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What about next year? Our way-too-early AFL predictions

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Dan Ricciardo celebrates West Coast AFL flag (0:23)

Red Bull driver Dan Ricciardo celebrates West Coast Eagles AFL grand final victory in Sochi, Russia ahead of his race. (Courtesy Red Bull Racing). (0:23)

For the 17 clubs that didn't win a premiership on Saturday, it's not too early to look ahead to next season, is it?

Of course West Coast deserve the chance to soak in their incredible grand final win but for the rest, it's all about 2019.

So, with the 2018 season less than 48 hours from its conclusion, let's take an early stab at how things will stack up next year.

Here's our way-too-early ladder predictions for 2019.

Niall Seewang

Richmond
Collingwood
West Coast
GWS
Melbourne
Essendon
North Melbourne
Sydney

Western Bulldogs
Hawthorn
Geelong
Brisbane
Adelaide
Port Adelaide
St Kilda
Carlton
Fremantle
Gold Coast

I have faith that the Tigers' prelim final shocker was only an aberration, not a sign of a slide down the ladder. With the likely addition of Tom Lynch and a hunger gained from an off-season stewing on 'the one that got away', I expect Damien Hardwick's men to roar back to the top of the ladder next year.

This year's Grand Final combatants, Collingwood and West Coast fill the next two spots on my 2019 ladder -- how amazing would a Richmond vs. Collingwood Grand Final be? -- and their supporters should have every confidence that their teams being genuine flag prospects again next year.

Underneath them, things get a little murkier. With a little luck with injury, GWS should be right up there again while the Demons have a stack of young talent that should keep them firmly in the top eight, but they may be another year away from a premiership tilt.

I expect Essendon and North Melbourne to play finals next year. Both narrowly missed the top eight in 2018 and should be better placed to feature in September next season.

My big sliders are Hawthorn, Geelong and Port Adelaide, who lack midfield depth compared to their peers although, of course, the trade period and draft could change everything!

A young-but-dangerous Brisbane outfit should jump but may still be a season away from a finals berth, while at the bottom, it's hard to see anyone other than Gold Coast, Fremantle, Carlton and St Kilda filling out the bottom four.

Jake Michaels

Richmond
Melbourne
Collingwood

GWS
West Coast
Geelong
Adelaide
Essendon
Sydney
Port Adelaide
Hawthorn
Brisbane
North Melbourne
Western Bulldogs
Fremantle
St Kilda
Carlton
Gold Coast

The Tigers may have fallen short of back-to-back premierships in 2018 but I expect that to only make their desire for success next year even greater. Melbourne will also learn a lot from a comprehensive preliminary final belting and jump into the top four for the first time since 2000. Grand finalists Collingwood and West Coast as well as Greater Western Sydney will be fighting for the other two slots in the top four.

Adelaide should bounce back from a woeful campaign and re-join the top eight, as should Essendon who will be better for their 2018 run. There's too much quality in both sides and another season outside the top eight would be inexcusable. However, if two come in that means two must drop out and Sydney and Hawthorn are the obvious choices for me. Both sides are ageing, have shown they are very beatable in recent times and will face tougher draws next year.

Brisbane can be the big mover in 2019. If they're able to land Lachie Neale it will bolster an already impressive midfield which contains a nice mix of youth and experience. Not sure finals are on the agenda next year but they should be in the mix with plenty of other more experienced teams.

At the bottom of the ladder, Gold Coast and Carlton will likely, once again, duel for the Wooden Spoon with Fremantle and St Kilda not too far ahead of them.

Matt Walsh

Richmond
Melbourne
West Coast
Collingwood
Essendon
GWS
Hawthorn
Adelaide

Geelong
Sydney
Port Adelaide
Western Bulldogs
Brisbane
St Kilda
North Melbourne
Carlton
Fremantle
Gold Coast

It seems like a cop-out to have the four preliminary finalists again finishing in the top four but early indications are that Richmond, Melbourne, West Coast and Collingwood will again be the teams to beat in 2019.

Hawthorn was a surprise top-four finisher in 2018 and might struggle to replicate its late-season form, I'm not sure Essendon has what it takes to finish with the double chance (no doubt they'll just be keen to feature in September), while the Giants could lose a fair amount of talent over the trade period.

Expect Adelaide to jump back into the eight at the expense of a depth-deprived Geelong (or Sydney), the Dogs and the Lions should improve on their 2018 finishes, while North Melbourne could be set for a slight fall -- I feel they overachieved in the pursuit of shorter-term success last year and it seems like they'll need to rebuild properly to once again be a threat (though if they land a couple of big fish, that small 'window' may re-open!).

Gold Coast will likely finish bottom as more established players leave, Carlton should see some improvement, while if Lachie Neale moves out of Freo, it'll leave a hole which is hard to cover.