Reigning premiers Hawthorn, runners-up Fremantle and Sydney are the only potential grand final opponents for an AFL team this season, according to a poll of the 18 club captains.
The release of their annual survey coincides with Wednesday night’s AFL season launch in Adelaide.
The skippers were asked which other team will make the grand final – 10 went for the Hawks, five for Fremantle and three for Sydney.
Predictably, those three clubs also received the maximum 17 votes when the captains were asked which other seven teams will make the top eight.
The popularity of those three teams reflects a widely-held belief that there will be a wide-open competition this season between fourth and 15th on the AFL ladder.
Curiously, one skipper picked Geelong to not make the top eight and Collingwood only received 12 votes.
West Coast (11), North Melbourne and Richmond (nine apiece), Essendon and Port Adelaide (seven apiece) and Adelaide and Carlton (two apiece) were the other top-eight picks.
Gold Coast was not named, despite the Suns having reasonable claims to break into the finals for the first time.
New Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury was the most popular Brownlow Medal fancy, attracting votes from four of his counterparts.
Last year’s winner Gary Ablett and Adelaide star Patrick Dangerfield polled three votes and 10 players in total were nominated.
No captain predicted Hawthorn’s Jarryd Roughead would win the Coleman Medal last year – this time, four have nominated him.
Collingwood key forward Travis Cloke and West Coast’s Josh Kennedy were the most popular picks with five apiece.
Nine captains correctly named Jaeger O’Meara last year as the Rising Star winner and this time seven have gone for his Gold Coast team-mate Jack Martin.