Footy is finally back, and after what seemed a nonstop summer of sport we can once again find grown men screaming “baaalll” in the outer, tinker with our Supercoach squads on work time and spend hours meticulously going over our footy tips.
Every year predicting how the cards will fall in September gets increasingly harder, and given we have a non competitive preseason campaign makes predictions nigh-on impossible.
Not one to shy away from a challenge, here are some predictions for the season ahead. It’s great to have footy back again…
Who wins the flag?
Greater Western Sydney should be the club to watch from the start of the season, still stinging from their finals exit last year. The list is by far the most talented in the league and with some vital finals experience captured in 2016 this should be the year Leon Cameron’s men deliver premiership success to their small but developing fan base. A Giant premiership would ruffle a few feathers throughout the league but one address in Docklands will be breaking out the Champaign.
Player to watch: Stevie Johnson is entering what is most likely his final year of his esteemed career and will be keen to make amends for his very costly error which kept him out of the preliminary final. Expect Johnson to kick around forty goals and continue to create headaches for defenders.
The Big Four; more like the big snore
Former powerhouses of the league Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon and Richmond will play a very minor role this season, despite their fan bases stating otherwise.
Carlton continues to rebuild their list under the tutelage of Brendan Bolton and although the club is making steps in the right direction they are still a fair way off the pace. Traditional rivals Collingwood appear directionless with the only mission on the club whiteboard is to save the job of favourite son Nathan Buckley. Some questionable recruiting decisions see Daniel Wells join the club, where he will clog up vital salary cap space over the next three seasons.
Richmond have once again resorted to their ‘green principles’ being very strong supporters of the recycling player program. Dion Prestia and Josh Caddy are handy selections but this alone cannot bring finals action to a club that harbours unrealistic expectations once again.
Essendon are the most interesting club with their playing list taking another dramatic makeover due to the much discussed supplements sage. It will be interesting to see how former skipper Jobe Watson adjusts to life back on the big stage, maybe midway thru the season he will be wishing he was making coffees back in New York.
Plenty of early support for these clubs, with nothing pleasant on the horizon.
Who are the Victorian teams to watch?
With Hawthorn and Geelong both on the decline after a decade of domination it’s time for some new blood near the top of the table.
We all know what the Western Bulldogs are capable of after watching in awe their scintillating final month of footy. No question, they were not the best team of 2016 but they played the best footy when it mattered most. Throw in everyone’s favourite footballer Robert Murphy into the mix this year and we’ll be chasing another fairytale at the Whitten Oval.
Like many I don’t think the Dogs can go back to back but they do play an exciting brand of football, much like two other Victorian teams who will be in the mix for top six positions in Melbourne and St Kilda. Packed full of raw talent, and combined with some experienced heads either of these clubs could be challenging cum September. Melbourne has added Jordan Lewis to an already powerful midfield and should finally play to their true potential.
St Kilda has developed ‘Saints footy’ and has managed to turn their squad around since the heartbreaks of 2009 and 2010. Champion of the game Nick Riewoldt has one more crack at a Premiership so motivation won’t be found wanting at Moorabbin, or Casey Fields.
Greater Western Sydney
West Coast Eagles
Round One selections
Richmond by 25 points
Western Bulldogs by 31 points
St Kilda by 7 points
Sydney by 17 points
Hawthorn by 3 points
Gold Coast by 36 points
West Coast by 16 points
Adelaide by 5 points
Geelong by 14 points