After finishing runner up in 2017 when they were the number one team in the competition for the majority of the home and away season the Crows will be looking to go one better this year and there is no reason to suggest they can't. They come into the 2018 AFL season with key changes to their personnel from last year with star defender Jake Lever and half forward Charlie Cameron both finding new homes over the off season. The loss of Jake Lever will definitely be felt in defense but they should be able to cover for Charlie Cameron who only showed form late last season.
The inclusion of gun midfielder Bryce Gibbs is a huge coup though and the former Carlton star has already shown why the Crows chased him hard with his pre season form. With a midfield of Gibbs, Sloane and the Crouch brothers there won't be many teams who get the better of the Crows through the middle this year.
Despite finishing runner up last year the AFL fixture has been relatively kind to the Crows with double ups against Richmond, GWS, Port Adelaide, Carlton and Melbourne. With no double up matches against Sydney or Geelong who gave them troubles in 2017 they couldn't have asked for much better after finishing runner up last year.
Prediction - 1st
Some big outs for the Lions heading into this year - most notably with their star midfielder Tom Rockliff moving to Port Adelaide as a free agent over the off season. They also brought in some key players with Charlie Cameron and Luke Hodge joining the squad during the trade period but it still looks like a net loss though for the Lions as they are losing arguably their best player for an inconsistent half forward and a player coming out of retirement.
Expect their newest recruit Cameron Raynor to add something to the side though. Going as Pick 1 in the National Draft he was clearly the most talented of what looks like a good crop of draftees so expect him to see a lot of game time in his first season and add something both up forward and through the middle for the Lions.
After finishing on the bottom of the ladder last year the Lions were entitled to a soft draw this year and they have received it with the Giants being the only top 8 side from last year that they will need to play twice.
Prediction - 17th
The loss of Bryce Gibbs is clearly going to leave a huge hole in the Blues lineup heading into the 2018 season. He was just one of a number of players to be missing from the Blues squad from last year though, with a total of 13 players either being traded, delisted or retired. Unfortunately they weren't able to lure any big names during the trade period but the inclusions of Matthew Kennedy, Darcy Lang, Cameron O’Shea and Aaron Mullett should help fill some holes left by Gibbs leaving and Docherty out for the year due to injury. Clearly they are going to be a weaker side on field this year than last though and considering they finished the 2017 season in 16th place it doesn't bode too well for their chances in 2018.
Courtesy of finishing towards the tail of the ladder last year the Blues will have a fairly easy draw this year with only one double up against a top 8 side from last season. Unfortunately that opponent will be the flag favourites Adelaide though.
Prediction - 16th
Not a lot to report over the off season for the Pies with no big inclusions or losses to note. Their Pick 6 at the National Draft looks to be an exciting prospect though with Jaidyn Stephenson having already produced a number of match winning performances at under age level - expect him to get decent game time this year and add something to the Pies.
Another team who will benefit from a good fixture in 2018 though, the Pies will face off against just two teams who made finals last year in Richmond and Essendon - both teams they will give themselves a decent chance of beating in MCG blockbusters.
Prediction - 10th
One of the biggest winners of the trade period - the Bombers will bring in Devon Smith, Adam Saad and Jake Stringer to their 2018 squad. Those are three big inclusions which should help bolster their line up all across the ground. After finishing 7th last year you would have to expect them to improve with a clearly stronger team.
One thing worth noting is the fact the Bombers will face a significantly harder draw this season compared to last year. After finishing on the bottom of the ladder due to the doping scandal in 2016, the Bombers were given a very soft draw in 2017 against other lowly rated teams. After playing finals last year they won't get as many favours with double up matches this year and will also need to make two trips to Perth to play WA sides.
Prediction - 5th
After having one of the oldest lists in 2017 the Dockers will enter the 2018 season with one of the younger lists after clearing out a lot of mature age players. They were fairly active over the off season and Lachie Weller was the only real loss of any note but considering they managed to snare Pick 2 for him they still came out as winners. Expect former GWS half back Nathan Wilson to add a lot to the Dockers with his rebounding from half back and the addition of Brandon Matera adds another classy small option up forward.
Adding two classy top 5 draft picks in Andrew Brayshaw and Adam Cerra is also a huge addition but we're probably unlikely to see the benefits of that for another couple of years.
The Dockers have also been given a reasonable fixture with no double up matches against the top 4 teams from last year as well as an additional match in Perth thanks to them being the away team for their Round 3 clash against the Suns.
Prediction - 12th
After finishing equal on wins with Adelaide at the top of the ladder last season it is clear that the Cats premiership window is right now and they have traded with that in mind. The return of Gary Ablett Jr could be the difference between winning the flag or not. If the aging superstar can stay fit then a midfield of Ablett, Dangerfield and Selwood is going to cause havoc for every other team this year. Throw in Duncan as the fourth stringer and the depth of that starting midfield is as good as any other we have seen. Expect mature age recruits Stewart Crameri and Tim Kelly to make an impact early on as well.
Where the Cats will need to cover though is in defense with Tom Lonergan and Andrew Mackie both retiring at the end of last year. With Lachie Henderson out for the start of the year with a knee injury a lot is going to fall on the shoulders of Harry Taylor.
With 9 home games at Kardinia Park this season the Cats will be very happy with the draw they have been given despite having double ups against two top 4 teams from last year (Richmond and Sydney).
Prediction - 2nd
The Suns suffered through a very disappointing 2017 that saw them finish in 17th position on the AFL ladder after losing their last 9 matches by an average of 44 points. With huge personnel losses over the off season as well including Gary Ablett and Adam Saad it is hard to see where their improvement is going to come from this year.
The acquisition of Lachie Weller from Fremantle for Pick 2 should help them cover to some degree through the midfield though.
Unfortunately the news just gets even worse when it comes to their draw for this year. With their home ground Metricon Stadium out of action for the first few months due to the Commonwealth Games they have been given a disastrous start to the season. The Suns will be forced to play back to back games in Perth during rounds 3 and 4 - namely due to the fact they will be playing as the HOME team against Fremantle in round 3. They will also need to play home games at the Gabba, Cairns and Shanghai within the first 9 rounds. They are definitely a team worth laying during the first half of the year.
Prediction - 18th
After back to back Preliminary Final losses, GWS may have missed their opportunity in claiming their first flag. For the second straight year the Giants have lost more players than they have brought in with a number of key players moving on at the end of the 2017 season. All three of Devon Smith, Nathan Wilson and Matthew Kennedy found new homes over the off season, while Steve Johnson and Shane Mumford both retired at the end of last year.
While they did pick up delisted free agent Lachie Keefe he is hardly of the same calibre of the players they lost and their depth is going to be tested even further than previously during the 2018 AFL season.
It wasn't a kind draw for the Giants in 2018 either. As well as missing out on many prime time slots they are one of just two teams who will need to play three of the top 6 sides from last year twice - including double ups against Sydney and Adelaide.
Prediction - 7th
After dropping out of the top 8 for the first time since 2009 last season the Hawks will be looking for a quick turnaround this year. While they didn't land any big name recruits over the break, getting another year and pre season into one of their star recruits from last year in Jaeger O'meara should see an improvement for the Hawks through the midfield. The loss of their champion veteran Luke Hodge will obviously leave a hole in their list though.
Despite not even making the finals last year the Hawks will still have a hard time with their draw this year, having to play three of last year's top 8 sides twice.
Prediction - 8th
It could be now or never for the Demons to step up and make a serious impact during a season. After sitting on the cusp of finals for the past couple of years the Demons have recruited well landing the number one defensive interceptor in the game Jake Lever from the Crows at the end of last year. Apart from Jack Watts they haven't really lost anyone who was best 22 from last year either so they should be well placed to make a significant run at finals in the 2018 AFL season.
It's a terrible draw for the Demons as well. After not making the finals last year they will need to play two teams who finished top 4 last year twice with double up matches against both Adelaide and Geelong.
Prediction - 9th
After a disappointing 2017 that saw them end the season ranked 15th on the AFL ladder, the cull of veterans continued at North Melbourne with Lindsay Thomas, Andrew Swallow, Sam Gibson and Lachie Hansen all bring moved on as well as halfback Aaron Mullett. But while that is a lot of games experience lost, you wouldn't expect the Roos to feel the loss too heavily as most of these players were either not a part of their best 22 or on the fringe of it come the end of last season.
The inclusion of delisted Hawk Billy Hartung looks to have been a smart move by the Roos with the run added by Hartung during the pre season already adding something to the side that was missing in 2017. Expect their young gun Luke Davies-Uniacke to make an immediate impact at AFL level as well. Tipped by a lot of pundits to go at Pick 1 in the draft last year, North did very well to scoop him up with Pick 4.
The Roos will also benefit from a fairly cozy draw in 2018 after a lackluster performance in 2017. As well as getting three matches in Hobart, they will only need to play one top 8 side twice this year and will get to play each of the bottom 2 sides twice.
Prediction - 11th
One of the biggest players over the off season Port Adelaide has recruited firmly for right now with the inclusions of Tom Rockliff, Steven Motlop and Jack Watts. Expect all 3 to best 22 players come round 1 of the AFL season and in particular Rockliff and Motlop to add a lot of class and depth through the midfield. The Power also added further depth to their line up with delisted free agents Jack Trengove, Lindsay Thomas and Trent McKenzie who all have the potential to add something.
Fortunately Port Adelaide don't look to have lost much from their side that finished 5th on the AFL ladder last year either, with Jarman Impey arguably the only player who would have been in their best 22 players.
With double up matches against Adelaide, West Coast and Essendon the Power are one of only a few teams to have to play three teams from inside last season's top 8 twice this year.
Prediction - 3rd
Almost no change to the reigning premiers from last year with the Tigers holding onto all of their premiership players despite many rival clubs throwing big money at their superstar Dustin Martin.
After finishing 1st in 2017 compared to 13th in 2016, the Tigers will face a significantly stiffer draw this year than they did previously which will make their task a bit more difficult. With double ups against the Cats, Crows, Bombers, Magpies and Saints on paper they have the most difficult draw of any team with two repeat match against top 4 teams and no repeat matches against teams who finished in the bottom 5 last year.
Prediction - 6th
With no real changes to the their lineup from last year the Saints took all of their top picks to the draft to bring in some highly talented youth. They finished last year 11th on the AFL ladder but with teams around them adopting a more aggressive approach heading into the 2018 AFL season the Saints could be a year or two away from seriously challenging again.
A fairly even draw for the Saints this year with Richmond and GWS being the only top 8 teams they have to play twice (both teams they beat convincingly during the 2017 season). Seven 6 day breaks and two trips to Perth inside three weeks around mid season isn't ideal but overall it's a pretty good draw for the Saints and shouldn't hold them back in 2018.
Prediction - 13th
Almost no action with Sydney over the off season with the Swans keeping a fairly unchanged squad from the one that took them to a semi final last year after starting the season woefully at 0-6. Unfortunately though the retirement of Kurt Tippett and season ending knee injury of Sam Naismith has left them seriously undermanned in the ruck department with a lot to fall on the shoulders of Callum Sinclair this year. If Sinclair were to go down through injury at any stage it would be a huge blow to their chances.
The Swans haven't been given any favours by the fixture either. Despite dominating the prime time slots in 2018 thanks to their second half resurgence last year, on the field the Swans have been given a tough task as one of only two teams to have to play three teams inside the top 6 twice. With double ups against the Cats, Giants and Eagles things could be tough, but with teams like West Coast looking set to decline in 2018 their draw might not be as bad as it looks on paper.
Prediction - 3rd
After entering the 2017 season with the oldest list in the AFL the Eagles will enter this year as one of the younger sides on the back of the retirements of star veterans Sam Mitchell, Matt Priddis, Drew Petrie and Sam Butler. Losing that wealth of quality experience is no doubt going to have a big impact on the Eagles this year, especially when they didn't trade in any new players either and just took their picks to the draft.
The inclusion of Nic Naitanui however after spending a year on the sidelines with injury will be a huge coup for the Eagles.
Despite a likely decline in form due to the loss of several veteran best 22 players the Eagles will still have to face a fairly tough draw next year due to finishing last season inside the top 6. Having to play three quality teams of last year's top 8 twice (GWS, Sydney and Port Adelaide) they look like they have been dealt a draw beyond their ability and with no double up matches against teams who finished bottom 4 in 2017 they are going to be facing a really hard task to win enough games to play finals.
On the back of some very poor pre season form it wouldn't be at all surprising for them to be the big sliders in 2018 and fall towards the bottom of the ladder.
Prediction - 15th
The Bulldogs lost a lot of games experience over a somewhat tumultuous off season with Bob Murphy, Matthew Boyd and Travis Cloke all retiring along with Jake Stringer being traded to the Bombers. They finished 10th last year and with the list changes it is hard to see where they could improve next year to once again be a finals team. The inclusion of Josh Schache looks like it could be a good one long term for the Dogs but it is hard to see a 20yo young forward who averaged less than a goal a game last year in his 10 matches having any sort of immediate impact.
They will face a much kinder draw on paper though this year on the back of their disappointing 2017 season. With double ups against two bottom 4 sides from last year (North Melbourne and Carlton) and no double ups against teams who finished inside the top 4 they have been given the favourable draw that they will likely need in order to win enough matches to play finals footy in 2018.
Prediction - 14th
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