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AFL – Five fearless predictions for 2023

Footy’s back, and on the eve of the 2023 AFL season we’ve put forward five fearless predictions for the upcoming campaign.

5. Last team undefeated, Fremantle @ $8

It seems inconceivable that a side that finished half a game outside the Top 4 in 2022 could be granted such a straightforward draw to start 2023. But that’s exactly what Fremantle have been handed. The Dockers don’t play a 2022 Top 8 side until Round 6 — and even then it’s against a Western Bulldogs side who were far from world beaters last season. Sure, upsets are common in the early AFL rounds but if Justin Longmuir’s men can gather some momentum in the early rounds, this could be one of the shrewder early season bets.

4. Most Tackles, Rory Laird (Adel) @ $7

The hard-nosed stat machine from the Crows represents a huge chance to top this tally come AFL season’s end. In 2022 Laird finished with 162 tackles (an average of 8.1 a game), a total bettered only by teammate Sam Berry (171) and the Swans’ James Rowbottom (163). The ball-winner is always at the coalface and, given the emphasis coach Matthew Nicks places on tackling pressure as a basis for Adelaide’s resurgence, it’s unlikely Laird will drop on his 2022 numbers. In fact, there’s a good chance he will better them. Underpinning it is Laird’s resilience; the 29-year-old has not missed more than two games in each of the last five AFL seasons.

3. Minor Premiership, Melbourne @ $6

The Dees are poised to bounce back from a disappointing straight sets defeat in last year’s AFL finals series and do what they do best – bully sides in the home and away season. Prior to Round 11 last year, Melbourne had for 18 months dominated the competition. That period saw them win 27 of 31 games, and routinely dispatch sides. There was a clear drop-off following this, but Simon Goodwin’s side should bounce back having put together a strong off-season. All reports suggest the group has had a brilliant AFL pre-season and, more tangibly, they’ve added crucial personnel to their list. The addition of Brodie Grundy has understandably garnered most headlines, in particular how sides will deal with the dual ruck combo of the former Pie and skipper Max Gawn. But they’ve also shrewdly picked up former Dog Lachie Hunter – a move that could be as profitable as the Grundy acquisition.

2. Brownlow Medal, Christian Petracca (Mel) @ $15

Heading the Melbourne charge is a fit again Christian Petracca. At his best, Petracca is the AFL’s most damaging player, a midfielder who not only gathers huge numbers but underlines those with strong score involvement and goal numbers. The Brownlow, as we know, is a midfielder’s award. And we know that those who can hit the scoreboard typically rise above their peers. Sure, teammate Clayton Oliver will take a good chunk of votes off him. But the Dees will dominate enough games that there’ll be enough votes to go around. At $15, Petracca represents good value prior to Round One of the season. A strong start could see that figure significantly slashed within weeks. Petracca has polled 24, 23 and 20 votes respectively in each of the last three AFL seasons, placing within the top 10 in all three. 2023 may just be his year.

1. Premiership winner, Sydney Swans @ $10

Forget talk of Grand Final ‘scars’. Forget the records that say clubs coming off a thumping on the last Saturday in September don’t achieve anything in the following season. The Swans will bounce back in 2023 — and not only that, they’ll go one better than last year. John Longmire boasts the best young list in the AFL, with a strong core of now experienced players in their mid-20s. The 81-point humiliation at the hands of Geelong in last year’s Grand Final will play the perfect motivator for the Bloods this year, who are smack-bang in the middle of their flag window.

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