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AFL 2019 team-by-team preview: Part 2

Roar Rookie
23rd December, 2018
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23rd December, 2018
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Last month I started my 2019 AFL preview, detailing the competitive prospects of six of the competition’s teams, from Adelaide to Fremantle.

This is the second part of that preview, featuring teams from Geelong to North Melbourne.

Geelong Cats

2018 season
This was the first season of the trio of Patrick Dangerfield, Joel Selwood and Gary Ablett. It was an impressive trio to watch, and it was a satisfactory year for the Cats. While they only finished eighth, one or two more wins could have taken them as high as third, showing how close the top eight was last year.

While Geelong will be disappointed that their season ended so soon in an elimination final loss to the Demons, the emergence of first-year players Jack Henry and Tim Kelly would have pleased fans by showing glimpses of promise for the future.

Expectation for 2019
While the Cats have many fantastic players on their list, many of them are ageing. Gary Ablett will be 35 next year, and Joel Selwood and Tom Hawkins are both 31. However, they will be hoping that their experience mixed with young talent can lead to success in 2019.

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Geelong midfielders Dangerfield, Selwood and Ablett will look to continue their excellent form. They will also be hoping that Tim Kelly can take his game to a new level after his impressive first-year form.

Hawkins will need to repeat his 60-goal year if the Cats are to have any success in 2019 now that their second-best forward, Daniel Menzel, who kicked 27 goals in 13 games, was delisted, and they will need other forwards to emerge to make up the difference.

The Cats have had high expectations since their trio of premierships in 2007, 2009 and 2011, but I don’t see them as having the whole team to make the top four. The top eight should be the expectation, but it would not be a surprise to see a slight fall in the Cats in 2019.

Emerging talent in 2019
Young defender and forward Jack Henry showed his ability at both ends of the ground in 2018. He was impressive in defence but also solid in the forward line, where he kicked three goals against the Lions and two against the Dockers. He could continue to be used in defence or could be pushed into the forward line again and act as a deputy to Hawkins and aim for 20 to 30 goals in 2019. However he is used in 2019, I’m sure it will show a glimpse into his potential.

Season draw
The Cats get to play nine of their 11 home matches at their true home at GMHBA Stadium, while they play two other home matches at the MCG. They play two of the preliminary finalists, West Coast and Melbourne, at GMHBA, which the Cats will be wanting to win in order to ensure a top-eight spot. The club will be happy enough to travel outside Victoria six times in 2019.

Zach Tuohy

(Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Gold Coast Suns

2018 season
It was a disappointing year for the Suns after some early success. There were many poor losses with no signs of good football. While they did have an impressive win against the Swans, there were more downward signs in 2018, and the team only just finished above the bottom of the ladder.

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Expectation for 2019
While it will be a tough season for the Suns after losing many players, including co-captains Tom Lynch and Steven May, midfielder Aaron Hall and defender Kade Kolodjashnij, the team should be looking for moments of promise from their young group. Their first three picks of Jack Lukosius, Izak Rankine and Ben King will all look to impress in their first season.

The Suns will be looking to show these rookies that the team’s future is promising in an attempt to convince them to sign long-term contracts. While it will be a hard season, they should be aiming to replicate at least those hopeful moments of this year, including its surprise win against the Swans.

Emerging talent in 2019
The three players everyone will be excited to watch are Lukosius, Rankine and King. All three were top-ten picks and have been sold as once-in-a-generation players.

King played in the forward line during the under-18s championship for Victoria Metro after his brother’s ACL injury. He kicked 12 goals in four games, but he is also a great defender, showing that he could be a key player in both the forward line and defence.

Lukosius has been likened to former star Nick Riewoldt and has a fantastic kick and mark and a superb running ability, and he will add something to the Suns forward line after the exit of Tom Lynch.

Rankine has been called one of the most exciting players of the draft and is a known goal kicker with the ability to change the game. All three will be exciting to watch and will add interest from fans and media to pay more attention to the Suns in 2019.

Season draw
While the 2019 season will be tough for the Suns considering the players they’ve lost over the years, according to Champion Data they have the fourth-easiest draw in the competition. They have two games against fellow 2018 bottom-four teams, St Kilda and Carlton, which will give them an opportunity to show their potential and even pick up possible wins.

In a bonus, Gold Coast will play all their home games at Metricon, unlike in 2018, when they had to play in various home grounds at the start of the season as a result of Metricon being used for the Commonwealth Games.

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Will Brodie

(Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Greater Western Sydney Giants

2018 season
The 2018 season was a moderately successful one for the Giants in which player losses throughout the year had an impact. While they finished seventh, it could have been so much more for GWS without the list disruption.

They had plenty of high points – they beat reigning premiers Richmond in a close match at Spotless Stadium and they thumped Sydney in the elimination final – but missing Jeremy Cameron for several games as a result of his hit on Harris Andrews and the absence of star Josh Kelly through injury meant they had many inconsistent games, which impacted their ladder place.

Expectation for 2019
As has been the case for the past couple of seasons, it is expected that the Giants make the top eight plus do damage in September, again pushing for a premiership. However, this won’t be without its challenges. They lost midfield duo Dylan Shiel (Essendon) and Tom Scully (Hawthorn), youngster Will Setterfield (Carlton) and tall forward-ruck Rory Lobb (Fremantle), all of whome will be big losses.

Regardless, they still have a talented list. Star midfielders Josh Kelly and Stephen Coniglio, forward midfielder Toby Greene, all-time club leading goal kicker Jeremy Cameron and co-captains Phil Davis and Callan Ward are six players on a talented list capable of winning a premiership.

The Giants need to make themselves feared by teams rather than be seen as the young kids of the competition.

Emerging talent in 2019
Young forward Harrison Himmelberg had a breakout year in 2018, kicking 29 goals. However, in 2019 he and the Giants coaches will be hoping that he can go to greater heights. He will be aiming for a 40-plus-goal year and to create an excellent forward duo with Jeremy Cameron.

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Season draw
It’s a moderately tough draw for the Giants, who will have to face powerhouse team Richmond twice, top-four team Hawthorn twice and the up-and-coming Essendon twice. All these matches will be very entertaining for viewers but very tough for the Giants. They play their cross-town rivals Sydney twice and the Suns twice.

Jeremy Cameron

(AAP Image/Julian Smith)

Hawthorn Hawks

2018 season
The Hawks finished a successful fourth in 2018, up from a disappointing 12th in 2017. Tom Mitchell starred for the club in a Brownlow-winning season, breaking disposals record by setting a new record high in a game. Luke Breust and Jack Gunston starred in the forward line, kicking more than 50 goals each, including finals tallies.

While it was an underwhelming finals series, overall the year showed that Alastair Clarkson was able to turn the club around after a tough 2017 season.

Expectation for 2019
The Hawks are a team expected to make the finals every year after their three-peat of 2013-15, and next year will be no exception. They’ve bought young defender Jack Scrimshaw from the Suns, star midfielder Tom Scully from the Giants and former John Cahill Medalist Chad Wingard from Port Adelaide.

Wingard and Scully will be hoping to form a midfield partnership along with Brownlow Medalist Tom Mitchell and rising star Jaeger O’Meara in what could turn into one of the best midfield combinations in the league. Meanwhile, the Hawkes will be hoping star forwards Jarryd Roughead, Luke Breust and Jack Gunston have good seasons and are able to provide goals for the Hawks.

While they have a solid defence, they may miss the run off the back from Ryan Burton, who left the team as part of the Chad Wingard trade. The top four may not be a certainty, but the Hawks must make the top eight again to show they are not a roller-coaster team of moving in and out of finals.

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Emerging talent in 2019
Former Sun Jack Scrimshaw will be hoping to make himself a regular Hawk in 2019 after being able to play only four games in two years at Gold Coast. A tall defender, in the 2018 NEAFL season he averaged 19 disposals and four marks. A strong mark who can play forward if needed, he will be looking to play regular football and make himself a future star player in the backline.

Season draw
According to Champion Data Hawthorn have the second-hardest fixture in the competition. They play rivals Geelong, premiers West Coast, GWS and North Melbourne twice, all teams who will be battling for a top-eight spot. They also play the rising Brisbane twice, who many believe are a sneaky chance for a top-eight spot.

On a more positive note, the Hawks leave Victoria only five times – not including the the team’s Tasmanian home games – and play a handful of Friday night matches.

Chad Wingard Hawthorn

(Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Melbourne Demons

2018 season
What a season it was for the Demons. After a long wait, they were back in finals, and it was a journey all fans enjoyed. Max Gawn was back to his best in the ruck after being injured for a portion of 2017, while Clayton Oliver and Angus Brayshaw impressed in midfield. Tom McDonald also had a fantastic season, kicking 53 goals in 20 games.

The Dees were very impressive throughout the entire season and had a fantastic finals campaign bar the unfortunate preliminary-final loss to eventual premiers West Coast. All in all it was a season to be proud of for all red-and-blue fans out there.

Expectation for 2019
After the success of last season, many are saying that Melbourne could go all the way in 2019, and I have to agree. They have a fantastic midfield featuring Clayton Oliver, Nathan Jones, Christian Petracca and ruckman Max Gawn. They will also be hoping that Jack Viney can stay fit after injuries kept him to ten games.

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Their backline has been boosted with the addition of Kade Kolodsashnij and Steven May from the Suns, and they will also be helped by the return of Jake Lever from an ACL injury some point next season.

While Tom McDonald had a fantastic season in 2018, the Demons will miss young star forward Jesse Hogan, who left for the Dockers. However, they will be hoping that other players from their forward line will be able to kick a few more goals to fill the void he leaves behind.

Overall the Demons have one of the best lists in the competition, one very capable of winning the premiership. Demons fans should be excited for the future, because I only see things going up for Melbourne.

Emerging talent in 2019
Bailey Fritsch had a good first season of AFL football, averaging 16 disposals and five marks and kicking a total of 17 goals. Standing at 188 centimetres, if the Demons want, they could turn him into a replacement for former forward Jesse Hogan. With a strong competitive mark, Fritsch is capable of kicking goals – he kicked 32 goals in the 2017 VFL season to finish runner-up in the leading goal-kickers tally. The Demons will hope he will replicate this at AFL level and fill the gap left by Hogan.

Season draw
A reasonably hard draw has been handed to the Demons, but it’s one they are more than capable of handling. They play Richmond, West Coast and Collingwood twice, all of which will be tough matches, but they’re capable of beating all these teams. They also play the Swans and Saints twice.

Melbourne only leave Victoria five times, not including their Northern Territory home matches, and they’ve kept their Anzac Day eve game against the Tigers in a match-up fans have looked forward to in the past couple of seasons.

Nathan Jones

(Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

North Melbourne Kangaroos

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2018 season
Despite narrowly missing the top eight, the Kangaroos had a moderately successful season. Many predicted them to fall, with some even predicting the wooden spoon, but they proved their critics and were unlucky to miss the finals.

Ben Brown had a fantastic season, kicking 61 goals, and if it wasn’t for Jack Riewoldt kicking ten goals against the Suns, Brown would have won the Coleman. Ben Cunnington and Shaun Higgins had good seasons in the midfield, averaging 25 and 27 disposals respectively, while Jack Ziebell had a good season, kicking 35 goals and averaging 17 disposals, five marks and four tackles.

Expectation for 2019
North Melbourne will have a similar season to their 2018 campaign, but they do have a better list this time around. They’ve added Aaron Hall, Dom Tyson, Jared Polec and Jasper Pittard through the trade period, and all four players will add something new to the Kangaroos list. They’ve also added Tarryn Thomas, said to be one of the best talents of this year’s draft.

North will be hoping these new acquisitions will be able to boost their chances of making finals and will work well with current stars, including Ben Brown and Shaun Higgins. North Melbourne fans will also be hoping they will be able to win the close games they lost last year to make the finals.

Emerging talent in 2019
Tarryn Thomas was drafted with pick eight as a midfielder, but in the VFL he pushed back onto the halfback line and also forwards due to his strong mark and his ability to kick goals. In the under-18s championship for the Allies he averaged 16.3 disposals and showed his tackling skills, averaging 6.8 tackles a game. Thomas could add something different to North’s midfield and will be hoping to make a difference straight away.

Season draw
According to Champion Data, North Melbourne have the third-hardest draw in the competition. They play two games against top-eight regulars Geelong and Hawthorn and they play Port Adelaide and Essendon twice. They also play Brisbane twice.

On the plus side, North Melbourne kept their right to play in the Good Friday game and still host four games in Tasmania.