Here's who won't be playing in the AFL Finals this year

AFL fans are eagerly anticipating next Thursday night’s launch of what is sure to be an enthralling season. After a weekend of pre-season games where we saw new rules and a return to 20-minute quarters, many are questioning what style of footy we see in 2021. Will the changes result in some surprising ladder results at the culmination of the home and away season?

I’ll be releasing my ladder predictions in three stages (six teams each article). Look out for the next six on Monday, followed by the top six next Thursday morning.

18. North Melbourne

With David Noble in charge and a solid enough trade and draft period, everything is in place for North to begin their rebuild. That doesn’t mean they’ll be winning many games though, at least in the short term. A wooden spoon wouldn’t be an absolute disaster given their standpoint, provided their younger players show signs this season.

17. Adelaide

Need to continue blooding games to younger players as they did last season. Still an experienced midfield with Sloane, Laird and Crouch all at the feet of the recently re-signed Reilly O’Brien. The sheer number of games they pumped into youngsters last season means they should be much more competitive, although not enough to make any major jump up the ladder. Have them above North purely based on a greater home ground advantage.

16. Hawthorn

Although he hasn’t committed to a rebuild since extremely early in his coaching career, Alastair Clarkson simply has to at this point. Still some experienced heads and talent in the midfield (Mitchell, Shiels, O’Meara, Worpel, Phillips), yet I’m not sure where the goals are coming from given Jack Gunston’s set to miss the beginning of the season.

15. Essendon

With Ben Rutten now fully in charge, the Dons should be free from any distraction in 2021. Although the direction is clear cut after taking three top ten picks in last year’s draft, I still see a slight step back given their phase of development. Not sure there’s enough forward firepower to kick many winning scores just yet, however I liked what I saw from them last week against Geelong.

14. Sydney

Had a great draft night which only added to the young talent on the list. The midfield seems on either end of the spectrum, with a lot of younger players coupled with experienced older heads in Parker and Kennedy. Callum Mills’ fulltime move in there will help bridge that gap. With Lance Franklin still sidelined for the beginning of the season, the forward line looks to lack potency outside of Papley and the returning Isaac Heeney. Will win some games but the timeline doesn’t fit for them to be a finals contender.

13. Melbourne

Should be in finals contention but I just can’t trust Simon Goodwin to return this team to what now seems like an outlier 2018 season. Injuries to Ben Brown and Sam Weideman hurt their forward stocks, meaning it’s hard to see them putting up big scores. Could realistically finish anywhere between six and 16.

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