We’re less than 40 days away from the start of another footy season and excitement is building amongst the passionate fans of the game. Hopes are high, players are training like crazy and expectations of the 119th instalment of the AFL premiership are for an incredibly competitive year with a number of contenders. Here at Commentary Box Sports we’ve looked into our crystal ball to see what the future holds and how 2015 will play out. One of the best aspects about Australian Rules is its unpredictability and this list could be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to big moments in the season.
Here’s our 10 fearless predictions for the upcoming season.
1. A fit Jesse Hogan will become Melbourne’s saviour
Jesse Hogan arrived at the Demons in 2012 with much fanfare after a brilliant junior career. The mammoth key forward dominated the youth competitions and Melbourne jumped on him in the mini draft, taking him with the second pick. Recruiters around the country pegged him as a future superstar and Demon supporters’ mouths were watering at the thought of a consistent key forward that could kick them a winning score. Unfortunately, Hogan was struck down with a knee injury in 2013, followed by a debilitating back injury and missed the entire 2014 season. Prior to these injuries, however, he showed excellent potential for the big leagues, kicking 39 goals in 15 games for Melbourne affiliate Casey Scorpions. He enters the 2015 season fully fit and ready to launch his professional career, and I believe he has all the skills to become one of the top key forwards in the league.
2. Port Adelaide will become the new superpower
Port Adelaide was the success story of 2014, making it to a preliminary final before going down to eventual premiers Hawthorn by less than a goal. It was a miraculous turnaround from a couple of years prior when the club were a basket-case on and off the field. Intelligent recruiting, the introduction of coach Alan Richardson and the backing of new president David Koch has all led to the rebirth of the club. Their young midfield will tear teams apart in 2015 and there’s nothing stopping them from going one game further, possibly clinching their second AFL premiership. Integral players like Chad Wingard, Hamish Hartlett, Ollie Wines and Brad Ebert will be at the forefront of a new superpower in the AFL that could mirror the dominance of Geelong and Hawthorn in the past decade.
3. North Melbourne’s mature recruits will deliver in spades
A team that is entering their premiership window will usually look towards big game experience to get them over the line in finals. North Melbourne spent the 2014 offseason recruiting players that can fill important gaps in their line-up. Jarrad Waite and Shaun Higgins arrived at Arden St after lengthy careers at Carlton and the Western Bulldogs, with visions of grandeur and a hope to fulfil their true potential. Both Higgins and Waite will take their chance and run with it, providing North Melbourne with consistent performances and adding that X-factor that the Kangaroos need to win in September. Jarrad Waite has a history of losing his temper and doing stupid things on the field but if he can harness that energy, he could be the recruit of the season.
4. The Big Four will all miss out
For the first time since 2005, all four Victorian powerhouses will miss the finals. Carlton, Collingwood, Richmond and Essendon are in a position of rebuilding, stasis or turmoil at the moment. The competitiveness of 2014 will continue this year and it is hard to see any of these clubs reaching the top 8. Richmond rode a wave of momentum as they launched into finals at the end of 2014, however they crashed out in embarrassing fashion against Port Adelaide. Their form in the first two-thirds of 2014 indicated that their previous finals berth may have been an anomaly. A lack of success for the Big Four in recent years could be a sign of a change in the AFL landscape and possibly a new group taking charge.
5. Geelong’s amazing run comes to an end
Without a doubt, Geelong has been the greatest side this decade and has few rivals for the best team of this century. Since 2007 they have won three premierships, produced two Brownlow Medallists and achieved a winning percentage of 79. It is an amazing legacy that was founded off the skills of Gary Ablett, Jimmy Bartel, Paul Chapman and Matthew Scarlett just to name a few. However, nothing lasts forever and Father Time will always catch up with you. Geelong, at least in this dominant incarnation, are on their last legs and 2015 will be the swansong. There’s definitely a great group of young guns on the list, but without leadership from the premiership heroes, they will face a period of rebuilding and stasis.
6. Tom Mitchell to become a star
Sydney’s midfield depth in the past few years has been so good that Tom Mitchell has barely been given a chance to showcase his tremendous skills and ability to read the game. He dominated the NEAFL for Sydney reserves and yet he only managed six games in 2014. Mitchell is only 21 and the best is yet to come but 2015 could be his breakout year. The Swans cannot ignore his dominant displays in the NEAFL for much longer and with a number of clubs circling for his services, John Longmire needs to play him before he takes his talents elsewhere.
7. Ablett to take a backseat
Since joining the Suns as captain in 2010, Gary Ablett has been incredibly important to the success of the young team. He has consistently dominated games and racked up unbelievable numbers in the midfield. As he reaches 31 years old, and coming off a serious shoulder injury, this could be the year that he takes a step back and transfers some of the midfield responsibility to his young protégés. Harley Bennell, Jaeger O’Meara and David Swallow all have the skills required to lead the charge in 2015 and take the Suns into their debut finals series. An overreliance on Ablett has been a point of contention in the past but now that many of the young players have reached maturity, it may be time for the little master to transition into a new role. The 2013 Brownlow Medallist certainly wasn’t slowing down prior to his season-ending injury, averaging 32 disposals and kicking 24 goals in 15 games, but the team needs to prepare for life after Ablett. This season is a chance for the midfield to get a feel for what it will be like in a few years when the captain calls it a day. Spending more time as a permanent forward could be the best way for Ablett to be utilised when he’s not rotating through the centre. He has a proven track record as a small forward, kicking a career-high 61 goals in 2003, and as his body starts to age, Ablett could be a vital cog in the attacking half.
8. An all-star line-up of retirees
The potential retirees in 2015 could make up an entire All-Australian team with a number of aging stars on the precipice of ending their brilliant careers. Chris Judd, Adam Goodes, Dustin Fletcher and Matthew Pavlich all look like entering their final year in the AFL and the accolades they will leave with is amazing to read. Every year is filled with retirements of club champions and superstars, but 2015 could be the strongest line-up in a long time.
9. Twilight decider officially announced
Gillon McLachlan and the AFL hierarchy have been continually mentioning a potential night or twilight grand final in press conferences since McLachlan’s appointment to the top job. The positives when it comes to TV ratings and advertising potential would have the AFL seeing dollar signs. Despite the traditionalists clamouring for the status quo, there’s no reason why a move to night-time. or more likely twilight, grand finals shouldn’t happen. With the TV rights deal coming to an end in 2016, if the AFL are set to make a change they will announce before the end of the year.
10. Video review heartbreak
The inconsistency and ridiculous interpretation of the video review system has caused headaches for clubs and supporters alike, yet the higher-ups continue to sing its praises. Many times when incorrect decisions will come about in regular season games, commentators theorise how this system could affect a pivotal moment during the finals. It’s only a matter of time before a team loses in September thanks to this archaic review system – and without goal-line technology, heartbreak is on its way for the unlucky side that is on the wrong end of a dodgy review.