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What do the AFL clubs want for Christmas, and what does the new year hold? Part one

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Roar Guru
15th December, 2019
27
2346 Reads

It’s mid-December already. Just nine days until Christmas.

Perhaps I’m just getting old, but aren’t the years just flying by? And in footy, it’s been another whirlwind one.

So, forgive me for the ridiculously cliched concept of this article, but it’s December, and I’m aiming can have a bit of fun.

I’m splitting this piece into two parts for brevity, but among these first nine teams, we had three coach changes, one wooden spooner, one minor premier, one inaugural grand finalist and one Brownlow winner.

All nine, though, would have great desires for next year, so what could the AFL’s hypothetical Father Christmas have in store for them?

Adelaide
For Christmas, the Crows would love for their proposed move of their training centre and HQ to Adelaide’s parklands to move forth without a hitch.

North Adelaide’s notoriously picky residents, though, have appear to be resisting the might of the club’s proposed move, however, and the Crows face a pickle in convincing them that replacing a public swimming pool to become the club’s training base is no big deal.

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Adelaide’s New Year prospects … are decisively muted, verging on pessimistic, depending on who you ask. The club avoided the infamy of losing a coach midseason, with Don Pyke departing after the grand final.

They’ve lost a heap of players, and installed a new coach, but nothing excites me about them, if I’m honest. Expect a non-finals, but non-bottom three finish for them: but don’t expect the highest honours, with one betting company at the time of writing having them equal second-last in premiership odds.

Brisbane
For Christmas, the Lions, similarly to their aforementioned South Australian counterparts, would love their under-construction training base to go off without a hitch.

The good news is it’s officially-official. The sorta-bad news is it’s a year away. Still, it looks brilliant – fit with a boutique stadium for the club’s AFLW team.

Their New Year prospects … look rather rosy. There was no dream granny appearance last year, but that’s alright.

Customarily, the club would face a more difficult draw after a successful year, but, according to everybody’s favourites statistical enterprise Champion Data, they don’t (they’ve got the sixth easiest). I’d say they’re a sure bet for finals, but in saying that, I’d be hesitant to make any bold predictions at this stage. They could yet pull a Melbourne.

Carlton
For Christmas, the Blues would desperately like to survive their opening rounds unscathed (and hopefully not winless).

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The first month – Richmond, Essendon and the Bulldogs – is a difficult one, particularly with the temperamental nature of the Dons.

As a stocking filler, the club would also be hoping – praying – that Sam Docherty can avoid any further form of injury. The whole footy world joins them in that, too.

Their New Year prospects … are alright. The first month aside, they only travel to meet finalists twice, and their marked improvement in the latter half of season 2019 gives me some optimism.

I can’t see them making finals, but I don’t see them falling too far back in the chasing pack, either.

Collingwood
For Christmas, the Magpies would desire a few things, particularly a return to mental health stability for Dayne Beams, and an off season without major injuries.

Their New Year prospects … are pretty good. It’s difficult to see Collingwood flopping from finals contention, although the pack for the premiership is tight.

Nathan Buckley’s men capitulated against the Giants in their preliminary final last year – arguably robbing the AFL populace of a worthy Grand Final to watch – and expect to see them desperate for redemption – for last year, and 2018’s tight premiership loss.

Chris Mayne Nathan Buckley

Chris Mayne and Nathan Buckley. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/AFL Media/Getty Images)

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Essendon
For Christmas, Essendon would be praying for the ability to not just make finals, but the ability to win one. Our imaginary footy Santa spies their success in the first metric this year … and promptly doesn’t care.

The club is one of the league’s biggest, and no doubt fans will be becoming increasingly impatient – or perhaps they’re just ambivalent.

The club is embarking on an ambitious coaching succession plan, and a failure to capitalise on John Worsfold’s last year with the club means I’ll be copying and pasting the first sentence of this paragraph into a similar article this time next year.

Their New Year prospects … according to popular consensus, are mixed. They don’t have a super hard fixture, and certainly could make finals, but the chasing pack for finals is a large and varied one, and Essendon is one of the most enigmatic sides in the competition.

Unfortunately for every footy supporter, they feature aplenty in the prime broadcasting spots, of course, which means we’re all going to be forced to relive the Daniher-to-Swans drama for the entire season. Yay.

Joe Daniher

Joe Daniher wants a trade – will he get one? (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)

Fremantle Dockers
For Christmas, and I’ve got selfish motives in mind as I type this, the club would desire success. Team success, specifically – Fyfey’s Brownlow success was awesome, but more a barometer of his individual brilliance.

Detractors got an early present with Ross Lyon’s August sacking, and supporters too got an early present with a fine draft period, but a dearth of success in the past five years has fans (me) impatient.

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Their New Year prospects … are better than they were on August 20, 2019, but questions remain; how will the injuries go?

How to replenish the loss in speed that flew to Victoria with Brad Hill and Ed Langdon’s departures? How will Freo’s mammoth draft haul fit into the club? And can they win a goddamn Derby one of these days? [N.B: That last question was, verbatim, one I ask regularly].

Geelong
For Christmas, I can envision Geelong would like everybody to stop talking about that guy who flew west. They’ve still got two of the holy trinity – one of whom was second in the Brownlow, mind. In case I’m off the mark with that wish, Geelong would also like to thank Santa for a relatively early Christmas gift – an easier-than-expected fixture that belies their ladder billing next year.

Their New Year prospects … are, like a few clubs in this article, looking very good. Minor premiers last year, the Cats are aiming high yet again (but are only sixth in the premiership betting markets…), and will almost certainly be playing in September yet again.

What is less certain is whether Geelong can make anything happen – their oft-reported finals record ain’t flash, and Geelong remain among the oldest teams in the competition…

Gold Coast
For Christmas, Gold Coast would like, well, anything but the status quo.

Their New Year prospects … are essentially established already. They’re not going to rise into finals, and they’re not going to be winning a ton of games.

The fledging Suns did have a very good draft, and retention issues seem to be slowly evaporating, but being realistic, the Gold Coast remain pretty far behind the pack in terms of on-field performance.

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GWS Giants
For Christmas, a chance at redemption. The Giants – sentimental favourites for much of Australia, villainous pretenders to some of the AFL establishment – flopped badly on Grand Final day.

Whilst that would usually see a lump of coal under the tree, they’re fortunate our hypothetical footy Santa shares the league’s affinity for controversial expansion teams, so expect them to be in the mix next year (oh, and their talent might also contribute to the whole being in the mix aspect, of course).

Their New Year prospects … aren’t too bad. The Giants have locked away – contractually – some of their best, and whilst there’s plenty eager to begrudge them after *that* capitulation, I’d expect the Giants to remain among the toughest teams to play against.

Only two Friday night slots seems a little harsh, though.