With the season only a week away, we gaze into the crystal ball and predict the season for nine teams heading into the 2020 campaign. Check out SportChamps for 2020 AFL tournament betting.
Off-season grade: F
Adelaide were ranked as the second-best list by Champion Data in 2019, but the Crows have fallen dramatically, losing six of their best 22 in Sam Jacobs (GWS), Cam Ellis-Yolmen (Brisbane), Alex Keath (Western Bulldogs), Eddie Betts (Carlton), Josh Jenkins (Geelong) and Hugh Greenwood (Gold Coast) and seeing minimal in return. The coaches box also received a shake-up with Don Pyke replaced by first-time coach Matthew Nicks.
“We trialled a few things and there were some good positives to take out of it” #weflyasone
— Adelaide Crows (@Adelaide_FC) March 10, 2020
Key Player: Brad Crouch
With a midfield group ranked 17th by Champion Data, reigning best and fairest Brad Crouch will be crucial for the Crows to ensure that they put up a competitive battle in the middle each week, especially with key Crows midfield pair Rory Sloane and Bryce Gibbs not getting any younger.
It has been a massive fall from grace for the Crows since their 2017 Grand Final defeat to Richmond and with their loss of key personnel and a new coach in Matthew Nicks, 2020 is set to hand the Crows their lowest finish in club history.
Off-season grade: B-
After falling agonizingly short in a home Semi Final against GWS, Brisbane experienced a high turnover in the off-season. AFL legend Luke Hodge retired while Tom Cutler (Essendon) and Lewis Taylor (Sydney) were traded. Delisted trio Nick Robertson, Josh Walker and Ben Keays will hurt the club’s depth but were offset by the recruitment of Callum Ah Chee, Cam Ellis-Yolmen and Grant Birchall. All three should slot straight into the Lions’ best 22.
Key Player: Cameron Rayner
The former No.1 pick faces a big 2020 after having an inconsistent 2019, showing flashes of his potential while overall seeing a dip in performance following his solid debut season in 2018. If the Lions expect to maintain their status as the highest scoring team in the league, they need the forward to provide X-factor and support for fellow livewire Charlie Cameron.
With the 13th hardest draw and coming off two years of an impeccable run with injuries, expect these factors to ensure that Brisbane fall slightly down the pack in 2020. Lions fans should not fear however, the future remains bright at the Gabba.
Off-season grade: B
With glimpses of improvement shown under new coach David Teague in the back half of 2019, Carlton went into the off-season keen to build their list. Despite falling short with their recruitment of Sydney star Tom Papley, the addition of Jack Martin in the pre-season draft will add some quality to the list while the return of legend and Carlton cult hero Eddie Betts will surely excite fans. Marc Pittonet from Hawthorn will also provide much needed ruck depth for oft-injured Matthew Kreuzer.
Key Player: Patrick Cripps
Cripps proved himself as a top-five player in the league last year and if the Blues want to move up the ladder. They need their star co-captain to hit the form that has many touting him as the early favourite for the 2020 Brownlow Medal.
Carlton have a young squad brimming with talent and future tentpoles in Sam Walsh, Jacob Weitering, Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay. Expect the Blues to be more competitive but not make major gains from their 16th place finish in 2019. Carlton are building for the future and expect that to remain the plan for 2020.
There was a lot going on this weekend.
Check out the best photos from the AFLW, VFL and AFL teams. 📸#BoundByBlue
— Carlton FC (@CarltonFC) March 10, 2020
Off-season grade: D+
Collingwood entered the 2019 off-season following a four-point loss to GWS and needing to find that extra piece to finally get over the hump to win the premiership. At this stage, it looks like the Pies have lost more than they gained with Tyson Goldsack, Daniel Wells, James Aish and Sam Murray all leaving the club.
Their biggest recruit for the 2019 season, Dayne Beams, isn’t expected to play again due to off-field issues while a recurring knee injury has placed doubt on Tom Langdon’s future. The one shining light for Collingwood is the recruitment of Darcy Cameron, who has impressed in the pre-season and could push cult favourite Mason Cox out of the Pies best 22. The real improvement at Collingwood will come from within, with a number of key players missing big stretches last year through injury.
Key Player: Brodie Grundy
Grundy has cemented himself as the number one ruckman in the competition and with the Pies having the third-ranked midfield group, the man with the man-bun needs to fire to extract the most from that group.
Due to a lack of off-season improvement and having the oldest list in the AFL, expect Collingwood to fall slightly from their two straight top-four finishes in 2018 and 2019. The Pies will maintain a top eight spot and grab a home final at the MCG in what shapes to be a tight bottom half of the eight.
Off-season grade: C
The Bombers continued their reputation as the league’s biggest enigma in 2019, finishing 7th after showing flashes of brilliance early and struggling over the finish line to make the eight by season’s end.
With stars Joe Daniher and Orazio Fantasia heavily involved in trade rumours, retaining them for 2020 is nothing short of a win for Essendon. The recruitment of Tom Cutler from Brisbane and Andrew Phillips from Carlton will add some tall depth while no major losses will see them enter the season with an almost identical best 22 to last season.
Key Player: Devon Smith
2018 best and fairest Smith missed the majority of the 2019 season after suffering an injury in round eight against Sydney. And the Bombers hope his return will galvanize them to their first finals win since 2005.
Essendon will be the loser in what is expected to be a tight top eight, finishing 10th due to improvements shown by teams around them and a lack of true improvement made to their list. Essendon fans can expect that 15-year finals win drought to continue
Off-season grade: D+
Fremantle enter 2020 after finishing 13th in 2019 and firing coach Ross Lyon, the only coach to lead them to a grand final. New coach Justin Longmuir must take charge of a side that lost key players in Ed Langdon (Melbourne) and Brad Hill (St Kilda) and saw retirements in club stalwarts Hayden Ballantyne and Aaron Sandilands. Recruits James Aish and Blake Acres should slot into the midfield but have a huge task to fully support superstar Nat Fyfe.
Key Player: Rory Lobb
Due to Jesse Hogan being out indefinitely, key tall Rory Lobb must shake off an injury-riddled first year at Fremantle and become the number one target in attack for a team that lacks a true goal-kicking forward.
The Dockers will fall down the ladder and finish second-last in 2020 due to factors such as a list lacking support for stars Nat Fyfe, Michael Walters and David Mundy while adjusting to a different game style under Longmuir.
Off-season grade: D
Despite finishing on top of the ladder last season, the story for Geelong was another disappointing finals series, this time being defeated by Richmond in the Preliminary Final. Things went bad to worse for the Cats in the off-season with star midfielder Tim Kelly heading to West Coast for a myriad of draft picks but no instant return.
Tall Crow Josh Jenkins should provide support for Tom Hawkins and Esava Ratugolea while the bargain price recruitment of Jack Steven could provide a windfall for Geelong. This does little to cover the massive Tim Kelly sized hole for Geelong, however.
Key Player: Tom Stewart
2019 All-Australian Stewart must continue his form to sure up a weak back six, ranked 16th in the league by Champion Data. With Harry Taylor almost at the end of his career, Stewart and fellow tall defender Mark Blicavs must be solid to stop the firepower of quality opposition.
Geelong look set to be the big mover in the teams in the top eight, moving down the ladder to 7th. Their disappointing end to 2019 and their aging list all playing a factor in what looks to be a tough year down at the cattery.
Off-season grade: B
The Suns recruited the two of the country;s brightest young prospects in best mates Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson with the first two picks of last year’s draft. It sures up the club’s long-term midfield stocks and provides depth to their on-ball brigade, which suddenly looks solid behind the lead of David Swallow, Touk Miller and Brayden Fiorni.
While the additions of ex-Crow Hugh Greenwood and premiership Tiger Brandon Ellis don’t jump off the page, they add mature, experienced bodies into the mix and further depth, meaning untried youngsters aren’t gifted games.
Key Player: Jarrod Witts
The 2019 Club Champion and co-captain will be the driving factor behind Gold Coast’s improvement in the middle of the ground. Currently sidelined with a foot injury, Witts should be ready for round one and his dominance in the ruck is key.
The Suns took big strides forward in the off-season with some handy ins, as evident by their 68-point belting to Geelong in the first round of the Marsh Community Series. And while the youngsters will continue to develop, it is still impossible to build a case for Stewart Dew’s troops to finish higher than any other side. The Suns will be much more exciting to watch in 2020.
Off-season grade: D
The Giants didn’t do much in the off-season presides add experienced Crows big man Sam Jacobs, who is set to take over the number one ruck mantle from Shane Mumford. The real positive ‘addition’ is that newly appointed skipper Stephen Coniglio and Callan Ward will return after missing the back end of last season.
Key player: Josh Kelly
A number of Giants could get the nod here but it’s hard to look past the Rolls Royce himself Josh Kelly. Finally with a full pre-season under his belt, Kelly is primed for a massive season. If he can step his game up another notch and enter the Brownlow discussion, the Giants will be serious flag contenders.
While Tim Taranto’s potential five-month absence with a shoulder injury is a shame, the Giants have all the tools to cover his loss and bounce back from their catastrophic 89-point grand final loss. With guys like Coniglio, Kelly, Toby Greene, Jeremy Cameron and Lachie Whitfield now in their prime, the Giants are as well positioned as they’ve ever been to win a maiden premiership with this list.