Footy is back and it is time to put my neck on the line with some predictions.
I’m really excited for this season and I think it will be the year of the Giants.
I also see Gold Coast improving and Hawthorn on the slide.
So, without any further ado, here is my ladder for 2017.
1st (and premiers) – Greater Western Sydney
They won’t go backwards and have so many good young kids who haven’t even been tried yet. Brett Deledio will make an impact when it matters most. A class act.
2nd – Western Bulldogs
They will get better, with Robert Murphy, Stewart Crameri and Travis Cloke coming in. Lin Jong will step up this year, too. I love the way Luke Beveridge has handled Cloke.
3rd – Sydney
You just can’t write them off. They have a really classy midfield and Buddy Franklin is always exciting. Sam Reid is a big addition if he plays regularly.
4th – West Coast
Speaking to people about Sam Mitchell, they can’t believe the impact he has had on the Eagles. He will make a massive difference.
5th – Adelaide
Their good is very good but they need to be more consistent. A fast start to the season will be crucial.
6th – Geelong
I’m interested to see how the experiment of Harry Taylor going forward works. Their smalls need to lift. But any side with Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield will be very competitive.
7th – Gold Coast
The Suns are my big improvers. Their goal-to-goal line is very good and Gary Ablett is in good nick. It is time for them to show some serious form.
8th – Melbourne
I’m really impressed by coach Simon Goodwin. He has set tough standards. Christian Petracca and Jesse Hogan will have big years.
9th – St Kilda
Their best is good enough but can they sustain it? Wouldn’t surprise me if they sneak in. Consistency the key.
10th – Hawthorn
I’m still wondering about the collateral damage trading out Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis did.
11th – North Melbourne
On last year’s form, they’ll be lucky to win two of their first 10. Robbie Tarrant is as good a centre half-back as anyone and I think they have recruited well. But I can’t see them making the eight.
12th – Essendon
I’m hearing John Worsfold will play a simple, fast brand of footy. They’ve got a couple of players – Orazio Fantasia and Zach Merrett – who excite me but they are a big unknown.
13th – Collingwood
I’ve got reservations about the Pies. They’ve promised so much for a long time and haven’t delivered. Wins and losses are what coaches are measured on and Nathan Buckley could be in a lot of trouble.
14th – Port Adelaide
They played well in the JLT Series but pre-season footy is like dancing with your sister. I really like the look of Sam Powell-Pepper but they won’t play finals.
15th – Richmond
I hope they play a faster brand of footy this year. Can’t see them improving.
16th – Fremantle
I’m concerned about their forward line. Will they kick enough goals? I really rate Nathan Fyfe but he can’t do it all.
17th – Brisbane
They were terrible last year. They need to improve a hell of a lot. Tough year ahead.
18th – Carlton
I can’t believe so many good players have been allowed to leave over the last few years. ‘Short-term pain for long-term gain’ sounds good in theory but when the losses stack up, the natives get restless.
My other predictions:
Brownlow Medal – Nat Fyfe and Sam Mitchell
Coleman Medal – Josh Kennedy (West Coast)
Rising Star – Sam Powell-Pepper
Denis Pagan coached 344 games of AFL football with North Melbourne and Carlton, winning two premierships with the Kangaroos in 1996 and 1999.