Round 1 of the 2023 AFL Season kicks off with Richmond vs Carlton at the MCG on March 16. This year’s AFL season will be played over 24 rounds with four weeks of finals, including the Grand Final
on September 30 at the MCG. But how does your team look going into round 1? Who is a key player that you need to look out for? Who is your team’s Top Draft Pick, and what could they add to your team?
We take a look at each team’s chances.
Last season, the Adelaide team came 14th, only picking up eight wins. However, towards the season’s end, the Crows picked up a couple of wins against Carlton, West Coast and North Melbourne.
This year, Crows fans need to look out for Darcy Fogarty. The 23-year-old key forward kicked an average of 1.9 goals last year and continued to improve on his goal accuracy of 64.7 per cent.
The Number 17 pick, Max Michalanney, was the Crows top pick in the AFL draft in 2022. The 19-year-old played in two South Australian National Football League finals for Norwood last year. Still, most notably, Michalanney was named in the under-18 all-Australian team. Known for his athleticism, especially his defensive versatility, it is clear Michalanney will be a good asset in the defence for the Crows.
Last year the Lions finished 6th on the table but lost to Geelong in the preliminaries after beating the 2nd-placed Demons in the semi-final. The Lions are looking to make their fifth consecutive finals this year.
Keidan Coleman is the player to look out for in the Lions squad this year. Coleman is known as a speedy halfback who gained an average of 356.3 metres per game last year. Moreover, the 22-year-old kicked an average of 13 balls the previous year, thus showing his versatility on the pitch.
The Number 2 pick, the Lions selected Will Ashcroft. He is most well-known for winning the Larke-Medal for best player in the AFL under-18 national championships. The 18-year-old midfielder is known as a dominant ball-winner due to his high consistency and endurance, especially after stoppages.
The team from Carlton started strong last year. Still, it faltered at the back-end of the year, narrowly missing out on the finals after five losses from their previous six games. The injuries that let them down in the back-end of last season will still be apparent through the loss of Sam Walsh and Zac Williams. These injuries are something that the Blues will have to overcome if they are to beat Richmond and then Geelong in rounds one and two.
Carlton fans this year should look out for Mitch McGovern. McGovern has adopted a new role as a key defender in the club and made good progress. His crucial marking and pinpoint delivery proved vital to the team late on.
Carlton selected Oliver Hollands as the Number 11 pick in the draft last year. Hollands plays in the midfield and is known for his pace when moving the ball up the field. Hollands was the joint winner of the two-kilometre time trial on day one of training at the Blues.
Collingwood came fourth last year and narrowly lost to the Swans in a 94-95 thriller. Collingwood, however, is looking to go one better this year. Collingwood recruited big this year, adding new players such as Tom Mitchell, Bobby Hill, Billy Frampton and Dan McStay to their team.
For Collingwood, the player to watch is Mason Cox. Although he is most well-known for his finals appearances in 2018 for Collingwood, in 2022 he played only seven games. It will be interesting to see where and how Collingwood will use the 211cm tall ruck.
Collingwood’s Number 19 pick was Edward Allen. Last year the 194cm tall midfielder averaged 25 disposals per game with nearly six marks to add to that. Furthermore, he proved his fast pace at the National Draft Combine, clocking 2.814 seconds over 20 metres.
Essendon last year had a disappointing season finishing 15th last year. However, they had an impressive win against grand finalist Sydney Swans. As the Bombers are the third youngest team this year, they have a tougher task than most to make the finals.
The Bombers player to watch is Sam Draper. He is currently Essendon’s number one ruck option, as he slotted last year’s best goal of the year against the Suns in Round 18.
The number 5 pick in the draft went to Essendon last year, and they chose Elijah Tsatas, who is a speedy midfielder known for breaking away from stoppages. It will be interesting to see what the midfielder can do, especially on attacking runs.
Last year, the Dockers defied Nat Fyfe’s loss due to injury to come fifth before losing to Collingwood in the semi-finals. The team in purple lost their top goal scorer from last year, Rory Lobb, to the Bulldogs. It will be interesting to see how they will use their players to account for his loss.
The Dockers player to watch this year is Nat Fyfe. The two-time Brownlow medallist was stricken with injuries last year. Still, depending on whether he can play, he could be the element that gets Fremantle into back-to-back finals appearances. In his short season last year, he averaged 21.4 disposals per game, making him a pain for defenders.
Number 33 pick, Hugh Davies, was the Dockers top pick in the AFL draft last year. The 196cm tall 18-year-old is known as a disposal weapon. Last season, Davis averaged 19.0 disposals an
d a disposal efficiency of 80.7 per cent. He was the second highest-rated key defender in the West Australian Football LeagueColts team.
Last year’s premiers, the Geelong Cats, won their first flag since 2011. After reaching the top eight every year since 2016, they have shown they are one of the most dominant teams in the past decade.
The Cats player to watch is Mark Blicavs. He finished sixth last year in Geelong’s best and fairest. The 198cm tall ruck averaged 17.7 disposals per game and ten handballs, making him an integral Cats member last year.
The Number 8 Pick, Jyhe Clark, was the Cat’s top pick in the draft last year. He is known as a great leader on the field, as he captained the Geelong Falcons the previous year. Clark works hard, averaging between 23-25 touches per game last year for the Falcons.
Gold Coast Suns
The team from the Gold Coast came twelfth last year, most notably defeating the Swans in Round 8 last year in Sydney. Last year’s 10 wins was the Suns best-ever season, but can they reach the top 8 this year?
The Suns player to watch is Brayden Fiorini. In 2021, he averaged 27 disposals and six marks per game. However, after the midfielder took out the most professional player award in 2021, in 2022, he averaged 16.3 disposals and 3.4 marks. It will be interesting to see how he bounces back after last year.
The Suns top draft pick in 2022 went to Bailey Humphrey. The number 6 pick is a physical midfielder known as a force on the pitch in the NAB League, as he kicked 21 goals in 11 matches last year. The Gippsland Power Captain also achieved a game-winning performance in Round 14 against the Northern Knights as he posted 31 disposals.
The Giants finished 16th last year, posting only six wins out of the 22-match season. After the loss of Leon Cameron the previous year, the team seemed to fall apart, and they never got back into the season.
The team from western Sydney’s player to watch is Tom Green. The 192cm midfielder last year averaged 24.3 disposals and 13.8 handballs. It will be interesting to see how the 22-year-old can impact the Giant’s midfield this year.
GWS’s top draft pick last year was Aaron Cadman. Cadman was the number 1 pick for the AFL national draft in 2022 as he was the top forward, slotting 34 goals in 12 games in the NAB League. Cadman also had the most shots in the Under 18 National Championships with 20, along with the most disposals as a key forward.
Last year, the team in yellow and brown finished 13th. The Hawks have a young team this year, so seeing how far their youth can take them will be interesting.
Jai Newcombe is the Hawks player to watch, averaging 22.5 disposals per game in 2022. He showed that he was one of the most dominant midfielders in the game through of his composure and decision-making skills.
The number 7 pick, Cameron McKenzie, was the Hawks’ top pick at last year’s draft. McKenzie is a consistent all-around player, especially as he made 26 disposals and two goals in the NAB League grand final win with the Sandringham Dragons last season.
The Demons finished second on the ladder last year. However, they had a disappointing finals series losing to the Lions in the semi-finals at the MCG. However, the Demons midfield this year is arguably one of the best with the Demons’ strong forwards, and Ben Brown and Steven Lay as lead backlines.
The Demons player to watch this year is Christian Petracca. The 27-year-old midfielder finished equal third in the Brownlow Medal in 2021 and was a two-time All-Australian for the past two seasons.
The Demons selected Matt Jefferson in the Number 15 spot last year. Jefferson kicked 27 goals in 10 games in all his competitions last year. He is most well-known for his great aerial ability, which saw him have significant scoreboard impacts.
North Melbourne Kangaroos
The team from North Melbourne finished 18th last year, only winning two games against the Tigers and the Eagles. They faltered mainly due to a lack of structure as they seemed to lose momentum, especially in the second half of the game.
The Kangaroos player to watch this year is Jy Simpkin. The midfielder averaged 26.6 disposals last year and an equal team-high of 5.3 clearances. It will be exciting to see whether he can control the centre of the midfield this year.
The Kangaroos selected Harry Sheezel as their top draft pick in 2022. The number 3 pick showed his power as a forward, scoring 49 goals in all competitions last year and being an aerial threat. However, he’s only 184cm tall.
Port Adelaide Power
Last year, the team from Port Adelaide were 2-9 with the top eight teams. Although they finished with a derby win against the Crows, they ultimately finished eleventh in 2022 due to their lack of wins against those top eight teams. Furthermore, coach Ken Hinkley has faced increasing pressure due to his performance in 2022 compared to Port Adelaide’s 2021 preliminary final finish.
The Power player to watch this year is Jason Horne-Francis. Last year, he averaged 16.5 disposals and 3.5 clearances per game for North Melbourne. The midfielder-forward is known for his robust defensive efforts. His powerful physicality makes him a force on the field.
Port Adelaide’s top pick last year was Tom McCallum. The Number 36 pick is a 192cm defender with great speed. He proved this by performing in 13 NAB League games and 13 full national championship games last year with the Allies.
The Tigers finished seventh and lost their elimination final against the Lions in a narrow 106-104 loss last year. The biggest question for them this year is whether they will be able to apply pressure, especially on the midfielders who take the ball up the field, as last year this was one of their faults.
Richmond’s player to watch this year is Dustin Martin. The 2017 Brownlow medallist had a nine-game season last year after taking personal leave in the early part of the season and then a season-ending hamstring injury in Round 16. Seeing how Martin will bounce back post-injury this year will be interesting.
The Tigers selected Kaleb Smith as their top draft pick. The Number 49 pick is 180cm tall and has versatility between the midfield and the forward lines being best well-known for his aerial leaps and face pace.
St Kilda Saints
The Saints finished 10th last year, suffering three consecutive losses to the Swans, Lions and the Cats at the end of the season, which cost them a place in the top 8.
St Kilda’s player to watch this year is Jack Steele. The Saints captain earned a spot in the All-Australian Team last year, averaging 7.2 tackles per game for the Saints. Furthermore, the midfielder averaged 27.1 disposals per game, thus making him an integral part of the team.
The Saints chose Mattaes Phillipou as their top draft pick in 2022. The number 10 pick is an influential midfielder as last year he averaged 23.3 disposals a game. Furthermore, given his performance last year with the South Australian team, he is arguably one of last year’s best South Australian prospects.
The Bloods finished third last year on the ladder and after having a thrilling final run, they reached the Grand Final. However, the Swans lost to the Cats by a whopping 81 points. Last season, their physicality made them a grand final team. As Sydney is the fifth youngest team in the competition, will they be able to go one better this year?
The Blood’s player to watch is Justin McInerney. Known as a crafty midfielder, McInerney is known for his performance in the big games. In the finals series alone, McInerney posted 17.5 disposals per game. Although he is still a youngster at 22, it will be exciting to see how he goes this year after he has built on his form over his past three seasons with the Swans.
The Swans chose Jacob Konstanty as their top draft pick in 2022. The Number 20 pick is a small forward at 176cm tall. However, Konstanty continues to overcome his height by being one of the most integral tacklers averaging 5.8 tackles a game last year playing for Gippsland.
West Coast Eagles
West Coast finished 17th last year, tying with North Melbourne and having only two wins against the Bombers and Collingwood. Last year, their poor physicality from the first quarter saw them trail games.
The Eagles player to watch this year is Tim Kelly. The 6ft midfielder was integral to the injury-stricken team last year, averaging 24.2 disposals and 5.6 clearances throughout the season. We saw his full potential in Round 16 against Richmond, where he had 40 disposals and two goals at the MCG.
The Eagles chose Reuben Ginbey as their top pick in the draft last year. The Number 9 pick was WA’s MVP at the Under-18 National Championships last year. Ginbey’s experience in the West Australian Football League at the back-end of last year shows that he has some experience. The competitive midfielder is most well-known for his versatility on the pitch.
The Western Bulldogs just scraped into eighth position last year. However, the Bulldogs were knocked out in the Elimination Final by the Fremantle Dockers. Their defence let them down as they conceded 1,812 points across the whole season, 98 points more than the ninth place ladder team, Carlton.
The Bulldogs player to watch this season is Liam Jones. Jones is returning from Carlton after seven years. Last year he averaged 12 disposals per game. After not playing for a year, it will be exciting to see what the 32-year-old experienced defender will be able to do.
The Dogs chose Jedd Busslinger as their top-ranked draft player last year. The number 13 pick is 196cm tall and stepped up to West Australian Football League the previous year after making the under-18 All-Australian Team. Although the defender only played two games at the Under-18 National Championships last year, his high draft ranking proves that the Bulldogs saw him as a force on the pitch.