of number one draft pick Cam Rayner, who looks likely to debut in round 1, along with new recruit Charlie Cameron should provide some much needed dash and excitement. Not to mention ex-Hawks superstar Luke Hodge, who will help organise the backline and teach the young Lions what it takes to be a successful team. And while he’s past his prime, he’ll still personally provide plenty on the field as well.

The Lions did lose some talent in the trade period, with ex-skipper Tom Rockliff departing for Port Adelaide and young key forward Josh Schache following him out the door. Rockliff is incredibly talented, but his constant injury issues and his apparent bad influence on the group means his loss shouldn’t be felt too heavily. Same goes for Schache — if he develops into a gun forward in a few years time it will be hard for Lions’ fans to watch, but that’s not likely to happen this season.

It’s another year of development for the Lions; the aim will be to improve their win-loss ratio while getting more games into the kids.

Predicted Ladder Position: 16th




Carlton’s 2017 trade period may work out to be great for their long-term future, but it’s probably not going to be help get them wins on the board this year. They secured some young midfielders in Matthew Kennedy and Darcy Lang and bolstered their hand at the draft, but the loss of Bryce Gibbs will be telling this year. It means more of the midfield burden falls on the shoulders of Marc Murphy and Patrick Cripps, and if either of those two miss games due to injury the Blues are going to be seriously light on for midfield quality.

Still, there’s plenty for Carlton fans to look forward to this year. The continuing development of Charlie Curnow will be a highlight, as will watching what Paddy Dow can do in his first year of senior footy. Then there’s Sam Petrevski-Seton, Jacob Weitering and Harry McKay. If those three show significant signs of improvement this year then the future will be looking pretty damn good for Carlton. They are still young — even more so this year — so expect plenty of losses and another bottom four finish, but they’ll surprise a few teams with their youthful exuberance and talent, just as they did in 2017.

Predicted Ladder Position: 17th




The Pies are yet again a mystery bag heading into the new season, with some predicting they’ll rise up the ladder and play finals, and others thinking they’re headed for another disappointing year. They didn’t do much to alter their playing list in the trade period, so Nathan Buckley will be relying on largely the same group of players that couldn’t get the job done last season to turn things around. Number six draft pick Jaidyn Stephenson looks a likely type and is in the mix for a round 1 debut, and the Pies seem keen to get Jordan De Goey into the team as soon as he recovers from an ankle injury, despite banning him from the senior team indefinitely following his recent drink-driving incident. Which is understandable; this is a make-or-break year for Nathan Buckley and the Magpies so they just can’t afford to have good players missing from the team if they’re available to play.

The Darcy Moore experiment will be interesting to follow. From what we’ve seen so far in the JLT series it looks like it might be a good move, for the short term at least. Much of their hopes depend on the midfield winning the ball and actually delivering it efficiently to the forwards. They were incredibly wasteful last year and it hurt them big time. If they can not only win the ball, but use it well and help their forwards out a bit more, they’ll be a good team. I expect the Pies will be markedly better in 2018, but I’m still not predicting big things for this group. They might scrape into the finals, but I think it’s more likely they finish in the 9th – 12th bracket.

Predicted Ladder Position: 10th



The Bombers are one of the more intriguing clubs heading into the new season. They traded in three very good players in Adam Saad, Devon Smith and Jake Stringer and didn’t lose any key players in the process. Those three are all still young but have already shown that they’re capable of extremely good footy. Still, there are question marks over Smith’s body and Stringer’s off-field issues. Get those things right and their trade period will look spectacular. Is it enough to thrust them into premiership contention? Perhaps, but probably not. Stringer is a 50+ goal forward at his best, and he won’t be getting the best defender at Essendon. However the Bombers have stated they plan to use him as a midfielder, and I’m not sure he has the tank to run through the middle for any extended amount of time. He could be a liability there, but they do need extra midfield help.

That will be the area where the Bombers are beaten this season — their backline is strong and capable, their forwards are incredibly dangerous, but they lack midfielders who can win clearances and contested ball. They’re likely to be monstered in the middle by clubs like Sydney and Geelong, which makes it hard to see them getting far in September. I think they’ll make the finals, but don’t expect them to do much damage.

Predicted Ladder Position: 8th




The Dockers were plagued by inconsistency throughout 2017; they played good footy for a few weeks, then backed it up with some horrendous efforts that also seemed to last a few weeks. Their best beat some really good footy sides, but they couldn’t do it consistently. That happens when the coach is blooding new players and trying new tactics, and it’s likely to continue this season. The Dockers have some absolutely superstars, but their depth isn’t great. They added to that in the draft, taking two top five talents in Andrew Bradshaw and Adam Cerra, who they’ll hope make their way into the side for significant periods over the course of the season.

Nat Fyfe looks fit and ready to have a big season which will be huge for the Dockers, while Lachie Neale picked up 36 touches and kicked three goals in his first hit out of the preseason so it doesn’t appear as if a limited preparation will affect him at all.

They’ll win their share of games in Perth, but you’d think they will struggle to beat most of the better teams in the competition so another bottom ten finish seems likely.

Predicted Ladder Position: 12th




There’s much excitement at the Cattery for the return of former hero Gary Ablett Jnr, and rightly so; he’s a legend at Geelong and he’ll now finish his career where he belongs. He’s not the player he once was, but if he can get his body right and stay on the park this year he’s going to form part of a formidable midfield that is capable of scoring plenty of goals when resting forward. The loss of Steven Motlop is an interesting one. At his best he’s a damaging player who any club would love, but he’s far too inconsistent at this stage to be considered a key component of a successful football club, which is why the Cats aren’t likely to mourn his absence this season.

The problem the Cats had last season is sure to be their issue again in 2018: the talent in their best 30 players runs thin towards the bottom. They don’t have the depth to match the best clubs in the competition. Dangerfield and Selwood will win them plenty of games, enough to make the finals again and perhaps even sneak a double chance, but they rely on too few to do too much. Until they can recruit some solid role players who are definite best 22 material then I don’t see them seriously challenging for a flag. If Gary Ablett plays the majority of the year I reckon they’ll make the top four, if he struggles with injury they’ll miss out.

Predicted Ladder Position: 5th


Gold Coast

Gold Coast

Stuart Dew’s first year in charge of the Suns will tell us a lot about the direction the club is heading in. If he can’t lift them to a respectable number of wins this year their future is bleak, as it seems like star forward Tom Lynch will leave if he doesn’t think success is coming soon. If that happens, all hell will break loose, but Dew has plenty of time to get his troops playing good footy before that becomes an issue. The start has looked promising, with the Suns winning both of their JLT series matches. They obviously don’t mean anything, but it’s a good sign that Dew might have them playing a better brand of footy.

They’ll be hoping for an immediate impact from prized recruit Lachie Weller because they sure gave up a lot to get him over from the Dockers. Weller is only 21 years of age and was recruited as a long term investment, but the Suns are sure to cop some flak if he plays ordinary footy this year.

It’s another year of development for the Suns, but I think they’ll show signs of improvement. Dew is a highly regarded coach and I expect him to reinvigorate the group, especially now that Gary Ablett has left the club and there’s a chance for them to forge their own identity.

Predicted Ladder Position: 14th


GWS Giants

GWS Giants

The Giants will be disappointed with their 2017 season. After their heartbreaking loss to the Bulldogs in the 2016 preliminary final they were widely tipped to go one better last year, but they stumbled at the same hurdle. They didn’t even really challenge the Tigers, unlike the previous year against the Dogs. Throughout the year some cracks started to appear in the unstoppable AFL-built machine, proving the Giants to be just as vulnerable as any other club. Injuries got to them, and they lost some good players in the trade period at the end of the year. Can they go one better this year? I’m not as bullish on the Giants prospects as I was this time last year. While they’ve got incredible amounts of talent, they still have some holes in their side and a serious question mark on their ability to travel and win big finals at the MCG.

That will improve as they grow older and more experienced, but I’m no longer convinced they’re a sure thing to win a flag in the next few years. They’re good enough to put themselves in a position to launch an assault on the flag, but I don’t have faith in them once it comes down to just a handful of the best teams remaining.

Predicted Ladder Position: 3rd




In what was the first year of a serious rebuild, the Hawks did well to blood young players while also staying competitive. Even without some of the personnel that took them to three consecutive premierships, they’re still a well-coached, well-drilled unit that generally won’t be easily beaten. Tom Mitchell was outstanding in his first year as a Hawk, and while we didn’t see much of fellow recruit Jaeger O’Meara, from all reports he’s on track for a big year in 2018 which will please everyone involved at Hawthorn.

Young speedy defender Jarmen Impey joined the Hawks during the trade period and you’d expect him to slot straight into their best 22 and play some good footy from the opening round. If O’Meara does actually get over his injury troubles and plays most of the year then he and Mitchell will form the core of a solid young midfield, and they should win plenty of games. The next step for Hawthorn is to find replacements for Jarryd Roughead and Shaun Burgoyne, but they don’t need to worry about that just yet. I’m expecting this year to be very similar to last season — they’ll be competitive, but they’re not going to cause any major damage.

Predicted Ladder Position: 13th




The Demons had their hearts broken in round 23, with the perfect storm conspiring to keep them out of finals action yet again. A large part of it was their own doing, and they’ll be desperate to atone for that this season. This is the year they need to take the step up and play finals footy, and I think they’ll do it. Another year of development into the likes of Christian Petracca, Clayton Oliver and Angus Brayshaw means they should be stronger than they were last year. Add in young gun Jake Lever and it could be a recipe for big things. Whether they have mental strength to keep it up all year is another question, but I feel like they’ve improved in the mental part of the game over the past few years.

They’ve looked good in the JLT series, but they’ll be without skipper Jack Viney for the start of the season which will hurt. Still, they’ve now got plenty of midfield depth and should be able to cover him for a short period of time. If they have a good run with injuries the Demons could potentially push for a top four spot, but a 4th – 8th finish is probably more likely for this group in 2018.

Predicted Ladder Position: 7th


North Melbourne

North Melbourne

After making big plays for out-of-contract stars Dustin Martin and Josh Kelly and landing neither, the Kangaroos kept a low profile in the trade period, opting instead to take their picks to the draft. It’s early stages but it looks to have been a good move, with everyone involved at the Kangaroos raving about top pick Luke Davies-Uniacke. He’ll play early on in the season and he’ll play a lot of games this year, which is what the Kangaroos need — to begin developing more and more young players who will take them into the future. They’ve got some young talent up forward and even in the backline, but it’s the midfield that is seriously lacking. Their main midfielders are more workmanlike than most other clubs, so they need to replace, or add to that, with young mids who can win the contested ball but also have a bit of class about them. Davies-Uniacke seems to be exactly that, so the Roos will look to pump games into him and his fellow young midfielders this year. Which means it’s going to be another year of development and another year near the very bottom of the ladder, but that’s to be expected at this point of their trajectory.

Predicted Ladder Position: 18th


Port Adelaide

Port Adelaide

A disappointing end to the 2017 season – where they were knocked out of the finals by the Eagles in extra time – saw Port become one of the biggest players in the trade period. They went out and recruited some mature players they hope will help them take them further this year, without losing all that much. Tom Rockliff will be a great fit for the Power if he can stay fit, and Steven Motlop could wreak havoc at the Adelaide Oval. Jack Watts is also likely to pop up and kick goals fairly often given that most of the attention will be on Charlie Dixon, so I do think the three recruits will do well for them, but whether Port can gel as a team and get back to playing the football they did a few years ago remains to be seen.

They won 14 games last year, but they weren’t convincing. They lost when they travelled, and they lost when they played against top eight teams, which is not a good sign when your aim is to make finals and beat the best teams in the competition. Whether that is something they’ve been able to work on or not is something we’ll find out fairly quickly, as they’re off to the SCG to take on Sydney in round 2. That will be a tough game, but they need to take it right up to the Swans to show they’re the real deal in 2018. I like their list on paper for this season so I’m tipping them for a big year, but they’ve still got plenty to prove.

Predicted Ladder Position: 6th




Despite the shorter preseason following their historic 2017 premiership, the Tigers have looked incredibly sharp in the JLT series. No signs of a hangover at all, and they take a relatively healthy list into the start of the season. Livewire Daniel Rioli is still recovering from ankle surgery and will miss the opening game, but fellow small forward Shai Bolton looks capable of stepping into Rioli’s shoes without too much trouble. Whether the Tigers’ small forward line can again propel them to September glory will be the biggest question mark over this group. Jack Riewoldt will again shoulder plenty of responsibility, but it’s the midfield and the small forwards that must continue to apply pressure and wreak havoc off the turnover.

Richmond look like being a strong team again in 2018 but it’s a long season and this year, for the first time in a long time, the Tigers are the hunted. It’s not going to be easy, and I don’t expect we’ll see them go back-to-back, but the Tigers should be in the hunt for a spot in the top part of the ladder.

Predicted Ladder Position: 4th


St Kilda

St Kilda

The Saints, like the Demons, would have been sorely disappointed they weren’t able to make the finals last year, and that will be the expectation for season 2018. The Saints have plenty of young stars at either end of the ground, but their midfield is lacking in genuine young guns. They’ll be hoping Jack Billings can spend more time there this season, and they did pick up another two top-ten picks in last year’s draft, with both Hunter Clark and Nick Coffield looking capable of making an impact in their debut seasons. Until they transition those sorts into key midfield roles I don’t see the Saints challenging for a premiership, but while Jack Steven and David Armitage are in their prime the Saints could sneak into the finals, and this might be the year. They were another side who was plagued by inconsistency, but when they bring their best footy they’re a quality team.

Paddy McCartin has had a big preseason and looks primed to explode this year, which would be a huge step in the right direction. Whether any of the young mids also takes large strides forward will decide the fate of their season, but I think they’re destined for another mid-table finish.

Predicted Ladder Position: 11th




The Swans slow start to last year turned it into a wasted season; a season of what-ifs. They started off 0-6, and while they did what no team had ever done in the history of the game and came back from that position to make the finals, they were clearly exhausted by the time they got there. They beat the Bombers in the first week comfortably, but as soon as they had to travel to the MCG for a big final and play a strong club in Geelong, they fell apart. I’m positive they would have acquitted themselves in better fashion if their path to the finals had been a more regular one. This year they’ll be out to avoid that same mistake, and you can bet they’re going to come out against the Eagles in round 1 with manic intensity.

If they avoid falling into a hole as they did last year, they should be right up there with the Crows in terms of challenging for the flag. Last year they had injuries and form slumps, if they have a bit more luck in 2018 they’ll make the top four and be very hard to beat in September. While his age implies he should be past his prime, Buddy Franklin is still doing whatever he feels like, and their midfield is one of the best in the league. This might be the year they atone for their recent grand final losses.

Predicted Ladder Position: 1st


West Coast

West Coast

It’ll be a new-look West Coast outfit that runs out against the Swans in round 1; a new look compared to last year anyway. The retirements of club stalwart Matt Priddis, along with fill-in veterans Drew Petrie and Sam Mitchell means the Eagles will be a whole lot younger this year, particularly in the midfield. Much will rest on the shoulders of Luke Shuey and Andrew Gaff to carry a midfield that has for years relied on Priddis to extract the ball from the contest. Jack Redden and Dom Sheed will need to step up to support those two, as will Liam Duggan and Lewis Jetta at times.

The Eagles have solid key position stocks, with Josh Kennedy set to yet again prowl the forward half, and Jeremy McGovern will likewise patrol the defensive half. The midfield is concerning however; I’d consider the West Coast midfield to be one of the weakest in the AFL in 2018. If the opposing team shuts down one of Shuey or Gaff, the Eagles are in trouble. Big trouble. The Perth factor means the Eagles will still win a bunch of games, but I expect they’re in for a sharp tumble down the ladder this year.

Predicted Ladder Position: 15th


Western Bulldogs

Western Bulldogs

After a drought-breaking premiership in 2016, the Dogs struggled for consistency and form last year so much that they weren’t even able to make the finals, let alone seriously defend their mantle. Some players looked out of shape, some out of form, and others tried hard but couldn’t continually lift the rest of the team out of trouble. They had some moments, but overall the Dogs have plenty of work to do to get back to their 2016 form. Their biggest issue this year will be their scoring capability; with Jake Stringer out the door, a lot of pressure falls on inexperienced forwards to kick a score each week. The JLT series has shown that Luke Beveridge will continue to experiment, with the fourth-year coach throwing Easton Wood forward, but without much success. The other issue that needs serious fixing will be their tendency to leak easy goals, with the Dogs zone defence seeming to get caught out of position frequently throughout 2017. It looked like it was still an issue in their two JLT games, but they’ll no doubt be working hard on teaching their young defenders where to position themselves.

Jackson Trengove and Hayden Crozier are solid recruits who should make an immediate impact, but the Dogs will need to show patience with Josh Schache. The Dogs’ biggest strength is their midfield, and from all reports key midfielder Tom Liberatore has had a big preseason, and superstar Marcus Bontempelli has had a full preseason for the first time in three years. Will that be enough to take them back up the ladder? I expect they’ll bounce back in 2018, but they’re probably still a few years away from seriously challenging again.

Predicted Ladder Position: 9th


My Tips

Premier: Sydney at 7.80 (Betfair)

Wooden Spoon: North Melbourne at 4.50 (William Hill)

Brownlow: Nat Fyfe at 11.00 (bet365)


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