1. Turn the Adelaide Oval into a fortress
An exceptional start against North will soon be forgotten if Adelaide can’t replicate that performance against the rest of the top 8 contenders.
2. Tex needs to be injury free
At his best, Taylor Walker is one of the best 3 power forwards in the game. Now captain, Big Tex must fire on all cylinders for the Crows to mix it with the best teams week in and week out.
3. Simple. Win the Showdown!
Goes without saying that cross town bragging rights are a must in Adelaide!
1. More wins than 2014 (7 for 15th on the ladder)
This would appear to be a given, but when a team is re-building on youth and has a nucleus of an excellent midfield (Rockliff, Redden, Rich), it must show the members improvement. 10 wins should be the minimum goal for The Lions.
2. Find a way to keep James Aish
Before Justin Leppitsch took over as coach, there was an exodus of young talent away from the Lions. He since lost underrated defender Joel Patfull to GWS, so it’s vital that when Brisbane get high draft picks like Aish, they keep them for the long haul.
3. Snag a big win away from the Gabba
There is no better way to develop a winning culture in a club than success on the road. A trip away with the boys, success on the field and all the benefits that come from those victories have been the base for successful tilts at the flag in the recent past. Hawthorn, Geelong and Collingwood have been excellent travelling teams in the last ten years.
1. Unearth a midfielder
In the first two rounds of the season, Chris Judd has been the Blues best mid. This is an indictment on the rest of the group, or the recruiting staff at Carlton. Someone must step up so the load doesn’t fall to Judd, Murphy and Gibbs every week.
2. Unleash Levi
With Jarrad Waite leaving for North, it was incongruous that Casboult was left out of the Carlton side for Round 1 against Richmond. His kicking needs work, there is no denying that, but he has unbelievable hands and is a wonderful athlete. If I was Mick Malthouse, I’d be getting Fev back to the club on a regular basis to work with big Levi in front of the sticks.
3. Show the fans some ticker
Carlton fans are more demanding than most. They are used to success and don’t suffer re-builds for long so the list must show some development. They blew a 4 goal lead against the Tigers, and were demolished by a former player Josh Kennedy in Round 2. In both games, only Kade Simpson appeared to want to hurt for the jumper. Not good enough.
1. Make finals
Whether Collingwood are able to return to September action this year is debatable, but for Nathan Buckley to keep his job, they might just have to. This will realistically be the last year for Dane Swan, one the elite midfielders of his generation, to have a crack at the finals, and youngsters and high draft picks like De Gooey, Freeman and Scharenberg need to step up quickly to assume the load.
2. Get Ben Reid on the field
One of the premier ‘swingmen’ in the league, Reid has endured a wretched recent run of injuries. Buckley has suggested he will return to defence this year, and with Lachie Keefe out of commission, he may have no choice. Most importantly though, once he is right, he needs a good consistent run of games for Collingwood to win the 12 or 13 games needed to make the 8.
3. Win on ANZAC Day
One game doth not a season make, but as far as Home and Away games, there are none bigger. 90000+ fans, arch rivals and perhaps more importantly, Essendon represent one of the teams Collingwood may be battling it out with to secure one of the spots in the 8.
1. Focus on footy, not on the courts
Regardless of the truths, mis-truths, half-truths, rumours, opinion and fact, The Bombers must get on with the job of playing footy. Hird must get on with the job of coaching. The reputation of the club and coach may be irreparable, but on game day none of that matters and the players will ultimately be judge on wins and losses.
2. Kick the ball to Joe
Tall, agile, good hands, long kick, but inconsistent, Joey D might be Essendon’s most important player. He is the sort of player that a team can be built around, but they must use him and use him often. It is the only way to fast track his development.
3. Win on ANZAC Day
1. Give Pav one last shot at a Grand Final
For the 2013 runners up and coach Ross Lyon, only a Grand Final appearance will suffice (and I suspect not even that will be enough for Lyon). They may have the league’s best player in Nat Fyfe, as well as a hard-nosed defence, a deep, hard and elite midfield group, and of course, Pav. Of the current day superstars, Pav is the most underrated in the public eye.
2. Win on the 'G
With so few opportunities to play at the MCG in the last few years, The Dockers must make it priority to win every chance they get at the home of footy.
3. Play the Kids
This one may seem ridiculous for a premiership contender, but there are two positions on the ground that Freo must cover sooner rather than later. We’ve already mentioned Pav, so another key forward is a must, and ruckman Aaron Sandilands is the other. Zac Clarke is a sound and reliable back up, but Freo may need to blood a couple of youngsters so they can capitalise on the fact that the rest of their stars are relatively young.
1. Win a final
Should the Cats make the finals, and I think they will, they really need to win one. They went out in straight sets last year, beat Port in a semi in 2013 before losing to Hawthorn in the pre-lim, and lost to Freo in an Elimination Final in 2012. As good as they’ve been, their recent finals record is poor.
2. Sign Dangerfield
For the Cats to contend again, they really need another elite mid and Danger fits the bill perfectly. It may already been a done deal in Danger’s mind, but if Adelaide have a big year and the Cats miss the 8, look for other Melbourne clubs with cap space like Richmond, Collingwood and Carlton to open the chequebooks.
3. Mitch Clark
You could argue that recruitment of Mitch Clark is already a success. For him to overcome his mental illness enough to return to league football is a triumph, and if he can play a whole season then Geelong will have an excellent foil for Tom Hawkins and some quality ruck relief as well. I wish him all the best and sincerely hope his body allows him to do what his mind wants to once again.
1. Make finals
Gold Coast are no longer a team of kids playing against men. If it wasn’t for a shoulder injury to Gary Ablett Jr against Collingwood last season they may already have some finals experience. As it was, they missed out and sacked Guy McKenna in favour for Collingwood assistant Rodney Eade. 2015 has started off poorly for the Suns losing to strugglers Melbourne and St. Kilda so they have their work cut out now.
2. Get Gary healthy
He doesn’t look 100% just yet, but his leadership and the fact that he’ll still attract the opposition’s best tagger is invaluable. If the Suns are going to push into the 8 and improve on the 10 wins from last year, they need him firing though.
3. Beat the Lions
This rivalry is developing and with both clubs on the rise it could get extremely exciting this year. Both team feature some of the game’s brightest young stars and they don’t mind talking it up. This game means more to the upstart Suns than it does to Brisbane in 2015, as the Lions are realistically a year or two away from a finals push, but for Gold Coast, their time is now.
1. Sign their young stars
After Tom Boyd’s departure, the Giants wasted no time in getting into Ryan Griffen and Joel Patfull and have started the season off in fine style with 2 impressive wins, albeit over St. Kilda and Melbourne. Dylan Shiel and Adam Treloar are the top priorities for the Giants as both have All-Australian potential.
2. Get the fans in, and no more 100 point losses
I think it’s a realistic goal for the Giants to average 10k to their home games this year. They will get good numbers for some of the bigger Melbourne clubs, plus they get a “Battle of the Bridge” game vs Sydney. It’s to start playing some competitive footy week in and week out and packing them in! No more 100 point losses will be accepted.
3. Nab another Free Agent
If GWS could somehow score one more big name Free Agent this year like a Dangerfield or Rance it would boost the club immeasurably. The only way to do that is to play attractive, attacking and competitive footy in front of some bigger crowds.
1. Three –peat
There probably isn’t a Hawks fan that would honestly call the season a failure if Hawthorn don’t win their third flag in a row, but it has to be the yard-stick.
2. Trade up in the draft
With as many as 8 players in their last year or two, the Hawks need to refresh the list with a blue chip youngster in the November draft. They can use their pick, most likely pick 16-18 and a player to move up in the order. If they can get into the top 5, then look out league – the dynasty may not be over as soon you may have hoped.
It’s tough to set a specific benchmark for Roughead to achieve in terms of goals or possessions because of his versatility. But if he has a big year, in whatever role he plays, then you can bet that the Hawks will be top 2 and well-placed to have another shot at a flag.
1. Kick 100 points a game
Last year, the Demons were unable to kick 100 points once although Paul Roos’ defensive minded coaching style was good enough to win them 7 games. This year, with teams expanding their attacking mindsets, the Demons will need to run and gun a bit more to remain competitive. They broke the ton against the Suns in Round 1 (tick), but were smashed by the Giants in Round 2 scoring only 8 goals.
2. Finish off the season
Last year they just stopped in the second half of the year, failing to win a game from about Round 14 onwards. Their draw wasn’t particularly difficult, although when you’re coming from as far back as the Dees, every game is hard I guess.
3. Keep an eye on the 2016 fixture
A measure of the Demons’ success will be whether they pick up more primetime games in 2016. Their list looks attractive with Tyson, Jones, Hogan and Brayshaw all stars in the making. Can Roos get them playing a brand of footy the AFL wants to put in the Friday night slots?
1. Back up 2014
This will not be an easy task given the Roos made the preliminary final last year, but with success come expectation.
2. Find a star mid
North have one of the most even and quality midfield groups in the league but they don’t have a single star among them. Someone needs to step out of the pack!
3. Return to big Melbourne games
North have sold three home games to Tassie again this year, including what would be a big ticket game against Richmond. The arrangement ticks the money box James Brayshaw is after, but it does nothing for the supporter base back home at Arden Street. Tassie wins, not sure if North do.
1. Take the next step
Like North, Port now have expectation rather than enthusiasm following them around. The fans have returned, with their scarves and an INXS classic, and the Adelaide Oval is a ripping home ground. But an 0-2 start, and a horror opening draw will test the Power players and fans.
2. Win in Melbourne
As important as a home field fortress, is an equally imposing away record and Port need to travel well to finish top 4. Top 4 gives them the best chance at making the GF as it’s the only way to get a home pre-lim (barring an Adelaide/Port PF of course).
Not since a young man by the name of Chris Judd had we seen a better 20 year old at AFL level. However, Wingard’s productivity dropped in 2014 as he dealt with harder tags and defenders doing their homework on his tricks. For Port to make a GF they need Wingard to go to the next level again!
1. All about the kids
Luke Dunstan, Jack Steven (and his 5 year contract), Josh Bruce and Jack Billings are all names that will excite the Saints fans this year. Bruce already has a 6 goal haul and a mark of the year contender to his name while Steven and Dunstan will do the bulk of the midfield work.
2. Game style over W’s and L’s
Most Saints fans will hope to snag a few wins along the way this year, as long they still get the #1 or #2 pick in the November draft. Another blue chip prospect would give them something to work with, similar to how they started the century with Riewoldt and Koschistke.
3. Free Agency
When Brendan Goddard left for Essendon I thought it would be a while before a big name would choose the Saints as their destination of choice. Although ladder position isn’t necessarily an indicator of success in Free Agency or trading, the Saints can use their list of budding young stars as a bargaining tool for an older player willing to jump on a team on the rise, rather than one already at the top.
The Swans didn’t buy Kurt Tippett and Lance Franklin for ten years of runners up, or making up the numbers in the 8. They bought them because along with a stingy defence, they have an elite on ball brigade capable of providing a lot of opportunities for their two big blokes to kick bags of goals and winning games.
2. Eastern Suburbs or Homebush?
The Swans have always been the inner city team, feeling most at home at the SCG in the Eastern Suburbs. Opposition teams always feel slightly more confident when playing them at ANZ Stadium in Homebush. If Sydney can turn their whole city into a feared destination then they should comfortably finish top 4 and make a home preliminary final.
Since Paul Roos left and John Longmire took over, Sydney have slowly but surely become a more attacking team whilst losing none of their smothering full ground pressure style of play. If the Swans are in the top 6 for points for at the end of the season, you can almost put your house on the fact they’ll have the best or at least the second best overall percentage.
1. Win a final
Two straight years of making the 8 and losing in the first week, makes winning a final a must for the Tigers this year – of course they have to make the finals for that to happen. In fact, if Richmond either miss the 8 or lose an elimination final again, I think Damien Hardwick may be axed.
2. Beat the hoodoo teams
When you’ve struggled against everyone for so long, you are inevitably going to have poor records against a lot of team. The Tigers have begun to right some of those wrongs recently, but they haven’t defeated Collingwood since 2007 or Geelong since 2006! 2015 must be the year to change those inglorious records.
3. Land a big fish
Tiger fans have heard a lot about this so-called “war chest” over the last two years, in fact, most of them have in some way donated to it! This is the year a big free agent must be landed (while keeping Alex Rance). Patrick Dangerfield would be the first cab off the rank, but don’t be surprised if the Tigers go hard after Adam Treloar and Dylan Shiel from the Giants. Rance is probably the league’s best defender at the moment, so if he goes West, it will be devastating to Richmond!
1. Nic Nat
Some think he’s overrated but you only have to watch him for ten minutes to know he is an elite talent. He must find consistency, both with a run of injury free games and form, and I’m sure he knows that. If he plays 22 games in 2015, don’t be surprised if he is your All-Australian ruckman.
2. Make Finals
Losing three key defenders (one to retirement, Glass, and two to injury, Mackenzie and Brown) is almost impossible to replace, but the Eagles are one of the teams probably fighting for the spots in the 5-12 bracket so making the 8 is their indicator of success.
At the very least, West Coast must make it bloody hard for teams to go to Perth and win. If they can break even away from home they should be able win enough games at Subiaco to make the finals.
The Western Bulldogs have put together what may be the finest crop of youngsters seen in the league since the Essendon team of 1993. Bontempelli, Stringer, Liberatore (although out for the year sadly), Wallis, Honeychurch, and Mcrae all look to be 200 plus gamers for the club. Add #1 draft pick Tom Boyd from GWS and you have an imposing group.
If they can remain consistent throughout the year and avoid injury to any of their other big names, the Dogs are capable of challenging anyone. A 2-0 start to the year is the perfect springboard for them to jump up the ladder this year.
For the Dogs to make the finals (either this year or next) they need a goal kicker they can base their attack around. It might not be Tom Boyd in 2015, but if they can get 50 goals out of Jesse Stringer, and 30 out of one or two of their mid-forwards like Crameri or Dickson, they will get over a lot of more fancied teams in the next couple of years.