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 all 2020 AFL season tournament betting.
Off-season grade: B-
Despite a late season surge, winning six of their last eight, Hawthorn just missed the finals in 2019 and entered the off-season with premiership trio Jarryd Roughead, Grant Birchall and Ryan Schoenmakers leaving the club. Oft-injured key forward Jon Patton arrived via GWS and if fully fit, could create a strong forward duo with emerging forward Mitch Lewis. Former Melbourne defender Sam Frost also arrived and should provide depth for Hawthorn while challenging Jack Scrimshaw for a spot in the best 22.
Key Player: Tom Mitchell
After missing all of 2019 with a broken leg, the 2018 Brownlow medallist will be looking for a big comeback season and continue to improve a midfield group that contains considerable depth with Isaac Smith, Jager O’Meara, Tom Scully, Rickey Henderson and 2019 best and fairest James Worpel.
Hawthorn look to go one better after finishing 9th in 2019 and we reckon they will feature in September. Improvement to key youngsters Jack Scrimshaw, Mitchell Lewis and James Worpel should bolster the squad while their considerable crop of premiership veterans will continue to produce for Alistair Clarkson. Expect Hawthorn to be a tough matchup in 2020.
Off-season grade: B
2019 was an annus horribilis for the Demons. After surging to a top four finish in 2018, they slipped to 17th and baffled almost every football ‘expert’ who thought they were premiership chance. Despite not recruiting heavily in the off-season, the Demons have recruited well with Adam Tomlinson and Ed Langdon look to both immediately slotting into the best 22.
Melbourne have also drafted with an eye towards the future with Luke Jackson at pick 3 being touted as a future Max Gawn protegee and Kysaiah Pickett at pick 12 potentially adding some much-needed X-factor to a Demons forward line that struggled for much of 2019.
Key Player: Christian Petracca
Champion Data have ranked Petracca as the second-best player on the Demons’ list for 2020, with the 23-year old performing 34% above expectations last season. He will have to again perform highly if the Demons want to move up in 2020 with the forward group currently ranked 15th by Champion Data. Petracca had his lowest scoreboard involvement since 2016 and with Tom McDonald struggling with injury in 2019, Petracca must improve in this area.
2020 will not be as terrible for the long-suffering Demons fans as 2019 but do not expect Melbourne to quickly bounce back to their 2018 form. Questions about where their goals will come from remain as well as their overreliance on superstar ruckman Max Gawn. If he doesn’t perform, who picks up the slack? Improvement will be seen but Melbourne will have to wait at least another season to break their long premiership drought.
Off-season grade: C+
The “War Chest” at Arden Street was noticeably out of conversation in last year’s trade period, after dominating trade talk in previous years. Only two recruitment moves were made by North – Aiden Bonnar from GWS via trade and Josh Walker as a delisted free agent from Brisbane.
Bonnar could prove to be a bargain for North and is expected to slot into their best 22 for round one. Scott Thompson’s retirement is a sizeable loss for their defence but was their only major departure as Rhyce Shaw will enter the 2020 season with an almost identical list that finished 12th in 2019.
Key Player: Majak Daw
Daw missed all of the 2019 season with personal issues but after a strong pre-season, the key defender is set to be a lock for selection in round one. With Scott Thompson’s retirement, Majak must slot in and reproduce the form that had him listed as elite by Champion Data after the 2018 season.
Expect more of the same for North Melbourne in 2020. With an almost identical best 22 as 2019, North will need to see improvement from a young crop of talent such as Tarryn Thomas, Nick Larkin, Cameron Zurhaar and Jy Simpkin to move up the ladder. With a strong pack of teams ahead of them, North might not see that improvement just yet for the season ahead.
Off-season grade: D+
Ken Hinkley enters 2020 on the most intense ‘hotseat’ for a coach in recent years. Since 2015, inconsistency has been the word at Alberton and Hinkley himself has said that his job will be gone if the Power do not make finals this season.
Port’s off-season does not bode well for the season ahead with no major recruits coming to the club despite being strongly linked with Essendon livewire Orazio Fantasia in the trade period. Tall duo Dougal Howard and Paddy Ryder were in and out of the best 22 for much of 2019 but their loss will hurt the Power’s depth.
Key Player: Sam Powell-Pepper
Is there a bigger “feast or famine” player in the AFL than Sam Powell-Pepper? The 22-year old has produced form that had some pegging him as a future star while at times being borderline unplayable for Ken Hinkley. Despite spending more time in the forward line last season, Powell-Pepper plays his best football in the midfield and Port Adelaide will need him to find consistency to support a midfield group that heavily relies on Travis Boak and Robbie Gray, both of whom are now over 30.
Port Adelaide missed the finals last season finishing 10th and are on track to finish just outside the eight again in 2020. While almost every team above them has shown signs of improvement, the Power have stayed put with their squad. Young guns Connor Rozee, Zak Butters, Dan Houston and Xavier Duursma should show enough talent however to push this aging group to the cusp of finals football in 2020. If Port don’t show immediate form however, Hinkley could be gone by mid-season.
Off-season grade: C
Hard to grade Richmond on their off-season with two premierships in three years cementing their place as the best list in the competition. Dan Butler and Brandon Ellis both left in the off-season, but their absence will barely be felt with the likes of Jack Ross, Patrick Naish, Mabior Chol, Noah Balta, Sydney Stack and Jack Higgins looking to cement their place in the best 22.
That is even before mentioning one-game grand final star Marlion Pickett, who looks set to prove it wasn’t a fluke and take his place for round one. The elephant in the room of course is the retirement of Alex Rance. Richmond won the flag without him in 2019 but more pressure will be placed on their defensive depth and the performance of 2019 All-Australian defender Dylan Grimes.
Key Player: Tom Lynch
Lynch entered 2019 underdone after moving to the Tigers from Gold Coast and it showed in the first half of the season, being ranked as below average by Champion Data. He turned it on in the second half of the season becoming one of the key players for Richmond as they marched towards the premiership. With forward partner Jack Riewoldt now over 30, if Lynch takes the mantle as the no.1 key forward at Punt Rd and he remains injury free, expect Richmond to be almost unbeatable.
Richmond weathered an injury storm in the first half of the 2019 season and still wound up lifting the cup with a dominant display over GWS. It will take something special from the other 17 sides to stop this Richmond side who should put aside their failure to go back to back in 2018 and do so in 2020. After this season, will this question be asked “Who is better? Three-peat Hawthorn or Richmond?”
Off-season grade: A
St Kilda enter 2020 with a new coach in Brett Ratten and the best off-season performance of the 18 clubs, rounding out their emerging list with veterans, star power and youth. Brad Hill provides the star power while Dan Butler, Paddy Ryder, Zak Jones and Dougal Howard will all likely feature in their best 22 come round one. Josh Bruce to the Bulldogs and Blake Acres to Fremantle are both losses for the club while Jack Steven finally leaving Moorabbin comes as no surprise.
Key Player: Max King
It might be odd placing a player who has yet to play a senior AFL game as St Kilda’s key player for 2020 but with a strong pre-season behind him, the sky is the limit for the 19-year-old. Big things are predicted early and will be needed for a forward group that was ranked 11th by Champion Data and has lost key forward Josh Bruce. If St Kilda are to make the jump some expect, King will be key to those plans.
St Kilda look to have finally turned the corner after a difficult few years with the club making strides off-field in moving back to spiritual home Moorabbin. Don’t expect the improvement to be fully realised on-field yet though, with the Saints on track to finish 13th. Don’t think the Saints will be easy beats however and they should climb up the ladder in the seasons to come.
Off-season grade: C
2019 saw Sydney falling to 15th, their lowest finish since 1994 after a sustained period of success in the past decade. Their list entered the off-season in a state of flux with club stalwarts Heath Grundy, Kieren Jack and Jarrad McVeigh all retiring. With the third youngest list in the AFL, Sydney did not make any major acquisitions in the trade period with Lewis Taylor coming from Brisbane via a trade that could prove to be a bargain for the Swans.
Sam Gray may also prove to be a handy pickup, arriving from Port Adelaide as a delisted free agent. With a rebuilding list, Sydney look set to play their youth and continue with the plan that was set in motion last season.
Key Player: Nick Blakey
Blakey is set to be Sydney’s no.1 key forward in the coming seasons after showing flashes of his potential in 2019. With Buddy Franklin frequently on the injury list and the Swans backing in the youth, expect Blakey to make more improvement in 2020.
Sydney look set to miss back to back finals for the first time since 1995, with the rebuild in full effect for the Swans. Expect improvement from their youth but this may be a tough on-field season for the Swans.
West Coast Eagles
Off-season grade: A
After a disappointing 6th place finish in 2019, West Coast made the move of the off-season, finally bringing Tim Kelly back to Western Australia via a trade with Geelong. He will join a stacked midfield group and add some much-needed contested grunt to an Eagles team that ranked last in post- clearance contested possessions last season. With no major losses, the Eagles are well poised to challenge for a flag in 2020.
Key Player: Nic Naitanui
2020 looks to finally be the year that Nic Nat breaks the injury curse that has seen him miss 59 games since 2016, including the premiership triumph in 2018. When fit Naitanui is a star, ranking no.1 in the AFL for ranking points over 100 minutes. If West Coast want to challenge for the flag, Naitanui could be the player that pushes them over the edge.
With a stacked list, a returning Nic Naitanui and star recruit Tim Kelly, West Coast look to be one of the premiership contenders for 2020. Injuries played havoc with the side at times in 2019 and it remains to be seen whether than will be a factor this season.
Off-Season Grade: B+
The Western Bulldogs were the in-form team coming into the finals last season after blowing teams away with their quick ball movement and scoring ability. This all came to a halt however, soundly being beaten by a physical GWS side in week one. They entered the off-season looking to bolster a list that was already ranked by Champion Data as the 2nd strongest in the AFL.
Only two acquisitions were made but they were exactly what the Bulldogs wanted with key defender Alex Keath arriving from Adelaide and key forward Josh Bruce arriving from St Kilda. Keath being a crucial recruit due to the retirement of key defender Dale Morris.Both players should slot into the best 22 for round one, bolstering an already impressive list.
Key Player: Bailey Dale
Dale came out of nowhere in the last five rounds of the season after being dropped for most of 2019. The 23-year-old kicked the fifth most goals in the last five rounds and produced 7.0 score involvements per game. The statistics produced in these five rounds would place him as elite by Champion Data if sustained for a full season. If Dale can maintain that form, expect the Bulldogs to replicate their high-scoring end to 2019.
2020 looks to be the year that the Western Bulldogs make a return to premiership contention after inconsistent performances since their shock 2016 flag. With a powerful midfield, strong youth and strong talls on both ends of the ground, things are looking up again at Whitten Oval.