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And just like that, AFL’s back!
It’s hard to believe that summer’s over and we’re heading into the hotly anticipated 2023 AFL Season, but here we are with Round 1 kicking off tonight and the traditional season opener of Carlton and Richmond at the MCG.
Later in the weekend you’ll have to catch both Western Australian teams on TV, with West Coast taking on North Melbourne on Saturday and Fremantle Dockers playing Saint Kilda on Sunday, with both games at Marvel Stadium.
While we’re pretty pumped for the season to kick off, we don’t expect you to trust us for any hot tips or predictions for the year ahead – which is why we reached out to an expert.
Digby Beacham currently co-hosts The Sports Daily on TAB Radio, and knows a thing or two about footy.
We asked him to take a gander into his crystal ball for what’s ahead in season 2023 for WA’s teams and the competition at large, including Brownlow and Wooden Spoon tips, top 8’s and more – check it out below:
West Coast – Can they rebound from their disastrous 2022 campaign?
Of course they can. If they don’t, questions will be asked because a 2-20 season can’t be followed up with another barren year given the experience on the list. There were genuine excuses as to why the Eagles didn’t perform at the level most expected last year. Injuries didn’t help, nor did the fitness levels which appeared below that of other teams. Thankfully, it seems both areas are on the up and up and that should lead to an upward trajectory. Oscar Allen’s availability cannot be understated and the same applies to the likes of premiership quartet Elliot Yeo, Jeremy McGovern, Dom Sheed and Tom Cole.
14th with a 9-13 win-loss record.
Player to watch:
Oscar Allen – A beautiful mover and a great all-round athlete, the ceiling for Allen is extremely high. He might be a work in progress early on as he builds into the season following a year on the sidelines, but if the ball movement is slick and opportunities are plentiful, don’t be shocked if he boots more than one or two bags in 2023. The future of West Coast’s forward line.
Fremantle – Will they improve on their promising season last year ?
That is the aim internally and you can understand why. The Dockers spiked big time in 2022, chalking up 15 wins and then climbing from the canvas to dismiss the Western Bulldogs in an elimination final before a heaving Optus Stadium crowd. That should provide a platform from which to vault into the top four and earn a double chance. Luke Jackson is a generational talent, while Jaeger O’Meara offers depth and experience to a young midfield. There is so much to like about where Fremantle are heading.
4th with a 16-6 win-loss record.
Player to watch:
Luke Jackson – Yes, it’s an obvious choice, but it just has to be the athletic West Australian, who was lured home after three years with Melbourne. If you have any doubts about Jackson’s worth to the Dockers, have a look at the 2021 grand final, especially late in the third term when the Demons turned the match on its head. He finds the ball in the air, hunts it at ground level and makes good decisions with ball in hand. Alarmingly for the opposition, Jackson hasn’t reached his peak yet.
Will we see the trend of close games continuing in this new season?
In a word … yes. The competition was enthralling for the most part in 2022 and with the likes of Alastair Clarkson taking over at North Melbourne and Adam Kingsley being appointed to the helm at GWS, expect improvement. Ditto at West Coast after a trainwreck of a season. It would be a major shock if there were two teams producing 2-20 campaigns like we saw from the Eagles and Kangaroos.
Top eight (at end of home-and-away season):
Brisbane, Geelong, Western Bulldogs, Fremantle, Melbourne, Port Adelaide, Collingwood, Richmond.
Movers and shakers:
The Western Bulldogs tried and failed to win a premiership with a midfield dripping with elite talent. They have now gone all in on tall timber in attack. Will it work? Time will tell, but you have to admire Luke Beveridge trying something different by flagging a forward line consisting of Aaron Naughton, Rory Lobb, Jamara Ugle-Hagan and Sam Darcy.
Melbourne can rebound after falling away in the second half of 2022, while Port Adelaide have sufficient talent to again play finals. Ken Hinkley’s job depends on it. Conversely, how do Sydney handle the scars that surely must be lingering after their insipid display in the grand final. The list profile suggests they should be contending as there is a swag of quality youngsters on the books. But I have my doubts.
Andrew Brayshaw (Fremantle) – The reigning AFL MVP, Brayshaw has Brownlow medallist written all over him. Prolific, brave, unselfish and under the umpires’ nose, it wouldn’t be a shock if he was awarded the game’s most prestigious individual award this year. Finished in a share of fourth last season and should be even more effective with the acquisition of Jaeger O’Meara. Is a key plank in a Dockers on-ball unit that is going to overwhelm a number of sides.
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