Digby Beacham’s AFL Season Preview

Premiers – Richmond $4.50*

There is no denying Richmond are going to be fully extended in their bid to win back-to-back premierships.

But on what we have seen over the past three seasons, there is no better side in the competition to overcome any obstacles they encounter than the Tigers.

That Tom Lynch was able to have the contribution he did in 2019 off the back of an injury-interrupted pre-season is extremely daunting for opposition sides. He is a genuine key-position star and forms a potent one-two punch with Jack Riewoldt forward of centre.

It is fair to expect him to be better again this season, while the return from brain surgery of Jack Higgins also provides Damien Hardwick with more options at selection.

Dustin Martin sits comfortably atop the heap as the competition’s best player and Trent Cotchin, a Brownlow medallist, has strong claims on the mantle as the league’s best captain.

Alex Rance will again miss, just as he did for all but three quarters of 2019, but David Astbury, Dylan Grimes, Bachar Houli and Nick Vlastuin work splendidly in a resolute back half.

Just as Lynch is expected to elevate again this year, Marlion Pickett and Sydney Stack should be expecting to play each and every week after having a taste last season.

Throw in the obvious advantage of playing regularly at the MCG and it is little wonder Richmond are a popular premiership selection.

Rising Star Winner – Max King $8*

Genuine excitement surrounds the debut campaigns of Gold Coast pair, close friends Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson.

The duo are going to find a lot of football and have the makings of being high-calibre AFL players.

But St Kilda’s Max King has the tools to get to another level entirely.

The teenager didn’t play an AFL match last season after being selected fourth in the national draft, but in five VFL matches kicked more than 10 goals as a spindly, key-position prospect.

With the benefit of another pre-season under his belt, King is going to give himself every opportunity to show his wares.

Publicly, Saints officials and coaches are guarded about what they say about King, but privately are salivating at what he can deliver.

In a sign of how highly he is regarded, King has been handed the No.12 jumper worn most recently by arguably the greatest Saint of all, Nick Riewoldt.

He has Rising Star written all over him.

Brownlow Medal – Patrick Cripps $6*

WA bull Patrick Cripps just gets better and better.

Brave, durable and a contested-ball beast, his CV deserves to boast a Brownlow Medal.

With no bad luck in 2020, that may well be forthcoming.

Cripps continually leads by example in the Carlton midfield and is a proven votegetter.

His growing ability to push forward and kick goals — he booted four majors in a win mid-season over Brisbane in 2019 — only enhances his claims.

Cripps polled 26 votes last season and while young Sam Walsh finds plenty of football and Zac Fisher is a talented young midfielder/forward, the absence of proven teammates in the eyes of umpires counts in his favour.

Dual medal winner Nat Fyfe will have his share of admirers, and for good reason. The same applies to Dustin Martin, Marcus Bontempelli and Tim Kelly in this era of midfielders running up big numbers, but Cripps is now at the peak of his powers and can claim a first Brownlow this year.

Ladder Prediction

1. Richmond

2. West Coast

3. GWS

4. Western Bulldogs

5. Collingwood

6. Brisbane

7. Essendon

8. Melbourne

9. Hawthorn

10. North Melbourne

11. St Kilda

12. Geelong

13. Port Adelaide

14. Fremantle

15. Sydney

16. Carlton

17. Adelaide

18. Gold Coast

*Odds correct as at 8am, 16th March 2020.

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