Everyone loves a wild prediction before the AFL season kicks off.
Some are out there, others seem like a stretch. But some can be attainable if everything goes right or goes wrong.
With the season on our doorstep, The Inner Sanctum has a look at some wild but attainable predictions for your club.
Finals football is on the cards
Will Adelaide return to finals football since that fateful Grand Final in 2017? Well, it’s a bold call but it is not out of reach.
With most expecting the Crows to finish between 10th and 14th on the AFL ladder, we’ve seen more to suggest that an ascent higher up the ladder is going to occur.
Having recruited heavily in the past two off-seasons to bring Izak Rankine and Jordan Dawson back to South Australia as well as last year’s more consistent and impressive season, the Crows will be more competitive against the ‘better’ teams.
With another year of development into the young midfielders Harry Schoenberg, Sam Berry, Luke Pedlar, and Patrick Parnell as well as the natural progression of Darcy Fogarty, Rory Laird, Ben Keays, and Jordan Dawson, the Crows will put on more mature performances and will look to beat up on the lowly sides in the competition.
The forward line will be where they win games and with names like Taylor Walker, Darcy Fogarty, Riley Thilthorpe, Joshua Rachele, Izak Rankine, and Shane McAdam, they are box-office viewing.
Undefeated at the GABBA
Brisbane comes into the 2023 season with arguably the biggest expectations it has ever had on its shoulders.
Brisbane has recruited Josh Dunkley and Jack Gunston, as well as securing number two pick Will Ashcroft at the draft. Many have predicted the Lions to go all the way this year and to make that a possibility, they will need to make the GABBA a fortress.
While Brisbane lost just two games at home last year, it has itself strengthened across the ground, meaning an undefeated home record is certainly on the cards for this star-studded side.
A Preliminary Final. If everything goes right? They couldn’t. Surely not?
It sounds preposterous even for Blues fans to entertain the thought that they could be there on the penultimate weekend of the season after the heartbreak of last year.
But just dream for a second. If they add the layers of maturity to remain consistent and hold their nerve in the big moments of matches and importantly, maintain a clean bill of health throughout the season, then an appearance in Preliminary Final weekend is not beyond the realms at Ikon Park.
After all, the time is now.
Mitchell’s second wind
After a career-best season in 2018, which saw him win both the Brownlow and Hawthorn’s best and fairest, Tom Mitchell hasn’t quite kept up the momentum we thought he would.
A fairly injury-free career so far, except for 2019 when he was felled by a broken leg in the pre-season, Mitchell has been a standout player of the competition, in what has been a lacklustre Hawks outfit as of late.
A fresh start at his third club might just be what he needs to revive his career. Averaging 29.5 disposals across more than 150 games so far, Mitchell will be back in his familiar inside role at the Pies and could help push Collingwood to that breakthrough flag. Something that felt out of reach with the Hawks.
Collingwood already has a great young side, and if Mitchell can rediscover his 2018 best, he could not only take out the Copeland trophy in his first season in the black and white, but he also has the potential to be a key factor as the Pies strive for September glory.
A Finals Win!
The most-joked about hoodoo could be no more if everything goes right for the Bombers.
People quickly forget that Essendon made the finals in 2021, however, a horror start to 2022 derailed its season and it never recovered.
With new coach Brad Scott bringing fresh ideas to the group and with some luck with injuries and the natural development of recent draftees, the Bombers could surprise many.
They showed against some top-eight sides last year that their best can match it – can they sustain it for long enough?
Once that momentum builds, a finals win could and would be an amazing feat!
Could this be the Purple Haze’s time to rise?
Desperately unlucky to not secure a top-four berth last year, with a last-minute winner from Collingwood sealing its double chance in round 23.
Fremantle will be thereabouts again, and with Jaeger O’Meara joining its midfield, and Nat Fyfe set to be unleashed up forward, there’s no reason it can’t go even further in 2023.
Add in the likes of Jye Amiss and Josh Treacy, both of whom will get better opportunities up forward with the departure of Rory Lobb, the premiership may go West again, to the Dockers.
The all time games record and back-to-back flags
When you win the flag by 81 points, anything is possible really. The Cats are currently on a 16-game winning streak and need only seven more to tie (and eight to beat) their own record set back in 1952-53.
The Cats start with tough games against the Pies and Blues – get through those games with wins, and they would fancy of chances of getting the record. Round Three sees the Cats play, in order, the Suns, Hawks, Eagles (in Adelaide), and Swans at GMHBA, before tying the record against the Bombers at the MCG and breaking the record against the Crows in Geelong.
One thing the great Geelong side of 2007-2011 couldn’t do was win back-to-back flags – boy would this be a feather in Chris Scott’s cap if they could achieve it!
Sunrise in the top six?
Gold Coast has never made the finals since entering the AFL, it has come close but fallen short.
You could say they are Dew for a berth. Is 2023 the time to change that? With some fresh faces, emerging talent, and the loyalty of Jack Lukosius and Noah Anderson.
You just feel that with a consistent season not only can they achieve a finals birth, but the Suns can also grab a home final and put some burn on this year’s finals race.
A new Giant crowned the king of goals?
In 2023, could a new name overtake Toby Greene as the club’s 2023 leading goalscorer?
After Greene took out the title in the past few seasons, it wouldn’t be a crazy thought to see Harry Himmelberg snatch the momentous record off the new club captain.
Should the 26-year-old continue his strong form into the upcoming season and destined to be deployed as a full-time forward again this season after being used as a swingman in 2022, Greene might have to wave goodbye to his reign as the Giants’ king of goals – at least for this season anyway.
A Hawks trio to be named in the AA side
Having moved on a wealth of experience, the young-looking Hawks still have some handy names on their list.
Having initially burst onto the scene as a pressure machine, young gun Jai Newcombe proved last season he’s the complete package as a midfielder.
With experienced midfielders Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O’Meara moved on, Newcombe now becomes the Hawks’ number-one mid, skilful, explosive, and has a great defensive game. He will look to dominate and earn an All-Australian selection.
Dylan Moore will also be one fancying himself to be a surprise All-Australian. Rapidly improving in recent years and with the aforementioned O’Meara and Mitchell moved on, he’ll be seeing more minutes in the midfield and will be looking to impact the game having predominantly been utilised on the wing and across half-forward.
James Sicily should be the calming presence in a back-six that’ll be under the pump with his rebounding and intercept work.
Having had three players named in the All-Australian side back in 2005 despite finishing in the bottom four, history could repeat itself.
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Gawn and Grundy make the AA Double
The two-headed monster is going to be a big headache. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the now most dominant ruck pairing in the competition is standing side by side with All-Australian honours on AFL Awards night come the end of the season.
For years, Max Gawn and Brodie Grundy have battled to secure the All-Australian starting ruck spot on opposing teams with times both being honoured and named in the competitions team of the year.
Now no longer competitors, playing in the same colours, with albeit a small sample size of what they can do together, the two most dominant rucks in the game will cause headaches for teams all season long and could be duly rewarded for it comes All-Australian night.
Wins, All Australians, and a Coleman
What does a team in its wildest dreams hope for after years of cellar-dwelling?
With Alastair Clarkson on board, supporters can be optimistic about greater on-field success.
Given it was two wins last year, is eight too much to ask for? That would be a huge tick to a rebuilding team. Along with wins, individual honours could excite North fans.
Luke Davies-Uniacke improved significantly last year and could take the next step to be one of the competition’s elite. Same for Jy Simpkin.
Then there is Nick Larkey. After spending seasons being double and triple-teamed his whole career, hopefully, better ball supply and a change in game plan can see him capitalise and even snag the Coleman Medal.
Marshall finishes top 5 in the Coleman
In season 2022, the 24-year-old surprised many with a breakout season.
Left to shoulder the load at stages throughout the year with Charlie Dixon sidelined, Marshall put together a string of game-changing performances, including nine goals across two showdowns and a four-goal haul in a win against eventual grand finalists Sydney.
With Dixon fully fit to begin the season taking some of the defensive attention away from him, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Marshall establishes himself as one of the premier key forwards of the competition in 2023.
Taranto wins the Brownlow in his first season at Tigerland
Much-hyped recruit Tim Taranto is set to be the main man in Richmond’s engine room. Meaning he will likely see plenty of the ball in 2023.
The 25-year-old has already won the 2km time trial and performed strongly during practice matches this pre-season, indicating he’s on the verge of elevating his game to another level.
Taranto wouldn’t be the first player to win a Brownlow medal at a new club, with Tom Mitchell claiming the honour in 2018 following his exit from the Swans.
A finals berth? Why not a finals win?
With Ross the boss at the helm in 2023, anything can be attainable with the Saints.
An early start with some momentum could be the catalyst for Lyon and his men to achieve not only a top-eight spot but even a finals win.
We’ve seen St Kilda come close, it has the capabilities and with injury returns in the middle/back end of the season, why can’t we see the Saints marching in September?
A Swan takes home the Brownlow medal
The hype around the Swans’ young guns has reached fever pitch already, so could ‘Charlie’ return to the Harbor City for the first time since 2006 around one of their necks?
No Swan has finished in the top five of the Brownlow since Josh Kennedy in 2017, but there are plenty of contenders who could break through and do just that this year.
Callum Mills is at his prime age of 26 this season, but he may be surpassed by a younger gun in Chad Warner, who has the tools to reach the AFL’s highest individual honor after just over 50 games and two complete seasons.
Top Eight Eagles
Despite just two wins in 2022, Eagles fans have high hopes for this season, but is finishing in the top eight a reality?
The last time the Eagles bottomed out, it was short-lived, with the side going from second last in 2010 to a Preliminary Final in 2011.
So why not a repeat?
The Eagles were COVID and injury-riddled all season last year but managed to blood some youth and have players such as Oscar Allen and Elliott Yeo fit and firing.
If they start the season well, momentum may build and Optus Stadium could quickly become a fortress again.
Could 2023 be the year that Bulldogs skipper Marcus Bontempelli claims the Brownlow?
Whilst just missing out on the competition’s top gong in 2021, finishing second to Port Adelaide star Ollie Wines, and an injury-riddled 2022 campaign preventing him from catching his best form.
2023 could be the season after a solid pre-season and a starring role against the Kangaroos, Bontempelli could potentially reach new heights and with more talls at the Bulldogs, the Bulldogs skipper could spend more time in the middle this season.
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