SPORTSHOUNDS has issued the challenge to its footy writers: list the final AFL Ladder for 2018, the Premiers and the Brownlow winner. KEN PIESSE sees more yellow and black dancing out on the MCG in September:
- Richmond: There is no hint of any premiership hangover. The club is settled on and off the field. They will beat Carlton by 10 goals on Thursday night.
- Greater Western Sydney: Quality outfit with just about the best midfield depth of all. Have been so close in both 2016 and 2017. Are ready to excel this time around.
- Adelaide: Well coached, well disciplined, with an array of stars. If they drop even one game at home I’ll be surprised.
- Melbourne: My big improvers, but they must start fast and that way they will soon become true believers. Haven’t won a flag since ’64, the biggest drought of all.
- Sydney: The Buddy-propelled Swans at their best are almost impossible to beat, but if Franklin has a downer the team may not have the goalkicking options to remain a top four contender.
- Geelong: Much depends on their Big Three: Dangerfield, Joel and Gazza, who they say is on little more than match payments. The Cats play a free flowing and attractive brand, but need everything to go right in my book to be major contenders.
- St Kilda: May not have impressed pre-season and have lost their talisman Nick Riewoldt. But Richardson can coach and he has a team of goers who will take some stopping if they can get some early wins.
- Western Bulldogs: The Dogs are talking about a new steely resolve in 2018 after going missing last year. But I can see them only just scraping into the eight, if that.
- Port Adelaide: Will need Robbie Gray to be at his absolute best to have any chance of climbing higher. Will need to win more “away” games than last year to be in the mix.
- Collingwood: In such a hot competition, the Magpies may not be able to withstand the week to week pressure. It means that Eddie could face a very tough decision from mid-year with his senior coaching staff.
- West Coast: Have not travelled well for years and I don’t see any improvement on the horizon. Nick “Nat” will be a bonus and could inspire others.
- Fremantle: Aren’t good enough. Don’t kick enough goals.
- Carlton: Are still 12-18 months away from contending. Have shown some flashes of form in the JLT series. The return of Patrick Cripps will ensure sellout crowds, at least in the first month and a half if the Blues can compete early. He’s a beauty.
- Essendon: Well coached, but lack the depth, even if Joe Daniher is likely to win Mark of the Year again.
- Hawthorn: It hurts me to say it, but the Hawks are already up against it with Birchall out for half a year and too much revolving around veterans Burgoyne, Frawley and Rioli.
- North Melbourne Kangaroos: Unlikely to kick enough goals to win more than half a dozen games.
- Gold Coast Suns: Have had their moments, but don’t seriously believe they can match it with the best teams, especially in Melbourne in July and August.
- Brisbane Lions: Even with Hawk champion Luke Hodge marshalling down back, the Lions lack the sheer firepower to compete consistently. May win only two or three games.
It has been 44 years since the Tigers went back-to-back. If Dusty has another stellar year, they can go all the way. Again.
Brownlow Medallist: Josh Kelly (GWS). Just 23, he is already among the quality midfielders and could easily propel GWS into a Grand Final showdown with the reigning premiers.
KEN PIESSE has covered cricket and football for more than 30 years in Melbourne. Despite that setback, Ken has written, published and edited 86 books on cricket and AFL football to become Australian sport’s most prolific author.
His latest cricket book is David Warner, The Bull, Daring to be Different with Wilkinson Publishing, out now