Every season, fans and analysts alike try and predict the upcoming season. Who will take the Brownlow? Who will be the surprise of the year? And most importantly, who will be standing tall on the last day in September?
Unfortunately, no prediction can be perfect. And often times, teams expectations are based on trends or unrealistic positioning. That is why this article will list 6 teams who will either perform better than they are expected to, or fail to meet expectations.
Overachiever No.1- Brisbane Lions
While the Lions may have finished last in the 2017 season, their lack of success is not a result of poor performance. Rather, lack of experience, combined with a new head coach, meant 2017 was a season to test the waters.
Now this year, with the system sorted, as well as a collection of experience and youth, the Lions quest to return to their three-peat glory begins. While the Lions by no means will be the premiers come September, the opportunity to finish top 12 isn’t too far off. Considering teams such as the Suns, Blues, Kangaroos, as well as declining teams in Hawthorn, the opportunity is there.
The goal should be simple: prove they will be a force. Showing consistency and clear improvement is a must for the Lions in 2018. They have their clear leaders in Zorko, Beams and now the veteran Luke Hodge. Add this with a list of young players, headlined by Cameron Rayner, and the Lions could very well surprise a few.
Underachiever No. 1- Port Adelaide Power
After their disappointing first round finals loss to the Eagles, the Power went all out in the off-season. Bringing in Jack Watts, Tom Rockliff and Steven Motlop was the perfect off-season for Port Adelaide. On paper, the Power and arguably one of the best teams in the league.
However that is on paper.
If the AFL has taught us anything, it’s that it’s about the hunger of a team. Teams like the Bulldogs and Tigers won because they were starving for premiership gold. And sadly, this is where the Power lack.
Too many times it appears that the Power have just given up. When it gets tough, the Power disappear. And unless players like Rockliff and Watts can bring that level headiness that is required, things won’t change. What’s more, their track record against top 8 teams has been a source of criticism.
Overachiever No.2- Western Bulldogs
After winning the 2016 premiership, the Bulldogs suffered what can only be considered a premiership hangover. Failing to gain any real momentum and being a shell of their former premiership glory. For this reason, many people thought this victory was one of pure luck.
However, don’t count the Bulldogs out yet. They still have a strong, young core that are looking to rebound. Just look at their list; Boyd, Johannissen, Wood and of course, Bontompelli.
With the memory of glory not far in the rear-view mirror, the Bulldogs will want to prove that they are a dynasty, not a disaster.
Underachiever No.2- Adelaide Crows
Sorry South Austrlian fans. Your state is all-hype. Now, we’re not saying that the Crows are going to crash and burn out of the top 8. In fact, it’s very probable that last years runners up will finish top 4 again.
What we are saying is that the season won’t be as dominant or impressive as last year’s. Firstly, the Crows have had well-documented chemistry issues following the departure of Jake Lever. Crows captain Tex Walker has struggled apparently to keep the team focused.
In addition, Rory Sloane is still to commit to a deal, and if recent years has shown us anything, dominance in one season may not always translate to dominance in another. For the Crows, it’s about proving that they can be dominant again; a belief that was shattered by the Tigers last year.
Overachiever No. 3- Greater Western Sydney
For many, the Giants are yet to prove their worth and dominance in the AFL. Despite close finishes in the last several years, poor finals performances have seen them failed to play big when it matters. This has lead alot of people to feel that the rise of the Giants will never happen.
Those people are wrong.
The Giants may have lost a star in Devon Smith, but do not be alarmed. The AFL’s draft decision in regards to the Giants has left them with enough assets to continue to make a play at the premiership.
This year, the Giants have experience, the youth and the talent, all wrapped in one. With their cross-town rivals starting to decline, the Crows in turmoil and the Tigers possibly at risk of a premiership hangover, this could be the year.
Underachiever No. 3- Essendon Bombers
It was unanimously agreed upon by the media and fans that the Bombers clearly won the trade period. Adding Devon Smith, Jake Stringer and Adam Saad, the Bombers are poised to become a premiership team overnight.
Rome wasn’t built in a day though, and neither were the Bombers.
Obviously, chemistry will be an issue. In his first JLT game with the Dons, Stringer seemed lost and wasn’t the same player seen at the Bulldogs. This will take time for him to become comfortable in his role, but with eyes on premiership glory, this better happen sooner than later.
But the biggest issue is the controversy hanging over their head. Whether they are still doping or not, the Bombers will have an asterisks next to them all-season, especially if they go all the way. This will have to be in the back of the players minds. That psychological pressure alone, combined with the pressure to win straight away, may be the biggest obstacle they will have to overcome in 2018.