Will the Demons take the next step in 2019?
It feels like it’s taken an eternity, but after finally playing finals for the first time since 2006, Melbourne enter a season poised to be a genuine threat in the premiership race. 2018 saw the Demons finish fifth, win two finals against Geelong and Hawthorn at the MCG before falling to eventual premiers West Coast in a Preliminary final at Optus Stadium. Unlike previous years, it seems as though the Demons can now be trusted, and we can expect consistency to follow, but can they continue to build on last year’s finals appearance and turn themselves into a top four side and premiership chance?
Will the Cats and Swans slide or bounce back?
They’ve been mainstays in finals for over a decade, and have been written off time after time only to come back and prove the doubters wrong. Can Geelong and Sydney do it again in 2019? The Cats were bundled out of last year’s final by Melbourne in disappointing fashion, whilst the Swans were destroyed by Greater Western Sydney in their final, which had people labelling it as ‘the end of an era’. Understandably, most have both sides struggling to make the eight, but it would still be no surprise to see both featuring in September; you would be brave to write them off.
Can the Hawks manage without Tom Mitchell?
Hawthorn surprised many last season with a top four finish, before falling in the second week of the finals. But can they repeat a similar performance this year without their leading midfielder and Brownlow medallist? Mitchell’s badly broken leg sustained at pre-season training means Hawthorn’s midfield load will have to be spread further this year. The acquisitions of Tom Scully and Chad Wingard should help, but without Mitchell’s dominance at the clearances, it could be a testing season for master coach Alastair Clarkson; however, Hawthorn have the right man at the helm to work out a formula.
Will Tom Lynch have the desired impact at Richmond?
Richmond were runaway favourites for the premiership for the most part of last season, so everyone was shocked to see Collingwood dismantle them in the fashion they did in their Preliminary final at the MCG. The Tigers are well-balanced, well coached, and have almost all of their list in tact from their Premiership year in 2017; surely adding one of the competition’s best goalkickers will only make them better, right? Tom Lynch arrives at the Tigers with expectation, and Richmond are confident their star recruit, who will provide a big presence up forward, won’t distort the unselfish nature and pressure their forward set up brings. It will be an interesting feeling out period for both Lynch and the Tigers, and Richmond fans will be hoping the process is a seamless one rather than troublesome one.
The Crows and Power need to fire in 2019
Both Adelaide sides had disappointing campaigns last year missing the finals. The Crows weren’t able to produce the football that saw them reach a Grand Final in 2017; hindered by the drama that revolved around their pre-season camp. The Power were in the finals hunt for the most part of the season, before falling away to finish outside of the eight which ultimately deemed their season as a failure. Both want to bounce back, and for both anything other than a top eight finish will be considered as unacceptable this year. The two sides have lists that have been built to challenge in finals now, so poor performances could result in increasing pressure on both coaches if wins aren’t to follow.