Every AFL list rated, and premiers West Coast are seventh
West Coast might be the AFL’s reigning premiers but they have to improve even more this season just to stay in the top four, let alone defend their title, according to former premiership list manager Chris Pelchen.
Pelchen, one of the few pundits who predicted Collingwood’s rapid rise in 2018, also surprisingly ranked West Coast’s playing list as the seventh best in the AFL just five months after winning the grand final.
Reigning premiers West Coast have just the seventh best list in the league, according to former list manager Chris Pelchen.
One of the architects of Port Adelaide’s first AFL premiership and Hawthorn’s recent golden era, Pelchen believes with teams expected to improve rapidly around them this year, the Eagles will be under a lot of pressure to maintain their foothold in the upper echelon of the ladder.
He has Richmond, Melbourne, Collingwood, Adelaide, GWS and Essendon all overtaking West Coast in 2019.
However, he admitted: “The Eagles proved they are both a committed and well-coached team last year so nothing is beyond them.”
Greater Western Sydney have largely been disregarded from the premiership conversation for the first time in years this season, particularly after losing another batch of quality players in Dylan Shiel, Rory Lobb and Tom Scully in the off-season.
However, Pelchen doesn’t see it that way and thinks GWS could actually make their maiden grand final this year.
“Many are forgetting that GWS has suffered the worst injury run of any team in the competition over recent years,” he said.
“A midfield that contains Callan Ward, Lachie Whitfield, Josh Kelly, Stephen Coniglio, Jacob Hopper and Tim Taranto is the equal of any in the competition … Ignore the Giants at your peril.”
In fact, so bullish is Pelchen about the Giants’ short to medium-term future after their performance at last year’s draft that he believes they will have the second-best list in three years’ time.
Pelchen also still rates Adelaide as having the fourth best list in the AFL, despite their annus horribilis in 2018 which saw the club basically implode following their grand final loss the previous season, and believes they could recover quickly by making a deep September run this year.
After pursuing similar list build strategies in recent years, two of the game’s biggest clubs, Collingwood and Essendon are ranked third and sixth respectively and can both expect sustained periods of finals footy over the next few years, according to Pelchen.
He believes that Melbourne are ready to give the premiership a serious shake this year too, but if they fail to do so in 2019, Demons fans should rest assured because he projects their side to have the best list in the competition by 2022.
Unsurprisingly, he rates Richmond as the team to beat this year following the addition of former Gold Coast forward Tom Lynch but 2019 might just be the year where modern-day superpowers Hawthorn, Geelong and Sydney all fail to feature in the finals with Pelchen ranking their lists eighth, ninth and 10th respectively.
It could also be the beginning of the end of their dynasties with Pelchen forecasting them to have the 11th, 14th and ninth best lists respectively in three years’ time.
By 2022, Pelchen anticipates the Brisbane Lions’ list to overtake all three of those clubs and that Chris Fagan’s men will be well-placed for finals by then.
Highlighting the Western Bulldogs’ stunning fall from grace after winning the flag in 2016, Pelchen has them in the bottom four lists in the AFL, ranked below the Lions and Fremantle.
Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley’s search for the Power’s first finals win in five years looks to be a daunting one with what Pelchen rates as the 12th best list in the competition.
While a long period in the wilderness is expected for St Kilda, it’s not as bad as Gold Coast’s situation with Pelchen not only ranking them as the worst list in the AFL but predicting them to still have the worst list in 2022.
When compared to Pelchen’s 2018 list rankings, the big movers are Collingwood and North who both shot up seven spots from 10th to third and 18th to 11th respectively, while the Swans are the big sliders, dropping eight spots from second to 10th.
CHRIS PELCHEN’S 2019 AFL LIST RANKINGS
Just two poor quarters of football cost Richmond their season in 2018. They were clearly the team to beat for much of last year but serious lapses in concentration at critical times saw them banished to sidelines when back-to-back premierships were beckoning. Expect the roar to return in 2019 – the addition of Tom Lynch from Gold Coast is a boon while the return of Daniel Rioli to full fitness after an interrupted 2018 will provide significantly greater firepower to an already potent attack. Expect an even more attacking and direct style of play with twin tall forwards and a return to the chaotic style of football that they prided themselves on in 2017. Although their established stars are ageing – namely Jack Riewoldt, Alex Rance, Trent Cotchin and Shane Edwards – the Tigers have the necessary talent and experience to win premierships again in any of the next two to three years.
Movement from 2018 rankings: up three spots (4th)
Three-year projected list ranking (2022): 5th
The second half of 2018 saw Melbourne emerge from the shadows to show they are a genuine force on the AFL landscape. The Dees have been “coming” for several years but a combination of shrewd trading and continued player development over the off-season has ensured they have now arrived. The addition of Gold Coast duo Steven May and Kade Kolodjashnij further strengthens their back half while allowing Tom McDonald to play as a permanent forward. Their midfield is both young and dynamic with a good balance of inside and outside players. Max Gawn, Jack Viney, Clayton Oliver, Angus Brayshaw, Christian Petracca, Christian Salem and Alex Neal-Bullen should represent the best midfield in the AFL over the next three to four years. With improved ball use and a greater sense of belief, this team has the attributes to finally win another “grand old flag”.
Movement from 2018 rankings: up three spots (5th)
Three-year projected list ranking (2022): 1st
Many would want you to believe that Collingwood turned around their fortunes in the space of six months between the start and finish of the 2018 season. But this team has been building for several years. While on-field performance had been spasmodic prior to last season, the Pies have been carefully recruiting the “right” players for four to five years. Brodie Grundy, Adam Treloar, Taylor Adams, Jordan De Goey, Jeremy Howe, Will Hoskin-Elliott, James Aish, Mason Cox, etc have not just appeared on the scene – they have all been strategically identified and secured over a number of years. The GWS trio in particular were all stars in the making so to be able to recruit all of them together was a master touch. With the addition of exciting draft talent through Jaidyn Stephenson in 2018 and Isaac Quaynor in 2019, plus the return of Dayne Beams from Brisbane, this team no longer has just the potential to be successful but has the very real foundations for a prolonged period at the top.
Movement from 2018 rankings: up seven spots (10th)
Three-year projected list ranking (2022): 3rd
There is no other way to say it but 2018 was a wasted year for Adelaide. After coming off a grand final appearance in 2017, they had the motivation and ability to go one step further last year but a combination of factors cruelled their season. However, failure often provides the greatest lessons so expect the Crows to return hungrier than ever in 2019. They still have outstanding talent and structure right across the ground – particularly in the midfield with Sam Jacobs, Rory Sloane and the Crouch brothers. Their forward line is multi-pronged with Josh Jenkins, Eddie Betts, Taylor Walker and Tom Lynch while Darcy Fogarty and new recruit Shane McAdam will provide even further potency. This is a team with a point to prove so expect a return deep into the finals for the Crows.
Movement from 2018 rankings: up three spots (7th)
Three-year projected list ranking (2022): 8th
- GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY
For the first time in four seasons, the Giants are being overlooked by some people as a genuine premiership threat. But this is the ideal place from which they can launch a real assault on their first AFL flag. Many are forgetting that GWS has suffered the worst injury run of any team in the competition over recent years – a “normal” share of luck will have them right back in contention. In fact, a better-than-average quota of injuries, which is probably due to them now, will have the Giants right in the mix for the grand final. A midfield that contains Callan Ward, Lachie Whitfield, Josh Kelly, Stephen Coniglio, Jacob Hopper and Tim Taranto is the equal of any in the competition while Jeremy Cameron and Toby Greene are two of the best forwards going around. They have also added the best package of junior talent to their list since the past period of draft concessions with the recruitment of Jye Caldwell, Jackson Hately, Xavier O’Halloran and Ian Hill. All should be seen at AFL level in 2019. Ignore the Giants at your peril.
Movement from 2018 rankings: down four spots (1st)
Three-year projected list ranking (2022): 2nd
While Essendon will hate being compared to Collingwood, this is the team following in the Pies’ footsteps, albeit two to three years behind them. After years of off-field challenges and turmoil, the Bombers saw the advantages of “clean air” in 2018. The sanctions imposed upon them between 2013-16 provided a hidden benefit – the opportunity to develop young players at AFL level in games and roles that they would not have otherwise had. Zach Merrett, Joe Daniher, Orazio Fantasia, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, Conor McKenna, Marty Gleeson and Kyle Langford have all gained greater experience through the club’s recent adversity. With the deliberate recruitment of Jake Stringer, Devon Smith, Adam Saad and, most recently, Dylan Shiel via the last two trade periods, Essendon are assembling a list that should see them play finals for the next five years. To get to the ultimate stage, they still need to add even further draft talent in the ilk of Andrew McGrath and Darcy Parish but they are coming. The Bombers v Magpies finals rivalry is soon to be reignited.
Movement from 2018 rankings: up two spots (8th)
Three-year projected list ranking (2022): 4th
- WEST COAST
The Eagles’ 2018 premiership was nothing short of an outstanding achievement by the players and coaches. They didn’t have the most talented list in the competition but continually reinvented themselves to cover both injuries and suspensions on several occasions late in the season. Tom Cole, Tom Barrass, Dom Sheed, Willie Rioli and Liam Ryan all stepped up at critical times; a real credit to both their player development programs and recruiting staff. While it might seem strange to suggest this, the Eagles are going to have to improve further to finish in the top four in 2019. The continued improvement of teams around them is going to put West Coast under even greater pressure to repeat their 2018 heroics. Shannon Hurn and Jeremy McGovern provide strength and stability in defence, Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling do similar in attack while Elliot Yeo, Andrew Gaff and Luke Shuey are genuine stars in the midfield. The Eagles proved they are a both a committed and well-coached team last year so nothing is beyond them.
Movement from 2018 rankings: up four spots (11th)
Three-year projected list ranking (2022): 7th
This is going to be a pivotal year for the Hawks. For the first time in over a decade, Hawthorn are at the crossroads of the competition. Their best players are the equal of any in the AFL but many have injury or age affecting them. Tom Mitchell’s absence is an obvious hurdle but the likes of Jaeger O’Meara, Shaun Burgoyne, Isaac Smith, Jack Gunston, Ben McEvoy, James Sicily and Luke Breust combined with the additions of Tom Scully and Chad Wingard still represent a highly talented team. The challenge for the Hawks is to keep their best players on the park because their younger talent isn’t of the same level as many others at the top end of the ladder. Their only draft selection inside the top 20 since 2011, Ryan Burton (pick 19 in 2015), is gone so a bias towards trading rather than drafting players into the club over the past seven-to-eight years is going to present some real obstacles in the next three to four years. Their current group can push for finals again in 2019 but with the oldest list in the competition, the clock is ticking.
Movement from 2018 rankings: up four spots (12th)
Three-year projected list ranking (2022): 11th
Any team that boasts Patrick Dangerfield, Joel Selwood, Tom Hawkins, Gary Ablett, Mitch Duncan, Mark Blicavs and Tim Kelly is going to present formidable opposition but Geelong need more from their second-tier players to progress up the ladder in 2019. The additions of Luke Dahlhaus and Gary Rohan will add depth to their attack while the return from injury of Esava Ratugolea will provide another much-needed tall target. More so than a number of other teams in the top half of the competition, Geelong need their best players available for most of the season – their best is good enough to be a contender but they fall away too quickly when key players go missing. Cam Guthrie, Tom Stewart, Sam Menegola and Jack Henry will have to reproduce their best football again this year to push the Cats forward. They are very capable but need things to go right for them.
Movement from 2018 rankings: down six spots (3rd)
Three-year projected list ranking (2022): 14th
Sydney have run almost parallel to Hawthorn for more than 10 years. Both teams have remained at the top of the AFL ladder and shared the oldest and most experienced player lists for much of this time. But the rebuild at Sydney has commenced in earnest – unlike the Hawks, their age demographic has changed considerably in the past two years to now be in the bottom half of the competition. Hence, 2018 provided some real challenges to the Swans and they are likely to continue into 2019. While their defence remains solid, the reliance on Lance Franklin in attack is concerning so the importance of Sam Reid and their medium-sized forwards is critical. Josh Kennedy and Luke Parker are both quality players while the emergence of Isaac Heeney, Callum Mills, Zak Jones and Oliver Florent has seen a changing of the guard through the midfield. The Swans are no longer the force they were but they are well on their way to rebuilding for the future.
Movement from 2018 rankings: down eight spots (2nd)
Three-year projected list ranking (2022): 9th
- NORTH MELBOURNE
North Melbourne were one of the surprises of 2018 – they threatened to play finals for much of the season, only falling short at the final hurdle. Their improved performance came from a balanced and even spread of talent. While there’s no doubting the star quality of Jack Ziebell, Shaun Higgins, Ben Brown and Ben Cunnington, it was the continued development of players such as Trent Dumont, Jed Anderson, Jye Simpkin and Luke Davies-Uniacke which provided hope for the future. The arrival of mature-age recruits in Jared Polec, Jasper Pittard, Aaron Hall and Dom Tyson will provide greater depth and flexibility through the midfield although more attacking options are needed with the retirement of Jarrad Waite. The Kangaroos still have some way to go but they have reversed their reliance on only a handful of players and will offer stern resistance.
Movement from 2018 rankings: up seven spots (18th)
Three-year projected list ranking (2022): 15th
- PORT ADELAIDE
Will the real Port Adelaide, please stand-up? Their best football is wonderful … their worst absolutely deplorable. The gap between the two was simply too great in 2018. The Power need to find a standard of consistency to compete with the best teams in the competition. Robbie Gray, Tom Jonas, Paddy Ryder and Ollie Wines are elite players but their bottom group of six to seven players hasn’t shown enough to take them to the next level. The additions of Scott Lycett and Ryan Burton provide important support to their taller players but the loss of Chad Wingard and Jared Polec will require the likes of Sam Powell-Pepper, Kane Farrell and Riley Bonner to take their game to a higher level. Questions still remain over Port Adelaide – if they leave it to the same players to carry the workload then their season is going to fade very quickly.
Movement from 2018 rankings: down six spots (6th)
Three-year projected list ranking (2022): 16th
- BRISBANE LIONS
The momentum continues to build for the Brisbane Lions. While Collingwood and Essendon are far more advanced in their progress, the Brisbane Lions are on the next wave of development with a burgeoning list of younger players. The Lions are going to pass traditional powerhouses such as Hawthorn, Sydney and Geelong over the next three to four years as their group gains experience and Brisbane again becomes an attractive destination for established players. Lachie Neale and Marcus Adams are two new recruits who already see success on the horizon and while it’s still somewhat in the distance, rest assured it’s approaching. Names like Harris Andrews, Alex Witherden, Hugh McCluggage, Eric Hipwood, Cameron Rayner, Jack Payne and Connor Ballenden represent an exciting future for the Lions. Don’t expect miracles in 2019 but grab your surfboard because this wave is building nicely.
Movement from 2018 rankings: up three spots (16th)
Three-year projected list ranking (2022): 6th
Since playing in the 2013 grand final, Fremantle has undertaken a complete overhaul of its player list – particularly in the past three to four years. It hasn’t always been pretty, there have certainly been some challenging stages along the way but they are finally starting to see some fruits for their labour. Although many will question how this might be the case after finishing 14th in 2018, it has been the emergence of players such as Griffin Logue, Ed Langdon, Luke Ryan, Alex Pearce, Andrew Brayshaw and Adam Cerra that represent a very different Dockers team than previously. The arrivals of Jesse Hogan, Rory Lobb and Reece Conca provide much needed experience to the fourth-youngest group in the competition and while there’s unlikely to be any dramatic uplift in their ladder position in 2019, they are slowly building a competitive team for the future.
Movement from 2018 rankings: up one spot (15th)
Three-year projected list ranking (2022): 13th
- WESTERN BULLDOGS
Over the past two years, the Western Bulldogs have only shown glimpses of the team that won the 2016 premiership. Their slide has been both disappointing and dramatic – a reflection of how even the competition has become apart from two to three struggling teams. But the nucleus of a talented side remains. Their midfield and utility players are very good – represented by the likes of Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae, Jason Johannisen, Easton Wood and Lachie Hunter plus younger players, Toby McLean, Ed Richards and outstanding draftees Bailey Smith and Rhylee West. It is in the key positions that questions remain. While Aaron Naughton is going to develop into one of the AFL’s leading defenders, the performance of Tom Boyd and Josh Schache in attack will likely determine whether the Bulldogs improve on 2018. If both have greater outputs then a higher ladder position can be expected but if they don’t provide genuine scoring options then the Dogs are going to sit in a similar position to last year.
Movement from 2018 rankings: down six spots (9th)
Three-year projected list ranking (2022): 12th
- ST KILDA
Where to for the Saints? This is a club that has had to rebuild from being the oldest and highest-paid player list in the competition six to seven years ago to now being one of the youngest and more inexperienced groups in the competition – all during a period of significant draft concessions to GWS and Gold Coast. So they have had some real challenges but recent seasons have still been disappointing by anyone’s reckoning. Greater access to the draft and a lower total player payment structure has delivered little reward – hence, they find themselves at a serious juncture in their recent history. Youngsters like Jade Gresham, Hunter Clark, Nick Coffield, Josh Battle and Rowan Marshall all show signs of developing into quality players while new draftee Max King should become an outstanding key position player after overcoming injury. But the lack of genuine stars continues to hurt St Kilda. Too much is left to Seb Ross, Jack Steven, Jack Carlisle and Jarryn Geary so unless the second-tier players make a greater contribution then another long season awaits the Saints.
Movement from 2018 rankings: down three spots (13th)
Three-year projected list ranking (2022): 17th
It’s become a perennial question – will Carlton be any better this year? While there has been much said and written about the Blues in recent years, with most of the commentary being negative, they are on the right track. Rebuilding a player list that had decayed to the extent of Carlton’s was always going to be a huge task. Although it’s reasonable to query some of the club’s list decisions during the past four to five years, their overall direction is sound – albeit it’s taking a considerable amount of time to bear fruit. And it’s going to take a considerable amount more time. The Blues are still three to four years from being a finals contender again. But with the likes of Patrick Cripps, Charlie Curnow, Jacob Weitering, Caleb Marchbank, Paddy Dow, Sam Petrevski-Seton and Zac Fisher, they are building the foundations of a talented team. The arrival of Mitch McGovern and No.1 draftee Sam Walsh provides even greater reason to believe that the ship has been righted. Expect another challenging year for the Blues in 2019 but look beyond the now and focus on the horizon – it’s more than just an oasis.
Movement from 2018 rankings: no movement (17th)
Three-year projected list ranking (2022): 10th
- GOLD COAST
Ten years! Ten wasted years. There’s no nice way to assess the Suns’ history in the AFL competition. Lots of time and money has been spent on trying to establish a successful franchise on the Gold Coast but until this point in time, it simply hasn’t worked. To lose their co-captains and arguably best two players in the off-season was crippling for an already struggling team. But there were basically only two choices for the club and the AFL – surrender and close the doors or start again. In 2019, the Suns have chosen to start again. Despite having unprecedented access to the draft over the past decade, they decided to go to the draft yet again and recruit the best young players in Australia. It was the right decision – although has resigned them to even more pain over the next few years. The difference this time is that they must employ better development and player retention programs. The Suns are not like any other club in the AFL so they can’t use the same methods that other clubs utilise. It’s a very different environment with a very different football landscape. Jack Lukosius, Izak Rankine and Ben King should be stars of the future as Jack Martin, Ben Ainsworth, Jack Bowes and Will Brodie should be – but they must choose to stay and play on the Gold Coast. Success in the short term is more than just wins versus losses for the Suns, it’s about establishing a truly professional AFL club that has pride, passion and belief. The rest will follow.
Movement from 2018 rankings: down four spots (14th)
Three-year projected list ranking (2022): 18th
- Note: Pelchen believes that the above rankings will more or less reflect ladder positions at the end of the 2019 season but injuries could influence the order of the predictions made.