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What went wrong for AFL's 2023 also-rans?

Roar Guru
4th September, 2023
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Roar Guru
4th September, 2023
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While the focus turns to what should be a fascinating AFL finals series, what of the teams not participating?

What went wrong for these 10 sides?

Western Bulldogs

Something seems amiss at the kennel. This is a team which should have made the finals, let’s be blunt. While the list may not be as good as some rave about, there is sufficient quality in the personnel to have made a better fist than they did.

Marcus Bontempelli headlines a strong midfield, while the forward line possesses firepower, although is somewhat one-dimensional. The defence is a tad shaky.

Could it be that the coach has lost the players? Is the game plan too predictable? Do the players lack connection across the ground? All questions to ponder over what is sure to be a long, hot summer.

Speculated finish in 2024: 6-9

Adelaide Crows

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Definitely the hard luck story of the season. Losing some very close games, most notably to Collingwood, and of course the non-goal decision which went against them in the match with Sydney cruelled Adelaide’s season.

However, there are some potential stars in the making at Adelaide Oval in Josh Rachelle, Luke Pedlar and Jake Soligo, among others. The forward line is a bit over-reliant on Taylor Walker, however.

Taylor Walker of the Crows kicks the ball

(Photo by James Elsby/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

A little more composure under pressure and some luck is needed for Adelaide to make the next steps.

Speculated finish in 2024: 5-10

Essendon

If one takes out the last two games then it was a reasonable season for the Bombers. However, it is hard to forget the last two outings and that should burn over summer.

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The list appears to be deficient in the spine while the engine room lacks grunt. The re-signings of Darcy Parish and Mason Redmond are important for the Bombers but the off-season will be critical in terms of recruitment and training.

Speculated finish in 2024: 8-12

Geelong

Every year talk of Geelong falling off a cliff surfaces only for the doubters to be proven wrong. This time around somehow it seems that the cliff does really beckon.

While the Cats were injury-hit, it does appear that Father Time has caught up with the list. The midfield is slow and lacks depth while the defence looked shaky at times.

The newcomers impressed to a degree, including Ollie Henry and Tanner Bruhn, but whether they are the basis for building a team around in the future is highly debatable.

Speculated finish in 2024: 9-14

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Richmond

In a similar boat to Geelong. The premiership era seems well and truly over and the future of Dustin Martin remains subject to conjecture.

The retirements of Trent Cotchin and Jack Riewoldt is further evidence of the dismantling of the juggernaut of 2017-2020 while the jury is still out on the quality of the green shoots. The Tigers have very little by way of a draft hand to play with. A patient coach with development skills is needed, as is a fit and firing Tom Lynch.

Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper were solid, but were they worth the price that was paid?

Speculated finish in 2024: 11-16

Fremantle

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One of the mysteries of the AFL. At times they can look world beaters, for example, in their defeat of Melbourne, while at other times they can be decidedly ordinary, even at home.

However, they have emerging talent especially in Jye Amiss, and Josh Treacy up forward, while the midfield is a reasonably solid group. Luke Jackson had a fine season especially late, and the group has a good core of experience and youth.

The future looks bright for the Dockers, but more consistent output is required, as are some more X-factor types.

Speculated finish in 2024: 6-10

Gold Coast

Another disappointing season for the club which has yet to crack a finals berth since being admitted into the big time. This is a team which teases and titillates but does not deliver when it is required.

Touk Miller.

Touk Miller. (Photo by Russell Freeman/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

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At their best the Gold Coast play a freewheeling, attractive brand of football, especially at home but when the whips are cracking the team folds. The recent game against Carlton was a case in point.

Creditable losses will not cut it, and it will be fascinating to see whether Damien Hardwick can instil the necessary steel. Certainly a line-up featuring Matt Rowell, Noah Anderson, Touk Miller and Ben King among others should feature in finals but the support cast of players needs more development.

Speculated finish in 2024: 6-10

Hawthorn

Like their coach, this team plays unsociable football.

There is enough to like about the Hawks to suggest that another strong era beckons in time. The core midfield group is shaping up very nicely and is an impressive blend of grunt and skill, while key position talent is to some extent on show through the likes of Mitch Lewis. However, the club needs at least another key defender to support James Sicily.

Time is on Hawthorn’s side. The season highlight, arguably, was the dismantling of ladder-leaders Collingwood.

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Speculated finish: 8-12

North Melbourne

It is time for patience at North Melbourne. A rebuild is certainly on its way. The green shoots look promising, most notably Rising Star winner Harry Sheezel, Will Phillips and George Wardlaw. Nick Larkey is a bona fide star.

However, the potential of loss of Ben McKay would be a significant blow, while the ruck position needs attention. An overall injection of talent across the board is in order.

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Speculated finish in 2024: 15-18

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West Coast Eagles

The year of hell for this proud club. Long-term injuries, especially to some leading lights, speculation about the coach, demise of the output of key players and some horrendous thrashings all contributed to annus horribilis.

A number of club stalwarts including Luke Shuey, Nic Naitanui, and Shannon Hurn have retired. A major influx of talent right across the spectrum is required. Emerging talent seems light on.

In fairness, the side did rally towards the end of the season, and the win against the Bulldogs was meritorious. The club can build a future around Oscar Allen but it is a long, long haul back.

Speculated finish in 2024: 17-18

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