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New year, new hopes: 2021 aspirations for every club

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Geelong

It might seem like the ultimate goal for Geelong in 2021 is simply not to run into Richmond. On paper, you’re looking at an elite squad, so it’s a matter of performing to the standard you’d expect from the Cats this year.

Players:
Obviously you want your recruits to perform, but in this case the experience and track record of the players that Geelong have picked up in Jeremy Cameron, Isaac Smith and Shaun Higgins have the potential to bring a new dynamic to the team.

The way they go about it:
Geelong have made their mark on the competition by controlling the ball, biding their time and navigating methodically to a scoring position. This is all well and good, but the margin for error there is minimal – maybe the hope here is that they continue to execute to a standard that allows this system to dominate throughout a team with fresh faces that has connected to the required level.

Bonus: A top 2 finish.

Gold Coast

Another case of the paper not matching the output, but the Suns are still a pretty young side in the midst of development. That doesn’t mean they have don’t have some realistic things to hope for though… in fact, they showed some displays in 2020 that demonstrated they could match it with good teams.

Players:
Well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure this out – Get Matt Rowell going. You didn’t have to be a Gold Coast fan to be disappointed when he was sidelined early in the season, after what turned out to be 3 consecutive maximum Brownlow vote performances. The entire footy world is excited to see what he brings in 2021.

How they go about it:
Not dropping off after a good start. We’ve become accustomed to see strong starts to the season from the Suns, followed by a limp to the finish, so a bit more sustainability to finish the season off will go down a treat.

Stat spotlight:
Tackles inside 50 – they had the least in 2020, so putting more pressure on where it’s likely to have immediate scoreboard impact is not out of the question.

Bonus: An inaugural finals appearance.

GWS

As we know, the Giants managed to slide from the Big Dance to outside the finals in 2020, but it’s not necessarily all doom and gloom just yet. They did shed a fair amount of players over the break, but the core of what was recently a very good side still remains. Could defying expectations be the key to success?

Players:
Sure, the exit of Jeremy Cameron leaves a noticeable hole, but that could be just what Jesse Hogan needs to live up to his potential and stay out of trouble. After his off-field battles and string of regrettable incidents, you’d be forgiven for thinking that another chance could re-spark his desire.

How they go about it:
The Giants struggled a bit with ball movement last year, which saw them ranked the 3rd worst in the comp for inside 50s. An improvement in this area would tie in with the revitalised forward line nicely. Better movement = better delivery = more marks = more goals = Jeremy who?

Stat spotlight: An improvement on hitouts would do no end of good as well, given they were 17th in the comp last year.

Bonus: Toby Greene to stay away from the Match Review Panel.

 

Hawthorn

No-one is expecting the Hawks to be a threat in 2021, but they’ll be using this year to develop and start to cook up future success. It will be interesting to see how holes of departed players are filled and young prospects are slotted in, but there are always outcomes within reach that fans can rest on.

Players:
For Jonathon Patton to get and stay fit. It’s always a shame when players are plagued by injury, but for a key player like Patton who wears his heart on his sleeve, even opposition fans would want to see him out there. Him combining with Mitchell and O’Meara (given they stay fit also) would be an outcome to set your sights on.

How they go about it:
A nice little midfield re-jig that makes sense. If anyone can sort it out after Isaac Smith’s departure, Clarko can.

Stat spotlight:
It didn’t look pretty for Hawthorn in 2020 when it came to contested possessions. Overall, they consistently got beaten around the ball which saw them rank 18th in this area – definitely room for improvement.

Bonus: Tom Philipps to have a blinder.

Melbourne

No-one likes finishing 9th, but at least being on the cusp shows the Demons are still hanging around. Many people have tipped them to be well within the 8 this year, and it seems they’ve added a few pieces to their puzzle since the last siren sounded last year which would have fans hopeful for a spot in the line outside the gates for another finals appearance.

Players:
Ben Brown performing is going to be crucial this year. Fans will have their fingers crossed that he proves to be the missing link in the broken chain that is their forward line at the moment – if he steps up, the forward line should step up in general.

How they go about it:
Don’t drop winnable games late – consecutive losses to Sydney and Fremantle in the tail end of the season made their finals hopes go up in flames. Hopefully the bitter off-season taste of 9th can ignite a killer instinct that is needed to stick out the season.

Stat spotlight:
The Demons ranked dead last in 2020 for tackles per game – a little less social distancing on field surely couldn’t hurt.

Bonus: Christian Petracca to remain in Brownlow conversations.

North Melbourne

The Kangaroos had a horror season in the end, and many are tipping 2021 to serve up much of the same for them. Overall, Roos fans can definitely hope for the foundations to be laid for a strong culture and game structure to kick off Noble’s tenure – something they clearly need after the mass exodus in the off-season.

Players:
It was no secret that Jaidyn Stephenson was struggling last year in the black and white, being dropped a number of times before exiting in questionable circumstances that not even he saw coming. When he’s on, he’s on – but we haven’t really seen that too much since 2018, when he won the Rising Star. Let’s hope that a change of scenery, however unplanned it may be, will be exactly what the doctor ordered for him and help decipher: was it Collingwood, or was it him?

How they go about it:
For the team to gel and connect is what I would hope for. Giving a bunch of young players an opportunity and intertwining recruited players so there is a noticeable team ethos would go a long way to building on future success.

Stat spotlight:
Things weren’t looking good in the marks department in 2020 – they were 17th in 2020 for marks per game, eluding to a game style that could benefit from a bit more control.

Bonus: A good start. We saw what happened initially when Rhyce Shaw took over, so could history repeat itself with David Noble in the throne when it comes to kicking off well?

 

Port Adelaide

It will be interesting to see if Port can replicate their fantastic home and away results this year. But regardless of 2020, they’ve got a whole lot to be confident about, so what are some main things to cross your fingers for if you’re a Power fan?

Players:
For the young guns to continue on their projectile – Zak Butters, Xavier Duursma and Connor Rozee are an exciting combination of talent that have already shown why they were so highly regarded in their draft year. Add to that Mitch Georgiades, Miles Bergman and Dylan Williams, and you’ve got a bunch of fresh legs ready to take the game on. Here’s hoping they do just that. The acquisition of Orazio Fantasia to pay off would be a nice cherry on top as well.

How they go about it:
Judging by last year, winning the ball at stoppages and around contests was arguably the most crucial thing to focus on. When they weren’t able to do those things, they came undone – so sticking with this manner of staying on top will surely be the way forward again.

Stat spotlight:
Rebound 50s seemed to be the blight on Port Adelaide’s record last year, ranking them at the bottom. Now, stats like this can come down to game style, however seeing an improvement in channelling the ball from defence could be an easy desirable considering the gain of Aliir Aliir and his intercepting ability which hasn’t even peaked yet. Maybe bouncing back this year could be important in more ways than one.

Bonus: Get up in close games with high importance. After last year’s prelim, it’s hard not to wonder what could have been…

Richmond

The good old “what do you get someone who has everything” comes to mind here. But there’s always room for improvement, even when you’re in the midst of consolidating a dynasty.

Players:
You can’t overlook the mess that has unfolded off-field over the off season. With Sydney Stack being jailed over Christmas for a second quarantine breach and the current information swirling around Damien Hardwick’s personal life, a solid resolution would be not to let external noise effect the internal harmony of what is clearly a group brimming with confidence. To pinpoint a particular player to have high hopes for though, Liam Baker could shouldn’t be overlooked as a potential to bring out the big guns this year after an impressive year surrounded by a formidable midfield.

How they go about it:
Getting better at clearances – this is a constant theme when it comes to the Tigers’ opportunity for improvement. In 2020, they consistently had a negative clearance differential, to the point where they conceded the most out of everyone. In this case, it doesn’t matter as much because their game plan has them set up in other areas to dominate, but it would be a nice little gift to improve.

Stat spotlight:
Interestingly, the Tigers trumped everyone for the most turnovers in 2020. In fact, they had 150 more than the next team. Obviously you can attribute some of this to their chaotic game style, but no-one likes a turnover.

Bonus: Go back-to-back-to-back. Obviously.

St Kilda

Saints fans shouldn’t be too disappointed with 2020. Breaking a finals drought is always a relief, and there’s still a bit to be optimistic about.

Players:
King to keep going – he had a considerable year throughout the season, albeit tailing off a bit towards the end, but he had a huge impact in his first ever AFL final. Fans will be hoping for him to bring the same tenacity in 2021 and keep making waves. Speaking of which, let’s add Jack Lonie to have a breakout year to the list.

How they go about it:
Burying teams once they get a solid lead – fans have been frustrated about their tendency to let the opposition back in the game. Therefore, to keep their foot down will be a clear-cut hope for this season.

Stat spotlight:
The Saints ranked 16th for tackles per game in 2020, so some extra pressure wouldn’t go astray.

Bonus: Top 6 finish.

 

Sydney

There’s no sugar coating the lacklustre year that the Swans had in 2020. 16th on the ladder, 5 wins and a season of absence for key players, it was mostly one to forget. However, something the Swans have on their side is their ability to fast-track development, and the numbers for 2020 don’t show the progress that they did make – which would overall give fans some optimism leading into this year.

Players:
This one’s a bit of a no-brainer – seeing Buddy out there would be a dream come true for Sydney fans.

How they go about it:
Fans were frustrated at times by the slow pace, chip wide turnover style that put too much pressure on their defence and wasn’t conducive to high scoring. Not only that, they struggled to keep up with the better teams despite the shorter quarters, which would suggest a four quarter performance would be a good candidate for the wish-list.

Stat spotlight:
2020 saw the Swans conceding the most inside 50s of everyone. With Aliir Aliir taking off, let’s hope a backline shake up is on the cards.

Bonus: Buddy kicks his 1000th goal. It’s one of those things that you love to see no matter who you support, and there’s a fair chance we won’t see it again for a while.

West Coast

2020 was a bit all over the place for the Eagles, which once again yielded disappointing results as they attempted to recreate their famous 2018 flag. They can be as good as anyone on their day, but there’s a bit of chatter as to whether they are capable of finishing where they really need to be – sitting nicely in the top 4.

Players:
The likes of Sheed, Barrass, Duggan and Ryan look to be approaching their prime. If they can really push themselves and solidify their game, it would be more than a hand for the Eagles’ pursuits this year. Also, for Kelly to show his Geelong form in the West. He was having an absolute field day in the blue and white, but West Coast fans will be hoping his best is yet to come as he never really found his feet in 2020.

How they go about it:
To stop allowing teams 3-4 goal leads and dropping important games late in the season – 2020 came to be wasteful given that they couldn’t get into top 4 with 6 straight games at home, and got beaten by 8th team there after resting for 2 weeks.

Bonus: Better mental toughness away from home. Yes, 2020 threw up some unprecedented challenges, especially when it came to hubs and playing away from home for long periods of time. But the Eagles seemed to crumble under it, and it showed on the field. We still don’t know what format 2021 will take, and an improvement in this area would be important regardless.

Western Bulldogs

The Bulldogs premiership window is still open, and their recruiting in the off-season has been exceptional. On that note, adding Adam Treloar into the mix has made for a bit of a sticky midfield situation given Josh Dunkley’s reluctant retainment, but it might appear a good problem to have at this stage. Overall, fans can hope for more consistency from key players.

Player spotlight:
An obvious hope would be for the pick-up of Stefan Martin to pay dividends as he takes some of the pressure off Tim English. This should in turn help English to thrive with Jamarra Ugle-Hagan providing a helping hand up forward and allowing Aaron Naughton to swing into defence.

How they go about it:
Figuring out something to do with Dunkley could be an intriguing factor to add into the mix this year. We know he’s after more time in the guts, which he was promised elsewhere, but adding Treloar to the already impressive midfield list doesn’t work in his favour. Hoping that he picks up a role that works for him and the team would be a good starting point.

Stat spotlight:
The Dogs had the least hitouts in 2020, but it would be surprising if this were to be repeated in 2021 given what they’ve added to their arsenal, as mentioned.

Bonus: Beating Collingwood in round 1 would put a nice smirk on the face of Dogs fans following the Adam Treloar saga.

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