Time Out Melbourne

Who is going to win the 2013 Premiership? Kathryn Kernohan assesses your team's chances this season...

The teams to watch this season...

Want to enrage an Adelaide supporter? Simply mention Kurt Tippett. The wayward key forward walked out on the Crows after the finals and became embroiled in a scandal about dodgy clauses in his previous contract. The result? An 11-week suspension for Tippett and draft penalties for the club. It was a sour end to a successful year for new coach Brenton Sanderson. The Crows jumped from 14th in 2011 to falling agonisingly short against Hawthorn in the preliminary final. It remains to be seen what impact Tippett’s absence will have. But the Crows have too much quality across the park to fall too far.

Mick the Messiah. That’s what Carlton supporters hoped when triple-premiership coach Mick Malthouse pulled on a navy blue polo shirt for the first time last September after replacing the sacked Brett Ratten. With big men Jarrad Waite and Matthew Kreuzer finally fit, and Chris Judd relieved of his captaincy duties (plenty of time now to perfect his chicken-wing tackles), expectations at Carlton are bigger than Eddie Betts’ shorts.

Reports suggest the Blues will adopt the boundary line-hugging game plan Malthouse implemented at Collingwood, and while it may take the team time to adapt to a new coach, all signs point to it being a fruitful union.

In his time at Collingwood, Malthouse’s tough love turned Leon Davis from an inconsistent small forward to an All-Australian defender, so Carlton fans will watch with great interest what he can do with talented yet underperforming Bryce Gibbs.

Club legend Nathan Buckley endured a tough first year as Collingwood coach. Injuries galore, the death of former player John McCarthy and ex-coach Mick Malthouse and president Eddie McGuire sniping like spurned lovers took their toll by the time the Magpies lost the preliminary final to Sydney. If Buckley’s run of wretched luck continues this year, his star midfielders Dane Swan and Dayne Beams may end up hospitalised with ink poisoning from all those tattoos. But there’s no reason Collingwood can’t pick up a second flag in four years. Underperforming premiership players Chris Dawes and Sharrod Wellingham are out, replaced by ex-Eagle Quentin Lynch and former Hawk Clinton Young. The club also pulled off a draft coup, nabbing gun junior ruckman Brodie Grundy at pick 18.We all know an annoying Collingwood supporter (or two, or three) so it’s hard to admit it, but the Magpies are an evenmoney chance to go very deep into September.

Ross Lyon leaving the St Kilda bubble and deflecting to Fremantle was one of the biggest stories of 2011. And seeing Saints fans abuse their former coach when the teams clashed in round four, as Lyon coolly steered his team to victory, was one of the most emotion-charged nights of the year. Whether you like Lyon’s defensive-orientated, methodical game plan or not, it’s certainly effective. The Dockers clicked in the second half of the season, steamrolling Geelong in the elimination final before falling ten points short of the preliminary final – all while missing stars Aaron Sandilands and Nat Fyfe for extended periods. Skipper Matthew Pavlich was controversially overlooked for the All-Australian team after booting 62 goals and Hayden Ballantyne proved that on top of annoying opposition players and fans, he can actually play football. The Dockers have never been fashionable, but they seem to be building to something special under Lyon.

What to make of the Cats? The 2011 premiers had a sluggish start to last season and by the time they hit form – beating Hawthorn, Sydney and Adelaide late in the year – a top-four finish was beyond them. The team’s performance in the elimination final was more shocking than Cameron Ling’s hair, which has caused many to write off Geelong for 2013. But don’t be so hasty. There’s still a wealth of All-Australian talent, and some handy pickups like Hamish McIntosh, Jared Rivers and disgruntled Gold Coast youngster Josh Caddy.

Trying to predict just how well the Cats will fare this season is like trying to predict when the Avalanches will finally drop that second album. On paper, Geelong is equally as capable of another premiership tilt as it is of missing the finals for the first time since 2006. But the uncertainty? Well, that’s what makes footy so much fun.

The Hawks were premiership favourites for most of last year, but the struggles of a long season took their toll late. They were lucky to escape against a rampant Adelaide in the preliminary final before conceding eight goals in a row to Sydney en route to losing the grand final. Just how Hawthorn bounces back from the heartbreak will be an intriguing story. Recognising that young defender Ryan Schoenmakers needed support, the club recruited former Bulldog Brian Lake who has already made headlines for the wrong reasons, arrested after a big night out. While the Hawks’ star power is undoubtable – Buddy and Cyril don’t even require surnames – big names Sam Mitchell, Shaun Burgoyne and Luke Hodge are approaching or past 30 and the clock is ticking. Can the Hawks bring their best to the business end of the year? For the sake of the walls in the MCG coach’s box – which coach Alistair Clarkson took his frustration out on last year – we hope so.

Hands up who tipped Sydney for the flag this time last year? Unless you’re a Swans fan, you’re lying. Sydney was the surprise packet of the season; never favourites with the bookies or experts, but going on to sweep the finals. The likes of Ted Richards and Josh Kennedy came of age alongside evergreen veterans Adam Goodes and Ryan O’Keefe. Even the Swans’ maligned forward line – which lacks the star power of a Franklin or Cloke – proved an asset in the finals; slow-as-treacle Mitch Morton kicking two crucial grand final goals.

No side has won back-to-back flags in a decade, but the Swans landed the biggest fish of the off-season in former Crow Kurt Tippett. The key forward can’t play until round 12 thanks to an AFL suspension, but has enough time to get comfortable in the team before the finals. How he fits into the game plan and famed “Bloods” culture could determine the Swans’ flag chances. Just a little bit of pressure, then…

West Coast
It’s hard to imagine how things could have gone worse for the Eagles last year. Injuries to Mark LeCras, Mark Nicoski and Josh Kennedy robbed the team of forward-line potency, and it was drawn to play Collingwood at the MCG in the semi-final – one of the toughest asks in football. West Coast performed admirably all things considered, and turned Patersons Stadium into a house of pain, only losing at home to Sydney and hometown rivals Fremantle. Emerging midfield duo Luke Shuey and Scott Selwood may never reach the heights of Ben Cousins and Chris Judd, but add in Daniel Kerr, Matthew Priddis and new recruit Sharrod Wellingham and it looks top four-bound. As for ruckman Nic Naitanui, who has a highlight reel most athletes would kill for after just 77 games, he’ll miss the start of the season with a groin injury. Pray your team plays them when he’s absent, unless you want to see your defenders become stepladders for his spectacular marks.

And the rest...

The Lions made positive steps forward in 2012 and should do so again, providing Jonathan Brown’s face stays intact. The likes of Tom Rockliff and Daniel Rich are posed to take the next step.

Apparently, Essendon’s injury woes of 2012 were the fault of fitness guru Dean ‘The Weapon’ Robinson. A better run should see them challenge, but the Bombers lack depth.

Gold Coast
The Suns’ collective second-year blues are over but the young team should again struggle to win more than a handful of games. Keep an eye on Harley Bennell, who is set for stardom.

Greater Western Sydney
The AFL’s newest team won two games in its debut year and landed the top three teens in the country on draft night. Expect glimpses of the type of powerhouse the Giants could become.

After last year, Mark Neeld will be happy if his team loses on its own merits rather than be accused of tanking. The Demons have added experienced players Chris Dawes and Shannon Byrnes.

North Melbourne
A tough fixture and the loss of Brent Harvey for the first six weeks, thanks to a suspension picked up in that finals belting out west, could conspire against Brad Scott’s men.

Port Adelaide
Port Adelaide crashed when it lost to Greater Western Sydney in round 19, costing coach Matthew Primus his job. There’s some talent on the list, but Ken Hinkley is set for a tough initiation.

With a host of young stars, the Tigers could make finals for the first time since 2001. But you should always start with low expectations for Richmond and hope to be pleasantly surprised.

St Kilda
Goddard’s gone and the Saints’ reigning best and fairest winner is 33-year-old Lenny Hayes. St Kilda has promising youngsters coming through but Scott Watters’ job won’t get any easier.

Western Bulldogs
The veterans are largely gone and Brian Lake is a Hawk. Fans will be hoping for some young guns to give the Bulldogs hope.

Time Out's tipping...

Things seem to be falling into place for Collingwood, who have some handy new recruits and will be more settled in its second season under Nathan Buckley.

West Coast also looked ready to take the next step. The Eagles will regain some key players that missed 2012, have a midfield that bats deep and a solid defence led by captain Darren Glass.

We're tipping a Collingwood v West Coast grandfinal, with a Magpies victory.

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Updated on 25 Feb 2014.

By Kathryn Kernohan   |  

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