Digby Beacham’s AFL Season Preview

PREMIERS — Richmond: The Tigers are on record as saying 2019 is the year of “redemption”. Seemingly in the box seat to win back-to-back flags, things went terribly awry in last year’s preliminary final as Mason Cox did his best imitation of Wayne Carey to inspire Collingwood to a famous victory.

The recruitment of Tom Lynch is massive. Provided he gets over his knee injury (and there is no reason to suggest he won’t), a forward line boasting Lynch, Jack Riewoldt, Josh Caddy and Daniel Rioli is frightening, especially when Dustin Martin can roll through there. Experienced, big-game hardened and strong in all areas on the ground, there is a reason why the Tigers are $4.50 favourites with TABtouch to win another premiership.

TOP 8: Richmond, Collingwood, West Coast, Adelaide, Melbourne, Essendon, GWS, Geelong.

The Tigers pick themselves on what we have seen in the past two seasons, as do Collingwood and West Coast on their 2018 performances. The Magpies surprised many with how far they advanced last season, but are considerably stronger entering this year. Adelaide can spike and the reasons why will be outlined below. Melbourne finally returned to September action in 2018 and though they lost Jesse Hogan, have picked up Steven May, who will solidify the defensive half. Essendon’s best is very good, as is Greater Western Sydney’s. Geelong can be hit and miss, but remain an experienced group with some quality youngsters and GMHBA Stadium is a big home-ground advantage.

TOP 4: Richmond, Collingwood, West Coast, Adelaide.

This time last year, the Crows were reeling from that controversial pre-season camp on the Gold Coast and battling a string of injuries to key personnel. The unease from the camp continued throughout their campaign and they never had a crack at it on the injury front. Fast-forward 12 months and there is a distinct contrast. They are happy and extremely healthy. The return from injury of Brad Crouch is massive. Their draw is also user-friendly by virtue of missing the finals last year. Grand finalists in 2017, it wouldn’t be a shock if they returned to the decider this year.

MISS TOP 8: Sydney, Fremantle, Hawthorn, North Melbourne, Port Adelaide, Western Bulldogs, Brisbane, Carlton, St Kilda, Gold Coast.

Hawthorn surprised most last year when they finished inside the top four, only to bow out in straight sets with losses to Richmond and Melbourne. The horrible broken leg sustained by Brownlow medallist Tom Mitchell in January is a cruel blow and doubts surround the longevity of Jarryd Roughead. Sydney and September go together like a BBQ and Australia Day, but I don’t feel as if they are the top-eight locks like they have been. Lance Franklin remains the most captivating figure in the game. However, when he is injured or has an off-day, the Swans’ are impotent in front of goal. I liked Fremantle to play finals earlier in the year. Then the injuries started to pile up. Their lack of depth through the midfield is also a concern.


Josh Kelly is the son of a gun and has the potential to not only win this year’s Brownlow Medal, but multiple Brownlow Medals. The silky left-footer announced himself to the football world in 2017 and was tracking along nicely again last year before injury struck. He is one of the best distributors in the competition, can win his own football and in a centre square that isn’t as congested this year given the rule changes, it wouldn’t surprise to see him, along with some of the game’s premier midfielders, display their ridiculous skill set. In a side that is likely to be in finals contention for most of the season, Kelly ticks a lot of boxes.


Ben Brown looked like he would claim his maiden Coleman Medal last season, only to get the wobbles late in the year and be overrun by Jack Riewoldt, who went on to top the goal-kicking list for a third time. Despite his quiet finish to 2018, Brown remains one of the most dangerous key forwards in the competition with his size, excellent hands and accurate kicking. The fact the Kangaroos play their home games at the sterile surrounds of Marvel Stadium is a bonus, while the addition of Jared Polec and new rules that create more one-on-one battles for the forwards will work in his favour.


Carlton fans haven’t had a lot to cheer about in recent years, but the wheel is turning ever so slowly. The decision to stick fat and not relinquish their No.1 draft pick last season will be rewarded in spades over the next decade. Sam Walsh is going to be a GUN. He has the size, football nous and attitude to be an elite midfielder and was a standout in both JLT Community Series fixtures. Barring injury, the $2.75 on offer from TABtouch for him to be voted the best young player in the game in 2019 is excellent value.

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