Now we get to the serious stuff, those teams I expect to play a key role at the pointy end of the season. Firstly, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Although we’re returning to 20-minute quarters, have added a 23rd player as an injury/concussion sub, and have added a bizarre standing on the mark rule, I don’t see the top five changing from the frantic nature of Covid footy last season. But what’s the order?
6. Western Bulldogs
I probably have them at the top of the middle tier if I’m being honest, not yet at serious premiership contention but with the capacity to get there. The midfield is much publicised as probably the best in the competition, given the addition of Treloar and the retaining of Dunkley. Yet the issues in other positions have balanced out in recent seasons, particular given years of key position struggles. Keath was a solid if not spectacular player last year after crossing from the Crows, whilst Naughton continues to develop into a star in the forward half of the ground. The acquisition of veteran Stefan Martin has gone under the radar and will be a massive inclusion, especially in games against big time ruckman. They have all the tools in place now, but realistically they haven’t done much since their 2016 flag. We need to see something before placing them into the top tier.
Ok. These predictions have been fairly conservative until now, based on last year’s form and off-season movements. Those variables aren’t at play here and many may well consider the plot to have well and truly been lost in regard to these predictions. But regardless, this selection is based solely on theory and historical evidence. This evidence suggests that winning four premierships within a five-year span is nigh on impossible.
The theory here is that the game is returning to 20-minute quarters and that the Tigers game style is based largely on pressure and intensity. Could we see a drop in this given the longer games, and potential physical and mental fatigue from the success they’ve achieved? Let’s not pretend like they were a dominant home and away team last season either, they finished third which was literally half a game above fifth.
4. Port Adelaide
Finished atop the 2020 ladder following an exceptional rise throughout the course of the season. With quality across the ground, it’s hard to find any weaknesses in a team that look primed to contend again. Didn’t make any major moves during the off-season which is why I have a couple of teams ahead. However there’s still plenty of young talent to suggest growth from within.
3. West Coast
One last tilt for the Eagles with a number of stars beginning to age. The hub situation and entire Covid season failed to suit them, yet they finished just half a game from third spot. In a more settled season, expect this group to get back towards 2018 premiership heights. Talent all over the park with leadership and experience to match.
Perhaps one last tilt for the Cats as well. Adding Cameron, Higgins and Smith to a team that made the grand final is extremely dangerous for opposition teams. Contain the most individual talent in their best 22 and I don’t think it’s particularly close. If there was a market for who’ll hand out the most 60+ point floggings then they’d be $1.10. Only in second spot given age and the fact they’ll be geared for finals, rather than going hammer and tong for the entire home and away season.
Young, full of talent and have already shown their quality over the past two seasons. Now add Joe Daniher to a list that should already provide plenty of growth and improvement from within. A fit Daniher will void the potential over-reliance on Charlie Cameron, something that was seen as a criticism last season. Extremely well coached under Chris Fagan and ready to explode even further in 2021.
There you have it! Bear in mind this isn’t a prediction of what will happen come finals time or even necessarily who the ‘best team’ is, rather a reflection on which team/s are primed to perform well or poorly over the home and away season.
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