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Land Of Hopes And Dreams -The Next AFL Dynasty

  • Thursday, January 10 2019 @ 11:36 pm ACDT
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General News

 Half way through the AFL off-season and fans are now counting down to the 2019 season. Media is reporting on how teams have recovered from their breaks. Injury lists are being finalised to get players back for Round One. New recruits are being paraded on the training tracks in their new colours and teams are bringing them into their revised game plans – or building game plans around them.

It is an exciting time, but the best part is that supporters of 18 teams know that there is a new dawn arriving with – potentially – greatness around the corner. A premiership this year might be the start of something greater – a dynasty, perhaps.  

The following is a purely personal point of view about which clubs might be on the cusp of something great. By great I am referring to sustained success. Hawthorn claimed three flags from four grand finals between 2012 and 2015. Before that, Geelong took three flags from 2007 to 2011 from four grand finals. Sydney and West Coast dominated 2005/6 and the Brisbane Lions also had four grand finals for three flags between 2001 and 2004.

 You can then go back to other era…North Melbourne 96 to 99. Hawthorn across the 1980’s. Essendon 83-85. The list goes on. But we have now had three flags in three years since the last Hawk dynasty. Maybe it is time for the next. 

So, in order of their most recent flags, here are my predictions. 

West Coast – Premiers in 2018 and the logical starting point for this argument. They have one flag in the bank and would be drooling for more. If 2018 taught us anything it was that the Eagles now have the best line-up from the west since the days of Judd, Cousins, Kerr and company. With a smart coach (Simpson), a powerhouse forward line (Kennedy, Darling), arguably the best athletic ruckman in the league (when fit) in Naitanui and excellent midfielders in Yeo, Shuey, Gaff, the Eagles are capable of challenging again this year. Another flag and we have a dynasty happening. 

Richmond – Blew a chance at greatness when falling to Collingwood in last year’s preliminary final. They will be furious and want another chance this year. They have not really lost any best 22 players. They have, however, added Tom Lynch who could revolutionise their forward structure and give greater flexibility. Another flag in 2019 gives them a true dynastical opportunity. However, another miss and some will wonder if they missed their window of greatness. 

Western Bulldogs – Their flag broke a drought that had lasted 62 years, but it could be argued that it cost them a backbone of a team. They got there, but the Dogs of 2018 are a far cry from the 2016 Dogs. Names like Hamling, Boyd, Stringer, Dalhaus, Smith, Biggs and Roughead are no longer there and Liam Picken’s future after concussion issues is a grey area. An aging list that saw glory has been rebuilt with youth and it may be a while before they can challenge again for a flag – though finals are on the cards sooner rather than later. 

Hawthorn – It is unwise to ever suggest the Hawks are done, though stats are not on their side. Having the oldest list links to being the most experienced team. However, the additions of Tom Mitchell, O’Meara, Wingard, Impey and Scully just isn’t the same as Hodge, Mitchell, Rioli, Lewis, Gibson and Lake. Additionally, Roughead, Burgoyne, Stratton, Smith, Puopolo, Frawley and Birchall start the year well into their 30’s. That isn’t the stuff of a new dynasty, though Hawthorn being Hawthorn, they will still be a nuisance to all teams. 

Sydney Swans – Like Hawthorn, the Swans never seem dead and buried. But last season saw a team that had Franklin and didn’t quite know how to use him. Age is catching up with Kennedy, Franklin, McVeigh, Jack, Grundy and Smith. They have talented youth coming through, but like the Hawks they seem a few years away from their next big challenge. 

Geelong – The three flags in 2007, 2009 and 2011 were built on some of the best drafting seen by an AFL team. The era of Ablett, Bartel, Chapman, Enright, Corey, Rooke, Scarlett came from some smart youth development. However, the 2019 cats are built on the recruiting of bona fide stars in Dangerfield, Ablett, Tuohy, Dalhaus as well as Menegola, Selwood (Scott), Henderson and Rohan. I do believe the next big Cat era relies on the next venture into youth and they will tread water for a few years yet.

Collingwood – Watch this space. Collingwood were unlucky to lose the flag last year. A great development year for a club with the second oldest (and second most experienced) list. But their young players are the key – De Goey, Stephenson, Langdon, Moore, Phillips – combined with an impressive mid-twenties list that includes Grundy, Treloar, Elliott (when fit), Adams, Hoskin-Elliott, Mihocek and more. The Magpie premiership window is wide open with the ability to last a couple of years given that Pendlebury, Sidebottom, Howe, Cox and Beams have more years in them. Big dynasty potential.

Port Adelaide – The past couple of years have seen a changing of the guard in terms of list management at Alberton. The result is a competitive team that isn’t quite ready for a flag yet. Losing Wingard will hurt further along with Polec, but Mayes, Lycett and even draftee Rozee will keep them on an even keel. A little while to go for another flag yet, but once on a roll the Power have a massive history and supporter base that will demand sustained success. 

Brisbane Lions – The rebuild under Chris Fagan is impressive and the club is attracting the kind of player list that will become the envy of others in time. But a new dynasty is a long way off – they have to win another flag first and despite positive signs it won’t be while Luke Hodge is playing, nor Zorko, Martin or Robinson. But a list that will one day boast McLuggage, Berry, Rayner, Neale, Witherdon, Andrews, Cameron, Hipwood and now Ely Smith (watch this space also) could form a dynasty somewhere over the next decade. 

Essendon – The unknown. The recent off-field issues at the club placed them in completely unchartered waters in terms of rebuilding. Yet, whilst their list demographic shows a higher average age with a very low experience level (the result of remedial work over the past few years), beneath that is a treasure trove of talent which is definitely capable is a flag and sustained success. Led by Heppell, Hurley, Daniher (when fit), Stringer, Shiel, Smith, Saad and supported by young stars like McGrath, Merrett, Langford, Parish, Francis, McKenna, Fantasia and McDonald-Tipungwuti, a flag soon is a definite possibility and with that list they won’t want to stop at one like their 2000 season aftermath. A big chance at a dynasty. 

North Melbourne – One of the hardest clubs to track. They are revamping their list, through youth and experience in equal measure. They boast some serios “A” list talent in Brown, Cunnington, Higgins, Ziebell and Thompson as well as reliable troops in Goldstein, Tarrant, Polec and Jacobs. But the question is with their depth beneath that top dozen or so. They need a flag before a dynasty can happen and that appears to be a couple more list purges away. 

Adelaide – Their defeat at the hands of Richmond in 2017 grand final was, in retrospect a warning. NOT READY YET. They have been a strong, competitive team since their inception, but this list isn’t yet in the class of 97/98. There is great talent in Sloane, Laird, Crouch, Walker, Betts and Gibbs. But this isn’t a list that boasts McLeod, Riccuito, Bickley, Goodwin, Rehn, Smart, Hart or Jarman. They will build still, but cannot see a dynasty yet.

Carlton – Not yet. They have taken a “Ground Zero” approach to a rebuild under Bolton and will be some way away from challenging for flags. With a list that is gradually gathering class in Cripps, Curnow, Docherty (when fit), Dow, McGovern, Setterfield, Weitering, the Blues are heading in the right direction. However, Murphy, Simpson, Kreuzer, Thomas and Casboult will all be long gone and the new breed of Sam Walsh, Petrevski-Seton, McKay and Silvagni will have had to step up. 

St Kilda – In the post-Reiwoldt era, the Saints are undergoing a massive rebuild whether they like to admit is of not. Gone are their inspirational skipper, along with Hayes, Goddard, Dal Santo, Montagna, Milne, Baker and Jones. In their place, Gresham, Ross, Steven, Armitage, Geary and now Hanneberry lead an honest list of hard workers, but they are a long way from a flag, much less a dynasty. 

Melbourne – Way back in 1964, Melbourne won flag number twelve and were boating a dynasty that view with Collingwood as the greatest ever – and still does. But then Norm Smith left and the glory years stopped. In 1988 and 2000 they reached grand finals only to be defeated heavily in each. But, last year’s Demons were good. Ask the teams they defeated. Melbourne has arrived again and with good coaching, player lists, luck and determination a flag may be on the horizon – and then, maybe another dynasty next decade. 

Fremantle, Greater Western Sydney and Gold Coast Suns are all some way away from a first flag. Talk of dynasties might be decades down the track – they have to reach base camp first (a flag) before going on to the summit. The Giants and the Dockers have tasted finals within the past six seasons – Fremantle to a grand final – but that is part of the learning curve they are still experiencing. 

So, in short, West Coast have a great opportunity to carry on from where they left off in 2018. A dynasty beckons as it does for all premiership winners. Behind them, Richmond, Collingwood and Essendon appear best placed to reach dynastic levels of success. Brisbane and Melbourne may do so a little later. 

Finally, this argument should also inspire players, fans, teams and leagues across the world to consider their own potential success in years to come. In the Middle East, the Dragons are seeking their fifth consecutive flag this year. In England, the Manchester Mozzies are after a sixth in a row. Dynasties are everywhere, you just hope that it is your team.