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The new kings of the AFL jungle: 2021 AFL ladder prediction

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Roar Guru
10th March, 2021
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2362 Reads

Lazarus, come forth.

After skipping last season due to – something? I think I had a reason. Something must have happened but I can’t remember what now – I’ve brought back my ladder prediction.

Once again this is based on a randomised list of all the AFL teams so if this seems like an absurd order and many of my points are tenuous at best, that’s why.

So with that, and a massive spoiler warning because this will be the most accurate prediction of the AFL season you’ll read, here is the team order for season 2021 from wooden spooners to premiers.

18. Collingwood
Well after an offseason like that, where else can you expect to end up? Les Zig will be very happy with what the randomiser has drawn up here.

Between the absolute shambles of a trade period to the pathetic attempts to handle the racism inquiry, something is rotten in the kingdom of Collingwood. Eddie may be gone but this needs a more intensive treatment.

They’ve got Buckley’s chance of improving back to competitiveness without a full root and branch rebuild. This will require trading away some experienced stars who won’t last long enough for another push at finals at Collingwood but are worth some draft stock.

Of course the Magpies will want to try to get maximum value from their players and not give them away like some sort of reverse magpie.

17. Sydney
Oh Sydney. You almost have something. There are a lot of good young players at the Swans but they still rely a lot on their elder statesmen like Kennedy and Buddy.

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While this will nab them a few wins and I think they’ll have a healthy percentage for 17th, it’ll take until their young kids are their main core of players for them to compete for finals again.

This year their youthful enthusiasm will cause them to concede probably around 20 50-metre penalties match because of brilliant new rules. Hopefully that young core will be their main group by the end of this year so the Swans can push for finals in 2022.

16. Melbourne
I was thinking that with the ending of long-running demon-hunting series Supernatural that maybe that’ll see the Demons have their strength return so they can make a run like in 2018. This evidently won’t be the case.

They made some moves during the offseason to improve their position but Ben Brown is just too injured and won’t suit how the league plays.

Max Gawn is also getting long in the tooth and worn down and he’s still in their top 5 players. This will be another season of missed opportunities for Melbourne.

Max Gawn of the Demons celebrates a goal

Max Gawn (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

15. St Kilda
First big surprise of the prediction is that the Saints will not maintain their improvement this year. While they were an exciting up-and-coming group last season, this year it will be a difficult second album of a season.

Their high speed play style does leave them exposed defensively and can lead to more injuries and tiring themselves out. That will be their downfall this year.

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They do have a bright future though. It will include a lot of learning and development, some tweaks to the game plan and a few new faces to compliment their strategy.

They have one of, if not the, oldest lists in the league and they need some youth to balance that out. I expect a big climb in 2022.

One positive is that the Saints will be higher than Demons, preserving the celestial hierarchy for another year.

14. Adelaide
After one of the worst seasons in any team’s history, the only way is up. All empires fall and all teams bottom out. The Crows can start working on building a new core of stars while they have Tex and Sloane.

It won’t be an easy rebuild. The Crows need a bit of everything and don’t seem to have any innate strengths to build around but that may be to their benefit this year.

Experimentation should be a part of everyone’s life and football is no exception. How else will you know who you want to go to the big dance with?

13. Hawthorn
The Hawks (not the non-Illawarra basketball team) are stuck in the middle. Much like Gerry Rafferty, they need to break up the band to take the next step.

Alastair Clarkson has been integral to Hawthorn’s success but you can’t keep going back to the well. It’s time to find a new coach and have them build the next good Hawks team.

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Right now they’re not good enough to compete nor bad enough to get dramatic with rebuilding. The Saints were in that space for much of the last decade; the Hawks will want to avoid falling into that pit.

Metaphorically speaking.

12. Carlton
Another team stuck between the moon and New York City (in this metaphor, the moon being heaven and New York as hell because it’s New York and that place is terrible). Carlton showed promise last year with a healthy percentage but not that many wins.

I think they’ll end up getting close to 11-11, probably 9-13, and they may even have a positive percentage. However they’ll be unable to get over the line against the really good teams. Injuries to their veterans will also hamstring their momentum.

11. Bulldogs
The non-Illawarra Hawks of the AFL, the not-Footscray Bulldogs have the pieces of a really good team. Their midfield in particular is up there and Adam Treloar only makes them stronger. However, their forward line is inconsistent and their defence is vulnerable.

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This will lead to a number of blowout losses and disappointing results. They’ll still get a decent number of wins but will fall short of finals by two games a chunk of percent. They may have a lower percentage than the Blues.

Adam Treloar

Adam Treloar is now a Bulldog (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

10. Geelong
Now I’m not saying it would be hilarious if the Cats missed the finals all together after going all in on this team by signing Jeremy Cameron, Shaun Higgins and Isaac Smith this past offseason; I’m just heavily implying it with my phrasing of this sentence.

Seriously though, the Cats are old and not just in the “they have some important veterans” way. It seems they’ll rely on a kind of Cocoon corps of Tom Hawkins, Joel Selwood, Rodney Dangerfield, Mark Blicavs, Shaun Higgins, Zach Tuohy and Isaac Smith with Jeremy Cameron only a couple of years behind them. Seems risky to me.

Though of course maybe it’ll end up being a Tompa Brady situation where all the old men of the league get together for one last job, chase a flag and get away with the loot.

9. Fremantle
The Dockers are in an interesting spot. After squandering the opportunity presented by the prime of their last great player, Matthew Pavlich, they’re getting close to doing it again with Nat Fyfe.

They have some nice pieces developing and picked up from other teams but they’re still missing a couple more stars to back up Fyfe and Michael Walters.

The ship isn’t quite fully loaded yet, but the hull is solid.

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8. Richmond
I don’t know about you but I’ve had some bad hangovers in my life. They’re awful and you convince yourself you’ll never make that mistake again, but sure enough, the next time your mates are bringing the eighth round to your table you don’t turn it down.

What I’m saying is the Tigers have had two year long binges of success. The hangover has to come at some point. I’m thinking they’ll start strong but tire out as injuries get to them.

Similar to the Kangaroos in 2016. Whether or not that hangover lasts beyond this season depends on if they’ve remembered to put a water bottle and aspirin on their bedside table. And please don’t ask me to explain that metaphor because I lost track a while back.

Dustin Martin of the Tigers celebrates kicking a goal

Dustin Martin. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

7. Gold Coast
Just as the empire united must divide, so the empire divided must unite. The Suns have limped along for 10 seasons with nary a whimper in September. That all changes this year.

With a full season into Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson, the Suns are going to rise up the ladder. The randomiser says finals and I’m not going to overrule that.

Their young kids are better than any before and they have solid experienced heads to help guide the development. I’m looking forward to seeing the Gold Coast in the finals for the first time, if only so I don’t feel completely silly for knowing all the lyrics to their song.

6. Essendon
A new coach can breathe an amazing amount of life into a club. Ben Rutten was a very solid, both actually and metaphorically, player for the Crows for years. He knows defence and that is something the Bombers need to get better at to rise up the ladder.

Fortunately they will. Losing Joe Daniher is a blow but they can focus on what they have rather than worrying about what they may lose.

They have a large number of good young players so they will get some exciting wins. It’ll be a couple of years before they’re a serious finals threat though.

5. North Melbourne
Another new coach, though this one starts his job in an even more tumultuous situation, if you can believe that.

This is not how David Noble would have imagined getting a head coach position but it’s what he has. Fortunately for the Roos, he has experience with how to build a team thanks to his time at the Lions.

Jaidyn Stephenson and Aidan Corr are great key players that are frustrating losses for their former clubs but can help North turn around quickly. I think they’ll win a number of close games thanks to their even spread of contributors but will struggle against teams with a number of stars.

4. Port Adelaide
Last season’s best team would be cursing their lack of focus in the preliminary final. Port Adelaide’s best opportunity for a second AFL flag since 2004 was squandered by allowing too many Richmond’s forwards too many opportunities to score. Not an earth-shattering discovery by any means.

This year, while Ollie Wines and Robbie Gray will still play a major role, it’ll be the younger Xavier Duursma and Zak Butters who lead in the centre. Aliir Aliir is a handing key and rebounding player that’ll help their defence get better.

However clearly Ken Hinkley isn’t the one to get the Power over the line. Much like coal, his time has passed.

3. GWS
Just before a tsunami hits land the water can recede from the shore in what is known as a drawback. This is a dangerous mirage. Last season was the orange tsunami’s drawback.

While there has been a lot of turnover at the Giants, this has only focussed the remaining core. They are more than capable of threatening for a flag.

In fact the last team to miss September after losing some tough finals was Richmond, who also made it to third before running to the premiership. Could the randomiser be hinting at a similar trajectory for GWS? I really hope so.

2. West Coast
The Elimination Final last year was one of the stranger loses I’ve ever seen the Eagles have. It was almost like they expected they would run over the top of the Magpies and were surprised that the siren sounded before they did. This will galvanise them this year.

Their core is ageing. Josh Kennedy and Shannon Hurn probably only have a year or two left and Luke Shuey and Nic Naitanui have both hit 30. However they still have a chance to get another flag before they won’t have these players any more.

It won’t stay open much longer but the Eagles can still squeeze through the window, much as I can squeeze one more wearing of those comfy jeans before I have to buy a new pair.

1. Brisbane
Third time’s the charm. The Lions have been awesome for much of the last two seasons. They would have been worthy premiers in either year. However this time, they have the players and experience to go all the way.

I was surprised when they picked up Daniher. I didn’t think a lanky left-foot forward was what they were missing since they already had one and two seemed a little decadent.

But Lions are the kings of the jungle and I much rather they go the decadent royalty route than any of the other options. If you should learn anything from having La Marseillaise as your theme tune, it’s that decadence always ends well.

So that’s what I have for season 2021. I’m looking forward to seeing some live sport in person again. Hope to see you all at a game.

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