by Brook "Boris" Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA
With the “tanking” saga behind them and the club coffers $500,000 lighter as a result, the Demons can head into 2013 with a clean slate and better times on the horizon. Chris Dawes comes across from Collingwood in an attempt to provide some help for Mitch Clark inside the forward fifty, while disgruntled midfielder Brent Moloney was given his walking papers to the sunny climes of Brisbane with the Lions. Whilst Shannon Byrnes should slot straight into Melbourne’s best 22 with a fresh opportunity after stagnating somewhat at Geelong, the real excitement for Demon supporters will be the unleashing of Jack Viney, along with young Adelaide gun recruit Jimmy Toumpas, into a developing midfield.
Long range Tip: Not Finals contenders yet, but steady improvement.
North Melbourne Kangaroos
The Kangaroos seem to be a team that always gives their supporters good value for money. No matter what lineup they put on to the park, they give a solid account of themselves and this year should be no different. With spots in the Top Eight heating up with expected improvement from Richmond, Carlton, Essendon and even Brisbane, Drew Petrie will once again be relied on to provide the focus of the Kangaroo attack. The bad news for the “shinboner” faithful is the tough draw handed to them by the AFL. They face Hawthorn, Geelong, Adelaide and Collingwood twice, as well as enduring eight six-day breaks (equal most in the League). Excitement machine Majak Daw should see some game time throughout the season, but where the Kangaroos finish will likely be determined by the form of improving midfielders Daniel Wells, Andrew Swallow and Jack Ziebell.
Long range Tip: Just missing the Finals to finish in 9th to 11th place.
The Tigers have improved every season under Damien Hardwick but the jungle drums are beating stronger than ever – the fans are demanding a Black & Gold appearance in Finals action. The midfield contains shining star Trent Cotchin, the underrated Brett Deledio and the up and coming Dustin Martin, who, despite off-season rumors and innuendo, may be the barometer for the Tigers' aspirations in 2013. If Ty Vickery can put his injury-ravaged 2012 behind him to provide assistance for Coleman Medalist Jack Riewoldt and the newly recruited Aaron Edwards (ex North Melbourne), opposing teams will have their hands full with the Richmond forward line. Despite a strong forward set-up and emerging midfield, the back six is where the Tigers need to find their biggest improvement. The recruitment of big bodied Troy Chaplin from Port Adelaide should free up Alex Rance to perform a more attacking role, while the skilled young boot of Brandon Ellis will look to play a bigger role in 2013. If the underrated Dylan Grimes can come back strong from chronic hamstring issues to become a permanent fixture in the Tiger defense, the Punt Road army just might get their wish of bonus football action at the business end of the season.
Long range Tip: 8th place after finally working out how to defeat Gold Coast at Cazaly Stadium!
The Bombers have been in the news constantly over the last couple of months but for all the wrong reasons. Subject to an ongoing investigation regarding performance enhancing drugs, the focus has been around how the administration will survive in the near future with such a cloud of controversy surrounding the club. On the playing side of the ledger, things are looking much brighter. The addition of gun utility Brendon Goddard (departing St Kilda under free agancy) gives a massive boost to the Bomber back line and in turn frees up Dyson Heppell to be released into a midfield led by Brownlow Medallist Jobe Watson. Injuries took their toll on Essendon in 2012, but with talent such as Patty Ryder in the ruck, Brent Stanton and David Zaharakis in the middle and future star Joe Daniher, the Bombers should be able to press for Finals footy – pending any disastrous outcome from the PED scandal.
Long range tip: More than likely 8th or 9th position.
After an indifferent season from Travis Cloke during which contract talks became a distraction, Collingwood has strengthened the forward support for the big man by recruiting Quinten “Big Q” Lynch from the West. Out goes the largely ineffective Chris Dawes to Melbourne with the contested marking ability of Lynch an upgrade – in theory helping Cloke return to form as one of the Coleman Medal favourites. The Magpies will once again be a force, boasting a marquee midfield of Dane Swan, Scott Pendlebury, Dane Beams and the emerging Steele Sidebottom. Nathan Buckley also has some handy small forwards at his disposal in Andrew Krakouer plus the improving Alex Fasolo and Jamie Elliot. The downside to an otherwise successful off-season is ongoing injury problems for hard nut Luke Ball and lingering concerns for live wire Dale “Daisy” Thomas. Bottom line is that the Magpies will once again be around the mark when the silverware is being handed out in September.
Long range tip: A Top Four spot is once again on the cards.
It is hard to be enthusiastic about the Bulldogs' chances of climbing the Ladder in 2013. Currently in a rebuilding phase, the Dogs shipped out stalwart Brian Lake to Grand Finalist Hawthorn, leaving the young list likely to be overly reliant on veteran back man Dale Morris. Jordan Roughead will also be sent back to strengthen the defense, while young forwards Jarrad Grant and Ace Cordy will be asked to carry the load alone up front with Liam Jones. Rough diamonds Tom Liberatore and Mitch Wallis will be relied on to improve as they look to take over the future of the club from stalwarts Matthew Boyd, Robert Murphy and company. Another youngster with a bright future at the kennel is Luke Dalhaus, but if the Bulldogs are to win more games than last season they will need another big season from Ryan Griffen and Brownlow Medalist Adam Cooney. Cooney’s chronic knee problem has robbed him of his pace, but with off-season treatment in Germany, the Bulldogs will be praying for a return to his best.
Long range tip: Will struggle to climb higher than 13th.
Article last changed on Sunday, March 24, 2013 - 10:02 PM EDT