The solar has risen on the yr 2019 for the primary time, so let’s check out among the huge questions that will probably be answered within the new AFL season.
Will 2019 be the AFL’s best yr but?
Once I’ve written this column in earlier years I’ve normally requested how one particular commerce would possibly form the related membership’s fortunes – Jaeger O’Meara to Hawthorn, or Gary Ablett residence to Geelong, for instance.
That merely can’t be executed this time, as a result of final yr the busiest offseason in historical past noticed nearly half of the golf equipment within the league land big-name recruits they’ll imagine can have a dramatic influence for them in 2019.
Tom J Lynch, Chad Wingard, Jesse Hogan, Steven Could, Lachie Neale, Dayne Beans, Dan Hannebery and Dylan Shiel are all gamers whose new followers will hope can take their membership to the subsequent stage.
And the overwhelming majority of these golf equipment who didn’t land a ‘huge’ title nonetheless made their offseason selections in a method that will point out they intend to enhance their fortunes sooner reasonably than later.
Excluding the Gold Coast Suns, I reckon each membership within the AFL is taking a look at themselves proper now and believing they’re able to a greater efficiency this yr than final.
The easy actuality, nonetheless, is that there may be no rise with out one other’s decline. A few of these golf equipment should not going to get the outcomes they need. And that results in my subsequent query…
Will there be a training cull?
For the primary time in additional than a decade, all 18 AFL golf equipment will enter season 2019 led by the identical senior coach as they had been 12 months prior.
It’s not that way back that it was widespread to see as many as three or 4 or 5 new coaches be part of the ranks in any given yr, however the previous three off seasons mixed have seen solely two unplanned adjustments.
Is it the beginning of a brand new period of golf equipment displaying their coaches persistence with the assumption that it takes some years within the job to actually be taught the craft?
The transformations – each on a membership and private stage – that we’ve seen achieved by the likes of Damien Hardwick in 2017 and Nathan Buckley final yr would lend some weight to this philosophy.
On the opposite facet of the coin nonetheless, it’s clear that – as mentioned above – many golf equipment look like concentrating on season 2019 because the yr to take a step ahead, ideally an enormous one.
It received’t occur for everybody, although, as a result of it might probably’t. Will disenchanted golf equipment select the trail of persistence… or the trail of the axe?
Simon Goodwin and Nathan Buckley are, remarkably, the one coaches not already contracted past season 2019. One would anticipate each to signal extensions earlier than the season begins.
Nonetheless quite a few coaches are prolonged solely a yr additional than that, a variety through which sackings have nonetheless typically occurred: Alan Richardson, Brendon Bolton, Ross Lyon, Brad Scott, Luke Beveridge, John Longmire and Leon Cameron.
How will new guidelines change the sport?
The AFL have lengthy been recognized for his or her love of yearly fidgeting with the principles, however they took it a couple of steps additional than regular within the 2018 offseason introducing at least 9 adjustments.
Of most notice would be the introduction of ‘conventional’ beginning positions required at centre bounces which would require six gamers from either side to be inside every of the 50m arcs, one in every of whom should be within the aim sq..
The league additionally toyed with the thought of extending the size of the goalsquare, however as a substitute settled on a change that may transfer the person on the mark again 5 metres for kick-ins, and not require the participant performing the kick-in to kick to themselves in they want to play on.
It was a controversial subject of debate all through 2018, and most pundits – myself included – really feel the adjustments characterize the AFL kowtowing to the calls for of TV broadcasters reasonably than listening to the desire of the followers.
Personally I feel these rule adjustments stand no likelihood of attracting extra followers to the sport, however would possibly see video games eke out a couple of extra targets (predominantly in already uneven encounters), providing TV broadcasts the prospect for a couple of extra ad-breaks.
That will be mission completed for the AFL, however it can do nothing to change the general public notion that they care extra for cash and metrics than ardour and folks.
No matter occurs, you may anticipate it to be one of many main speaking factors of 2019, significantly early within the season as inevitable teething points come up.
Can GWS survive a make-or-break season?
2018 was the Gold Coast Suns’ eighth yr within the AFL and as such they had been compelled to cope with free company for the primary time – and it didn’t go nicely.
Whereas Tom Lynch was the one participant to go away straight through the free company mechanism, the likes of Steven Could and Aaron Corridor each left the membership solely a yr earlier than they might’ve certified.
Former top-ten draft picks Kade Kolodjashnij and Jack Scrimshaw left the membership for nearly no return and Jarryd Lyons additionally departed for actually no return.
Most would agree that the scenario will not be practically so dire for fellow growth membership Better Western Sydney, however 2019 nonetheless represents a serious hurdle for the Giants because it’s the primary time they’ll face free company.
Stephen Coniglio would be the greatest title on their free company checklist and is already recognized to be a goal of Hawthorn. Different foundational gamers Nick Haynes and Adam Tomlinson will enter 2019 as free brokers additionally.
However the Giants even have Josh Kelly and Jacob Hopper popping out of contract at 2019, each of them sure to garner consideration from all kinds of opposition golf equipment.
Final yr’s offseason noticed the Giants say goodbye to quite a few useful gamers in a bid to get their wage cap underneath management and make room to re-sign the important thing planks popping out of contract in 2019.
Have they executed sufficient to interrupt the cycle of gamers leaving the membership, or will the dreaded first yr of free company deal them a equally devastating blow to that which it did Gold Coast?
And naturally… who’s going to win it?
All the time the most important query of the yr, and – for the explanations I’ve already mentioned – it’s maybe more durable to reply in 2019 than it ever has been previously.
I’d say that 15 out of 18 groups may very well be moderately thought-about finals aspirants, and there are not less than a dozen who would solely want somewhat luck and momentum to be within the flag dialog.
As we speak is New Yr’s Day, so let me say this: if soccer has taught me something within the final three years, it’s that transformation is at all times doable.
Nathan Buckley was extra emblematic of this truth in 2018 than anybody else. He didn’t fairly take his Pies to a premiership, however his unmistakable change in character was each inspiring and humbling.
I feel the capability for self-transformation has turn out to be arguably a very powerful issue within the premiership race, a improvement which has made footy all of the more durable to foretell.
You might have guessed the place I’m heading with this: I’m not fairly able to inform you my 2019 premiership tip simply but. That’s an article for an additional day.
However whereas we’re on the subject of self-transformation, I want the easiest of luck to all of these of you who – like me – will use the altering of the calendar as a chance to mirror in your lives and make adjustments huge or small.
In case you’re considering how greatest to take action, you would possibly discover some knowledge in an interview I used to be fortunate sufficient to have final yr with Alex Rance on Richmond’s 2017 transformation.
Pleased New Yr!