Author Topic: 2018 predictions: How the top eight race is shaping up (Foxsports)  (Read 668 times)

Offline one-eyed

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AFL season 2018 predictions: How the top eight race is shaping up after the trade period

November 6, 2017
Max Laughton
FOX SPORTS


THERE’S just over 130 days and counting until the start of the 2018 AFL season.

But already many teams have made their big moves to win the flag in the trade period.

Already many are trying to predict the top eight for next season, and the natural inclination is to keep it pretty similar to 2017.

But every year at least two teams have dropped out of the finals places from one season to the next — this past season, we had three new finals teams when compared to 2016.

Here’s how the race for the top eight is shaping up after the flurry of moves from the exchange period.

THE LIKELY STAYERS

There are three clear favourites in most betting markets for the 2018 premiership — and that doesn’t include the reigning premiers.

The Adelaide Crows (first in 2017 home and away season), Sydney Swans (sixth) and GWS Giants (fourth) are, in some order, the three teams most expected to win the flag.

Neither of the New South Wales sides made big moves during the trade period — in fact they have a combined one in, with the Giants adding delisted Magpies defender Lachie Keeffe.

Last year GWS lost depth players, but this year the cuts were a bit higher up the list of their best 22, with Devon Smith (Essendon), Nathan Wilson (Fremantle) and Matt Kennedy (Carlton) all departing the club.

The expectation for both them and Sydney appears to be for better runs with injuries — the Giants had to use 37 players last season, while the Swans used 35 but started slowly thanks to injuries early on — and see the talent that is clearly there continue to shine.

Adelaide failed on Grand Final day, but after winning the minor premiership and adding a star in Bryce Gibbs, it’s hard to see them dropping out of the finals places.

They did lose young guns Jake Lever and Charlie Cameron but for them to pull a Fremantle and go from top spot to bottom four in just one year doesn’t sound right to us.

You’d be brave to tip one of this trio to miss the top eight.

AT RISK?

You’d be going against one of the best players of all-time or a flag holder if you said Geelong (second last home and away season) or Richmond (third) was going to miss the finals next season.

And so while we’re not suggesting Gary Ablett and the Cats or Dustin Martin and the Tigers will do so, they’re on the next tier of flag favourites in betting markets. And there are reasons why.

Geelong makes a bit more sense, despite adding Ablett. After all losing the defensive duo of Tom Lonergan and Andrew Mackie to retirement will surely hurt. Harry Taylor will have to swing back, but then the questions on how the Cats will score will return.

While Steven Motlop was much maligned by fans, he added something that essentially no-one else on the list could, and his finals series showed that.

If Ablett’s injury history and age catch up with him, and they can’t overcome their losses, Geelong might have taken a step back. And we saw in 2017 how many teams are ready and waiting to overtake those who lose just a little bit.

The argument for the Tigers is shakier. They’ll go into 2018 with essentially the same team that just won them the flag — that seems a reasonable plan.

But there are two major questions. The first is whether their game-plan, which surprised the AFL this past season, can be sustainable. With six months to study it, will opposing coaches figure it out?

That plays into the second question — whether the Tigers will be the next Western Bulldogs. The Dogs’ handball-happy style was borrowed by many of their opponents and after a season where few of their players improved, the reigning premiers missed the finals in 2017.

But keep in mind that Richmond finished third in the home and away season, not seventh as the Dogs did. That suggests their track record is stronger.

THE BIG MOVERS

The success of Richmond has clearly emboldened a pair of teams that felt they were a few mature-aged inclusions away from a flag — Essendon (seventh) and Port Adelaide (fifth).

Both teams played finals this past season, so you can’t pick them as one of your surprise pair to jump up into the eight. And without a rash of injuries or their recruits misfiring, they sure look like teams that will be better in 2018.

The most impressive thing about the Bombers’ last month was that they were actually able to obtain all three of Devon Smith, Adam Saad and Jake Stringer.

The Dons’ forward line now looks even more imposing although the retirements of Jobe Watson and James Kelly will leave holes elsewhere on the ground.

Similarly, the trade period’s most prolific side, the Power, looks deadly on paper. Adding in Tom Rockliff to that midfield is enticing while Steven Motlop and Jack Watts can both be excellent players (when in form). Even delisted free agent Trent McKenzie brings something.

These clubs have decided to go all-in on success rather than dillydallying around the middle of the pack. That’s admirable. If it doesn’t work, though, it will really hurt.

...AND THEN WHO?

If you lock that seven in — and based on history, you can’t do that — there’s still one spot available in the top eight.

West Coast (eighth) is set to become what North Melbourne was this year — the team everyone and their dog will be tipping to drop out of the finals places.

You can certainly see why. The Eagles snuck into eighth at the last possible moment, and then somehow won that thrilling extra-time elimination final against the Power too. But based on what we saw over the entire season and who they lost it’s hard to tip them to make another semi-final.

While Sam Mitchell and Matt Priddis were criticised for their lack of pace in 2017, they were still most certainly getting games, so losing them adds more problems into what was already a problematic West Coast midfield.

You can see the similarities between their exits and the Kangaroos losing veterans including Brent Harvey and Nick Dal Santo after the 2016 season.

According to the betting markets, Melbourne (ninth) will play finals next season. And they sure seem like the obvious in given how close they were to making it this year, plus the addition of Jake Lever. Only Jack Watts was in contention for their best 22 of those who won’t be at the club next year.

With a young, promising list, many will have the Demons closing in on the top four on their predicted ladder for 2018. Natural development can be the hardest thing to predict — we saw GWS use it to go from a non-finalist to the top four between 2015 and 2016.

From the Demons down, no teams jump out as obvious top eight sides. Contenders, yes, but who will make the changes necessary to improve enough to play finals?

The Western Bulldogs (tenth)? They’ll be hoping that losing Jake Stringer was addition by subtraction, with none of Jackson Trengove, Hayden Crozier or Josh Schache (in 2018 at least) appearing to be major difference-makers.

But to return to the upper echelons of the competition, the Dogs will need not just their stars to shine once again but for their lesser lights to improve as well.

St Kilda (11th)? They struck out in the trade period, failing to nab the free agency big gun who they had been building towards acquiring for years.

Logan Austin won’t be the difference between September holidays and a flag, and with veterans Leigh Montagna and Nick Riewoldt gone the story is the same — some members of their hardworking group need to make the leap.

Hawthorn (12th)? They might be the toughest team to pick of them all. Josh Gibson and Luke Hodge exited, but with no high draft picks, the Hawks were unable to begin a major rebuild this off-season.

But they didn’t go all-in on returning to the top eight via free agency and trades, either, with only Jarman Impey coming in.

If you don’t count their first month or so, the Hawks were a team good enough to sneak into September. The hope at Waverley must be that they can build on that. If it doesn’t work though, where are they?

And then there’s Collingwood (13th). Sam Murray turned into an instant celebrity in October because he was the only player the Magpies recruited. His new-found fame doesn’t quite match how much he’ll mean to the team in 2018.

But while there's only so much you can read into a fixture five months before it starts, the Magpies were clear winners there thanks to their finish in the bottom six.

One extra win because they’re playing a team like Brisbane twice rather than a team like GWS could mean everything.

Remember, Richmond finished 13th last year.

Meanwhile, if you’re tipping any of Fremantle (14th), North Melbourne (15th), Carlton (16th), Gold Coast (17th) or Brisbane (18th) to make the eight, congratulations. You’re braver than us.

THE BOTTOM LINE


It’s hard to pick any of the preliminary finalists, or Sydney, to miss the top eight. And Essendon and Port Adelaide both made the finals this past season and then added multiple name-brand players in the trade period.

But based on history, at least one from that group won’t play finals next year.

And it’s not as if there a lot of obvious improvers from outside of the top eight either. None of the teams from 10th to 13th made major improvements, and below them there remain even bigger question marks.

Swap West Coast for Melbourne, sure. But then who moves?

It’s the premiership question.

A WAY-TOO-EARLY GUESS AT THE TOP 8


(send all complaints to @maxlaughton)

1. Sydney Swans

2. Adelaide Crows

3. GWS Giants

4. Melbourne

5. Port Adelaide

6. Geelong Cats

7. Richmond

8. Collingwood

https://www.foxsports.com.au/afl/afl-season-2018-how-the-top-eight-race-is-shaping-up-after-the-trade-period/news-story/49c7d75f48ab9acb72f51c89fb589c2d

Offline pmac21

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Re: 2018 predictions: How the top eight race is shaping up (Foxsports)
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2017, 10:34:08 AM »
No way Sydney finishes on top, too slow and too many holes...Yes some great players but getting older...
Melbourne 4th, Pffttt. Get serious. 

I think that a new found confidence will reign at tigerland for a few years and will finish top 4 pretty comfortably. 

Offline mat073

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Re: 2018 predictions: How the top eight race is shaping up (Foxsports)
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2017, 10:46:21 AM »
Collingwood  lol .
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Online tony_montana

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Re: 2018 predictions: How the top eight race is shaping up (Foxsports)
« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2017, 11:24:42 AM »
I dont get where all this confidence that adelaide and sydney will contend next season.

Crows will drop they added gibbs but lost 3 key members of their best 22  - they may fight for a top 4 spot bc of their home ground factor but i reckon they will struggle - interesting times with how their culture holds up

Sydney is getting old

GWS are a threat but theyve shown they dont have that real sense of team and kill or be killed attitude required to win a premiership(so far) - against us I reckon I saw at least half a dozen instances of where their players took short steps

Offline wayne

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Re: 2018 predictions: How the top eight race is shaping up (Foxsports)
« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2017, 11:45:13 AM »
Collingwood  lol .

But, but, they have an easy draw....

 :lol

They also have an ordinary list
That's it, sir
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Offline wayne

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Re: 2018 predictions: How the top eight race is shaping up (Foxsports)
« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2017, 11:49:54 AM »
We didn't show teams what we could do UNTIL the Freo game.

Let's face it, we were winning, but a lot of games didn't make people sit up and think we were a powerhouse team. We played ugly against Carlton, Brisbane, Gold Coast etc.

I'm hoping in 2018 they come out and show everyone just why they won the flag and start dishing out some thumping wins. 
That's it, sir
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Offline cub

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Re: 2018 predictions: How the top eight race is shaping up (Foxsports)
« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2017, 12:27:56 PM »
6. Geelong Cats
7. Richmond

 :rollin haha We all know what this means

Offline Diocletian

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Re: 2018 predictions: How the top eight race is shaping up (Foxsports)
« Reply #7 on: November 06, 2017, 01:23:46 PM »
So they talked up Essendon who finished 7th as "big movers"  but then put them outside  the 8 while having Collingwood who they didn't really talk up and who finshed 13th inside the 8? :huh
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Offline tdy

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Re: 2018 predictions: How the top eight race is shaping up (Foxsports)
« Reply #8 on: November 06, 2017, 08:33:47 PM »
Sydney played a pile of kids early last season/ 2017 yet still made the finals.  They will be one year better for it. Probably they will play more kids this year too but they still contend for the finals every year.  Top 4 this year.

Offline tdy

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Re: 2018 predictions: How the top eight race is shaping up (Foxsports)
« Reply #9 on: November 06, 2017, 08:36:39 PM »
Cats for me will implode. Ablett is a good player but age affects everyone.

Offline mat073

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Re: 2018 predictions: How the top eight race is shaping up (Foxsports)
« Reply #10 on: November 06, 2017, 10:15:33 PM »
Ridiculous to pick the final 8 now . 12 months is such a long time in football.  Remember when Dimma was laughed off the couch by Kingy and the gang .
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Re: 2018 predictions: How the top eight race is shaping up (Foxsports)
« Reply #11 on: November 06, 2017, 10:25:41 PM »
Ridiculous to pick the final 8 now . 12 months is such a long time in football.  Remember when Dimma was laughed off the couch by Kingy and the gang .

Justifiably so given he had not the assistants at the time of the statement.
It was rubbish that worked.
“I can’t believe it, 1.20 to go, you’re three points up and there is nobody at the back end of the square for a quick kick in for the opposition.

“I just can’t believe my eyes.

“It’s poor leadership and it’s poor coaching from the Richmond Football Club.”

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Re: 2018 predictions: How the top eight race is shaping up (Foxsports)
« Reply #13 on: November 06, 2017, 11:15:51 PM »
Fantastic. Keep underestimating us at your peril.

Offline Owl

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Re: 2018 predictions: How the top eight race is shaping up (Foxsports)
« Reply #14 on: November 06, 2017, 11:20:24 PM »
Looks more like a wishful thinking top 8. 
Lots of people name their swords......