With the 2017 AFL season starting today, the three contributors to The Beitzel Review gaze into the crystal ball and make their predictions for the upcoming season.
Who will win the 2017 Premiership:
Nick: I don’t think many people are going to disagree there’s a strong divide between the top three of Sydney, GWS and the Western Bulldogs and the tier below, and the premiership will likely come from one of those three. I’d love to be able to go the homer route by nominating the Bulldogs. It’s forgotten their finals form reflected how good they can be without the worst injury list bar Fremantle. As ridiculous as it sounds, I have questions over GWS’s depth, where injuries might be able to expose a few of their talls and they were 7-4 with Mumford and 4-7 without him in 2015, and their key position players at either end of the ground having long injury historys. I’m going with Sydney, who just keep plugging along as a finals team like they have been for most of this generation. Mitchell is a loss inside, but they have three of the most exciting youngsters of any finals team – Aliir, Mills and Heeney which should help them push for the flag again. Aliir will take the competition by storm and Heeney was putting up impressive numbers for a player who wasn’t playing full-time midfield.
Will: Hard question. And one I haven’t looked at hard enough so I’m really just guessing but I am torn between the Doggies winning it all again and GWS. Sydney and Adelaide are all in the mix as well. The doggies were insanely impressive last year though, even in the face of adversity. They had to play one extra final, having achieved the rare feat of making a grand final from outside the top 4(I think Adelaide might have been the last to do that, In the late 90s). They also had a horrendous injury list at times, and they were also one of the more inexperienced AFL lists. Yet despite all these challenges, they overcame them and won their first flag in 62 years. Their players now have one more year of experience in them and hopefully they have a better run with injuries. A second successive flag is well within their grasp. GWS are worthy contenders though and it would be no surprise if they were to win the premiership instead.
Jamie: Sydney to win, their depth of talent all across the ground is too hard to ignore and are a very experienced line-up, I reckon they go one step further this year. For a bolter, I would say St Kilda with a good mixture of experience and young up and coming talent could improve sharply this season.
Who will win the 2017 Wooden Spoon?
Nick: It’s a tossup between Essendon and Brisbane for me. I’ve been guilty of over-assessing Brisbane’s young talent before, on paper, I still think they’ve got wonderful tools to build toward the future with, which makes their lack of success down to their style of footy. Many poor teams manage to mitigate their weakness by investing heavily into one area, whether it be possession, territory or negative ball movement, the Lions did none of that. I’m still bullish that they can improve to the extent that they finish above Essendon. Essendon have a lot of people as massive risers given their returning players, and I’m wondering if I watched the same games at the back eng of 2015. Whilst there were obviously extenuating circumstances at play, they don’t explain all of the beltings they took, and their players will be scratchy after a year out. Merrett will be good, but people cannot expect too much out of players like Jobe Watson and James Kelly who are significantly on the wrong side of 30.
Will: Easy answer is Brisbane. Another option is North Melbourne, who I just so happen to support. This may just be a result of some misplaced pessimism from me but I am afraid the wheels might fall off and we will be very close to the bottom. Not by virtue of being hopeless, rather there just aren’t too many teams who are hopeless and we may just end up at the bottom of the scrapheap. If you take last years cellar dwellers, Brisbane were obviously poor and have been for a long time. Essendon were restricted from being competitive due to the drug bans, and Ross Lyon’s Fremantle might as well have been tanking. Gold Coast have brought in a number of new players too (Hanley, Barlow, Lyons, Witts et. Al) so they will improve on last year, and Carlton were well coached by Brendan Bolton despite having quite a poor list. Given that I don’t really expect any of these teams to do any worse, I think North Melbourne might just slip below them and I can’t see Brisbane surpassing too many teams either.
Jamie: North Melbourne having lost a massive amount of experience over the off-season, having a potentially relatively tough draw (doubling up against young up and coming teams) and a very tough opening to the season and I would say they are the most likely to end up with the Wooden Spoon.
What’s your top 8:
Nick: Western Bulldogs, GWS, Sydney, Geelong, West Coast, Hawthorn, Collingwood, Melbourne
Will: Western Bulldogs, GWS, Sydney, Geelong, Adelaide, West Coast, St Kilda, Gold Coast
Jamie: Sydney, Adelaide, West Coast, GWS, St Kilda, Western Bulldogs, Melbourne, Gold Coast
Which two teams will fail to meet expectations?
Nick: Adelaide and St Kilda. Both benefitted from great injury runs last year. Adelaide’s success in ball movement is unsustainable, their forward line without injury allowed themselves to deliver chemistry, they failed to improve their midfield whilst losing Lyons, and Smith is unlikely to have the same dominant season again. St Kilda also finished with a great injury list, a percentage below 100% and the underbelly of their team was still very old, without many youngsters in their top 10-15 players dragging up the team with them.
Will: People don’t seem to think North Melbourne will do that badly from those I have talked to. I will reiterate and state that I think they will do quite poorly. The only other team I have any doubt about is Geelong who seemed to be carried by Dangerfield most of last year and looked out of their depth in their preliminary final loss to Sydney in 2016. They’ll be up there on the ladder, but I’m not sure they can give it a shake in the finals.
Jamie: GWS have one of the toughest draws in the league and given the expectation on them with clear premiership favouritism before the season starts, I don’t think they will be a cut above the league like the betting odds suggest. Geelong rely very heavily on their superstars and are now robbing Peter to pay Paul in shifting Harry Taylor from back to forward. With their recent recruiting the expectation seems to be that they will challenge for a premiership, however I don’t feel they have the list to do that right now and are only a long term injury to Dangerfield or Selwood away from a sharp drop down the ladder.
Who will win the Coleman?
Nick: Tom Lynch (GC). It’s easy to forget how good this guy is away from the glare of the Melbourne based media. He kicked three goals a game in a poor Suns team who didn’t get it to him all that often. An improving Gold Coast means he can give 80 goals a real nudge, the new 100 in this low scoring era.
Will: Tom Lynch (GC). Been a star in the last two years even in a struggling team. If Gold Coast can improve it will give him some extra scoring output.
Jamie: Tom Lynch, with Gold Coast having what I see as being an incredibly easy draw and also should improve with a decent injury run and their dearth of talent brought in through trade and in the draft this year, should give him enough supply to challenge for the Coleman. Tim Membrey if St Kilda improve enough is also a potential roughie contender, clubs will find it hard to spread their key defending talent across him, Josh Bruce, Paddy McCartin and Nick Riewoldt despite him seeming to play a more Richo-style wing role this year.
Who will win the Brownlow?
Nick: Luke Parker. Kicks goals from midfield, wins possessions inside and out, kicks the ball well, and is only getting better in a team that should win plenty of games. Doesn’t get the appreciation he deserves away from the Melbourne media.
Will: THE BONT!
Jamie: It is Patrick Dangerfield’s medal to lose, as long as he is fit and firing. He has always been a relative good poller and is in a team that relies on him heavily. Roughies like Nick Riewoldt if he indeed plays the whole season in the Richo-style wing role with them improving their win rate could be a surprise contender. Aaron Hall potentially given Gold Coast’s easy draw could also bolt and poll highly, he polled 11 votes in their 5 wins last year so an improved win rate and more support in the middle could allow him to flourish.
Biggest scandal of the 2017 season?
Nick: Rules of the game committee resigns en masse after an existential crisis over the importance of its own existence.
Will: Jack Watts’s board shorts company, Skwosh, is found out to be a front for money laundering, Breaking Bad style
Jamie: GWS re-sign all their opportunity starved former 1st round picks so Stephen Silvagni loses his mind trying to figure out a new off-season recruiting strategy