AFL 2017 Season Ladder Predictions

AFL 2017 Season Preview – Who finishes where?

AFL 2017 Season Preview

The AFL 2017 Season would be close to the most competitive and even season that I can remember. We have a handful of perceived standouts (baring injuries or drama), and then a host of teams behind that on their day could beat anyone. What a great season we are in for!

Finals chances probably stretch as far as 13th, so picking who will fill the eight this year is a tough one. Luck and injuries will play a role, but here are our thoughts on who we think will finish where in the AFL 2017 Season.

Brisbane Lions

Predicted finish: 18th

Why they can win it:

Not even the most diehard Brisbane (or Fitzroy if you are cut from the old cloth) would dare to dream of a premiership in 2017.

For the sake of combing for positives, the Lions have a reasonable draw. Tom Rockliff is still there after not being able to find a new club in the trade period, and Dayne Zorko is not a half bad player and tries his guts out.

The reality though, is they just don’t have the cattle in AFL 2017 Season to compete with most.

Why they can’t:

Where do we begin? First of all, this is a roster that leaked over 130 points a game. Veteran Daniel Merrett is gone. Pearce Hanley didn’t live up to the hype and has moved on to the Gold coast.

This is a club still ripped to shreds from the Brendan Fevola fiasco and one that hasn’t made a decent signing in years. The draft will help in the distant future, but not anytime soon. There are deficiencies across the entire park and Zorko is the only bloke who could look in the mirror and say he had a decent season in 2016.

Any win the Lions pulls off will be considered an upset, and I suspect some back-to-earth 100 point drubbings will happen a little too often.


Carlton Blues


Predicted finish: 17th

Why they can win it:

Don’t expect a Lazarus-like rise from the Blues in the AFL 2017 Season, after the club’s list was tossed over once again. A total of 14 players came and went in the turnstile trade period. The recruitment has been solid without being fantastic, with a smattering of GWS dregs and draft talent headed by Brendon Bolton added to the list.

Carlton will most likely resist the temptation to rush and the transition will be slow, and likely painful. But expect them to gain a bit of momentum through the season. Will almost certainly be spared the wooden spoon thanks to the Lions.

Why they can’t:

Rome was not built in a day and no club in the modern era has revamped their entire roster to immediate success.

Clubs like the Bulldogs and North Melbourne have been able to reap rewards within three years of a rebuild, and the Blues are not going to be able to eclipse that. A hard year for Carlton fans, but hopefully one with the promise of a better tomorrow.


Fremantle Dockers


Predicted finish: 16th

Why they can win it:

Forget 2016. As the Dockers bombed all the way towards the bottom of the AFL ladder, the knockers had the claws out to declare their premiership window shut.

Consider this; Nat Fyfe, Aaron Sandilands and Michael Johnson barely played because of injury. Neither did recruit Harley Bennell. Defender Alex Pearce broke his leg, Michael Barlow stuffed his shoulder. True, Fremantle were playing terribly before the injury curse struck.

After eight consecutive losses, though, they signed off 2016 with a shock win over eventual premiers Western Bulldogs to send Matthew Pavlich out a winner. The roster is there, if luck can favour them.

Why they can’t:

Can a team bounce back from 16th on the ladder to become true contenders?

Coach Ross Lyon faces significant selection headaches in persevering with the current crop and bringing on the next generation. In truth, the Dockers season sits on a knife’s edge and fans should get an idea which side comes to play early in the AFL 2017 Season.

Any side with Fyfe, Sandilands and co on their books have to be rated every chance of competing, but they have now lost Ballantyne for 8-10 weeks, and whether you like him or not he is a big loss. But battling to be competitive in the AFL 2017 Season may be as good as it gets.


Essendon Bombers

Predicted finish: 15th

Why they can win it:

Tainted by the ASADA drug scandal in 2016, which saw half of the team suspended and the Bombers only win three games (albeit bravely), things can only look up.

Ten of the banned Bombers are back, spearheaded by Jobe Watson. Cale Hooker and Michael Hurley return to steel the defensive line. The annus horribilis reaped one reward, the No.1 draft pick. Canadian-born defender Andrew McGrath was picked up at the Hordern Pavilion in November, which gives the club riches in the back line.

There was a certain romanticism around the embattled Bombers last year and this will be a crew stinging to return to the fray at full strength. There will be no easy wins against the Bombers, but I think they will need the run.

Why they can’t:

Essendon did exceptionally well to retain as many players as they did, which means they retain a lot of the culture of their club in the rebuild. But make no bones about it, this is a rebuild.

There are selection headaches across the park in the AFL 2017 Season, rookies jostling with veterans and plenty of legs with not a lot of footy in them from their enforced time out. Premiership glory is going to take time, and a lot of hard work.


Gold Coast Suns

Predicted finish: 14th

Why they can win it:

The Suns have been carrying a little dead weight in the midfield. Jaeger O’Meara (Hawthorn) and Dion Prestia (Richmond) have moved on. They are definitely talents, but their injury woes had rendered them effectively useless for the Suns.

Recruit Pearce Hanley will be burning for redemption after his character was called into question in a disastrous season with Brisbane. Tom Lynch could easily win games on his own back, and ruckman Jarrod Witts, Michael Barlow and Jarryd Lyons are key recruits that will add some substance to the side.

And let’s not forget the little master ‘YABBY’, who will be looking to put his own injury woes behind him. The Suns are a different side when he is fit, obviously.

Why they can’t:

Despite the concessions handed to them by the AFL since inception in 2009, the Suns have been an unmitigated disaster. While the Giants surge, there has been no forward movement on the Glitter Strip. Expected to not only make the eight, but push for the flag in 2016, the Suns could only meekly manage six wins and even lost to the Lions.

Draft picks Ben Ainsworth, Jack Scrimshaw, Will Brodie, Jack Bowes and Brad Scheer are likely to have to play big minutesin the AFL 2017 Season. This does not bode well for a successful year, but they have enough class and good enough record at Metricon to suggest they may finish above a few.

Port Adelaide Power

Predicted finish: 13th

Why they can win it:

Port have teased their fans since 2014, when the club surged deep into the finals before a heart-breaking loss to Hawthorn, and a seemingly easy draw where they play the Lions and Suns twice, and Blues in Adelaide, the promise to tantalise as a premiership smoky once more in 2017.

The key lies in their big names being fit and firing, something the club has struggled to produce with consistency in recent years. Midfielder Robbie Gray will be hard to contain, Chad Wingard will want to put more consistency on the park, and skipper Travis Boak will look to break the shackles of an injury punctuated 2016.

Like many clubs, there is a spine of talent to burn; but can they produce consistently, and do they have the support of the fringes. If yes, then our prediction will be very wrong, but they could also be severely hampered by any key injuries that come their way.

Why they can’t:

Port can walk one of two paths in 2017, both with their fair share of risks. On one hand, the club can persevere with the God-given talent they know they have on the roster. But do they deserve another shot in the AFL 2017 Season after two years of inconsistency and scratchy performances?

The other path is to blood the young guns and Port Adelaide has four draft picks from within the top 33. The temptation is there, but is the club ready to rebuild? Or will they kick the premiership window open for another year? How the coaching staff manage their roster will be critical towards their success.

North Melbourne Kangaroos

Predicted finish: 12th

Why they can win it:

When injuries kicked in last year, several players were blooded before their time. That means the likes of Ryan Clarke will be battle ready for the AFL 2017 Season.

Jy Simpkin was a vital draft pick and will add speed and guile around the midfield. Jack Ziebell, Ben Cunnington and Andrew Swallow form a solid midfield and ruckman Todd Goldstein is quality. Veterans Jarred Waite, Lindsay Thomas and Shaun Higgins are joined by young bloods Ben Brown and Mason Wood up front, which gives the Kangaroos a promising collection of youth and experience for the future.

Why they can’t:

The nine consecutive games that North won to open season 2016 are a distant memory. The club went on to lose all but three of its remaining games, including a 62 point belting at the hands of Adelaide in a finals berth they didn’t deserve to secure.

Veterans Brent Harvey, Nick Dal Santo, Drew Petrie and Michael Firrito have all been sensationally shown the door. No significant players will be joining the club, which means a slide down the ladder is inevitable. Any injuries to key players, and North will find themselves stretched.


Richmond Tigers

Predicted finish: 11th

Why they can win it:

Times were tough in 2016 and the Tigers will be desperate to show improvement.

Players like Dustin Martin and Jack Riewoldt can be incredibly potent, but will need support. Prestia and Caddy are enormous recruits, and one potential positive, depending on your outlook, was the fact the club used an AFL-high 41 players in 2015. Plenty of players were blooded and there may be some hope that that some stars will find their way out of the wreckage.

Why they can’t:

Reality is you can’t win a premiership from 9th…..Yeah ok now we have said it, it seems unlikely they even get that far.

The hope harvested in 2015 appears to be dead and buried; this is a list that needs an entire overhaul. The trade period wasn’t kind with Brett Deledio and Ty Vickery (not so much) walking out the door. Chris Yarran, Andrew Moore and Jacob Townsend were busts at best. Liam McBean and Adam Marcon are delisted, Troy Chaplin and Reece McKenzie are retired.

There are more questions than answers in this list and a top eight finish in the AFL 2017 Season seems like it would be a miracle.


Melbourne Demons

Predicted finish: 10th

Why they can win it:

Things are bubbling along nicely at the Demons who surged up the ladder in 2016, remaining in finals contention until the last few rounds.

The highlights of the year were wins against GWS and Hawthorn and there is every reason the club can improve in 2017. Jordan Lewis and Mitch Hibberd bring skill and experience to a group of very talented youngsters. They have trimmed a little fat, and the young guns have yet another year under their belts.

The Demons don’t need to reinvent the wheel, just continue their development curve to return to the finals. This is unlikely to be in 2017, but they will win some big games that is for certain, and the Grand Old Flag cheer will once again start ringing around the MCG.

Why they can’t:

While the club has improved every year since the rebuild began in 2014, this roster might not be close enough to reap the rewards just yet. Getting smacked by 111 points by Geelong in the final round last year shows there is still plenty of work to be done.

Plenty hinges on Jesse Hogan’s goal-kicking ability, but he needs to lift several gears for Melbourne to enter finals calculations. They could sneak in, but are more likely to improve enough to sit just outside the eight at the end of the AFL 2017 Season.


Collingwood Magpies

Predicted finish: 9th

Why they can win it:

Collingwood have been treading water for a while now, but refuse to fade out completely with many stiring and surprising wins along the way. Can they turn things around and start to trend upwards? The precedent is there. St Kilda has shifted back into a finals contender, and we all saw what the Bulldogs were able to achieve in 2016.

The midfield is stuffed full of ability. With Pendlebury, Treloar, Adams, Sidebottom, and new recruit Wells (if he can get fit), and its easy to see how they could tear teams apart.

Throw in Varcoe, Aish, De Goey, new recruits Mayne and Hoskin-Elliot, as well as the likes of Fasolo, Moore and Elliott in the forward line, and this is a team full of talent no question.

But a team full of talented players aren’t necessarily a talented team. This is a roster that could go either way.

Why they can’t:

The midfield and fringes are very good, and the forward line is reasonable, but the back of the park is where Collingwood will struggle. Jack Frost, Jonathon Marsh, Nathan Brown, Alan Toovey and Marley Williams have all departed and the club and left a real talent drain in the defensive line.

Lynden Dunn helps, and Reid when fit is arguably one of the best in the business. But I am still of the old belief that defence wins premierships, and leaking points might be a problem for the Pies unless they can put together something solid very quickly.


St Kilda Saints

Predicted finish: 8th

Why they can win it:

If there is a dark horse in the AFL 2017 Season, this is it. The Saints have rebuilt in record time and should have played finals football in 2016, if not for some costly lapses against the Gold Coast and Hawthorn in games they should have won.

Skipper Nick Riewoldt has moved to the wing, a position where he excels in his twilight years. Keep him in your Brownlow watch if he starts gaining momentum.

David Armitage is the veteran steeling a youthful midfield with rising stars like Jack Steven. Josh Bruce, Tim Membrey and Paddy McCartin are a potent forward line and Jack Billings and Maverick Weller are very dangerous young players. Former Bomber Jake Carlisle also gets his first crack after sitting out 2016 through suspension.

They will drop some games they should win, but will trouble plenty along the way. A sneaky finals berth isn’t out of the question for the young saints.

Why they can’t:

Question marks still exist over the defensive line, with veterans Sean Dempster and Sam Gilbert charged with stopping the flow of points. When the Saints lost in 2016, they lost in spectacular fashion with embarrassing losses to West Coast (by 103 points), Adelaide (88) and Sydney (70).

The youthful Saints play a fast, transitional style of footy and the backs are going to need to hold up their end of the bargain otherwise they will struggle.


Adelaide Crows

Predicted finish: 7th

Why they can win it:

There is a lot of heart at the Crows, who were valiant in finishing fifth last season, and the club will need to be brave again. The Crows will look to maintain, and improve, the areas that asserted them as genuine title threats last year.

A potent forward line, which included the emergence of rookie Mitch McGovern – they ranked first in points per game last year. With quality midfielder Rory Sloane lurking in support, there is plenty of potential for the AFL 2017 Season.

Jenkins and Betts headed the crows scoring last season, and combined scored for 167 goals and both top 5 in the competition. Add in big Tex who finished top 10, and this team can definitely put a score up.

Eddie Betts has recently signed a three-year deal with the club which is likely to be his last. Expect the star forward to do everything he can to ensure there is a flag in there somewhere. Make no mistake, if they stay fit, the Crows have too good of a forward line to not be considered a premiership smokey in the AFL 2017 Season.

Why they can’t:

Do the Crows have any improvement in them in the AFL 2017 Season? There is not much coming through by way of drafting or recruitment so it will be more of the same in 2017. This could hurt their chances in three different ways.

Firstly, the thundering herd of emerging clubs like St Kilda and Melbourne could force them down the ladder.

Secondly, there will be no ambush this season. Every other club knows what they will line up against. And lastly, the midfield is still a touch suspect with Brad Crouch inconsistent, and Scott Thompson approaching retirement, and both starting the season underdone. Big Tex and Rory Sloane are also under injury clouds early.

Another team that are hard to place, but if they can dominate in Adelaide, a top 8 finish should be there for the taking.


Hawthorn Hawks

Predicted finish: 6th

Why they can win it:

Last season was the first year since 2012 that we haven’t seen the Hawks hoist the flag. This is a club that gorges on success in the modern era and have to factor as a force once again in 2017.

Jarryd Roughead will captain the side after beating cancer, and new recruits Mitchell, O’Meara and Vickery (arguably) add class in some of the gaps at the club. Plus they still have a very good host of talent everywhere on the park.

They should be there or thereabouts, and you really can never write this team off any week so finals look definitely on the cards again in 2017.

Why they can’t:

Did we mention who the new recruits have replaced? Sam Mitchell, Jordan Lewis and Brad Hill are all gone. That’s 666 AFL games and one Brownlow Medal that have exited the building.

A lot of pressure is on the new blokes in the AFL 2017 Season. As well as Josh Gibson, Luke Hodge and Shaun Burgoyne who are still playing solid footy. If any of these players drop off or get injured, then chinks will begin to show in the armour.


Geelong Cats

Predicted finish: 5th

Why they can win it:

Success runs deep in the blood of Geelong players. After a disappointing 2015 campaign ended up with the Cats sinking to 10th, they returned with a vengeance in 2016 with the club finishing second before losing to Sydney in the preliminary final.

Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood are going to gel even better, and this is a club with a roster capable of pushing for the top four again. Daniel Menzel was courageous in coming back from his fourth knee reconstruction and looks every bit the star.

All the ingredients are there for the AFL 2017 Season, if Geelong can put it together.

Why they can’t:

Inconsistency was a constant issue for Geelong in 2016. Their chaotic, up-tempo brand of football could run teams ragged, or it could force error after error.

The stats look good for the club, which only dropped five games all season. But three of those losses came against also-rans Carlton, Collingwood and St Kilda. If the Cats adopt the same high-risk, high-reward brand of footy, they could come unstuck. As a result, they are very hard to place.


Western Bulldogs

Predicted finish: 4th

Why they can win it:

Everyone loves a fairy tale, and many of them come with sequels. The Bulldogs became the first team to win the competition from seventh, and held aloft their first flag in 62 years.

The back three of Matthew Boyd, Marcus Adams and Dale Morris choked the life out of teams last year and now former Magpie Travis Cloke has been added to bolster the club up front. Stewart Crameri is back as well (and looked solid in pre-season hitouts), giving the club more weapons than before.

As far as depth, they run deeper than most claiming the VFL Premiership in 2016.

Why they can’t:

Koby Stevens (St Kilda), Nathan Hrovat (North Melbourne) and Joel Hamling (Fremantle) have all left, testing the club’s depth. But the talent pool runs very, very deep.

The 2016 premiership may actually have arrived a year early, as this year’s roster could be even more potent than last year’s. The weight of expectation will play heavily on them in the AFL 2017 Season, and the hunter has become the hunted. But expect the Doggies to be there when the whips are cracking.


Sydney Swans

Predicted finish: 3rd

Why they can win it:

Let’s start in the midfield, triumvirate Josh Kennedy, Dan Hannebery and Luke Parker are arguably the best trio in the game, and Lance ‘BUDDY’ Franklin is one of the best in the business up front.

Isaac Heeney will get even better (although will miss the start due to Glandular Fever). Jarrad McVeigh and Heath Grundy steer the ship down back with the every reliable Nick Smith, Dane Rampe and Jake Lloyd.

Good list management keeps setting the club up for the future. Midfielder Tom Mitchell was allowed to pursue a better opportunity at Hawthorn in exchange for a prime draft pick. There is no reason to think that Sydney won’t be in the top four again in the AFL 2017 Season.

Why they can’t:

How will the Swans bounce back from their shock grand final loss to the Bulldogs?

With plenty of big game experience, level heads should prevail. But any hangover from the loss will be punished. Losses to Adelaide, GWS, Hawthorn and the Bulldogs (twice) in 2016 means the big guns can compete against Sydney. They won’t have it easy, but the Roos/Kirk spirit lives on, and that’s just the way the Bloods like it.


West Coast Eagles

Predicted finish: 2nd

Why they can win it:

After losing just one game in the final 10 rounds of 2016 season, the Eagles were sensationally dumped out of the finals by the Bulldogs.

With the likes of Josh Kennedy, Jeremy McGovern, Luke Shuey, Andrew Gaff and Matt Priddis hanging around, there are plenty of reasons to think they will improve their ladder position this time around. Recruits Lewis Jetta and Jack Redden didn’t have the seasons fans expected last year, so there should be improvement there as well. Plus a little fella named Mitchell…..He goes alright!

It is hard to put them ahead of the Bulldogs and Swans in the AFL 2017 Season, but their advantage is the western fortress. If they dominate at home, and learn to win more away, 15 wins and a top 2 spot isn’t out of the question.

Why they can’t:

Can the Eagles improve on 2016? The club had a blessed run with injury and fought out the year with a healthy roster most of the time.

West Coast also now carry the unlucky distinction of being the only team in AFL history to notch up 16 wins, but miss the top four. Can they find another gear to get up amongst the heavyweights? Or was 2015 as good as it gets?.

The loss of Nic Nat hurts the ruck stocks, but with their midfield and half-decent back ups in Giles, Vardy (when fit) and Petrie/Darling pinch hitting, I don’t think it hurts that much.


Greater Western Sydney Giants

Predicted finish: 1st

Why they can win it:

Potential has turned into promise. GWS announced themselves as genuine title threats with a list that runs deep from AFL hand-outs at the draft table, doled out over the last five years.

On paper, the Giants are heads and shoulders the best team in terms of talent for AFL 2017 Season. There are no gaps; no obvious weaknesses and plenty more punch waiting in the wings. Brett Deledio and adds yet another weapon to a forward line that should be the best in the competition.

If they stay healthy and focused, the only thing that can stop GWS in the AFL 2017 Season, should be themselves.

Why they can’t:

This is still a young roster, and big game experience is critical towards winning a flag. The Giants played their guts out only to lose by one goal against eventual premiers the Bulldogs in the preliminary final. That loss has the potential to carry some scars for the young Giants.

But in all likelihood, it has only given them the big game experience they need to push on and go one better.



Photo (logo) Credits: AFL.com

About the Author EziSports

Making sports more fun since 2013.

follow me on: