Assuming we actually get a season, its time to have a look at the players who need to have a big season for their respective clubs. Whether it’s not justifying the money they are, being a big name recruit, requested a trade which didn’t eventuate or just not meeting the standards we’ve come to expect, we take a look at the players that will be under the pump to perform this season.
Taylor Walker – Adelaide
Like his team, his form has dipped since the loss in the 2017 Grand Final, averaging less than 2 goals a game in each of the past 2 seasons, the first time since 2011. They are talking about moving him on to the wing or even the ruck, which might be to either free him up or open up the Forward 50 for the likes of Fogarty and Himmelberg. His possession count has dropped, his marks have dropped as have his marks inside 50. He needs a big season Tex or he’ll slowly fade away into obscurity, having been so close to being at the peak.
Brad Crouch – Adelaide
Is wanting big money on his new contract, and becomes a restricted free agent at the end of the year. Was offering himself to Gold Coast in the offseason, with his manager reportedly setting the price at 5yrs for $5mil. He’s entering his 9th season in the AFL and has played just 83 games, missing the whole 2015 & 2018 seasons through injury, so whilst it’s understandable he wants big coin, he’d want to show he’s durable enough for that length of contract. Like his brother has no worries finding the footy, but what he does with it is the worry.
Mitch McGovern – Carlton
Came across to Carlton on big money, but barely fired a shot last season. With McKay and Charlie Curnow starting the season late, he’s got the opportunity to make the forward line his in the interim. The Blues need him to be the strong marking option that he was recruited for and start justifying the money he’s being paid.
Jack Martin – Carlton
Chose Carlton when forcing his way out of Gold Coast, even going into the preseason draft to ensure he got his move after a trade failed to eventuate. Has always promised a lot but has largely delivered little. The Blues are investing heavily in him so he’d want to prove his worth the effort. Needs a top 5 finish in the B&F to justify the hype.
Mason Cox – Collingwood
Out of contract at the end of the year, and the 2018 preliminary final seems a long long time ago. Has played some great games, but they are too often mixed in with some really poor ones. He’s average below his knees, doesn’t take enough marks and too often leads under the ball where he’s beaten one on one. He’s not a great ruckman and can’t put pressure on when the ball is turned over. Needs to really establish himself as a legitimate forward option or he could find himself being shopped around in the trade period
Orazio Fantasia – Essendon
First, he wanted to go, then he didn’t, then he did again, then he didn’t. Was apparently voted back in to the leadership group but chose to not take up the role, having been part of the leadership group that has largely been dumped this season. He’s only played 20 games in a season once, only 1.5 goals a game, never kicked 40 in a season and averages less than 15 touches a game. He’s clearly talented, but he’d want to have a strong season or you sense the supporters may start to have had enough.
Joe Daniher – Essendon
Another player who wanted to leave the club, but was held to his contract. He was signed on big money on his last contract, and over the last 2yrs has played just 11 games. He’s unlikely to play much in the first half of the season this year and it’s expected he’ll want to leave again at seasons end. He would want to produce when he comes back for 1) to pay back the Bombers and its fans, 2) to show he can actually play multiple games and get a number of games under his belt, and 3) to make sure he gets another decent contract!!
Gary Ablett – Geelong
Ok, it’s not like he needs to prove anything, as he’s been the player of the past 20 years, but he’d not want to go out with a whimper. He’d want to go out on top, playing good consistent footy and not struggle and just look old.
Zac Smith – Gold Coast
Started his career well, showing plenty of promise as a young ruckman in the developing Gold Coast team. He was overtaken, and when Jarrod Witts arrived in 2016, he saw the writing on the wall and was eventually traded to Geelong. He again started well but struggled to either impose himself on games or be mobile enough to damage the opposition. Considering how bad Geelong’s ruck has been, it’s damning he hasn’t been able to win back his spot. He’s back where he started, but being behind Witts again he’d want to show a lot as despite a contract for next season, he’d want to show a lot to ensure he stays around for longer.
Chad Wingard – Hawthorn
He was brought across to Hawthorn in a trade that saw Ryan Burton and draft picks go back the other way. Having been injured early last year, he initially came in and struggled, further injuries and struggles before he was moved into the midfield later in the year and he performed well. The Hawks need his class and x-factor this season if they are to push for finals, and he needs to justify the cost to recruit him.
Angus Brayshaw – Melbourne
Finished 3rd in the Brownlow in 2018 as the Demons streamed towards the finals, then on to a prelim. Last year though, like his team as a whole, he struggled badly. He got less of the footy, was less effective and generally didn’t perform as he needed to. He’s one player who needs to step up to help the Demons get back to finals
Tom McDonald – Melbourne
He’s a crucial player for the Demons this year, there are arguably no more important in a lot of ways. They need him to compete and kick goals this year, having completely dropped off the perch last year when his club needed him most. When he finally found form, he got injured. The Demons lack a key forward so they need McDonald to deliver. If he doesn’t, then he could take the Demons season down with him.
Mason Wood – North Melbourne
Out of contract at the end of the season, he’s been a bit of an enigma in his time at North. He’s a superb talent, has had some big games for the club, but injuries and inconsistency has stymied his career to date. He’s been talked about in trades over the last few years, most recently to Sydney, so it will be interesting to see if he remains at North comes seasons end. He could be one of the elite Half forwards in the game if he can stay fit and maintain his form. Sadly, though this has been said for several seasons
Ollie Wines – Port Adelaide
As captain last season, he was injured in the preseason whilst Water-skiing, then struggled when he returned. He’s given up the captaincy but has again injured himself in the preseason, and having been talked about during the trade week as approaching clubs to leave, he’ll be keen to put that behind him and prove himself again to supporters.
Dan Hannebery – St Kilda
He was the Saints big name recruit last season, and he barely played a game, with injury ruining his start. He was a premiership star with the Swans, but his body looked cooked in the season before the Saints took him. The Saints were confidant they could get his body right and he’ll be hoping they were right. He still has a strong reputation, but the Saints will be hoping he can justify it.
Tim Kelly – West Coast Eagles
Wanted this trade for the last 2yrs and finally got it. He’s going to a premiership fancy, with an established strong midfield and he’s coming with a big reputation which he’s going to have to justify. The Eagles supporters will give him a long rope, but if he struggles early then the drums will start to beat