The Tasmanian government has put negotiations with North Melbourne and Hawthorn on hold as it seeks a timeline from the AFL for the state’s own team.
This fourth part of the six-part series comprises five players that the Hawthorn Hawks, Melbourne Demons and North Melbourne Kangaroos could least afford to lose in season 2021 plus a pre-draft honourable mention.
The Hawks will take a few positives into 2021. Here are the players that they could least afford to lose in 2021:
Honourable mention: Liam Shiels
Shiels was a part of the leadership group of the Hawthorn Hawks in 2020. He finished equal fifth in the Hawks’ best and fairest in that season. He will be an important part of the team should the Hawks feature in the 2020 finals.
5. Tom Phillips
Phillips is a player that has the capability to play either on the wing or in the middle of the ground if given the opportunity. Since Ricky Henderson retired and Isaac Smith won’t be at the Hawthorn Hawks in 2021, it means that Phillips should be a pivotal part of the Hawks team.
4. Kyle Hartigan
Hartigan will be an important player for the Hawthorn Hawks given the retirement of Ben Stratton, the fact that they will be without James Frawley and an injury suffered by James Sicily. Hartigan has the capability to play anywhere in the back six.
3. Chad Wingard
Wingard is a versatile player that can play on a half-forward flank, in the midfield on the wing or even on a half-back flank. He finished third in the Hawthorn Hawks’ best and fairest in 2020. Expect Wingard to build confidence from that in 2021.
2. Tom Mitchell
Mitchell is extremely reliable. He missed the entirety of 2019 due to injury, but he still managed to finish second in their 2020 best and fairest.
1. Jack Gunston
Gunston will be a pivotal player and will gain confidence from winning the 2020 best and fairest for the Hawthorn Hawks. He will need to lead by example with players such as Mitch Lewis getting their opportunity. Mitchell and Jon Patton will look to Gunston to show them the way a tall forward should play.
The Demons need to improve on their consistency in order to feature in finals in 2021. The following players are the ones that they could least afford to lose:
Honourable mention: Ben Brown
Brown will need to be at his best in 2021 to prove that the Melbourne Demons made the right decision to recruit him. A change is as good as a holiday and perhaps a change of scenery will suit Brown.
5. Ed Langdon
Langdon is underrated as he is one of the best wingers in the competition. He could be a difficult player to replace as he specialises in playing on the wing and will be looking to prove how talented he is in 2021.
4. Clayton Oliver
Oliver was one of three Melbourne Demons players that were in the squad of 40. He could be an important part of this Demons team if they are to play at an optimal level next season.
3. Steven May
May finished second in the Melbourne Demons’ best and fairest. He will be integral to the Demons team in 2021 if they are to reach their potential and play finals.
2. Christian Petracca
Petracca is the Melbourne Demons’ version of Dustin Martin and Patrick Dangerfield. Petracca won their best and fairest and should gain plenty of confidence as he was a part of the 2020 All-Australian team in the midfield. He should get even better in 2021.
1. Max Gawn
Gawn will be a pivotal part of the Demons in 2021. He is the ruckman that won’t have Braydon Preuss as a backup this season. Despite the Demons’ patchy form, Gawn was named on the interchange bench of the All-Australian 2020 team.
The Kangaroos will be looking to improve and be competitive in 2021. The following players are the ones that they could least afford to lose:
Honourable mention: Nick Larkey
Larkey averaged the most goals of any North Melbourne Kangaroos player in 2020 with an average of 1.40 goals in ten games. The Kangaroos will be a better team with him playing as he should prove to be a pivotal part of their structure in 2021.
5. Robbie Tarrant
Tarrant is an important player in the Kangaroos’ system. He is their best key defender they have and has the opportunity to show why in 2021.
4. Trent Dumont
Dumont has the capability to play on the wing, in the midfield or as an impact player off the interchange bench. He should prove that an imperative part of the North Melbourne Kangaroos’ best 22 in 2021 if he plays at his best.
3. Jed Anderson
Anderson will be important if the Kangaroos are able to improve. He finished third in their best and fairest in 2020 and will have to improve even more if the team is to progress.
2. Jy Simpkin
Simpkin is in the prime of his career and should be pivotal in 2021.
1. Luke McDonald
McDonald won the 2020 Kangaroos’ best and fairest award fairly comfortably. He is clearly the best midsized defender that they have in 2021.