AFL preview – part 2

Peter Argent looks at the middle six teams from the 2023 campaign and their chances of moving up the ladder.

12th – Geelong Cats, 10 wins, 12 losses, 1 draw

INS – Mitchell Edwards (No.32 draft pick), Joe Furphy (Category B rookie), Lawson Humphries (No.63 draft pick), Emerson Jeka (Rookie Draft), Shaun Mannagh (No.36 draft pick), Connor O’Sullivan (No.11 draft pick), George Stevens (No.58 draft pick), Oliver Wiltshire (No.61 draft pick).

OUTS – Jonathon Ceglar (retired), Flynn Kroeger (delisted), Sam Menegola (delisted), Esava Ratugolea (trade, Port Adelaide), Osca Riccardi (delisted), Sam Simpson (delisted), Isaac Smith (retired), Cooper Whyte (delisted).

Prognosis –  While the Cats haven’t bottomed out for 20 years, the list in 2024 is reliant on Jeremy Cameron, small forward Tyson Stengle and an ageing Tom Hawkins in attack. They have a strong defence and enough talent through the middle, but ruck stocks are also on the thinner side.

Prediction – They will be among a large number of teams fighting for those final couple of spots in the final eight. The Cats could finish anywhere from seventh to 14th.

11th – Essendon – 11 wins, 12 losses

INS – Nate Caddy (No.10 draft pick), Xavier Duursma (trade, Port Adelaide), Todd Goldstein (free agent, North Melbourne), Jade Gresham (free agent, St Kilda), Luamon Lual (No.39 draft pick), Ben McKay (free agent, North Melbourne), Archie Roberts (No.54 draft pick), Vigo Visentini (Rookie Draft).

OUTS – Massimo D’Ambrosio (trade, Hawthorn), Alastair Lord (delisted), Cian McBride (delisted), Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (retired), Rhett Montgomerie (delisted), Anthony Munkara (delisted), Andrew Phillips (retired), Will Snelling (delisted), James Stewart (delisted), Patrick Voss (delisted), Brandon Zerk-Thatcher (trade, Port Adelaide).

Prognosis –  Having traded in a handful of serious talents – Ben McKay down back, the mercurial Jade Gresham and Xavier Duursma from Port – Essendon have improved their list, but with the losses this is only marginal. Mason Redman and Zach Merrett are heart and soul Bombers, while Kyle Langford proved a winner up forward with 51 goals last year.

Prediction – There is still more improvement needed for the Bombers to be serious major round contenders. I don’t expect to make the top eight.

10th – Adelaide – 11 wins, 12 losses

INS – Chris Burgess (trade, Gold Coast), Daniel Curtin (No.8 draft pick), Charlie Edwards (No.21 draft pick), Karl Gallagher (Category B rookie), Oscar Ryan (No.27 draft pick).

OUTS – Tyler Brown (delisted), Tom Doedee (free agent, Brisbane), Jackson Hately (delisted), Shane McAdam (trade, Melbourne), Fischer McAsey (retired), Andrew McPherson (delisted), Tariek Newchurch (delisted), Paul Seedsman (retired).


Prognosis – The major concern at Adelaide is with their defensive end, especially with the injury list in this area, and the lack of experience in the back half. They will need to rely on running defenders like veteran Brodie Smith and Wayne Milera junior to give them drive in this area. Up forward with Taylor Walker, Izak Rankine, Darcy Fogerty and Riley Thilthorpe they should have the firepower to kick a winning score.

Prediction – The buzz words are organic growth within the Crows squad, and they hope it will lift them into finals contention. They will again need a big winter from a 33-year-old Broken Hill export Taylor ‘Tex’ Walker.

Western Bulldogs 9th – 12 wins, 11 losses

INS – Lachie Bramble (SSP, Hawthorn), Nick Coffield (trade, St Kilda), Jordan Croft (No.15 draft pick, father-son), Joel Freijah (No.45 draft pick), James Harmes (trade, Melbourne), Aiden O’Driscoll (No.55 draft pick), Ryley Sanders (No.6 draft pick), Lachlan Smith (No.47 draft pick).

OUTS – Josh Bruce (retired), Hayden Crozier (delisted), Mitch Hannan (delisted), Robbie McComb (delisted), Toby McLean (delisted), Tim O’Brien (delisted), Cody Raak (delisted), Roarke Smith (delisted), Jordon Sweet (trade, Port Adelaide).

Prognosis – Besides, perhaps having the best player in the competition, Marcus Bontempelli, the Western Bulldogs are a bit of an enigma. The talent within the squad, including stars like Caleb Daniel, Tom Liberatore, Tim English, Aaron Naughton and Jamarra Ugle-Hagen, rate with the best in the AFL. This team needs consistency and the ability to close out games.

Prediction – Western Bulldogs have the fire-power to play at the business end of the major round, but need to get the job done through the season.

Sydney 8th – 12 wins, 10 losses, 1 draw

INS – Taylor Adams (trade, Collingwood), Caiden Cleary (No.24 draft pick, Academy), Will Green (No.16 draft pick), Brodie Grundy (trade, Melbourne), Joel Hamling (free agent, Fremantle), James Jordon (free agent, Melbourne), Indhi Kirk (Category B rookie, Academy), Patrick Snell (No.53 draft pick).

OUTS – Ryan Clarke (delisted), Will Gould (delisted), Hugo Hall-Kahan (delisted), Lance Franklin (retired), Tom Hickey (retired), Paddy McCartin (retired), Cameron Owen (delisted), Lachlan Rankin (delisted), Marc Sheather (delisted), Dylan Stephens (trade, North Melbourne).

Prognosis – Gaining two huge recruits in midfielder Taylor Adams and quality ruckman Brodie Grundy, now at his third club, the Sydney Swans have topped up well in key areas. Despite losing Buddy Franklin to retirement, they have stars in Isaac Heenry and Eric Goulden, a premier small forward in Tom Papley and plenty of role players who make the side a true contender, yet again.

Prediction – Having an amazingly good record of playing finals under John Longmire, expect that to continue in 2024. Whether they have the group to be a top four contender is more questionable.

GWS Giants 7th – 13 wins, 10 losses

INS – Joseph Fonti (No.44 draft pick), Phoenix Gothard (No.12 draft pick), James Leake (No.17 draft pick), Harvey Thomas (No.59 draft pick, Academy), Nathan Wardius (Category B rookie, Academy).

OUT – Phil Davis (retired), Cameron Fleeton (delisted), Matt Flynn (free agent, West Coast), Jason Gillbee (delisted), Daniel Lloyd (retired).

Prognosis – Under Adam Kingsley, the Giants were impressive, especially in the second half of the ’23 campaign. Their defence is sound and with the leadership of Toby Greene, having Jesse Hogan as a pivotal target in attack, along with the class of Josh Kelly and Lachie Whitfield, all the key pieces are in place.

Prediction – Could this be the year of the Giants – they have the personnel to go all the way, given a good season with injury and form.

PICTURE: Isaac Cumming drives the ball into attack. PETER ARGENT

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