This fourth part of the six-part series comprises five players that the Sydney Swans, West Coast Eagles and Western Bulldogs could least afford to lose in season 2021 plus a pre-draft honourable mention.
The Swans will be looking to take positives into 2021. They will be looking to improve on missing the finals. If they are to be in the reckoning for the eight, they’ll need all of these players fit and firing.
Honourable mention: Lance Franklin
Buddy will be a pivotal part of the Sydney system and structure as he is expected to fit for Round 1 for 2021. Expect him to draw defenders and other Swans forwards to profit from Franklin’s presence in the forward line.
5. Jordan Dawson
He’s an impressive utility who can play on a wing, in the back pocket, in the forward line or as an impact player off the interchange bench. Expect 2021 to be a good season for him as he has plenty of potential.
4. Isaac Heeney
Heeney was a big loss for the Swans for the majority of 2020 due to injury. He will be played predominantly on a half-forward flank and should make Sydney a formidable opposition if they feature in the finals.
3. Luke Parker
He’s a leader and one of Sydney’s most important players. He finished second in the Swans 2020 best and fairest for a reason – he had a good, consistent season. Expect him to be a pivotal player once again in 2021 should they play to their optimum level.
2. Tom Papley
Papley is unstoppable when at his best. He finished third in the Sydney best and fairest in 2020 despite being the only Swans player in the All Australian squad of 40. He should be integral in deciding whether the Swans are successful in 2021.
1. Dane Rampe
He was a bit of a barometer in 2020. He played only 11 matches, but four of Sydney’s five wins came when he was in the side, and he finished fourth in the Swans best and fairest. Expect him to lead from the front to put Sydney into the mix for the final in 2021.
The Eagles will want to duplicate the way they played in 2020 for the 2021 season, albeit with some improvements.
Honourable mention: Alex Witherden
He’ll be an important part of the West Coast Eagles back six if 2020 is any indication. In the six games he featured in for Brisbane in 2020 he averaged the third most disposals of any Lions player. Expect him to make the Lions decision to trade a regretful one, as he should be an important part of the Eagles best 22 in 2021.
5. Brad Sheppard
He was named in the back pocket of the All Australian team in 2020. Expect him to replicate the form in 2021. He’s moved on from being an average player to one the Eagles could least afford to lose.
4. Andrew Gaff
Gaff finished second in the West Coast 2020 best and fairest. He was in exceptional form for the Eagles and was a part of the 2020 All Australian squad of 40. He should be an important part of the Eagles team in 2021 should they go deeper in the finals.
3. Jeremy McGovern
He’s the best key defender the Eagles have. At his best, when fit and available for all of the games, he is undisputedly the best centre halfback in the competition and a key part of the West Coast structure.
2. Liam Ryan
Ryan had a good season in 2020. He finished sixth in the West Coast best and fairest and was named in the 2020 All Australian team in the forward pocket. Expect him to be an imperative part of the side in 2021.
1. Nic Naitanui
Naitanui is widely renowned as the best ruckman in the competition – indeed he was the ruckman in the 2020 All Australian team and won the West Coast Eagles best and fairest in the same season. That’s why he is the player that the Eagles could least afford to lose in 2021.
The Western Bullldogs will want to better than they were in 2020, which is to say they should aime to finish in the top four and be in the mix for the premiership.
Honourable mention: Adam Treloar
He averaged the most disposals of any player in the AFL in 2020. Expect him to have less pressure on him in 2021 than he had in 2020. He can be used on the wing or in the midfield. He should be a surprise packet for the Western Bulldogs. Put simply, he can play instinctively as he is unlikely to get tagged. He’ll have a good season, which is depressing from the perspective of a Collingwood supporter!
5. Lachie Hunter
Hunter came ninth in the Bulldogs best and fairest playing just ten of 18 games. The Bulldogs are a better team with him in it.
4. Tim English
Expect him to improve in 2021 and have less pressure on him in the ruck given the recruitment of Stefan Martin from the Brisbane Lions. English will be an imperative part of the Western Bulldogs if they are to taste the ultimate success in 2021, as he can take contested marks and has a good work rate.
3. Jack Macrae
He was named in the All Australian team in 2020 on the wing. He will prove why he should be considered as an elite player of the competition in 2021.
2. Caleb Daniel
He was one of the best players in the competition in 2020 and was named on the interchange bench in the All Australian team. Expect Daniel to prove that his selection in the All Australian team was warranted by being a consistent performer in 2021.
1. Marcus Bontempelli
Bontempelli was named on a half-forward flank of the All Australian team in 2020. He has the capability to play as a forward or as a midfielder and has the opportunity to show why he is one of the best leaders in the competition in 2021. He may well lift the premiership cup if the Bulldogs can play to their potential.