Geelong’s team will again be somewhat different going into 2017 as it was 12 months ago, with Josh Caddy, Shane Kersten, Nathan Vardy and Billie Smedts all finding new homes during the offseason.
On top of that, the Cats have also lost experienced pair Jimmy Bartel and Corey Enright, albeit Zach Tuohy should slot straight into Enright’s vacancy.
There is no doubting that Geelong’s depth is their biggest downfall – they have it, but how experienced is it? They will be relying on the youth of Jed Bews, Jake Kolodjashnij, Sam Menegola, Tom Ruggles and Jordan Murdoch to hold their own against red hot opposition teams looking to shake up the top eight from 2016.
They won’t be the best team in it, but we do see them hard to beat next season despite the proposed improvement from other sides below them.
The only side who is guaranteed a spot in the top four next year, and it’s because with another pre-season under their young belts, this side will run like there’s no tomorrow, similar to this season. It is hard to say this about any other team, but the Giants can only improve on this season, and they were left disappointed with just a preliminary final berth.
There wasn’t too much movement with them in the trade period, but the obvious big inclusion is star player Brett Deledio making his way over from Richmond. The addition of Deledio brings a heap of extra experience to the side, as well as class and versatility. It has been said he will likely spend his time up forward, but he can play anywhere regardless.
They have the key position stock and the midfield/forward depth, beware the Giants.
Former Brisbane Lion Pearce Hanley adds line-breaking pace to the Suns next so long as he finds his best form again. His elite kicking ability will also be crucial for the Suns’ slim finals chance.
It is hard to see Jarrod Witts getting a game straight away ahead of Tom Nicholls who has shown plenty of promise, so that choice could come down to pre-season training.
A fit David Swallow and Gary Ablett in the Suns midfield will do them wonders, and if their best 22 can stay on the park and build a culture then anything is possible.
They also have handy selections in the NAB AFL Draft and should bring in plenty of young talent through the academy. We can see them fighting for the eight, but there a couple of teams who are just ahead of them. Could easily be the surprise package of next season, however.
As much as everyone wants to see the Hawks slide down the ladder as quickly as possible, it is hard to see them not contending again next season, especially with the addition of gun on-ballers Jaegar O’Meara and Tom Mitchell, as well as key forward Ty Vickery.
In bid for another premiership stint in the short term, the Hawks will more than just tweak the side that couldn’t outlast the Dogs in 2016. It is more likely than not that Luke Hodge could play a lot of his time forward as he edges closer to the end of his career, which means Kaiden Brand and Daniel Howe could be mainstays down in a new-look defence.
There is also still enough scoring power for them to reach the pointy end of the season again. If you’re trying to find a team to fall out of the eight to make room for your struggling side, it could be Hawthorn, but they did everything they could have in the off-season and gain as much, if not more than they lost.
Melbourne are one of the teams who will be pushing ever so furiously to make the eight next season, and so they should be with a talented young squad. The addition of Jordan Lewis, Michael Hibberd and Jake Melksham, who missed 2016 due to a doping ban, brings in plenty of experience and leadership, but more importantly, hope.
They are still a step or two away from being a finals team, but time will need to be on their side in terms of building cohesion around their forward line. Jesse Hogan and Sam Weideman could become a dynamic-duo up forward, but only time will tell.
The squad is shaping up the right way, and if they miss out on finals again, it won’t be by much.
North Melbourne’s side will be a completely new look in 2017, and it may not be a bad thing. Losing Brent Harvey, Daniel Wells, Drew Petrie, Nick Dal Santo and Michael Firrito hurts them to an extent, but this is what allowed them to entice Marley Williams and Nathan Hrovat to the club.
Majak Daw will be one to relish the added responsibility now that Petrie has gone, and Sam Wright, Luke McDonald, Shaun Higgins, Mason Wood and Ben Jacobs should all play large extents of the season after missing vital periods of 2016.
The side looks more than competitive and they did what they needed to in order to try and remain a top-eight side, but they are the less-likely of this year’s finalists to remain in the top half of the ladder.
Next six teams coming later today – stay tuned.