Western Australia will come to a standstill when the West Coast Eagles and Fremantle Dockers lock horns in Western Derby XLIX at Optus Stadium this Saturday night.
There was such a positive reaction to the series of comprehensive meta-reviews of the eighteen AFL clubs’ 2018 seasons that the temptation to follow up with a quick preview of their 2019 seasons was too much to resist.
So here we go with Part 1!
Statistical goal – Here’s a threesome of very specific goals for the young Suns that could bring them up towards the official goal listed below.
They’re all related, and achieving any one of them might very well force the others into alignment as well.
1. Get shots on goal in more than 40 per cent of their inside 50s this season.
2. Average at least 1.5 points per entry inside the 50 offensively.
3. Score more goals than behinds this season.
Official goal – Avoid the bottom four. The cynic in me would say “top 17”, but that’s not much of a “goal”. Besides, last year I said they’d end in “19th place”, and they immediately went 2-0.
Real goal – Perform well enough to stop all the talk about the “folly” of having been founded on the Gold Coast at all.
All-Australian goal – Make the words “Gold Coast” appear on the AA-40 player list.
Key player in 2019 – The key for this youth-filled team in transition is going to be the leadership of Stuart Dew and (more to the point) the senior leadership within the roster itself: Sam Day, Jarrod Harbrow, Touk Miller, Alex Sexton, David Swallow, Jarrod Witts, Aaron Young, and so forth.
Those are the players who will set the tone for the 2019 Suns, good or bad, right or wrong.
My favourite player – No question: it’s ‘Two Metre’ Peter Wright. Like Mason Cox for Collingwood, Wright has his ups and downs, but the fact that his ups are 203 centimetres in the air give him the potential to dominate the forward line when he’s on.
My prediction for 2019 – Eighteenth. The reasoning behind each prediction was laid out in the appropriate article in my recent series, The comprehensive end-of-year review.
Statistical goal – To match their offensive and defensive stats in 2019: allow no more inside-50s than they create, allow no more points per entry than score, reach as many metres gained as they allow, etcetera.
Official goal – Top ten.
Real goal – To make fans forget what happened last season.
All-Australian goal – Multiple players on the 40-man AA list.
Key player in 2019 – The Saints had a set-back year in 2018. In order to regain their challenge-for-finals status they’d had the two previous years, their leaders must set the tone that last year was the aberration, not 2017.
That falls to Seb Ross, Jack Steven, Jade Gresham, Jack Steele, and the other veterans who have to take over the Nick Riewoldt role that apparently went lacking last year.
My favourite player – There isn’t just one player on the Saints who really grabs my attention – instead, there are a handful of guys who catch my eye at different times during a St. Kilda game.
It might be Dylan Roberton one time, and Paddy McCartin another; it’s Tim Membrey one time, Blake Acres the next. David Armitage could make my head turn the first time, and (I’m hoping) the old Dan Hannebury the next time.
My prediction for 2019 – Seventeenth.
Statistical goal – To put every (or at least as many as possible) offensive and defensive category into the top twelve in the league.
Official goal – Six wins. (Let’s start realistically.)
Real goal – Zero games of the embarrassing variety like the GWS debacle… or the huge loss to North… or to Melbourne…
All-Australian goal – To see some name on the AA-40 list from Carlton that isn’t Patrick Cripps. (I mean, besides Patrick Cripps.)
Key player in 2019 – It’s going to be important to see growth in the games of youngsters like Paddy Dow and Jacob Weitering, and of course Cripps, but the key to team success lies in the ruckwork of Matthew Kreuzer as much as any one player.
If he can hold his own against the majority of the lead rucks in the league, that’ll give the Blues a fighting chance in those games.
My personal favourite – How can you not look forward to watching Charlie Curnow play? He’s the most exciting player on the field most of the time!
My prediction for 2019 – Sixteenth.
Port Adelaide Power
Statistical goal – With the loss of some offensive firepower, the Power will have to focus on bringing these three categories above the league average: offensive inside 50s, shots per inside average, and shot percentage (goals versus behinds).
Official goal – Finals.
Real goal – “As long as we’re above the Crows, we’re happy.”
All-Australian goal – Multiple AA players, ideally in different segments of the field.
Key player of 2019 – With all the player transitions over the last two years, it’ll be up to the mainstay rock of the Power to hold them together and point them all in the same direction. And Robbie Gray is completely up to the task!
My favourite player – It could very well have been Steven Motlop (aka “Eddie Betts lite”), or the indomitable Paddy Ryder, who deserves a healthy 2019 more than almost anyone except Alex Johnson.
But for me, it’s hard to look past Ollie Wines, who has had such a promising start to his career and yet seems to have long stretches of games when he practically disappears.
He can control portions of games single-handedly on occasion, and for Port to excel he’ll have to do it more often this year.
My prediction for 2019 – Fifteenth.
Statistical goal – The Doggies struggle on offense.
Here are three goals that go together towards that end: score more goals than behinds, raise the shots per inside 50 above the league average, and raise their points per inside 50 above the league average (both of those stats had Western in 16th last year, below every team that was actually competitive last year).
Official goal – Top ten.
Real goal – To extend the league’s “thirteenth place ascends to the grand final” streak to three years in a row. If they can replicate the way they played their final game in 2018, that would go a long way towards that goal.
All-Australian goal – Three Bulldogs on the forty-man roster.
Key player for 2019 – It depends on which aspect of the team you’re talking about. In the locker room, Easton Wood needs to set a Murphy-like tone for the 2016 champions; on the field, both 2018 star Jack Macrae and all-around superstar Marcus Bontempelli need to lead the charge.
My favourite player – How can you not choose the shortest guy in the league? Especially when he wears a helmet to boot? And even more especially when he comes equipped with a power plant that seems to be non-stop energy!
Caleb Daniel always seems to be around the ball, averaging 21 disposals a game each of the last three years. (And zero hit-outs. Go figure.)
My prediction for 2019 – Fourteenth.
Statistical goal – A better than .500 record against even the top 12 teams would be helpful (they were just 7-8 last season), let alone the top 8. Racking up huge margins against Fremantle and Gold Coast is one thing; being up to beating Melbourne and Richmond is another.
Official goal – Preliminary finals.
Real goal – Have enough success that everyone stops questioning our decision to throw all our hopes into the Holy Trinity of midfielders to save us.
All-Australian goal – At least two names on the AA40 list that haven’t already won a Brownlow.
Key player in 2019 – Not so much Dangerfield or Ablett or Joel Selwood; they’ll get theirs. And Kelly’s gotten plenty of press (and probably won’t be there in 2020 anyway), But Mitch Duncan’s been the fourth wheel in that midfield, and it takes four wheels to make a sports car roar.
I really think he’s the key to how far the Cats go this year.
My favourite player – Geelong’s got a ton of people who fall into this field for me – Gary Ablett Jr, of course, not only for his example as a successful Christian athlete.
Gary Rohan was always one of my faves at Sydney. Harry Taylor and the Irishman, Zach Tuohy, who each got their moment in the sun last season, have long had a spot in my heart as men who play the game right.
But right now, the fellow I’m watching more than anyone else when I’m looking for excitement is the young Nakia Cockatoo. While it was his name that first drew my attention, his game has kept my eyes on him since his debut. Here’s hoping he excels in 2019 and stands out 22 times in 2018.
My prediction for 2019 – Thirteenth.
Statistical goal – If they can simply use their influx of new talent to help bring their scoring up to league average, that would go a long way to reaching their official goal…
Official goal – Eleven wins.
Real goal – Make at least their own fans forget that West Coast won the title last year.
All-Australian goal – Someone not named Nat Fyfe on the AA roster in 2019. (Alongside Fyfe, of course!)
Key player in 2019 – You can bring in Nathan Wilson, Rory Lobb, Hayden Ballentine, Jesse Hogan, whomever you want… but until he retires or (God forbid) leaves the purple and white for parts east, the game in Optus will revolve around Nat.
He’s still spectacular to watch, even if only in anticipation of what he might do the next time the Sherrin comes his way.
My personal favourite – It’s more in the vein of hopeful than anything else, but I’m looking forward to that magical day when Harley Bennell takes the field again.
It’s been far too long since we’ve been able to talk about the talent he brought to the oval, instead of the reasons he’s been away from it.
My prediction for 2019 – Twelfth.
Statistical goal – GWS must aim for at least a 55 per cent accuracy mark in their goal percentage (55 per cent of their shots hitting between the big sticks). Every other team in final besides the Giants last season hit well over 50 per cent; GWS was at 48 per cent, and gave up more than 51 per cent on defense.
Official goal – With all the player losses this spring, just making the top six and winning at least one finals game.
Real goal – As Elpheba did in the musical ‘Wicked’, the goal is Defying Gravity – despite the heavy losses, the goal is to ‘reload’ rather than fall back.
All-Australian goal – Two All-Australians in different sections of the field.
Key player in 2019 – Jeremy Cameron. When he’s firing on Coleman Medal pace, the Giants are usually routing all but the very best teams.
When he’s absent or hurting, their forward line struggles. Very few players are so crucial to their forward line – maybe a Jack Riewoldt, a Tom Hawkins, or a Josh Kennedy.
My favourite player – Josh Kelly. While Jezza Cameron is the key to the front line, Kelly is the key to the entire team.
If Kelly plays 22 games in good health, the Giants will still be a threat to the Tigers and Eagles and Magpies for the title.
My prediction for 2019 – Eleventh.
Statistical goal – They really had a better statistical season than they did in wins and losses in 2018. Their offensive inside 50s were fewer than the number they allowed; if they can reverse that, that might go a long way towards giving them that extra bump into the top eight.
Official goal – Finals.
Real goal – Dominate in Etihad – ‘scuse me Marvel Stadium – (7-4, averaging an 11-point win) the way they do in Tasmania (3-0, with an average score of 103 to 47).
All-Australian goal – Multiple AA members.
Key players in 2019 – Two midfielders control the opportunities for Ben Brown and Jack Ziebell and Mason Wood: Shaun Higgins and Ben Cunnington are growing into their roles for the Roos, and with the addition of Jared Polec from Port and a blossoming Trent Dumont to that midfield, the Kangaroos might be ready to take that next step.
My favourite player – From the moment I first saw the pure athletic potential on the field, I fell in love with Majak Daw as a footy player. He’s had the great fortune of falling into the ideal position by accident – in the backfield, he is a fearsome force, and with the experience up front he had at first, he can still be pushed upfield when necessary, and with his height and leaping ability he can dominate on either end when the call comes.
My prediction for 2019 – Tenth.
(To be continued…)