For those who have followed my ladder pool prediction over this week, the next six teams to be announced as the top pool are not going to be a surprise. In revealing the middle six, the top six were also revealed.
This piece is more about giving the reasoning behind my top six.
Let’s get the controversial selection out of the way first, West Coast. Realistically, heading into 2015 you could put a blanket over most of the ladder.
There are a few standout challengers for the flag and a few standout challengers for the wooden spoon. The rest though depending on scenario can really finish anywhere between fourth and fourteenth.
A lot has been made of the AFL’s desire to equalise the competition, 2015 is set to be the year where that plan shows its full dividend.
West Coast has been gifted with one of the friendliest draws and in this even season a few beneficial home and double up games could really be telling when finals positions are being sorted. West Coast are helped in both these areas.
West Coast have been fortunate to get a number of key personnel through full pre-seasons and appear to be in a far stronger position with a second year coach as opposed to a rookie coach.
Even looking at last year’s form, it was really only a lack of finishing that prevented the club from playing finals. They may not have added a great deal in terms of personnel over the off-season, but having had a year of experience of a new game plan and a list with improved depth should mean that finals are the target for the club.
The other perhaps controversial selection in the top six is Richmond. Looking at Richmond it probably comes to a simple question. Do you believe their first half form in 2014 or their second half form?
Given the personnel heading into the season mirrors that late season run it should not be unreasonable to consider that Richmond can win any match on any given day.
This is a squad that continues to get better at each element of list building. Their veterans continue to develop and discover how to have an impact in a lesser role, the team’s best young players are continuing to improve and the depth on the list continues to make an impact.
If the trend from late last season holds firm than Richmond will be a top four contender late into the season.
The remaining four sides are regarded as the four best premiership chances with the bookies, along with the majority of fans and experts. Fremantle probably go into this season with the most question marks given a meek ending to the 2014 season and about an ageing list.
But in reality Fremantle have been slowly building a squad over the past three seasons that is set for sustained success.
While most speak of the veterans as the key players for Fremantle, in reality there has been a changing of the guard at Fremantle and the key players are its next generation of stars.
On top the ability to blood games into youngsters as part of a successful side is likely to have a strong flow on effect of improvement and development. They will always be among the most innovative and best coached teams in the league and this will continue to carry them to premiership contention.
As for the top three, they speak for themselves. Port Adelaide has been one of the success stories of the AFL over the past two seasons both on and off field.
With a young core they seem to truly enjoy playing together this is a young group that is desperate to have an impact on the AFL. They have immense confidence and indeed have the talent to deliver a second premiership in 2015.
Sydney still has one of the most talented squads in the league even if the depth of the squad has been hurt by defections and injuries since the grand final debacle of 2014.
With as potent a midfield and forward line as there is in the competition and a miserly defence supporting those up the field, they are every chance of a third grand final appearance in four years.
Meanwhile, Hawthorn has a definite shot at doing what seems unachievable in the modern game – a hat-trick of flags. The ability of Hawthorn to build a strong club and strong team at every level is to be admired. This pursuit of greatness deserves to be the number one story this season.