afl AFL

AFL – Who Impressed for Your Side Over the Pre-Season

Adelaide: Key forward, Darcy Fogarty looks set to tear the competition apart in the 2023. The Crows have been patient with the 23-year-old and look set to be rewarded with his contested marking and power on full display against West Coast. Mitch Hinge is shaping up for a career best year in the tricolours, his ability to read the ball and distribute effectively by foot, looked outstanding against the Eagles. Izak Rankine was solid without being spectacular, but what would have pleased Crows coaching staff and supporters most, would have been the 6 tackles he laid against the Eagles. Something that he has never done in his career so far. Max Michalanney also had a good contest with Eagles star Liam Ryan.

Brisbane: It would be easier to talk about who didn’t stand out for the Lions, who look set for a huge 2023. New recruits Josh Dunkley and Jack Gunston looked right at home in their new colours. Will Ashcroft seemed more like a veteran than a 1st year player. Co-Captain Harris Andrews, looked back to his best after a disappointing 2022 by his high standards. Keidean Coleman looked superb further up the ground with his fantastic ball use on full display. Jack Payne has improved significantly, which will be vital for the Lions defensive depth, especially with Marcus Adams placed on the inactive list.

Carlton: It was a disappointing game against the Swans on Friday, but I wouldn’t take too much out of it. Many wrote off Geelong after going down to the Gold Coast in the pre-season last year and we all know how that turned out. With Sam Walsh in doubt for Round 1, Sam Docherty looked right at home in the midfield for the Blues, racking up 34 touches. The outside run of recruit Blake Acres looked great and will only get better with more games under his belt. Ollie Hollands proved he belongs at the top level with his outstanding work rate on show against the Swans. George Hewett proved he is still a tackling machine, finishing with 13 tackles against the Swans.

Collingwood: Things look to have clicked for Jordan De Goey, with the Pies superstar spending majority of the time in the midfield and collecting 31 disposals and 12 inside-50’s. New recruits, Dan McStay and Tom Mitchell were good and will only get better with more games under their belts. Bobby Hill looked extremely dangerous at times and should really suit the Pies quick-movement game style. Taylor Adams, Jack Crisp, and Josh Daicos were also impressive against the Hawks.

Essendon: New captain Zach Merrett was usual self, racking up possessions seemingly at will. Andrew McGrath looks like he could take his game to the next level in 2023, dominating across half back to finish with 25 disposals against the Saints. Alwyn Davey Jnr has put his hand up for selection early in the season, impressing over both games with his football smarts and goal sense a scary proposition for any defender. Will Setterfield was brought into the Bombers side to add midfield depth and looked right at home as he collected 27 disposals against the Saints.

Fremantle: Could Nat Fyfe be the forward the Dockers have been asking for? If the practice games are anything to go by, the dual Brownlow medallist will be sending shivers down defenders spines. After only playing 4 games in just as many seasons, Sam Sturt has put his name forward for Round 1 selection, impressing over both practice games. Jaeger O’Meara and Will Brodie look like they can both co-exist, with both players impressive around stoppages for the Dockers. Josh Treacy looks likely to be selected in Round 1, with his physique significantly improving over this pre-season with his work rate standing out over both games.

Geelong: Wouldn’t be reading too much into the practice games as a Cats fan, with a big win against the Hawks and a significant loss against the Demons. Tanner Bruhn has slotted into the Cats midfield brilliantly, with the former Giant racking up 5 clearances against an impressive Lions midfield. Ollie Henry showed flashes of brilliance but will be helped by inclusion of Cameron and Hawkins during the season. After being chased by Port Adelaide in the trade period Esava Ratugolea looks to have locked down a key-defensive role for the Cats. Up against an impressive Lions forward line, Ratugolea starred with 8 intercept possessions.

Gold Coast: It was a disappointing game for the Suns, but like many other sides, it’s not panic stations just yet. Without their superstar in Touk Miller, Sam Flanders was given a chance to prove himself in the midfield and he did just that, racking up a team high 30 possessions. Underrated backline duo Sam Collins and Charlie Ballard were their typical unassuming selves whilst Mat Rowell and Noah Anderson were good without standing out. Great to see Ben King back for the Suns, with the key forward kicking the first goal game and being mobbed by his teammates after missing the 2022 season with an ACL injury. Charlie Constable looks set for a role across half back, gathering 18 touches and 429 metres gained against the Giants.

Greater Western Sydney: It looks like 2023 is not going to be the ‘doom and gloom’ predicted by many for the Giants. Finn Callaghan looks like he could be the next big thing, with the tall winger gathering 22 possessions and 2 goals in an impressive performance against the Suns. Tom Green looks like he could explode in 2023, performing well over both pre-season games. The ‘Rolls Royce’ Josh Kelly looks back to his classy best alongside Lachie Whitfield, both of whom should enjoy more midfield minutes with the departure of Taranto and Hopper. Lachie Ash also looks set for a different role this year as he moves more into the midfield, gathering 30 possessions in only 69% game time against the Suns.

Hawthorn: What a story Fergus Greene is. Delisted after only playing 5 games with the Western Bulldogs, Greene returned to the VFL for Box Hill and kicked 53 goals across the season. After two impressive practice games, in the absence of Mitch Lewis, he should debut for his new club in Round 1. Cam Mackenzie showed why the Hawks selected him at pick 7 in the NAB draft, gathering 24 disposals and a goal in his first showing in the brown and gold. James Worpel should regain his spot in the Hawthorn midfield after collecting an impressive 30 touches, after a disappointing 2022 campaign hampered by injury and form issues. Jai Newcombe was his typical hard-working, contested self over both games as he looks to take his game to the next level in 2023.

Melbourne: The Demons look like they’re here to prove a point early in the season. All eyes have been on Max Gawn and Brodie Grundy to see how the two giants will co-exist. There looks to be no issues early, with both players bagging 3 goals each in their latest pre-season hitout. Lachie Hunter impressed against the Tigers, with his hard outside-running on full display. Kozzy Pickett also provided several flashes of brilliance, pinch-hitting through the midfield and providing his trademark pressure. Demon’s fans would be happy to see Tom McDonald and Ben Brown working well together up forward, which seemed to be their Achilles heel in 2022. Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver were their characteristic imposing selves, whilst small forwards, Kade Chandler and Charlie Spargo also impressed at times.

North Melbourne: The Kangaroos look to have an absolute star in Harry Sheezel. The No.3 pick looks like he can play either end of ground at ease. Great to see Ben Cunnington back to his contested best after a tough 2022 for the inspirational leader. Tom Powell had flashes of brilliance in his game against the Bulldogs, with the former No.13 pick, splitting his time between midfield and half-forward. Jy Simpkin was his typical hard-working self, finishing with 31 possessions and a goal. Griffin Logue battled well against the Bulldog giants, whilst Nick Larkey continues to impress. The Kangaroos will need more from their lower tier players if they are to climb up the ladder in 2022.

Port Adelaide: After a much-publicised move from North Melbourne, all eyes have been on former No.1 pick, Jason Horne-Francis this pre-season. After a disappointing internal trial, he put up two good performances in the practice matches. Miles Bergman looks set for a big 2023, with the tall wingman impressing against the Dockers, finishing with 25 possessions and a goal. Connor Rozee continued on from his excellent form in 2022, finishing with 25 possessions and 7 clearances against a talented Fremantle midfield. Xavier Duursma has had his best pre-season to date and will be hoping to be named in the Power side come round 1, after struggling to keep his place in the side in 2022.

Richmond: Has there been a better player in the practice matches than Tim Taranto? I don’t think so. The former Giant looks set for a huge year at Punt Rd with his playmaking and hard running a standout over the pre-season games. Samson Ryan looks to have added to his frame and will provide versatility and depth, either in the ruck, or up forward for Tigers. Great to see Dustin Martin back in Tigers line-up, he looked good in patches but didn’t get out of fourth gear. A fortnight after having his appendix removed, Liam Baker starred in the midfield against the Demons, racking up 36 possessions and a goal.

St Kilda: The Saints may have got the steal of the draft in Mattaes Phillipou, with the young star already proving himself to be a weapon up forward. Rowan Marshall looks primed to be one of the premier ruckmen of the competition, dominating both practice matches. Mitch Owens looks set to be a key forward target, impressing against the Bombers with 3 goals, as Max King misses the first month with injury. After only being drafted to the Saints four weeks ago, Anthony Caminiti impressed with his effort and energy in the forward lines for the Saints. After a horrible couple of years with injury Hunter Clark seemed to be back to his best, collecting 25 disposals, much to the delight of most football fans in general.

Sydney: The only player close to the form of Tim Taranto this off season is Errol Gulden. The classy left-footer looked a cut above everyone else on the field against the Blues, gathering 26 touches and two goals by half time. After being dropped for the Grand Final in 2022, Logan McDonald impressed in wet conditions, finishing with 10 marks against the Blues. Aggressive ruckman, Peter Ladhams guaranteed his spot in Round 1, picking up 17 disposals and 5 clearances in the absence of Tom Hickey. Luke Parker and Chad Warner were also impressive, collecting 27 and 24 disposals respectively.

West Coast:  After several injury-interrupted seasons, Jeremy McGovern looks to be back to his All-Australian best. Prized draftee, Reuben Ginbey seemed at home at the top level, gathering 17 possessions and 7 clearances in an impressive performance against a quality Crows midfield. Jayden Hunt provided drive from half-back in patches, however, Optus Stadium should suit him more and give more space to use his lightning leg speed.

Western Bulldogs: Great to see Liam Jones back at the Bulldogs, looking stronger than ever as he dominated the backlines against the Kangaroos, picking up a massive 13 intercept possessions throughout the game. The Bulldogs look set to stretch defences with their tall forward line consisting of Aaron Naughton, Rory Lobb, Sam Darcy, and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, with the 4 tall targets combining for 11 goals against the Kangaroos. Tim English continues to impress, whilst their star-studded midfield of Bailey Smith, Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae, Adam Treloar and Tom Liberatore all look primed for a big 2023.

Brody is the founder and head of content at Straya Sports. A self-confessed sporting tragic, Brody has covered (and played) nearly every sport imaginable on a variety of different media platforms.

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