10 Headlines Leading Into Season 2019

The long off-season is almost over so we’ve revisited the biggest talking points heading into the 2019 season.

Ryan Lepore
 | 
Mon, 25 Feb, 12:00 AM

2019 shapes as one of the most anticipated in recent history after the last three premiership winners all began their respective seasons as despised underdogs. Long premiership droughts have been broken and the hope for all 18 clubs have grown with many sporting new faces in 2019. As always, the off-season has been long and we’re ready for Round 1 to begin. We revisit 10 of the biggest headlines and talking points heading into this season.

 

Can West Coast go back-to-back?

West Coast were surprise premiership winners last season after many were expecting them to fall down the ladder after farewelling veterans Matt Priddis and Sam Mitchell at the end of 2017. The improvement came from their draft picks Liam Ryan, Willie Rioli and Jake Waterman while a host of players enjoyed career best years. With Nic Naitanui missing for the majority of the season due to his ACL injury and Scott Lycett’s departure, their is a gaping hole to fill the number one ruck spot, coupled with the late start to reigning preseason for the premiers. The reigning premiers will no doubt be the hunted but their home ground advantage should still keep them around the mark to play finals footy once again but can they lift that extra 5-10% to keep them as the team to beat?

 

Will AFLX be a success?

There were many opinions around AFLX’s new format in 2019, mostly negative, however the four captains and draft format (similar to that of the NBA All Star game) gave the concept a refreshed look. Sure the team names and guernsey's were gimmicky but appealing to a younger demographic and trying to sell the game to a wider audience than the traditional footy lovers was the objective. Sure the games featured little pressure and lacked intensity, but seeing some of the competitions best playing alongside one another in what effectively is a glorified training drill receives a tick for the spectacle it provided for the intended audience.  

 

Is this finally the year for Melbourne?

Melbourne finally broke their 12 year finals drought in 2018 and had two huge wins at the MCG before being annihilated by West Coast in a preliminary final at Optus Stadium, a venue they had just won at four weeks prior. It was a disappointing end to a season that promised so  much and while it was their best finish since their Grand Final appearance in 2000, the club and fans alike were be left wanting more. 2019 looks set to be that year after adding to their already impressive list and further improvement to come from a host of young stars. The real question mark will be if they can cover Jesse Hogan’s defection to Fremantle and be the highest scoring team in the league again this season.

  What does Tom Lynch’s signing mean for Richmond?

Surely the addition of the one of the best key forwards in the league only makes last season’s best home and away season team better and franks Richmond’s premiership favouritism. We’re eager to see how the Tigers forward line structures up with Lynch joining the reigning Coleman medalist inside the forward 50 and to see if they can be this season’s Jack Darling and Josh Kennedy.

 

New club, who dis?

Tom Lynch wasn’t the only superstar to find a new home for 2019. Premierships players such as Dayne Beams, Dan Hannebery, Luke Dahlhaus and Scott Lycett will all be wearing new colours in 2019 as will Lachie Neale, Dylan Shiel, Chad Wingard and Jesse Hogan to name a few. It’s a great crop of stars that are looking for a fresh start on already great careers and it’s exciting to see who will make the biggest impact at their new club.

 

Can the Brisbane cubs make the leap?

Brisbane are starting to build something special and many believe will be the team to make the big leap into the top eight this season. They only won five games in 2018, the same amount as their wooden spoon year a season prior but there were considerable improvements by the Lions in 2018 and their wave of young talent who look set for another sharp rise, but can they make it count on the win/loss column?

 

How will the new rule changes affect the game?

Less congestion and more flow. At least that’s what the AFL want in introducing a host of new rule changes for this season. The most dramatic being the 6-6-6 at the commencement of every quarter and after every goal. Each team must have six players in each third of the ground, with one of the forwards to start within the goal square. Once the ball is bounced, players can still roam where they please but the starting points should allow for less secondary bounces and quicker attacks inside 50.

 

Is Sam Walsh the messiah for the Blues?

The Blues may already have their messiah in new co-captain Patrick Cripps but they may now have another with number one draft pick Sam Walsh oozing class and looking every bit of a future captain and 200+ game player. You can be forgiven thinking we’ve gone the early crow after just one practice match but the way Walsh tore up Ikon Park against Hawthorn, Carlton fans can be forgiven thinking they have another truly special talent to follow for the next decade.

 

‘Ludacris’ illicit drug policy to be reviewed?

Outspoken former St Kilda coach Grant Thomas grabbed headlines last week by claiming drug use was ‘rife’ at his time during the club. Claims that have been strongly condemned by a host of players including captain Nick Riewoldt. However, the discussion raises some very valid points around the AFL’s illicit drug policy and if it needs to be reduced to a one strike policy. It’s something that we have no doubt not heard the last of this season.

 

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

That’s the cry of Eddie Betts after yet another racist attack on social media directed at Adelaide’s star forward. A comment was left on Adelaide Football Club’s photo of Betts arriving for AFLX and is the latest in a string of racist remarks against the Team Deadly captain. It’s staggering how this sort of behavior is still going on, but the AFL have been the national sport leaders in equality and we hope that this will be the last hate fueled comment Betts or any other player will be subjected to.

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