Great post @Bomber_Billy. One or two other risks:
- Injuries. We had a pretty damn good run last year, with the bulk of injuries being to KPD’s, the one area of surplus on the list. But we did see the impact when several “A” grade players went rusty due to injury in the final, with Raz and Hurley having first game’s back and Hooker and Green missing. Its a real question mark over whether 2017 is the new benchmark for our injury status, or just a lucky great year.
- The saga returnees. I think most assume they’ll improve from another preseason - I certainly do. But there is a risk that what we’ve seen is what we get. That Hurley doesn’t rediscover the body on body touch. Heppell continues to handball backwards to covered team mates and struggle with the pace of the game. That Myers and Colyer continue, well, just continue.
- Coaching. There is a lot of split views on Worsfold. The thing the last, well, probably 6 premierships have shown is that in the finals having a strong gameplan is vital. A lot of blitzers would question a lot of the moves with player selections and in-game across the year. We haven’t really seen a clearly articulated game plan beyond bursts, which is not unexpected given the issues with gelling a team with such limited preparation together. But it is something that must come, and there are no guarantees the coaches can do it.
- If GWS can get their team part right, the rest of the league is stuffed anyway.
Despite all that, I do think we’re top 4 material now, as long as some of the above goes our way.
When I look at the competitors, I don’t really rate Richmond or Geelong. Sure, if they are hot at the right time, they could (or with Richmond/Bulldogs, did) pull it off. But I don’t think they’re year on year contenders now. The teams I worry about are Adelaide, Sydney and GWS. Maybe Melbourne and Port if they pull their ■■■■ together.
Against those sides, I don’t think anyone other than GWS and Sydney have an absolutely awesome midfield. Most have a handful of top quality players (and some like Kennedy and Gray are the highest of quality), but a good smattering of good players through the midfield. I mean, I rate Adelaide, but they really have a core of 3 absolutely excellent mids (Sloane + 2 Crouch’s) and then a lot of decent guys.
GWS and Sydney are the real problems.