Geelong hopes to bounce back from a disappointing finals exit in 2012 having lost another group of premiership stars. The Gold Coast Suns are looking to build on their debut and sophmoric seasons with a young squad continuing to gain experience. Greater Western Sydney now faces the challenge of preventing the ‘second year blues’ while also managing another influx of talented draftees.

 

Geelong
2012 win/loss record: 15-7
2012 ladder position: 6th
Projected ladder position: 4th – 8th

Geelong entered 2012 with doubts hanging over the club as to how strong its premiership defence would be. Questions were asked about the Cats’ aging list and the loss of stars including Brad Ottens, Darren Milburn and captain Cameron Ling. They now enter 2013 once again with a reduction in experience due to the retirements of Matthew Scarlett and David Wojcinski but with a significant improvement from some of their young prospects.

The Cats were knocked out in the Elimination Final last year by a thrilling display from Fremantle and captain Matthew Pavlich, and many journalists were quick to announce the end of a era for the best team of the last decade.

Youngsters like Taylor Hunt, Allen Christensen and Mitch Duncan may have something to say about that, and along with new recruits Josh Caddy, Jared Rivers and Hamish McIntosh, could surprise the football world with a quick turnaround into premiership contention.

Prediction
The fight for the top four spots this year will be incredibly competitive but Geelong is a real chance to sneak the final spot if certain players can improve on their 2012 form. Young ruckman Nathan Vardy now has support in former North Melbourne player Hamish McIntosh, who will give him the chance to further develop his skills around the ground. The long-awaited return of Daniel Menzel after missing the whole 2012 season through a second knee reconstruction will bolster Geelong’s forward line and add another dimension to its attack. Travis Varcoe also looks set for a Round 1 start despite only playing a solitary game in 2012 due to a nagging foot injury.

The more experienced players in the squad including James Podsiadly and Steve Johnson will be looking to improve on what could be considered a disappointing output in 2012 based on their lofty standards. James Kelly, Paul Chapman and Andrew Mackie will look to continue their leadership in their respective areas on the field, especially considering the amount of relatively inexperienced key position players that will be representing Geelong in 2013.

A busy trade and free agency period last year could reap rewards for the Cats this year with the inclusion of talents like Jared Rivers and Josh Caddy, who will be vital to the team’s success.

Geelong will most likely end up in a battle for spots in the bottom half of the top eight with other sides on the up like Fremantle, Carlton and Essendon but could very easily surprise the competition with their mix of premiership players and stars of the future.

 

Gold Coast
2012 win/loss record: 3-19
2012 ladder position: 17th
Projected ladder position: 14th – 18th

It was a difficult second year for the Suns with their first win not coming until Round 16 against Richmond when NRL convert Karmichael Hunt kicked the winning goal on the siren. The other big highlight for Gold Coast was their shock home win against Carlton which led to the sacking of Carlton coach Brett Ratten, and was also a chance for the Suns to showcase how bright their future is.

Gary Ablett continued to show why he is the best player in the game but he was not the only player to have an excellent 2012 with Harley Bennell, Sam Iles, Danny Stanley and David Swallow all taking their game to the next level.

They only managed three wins for the year but the development of their young guns, as well as another year of gelling as a team, means they are a significant chance to possibly double the amount of wins in 2013.

Prediction
The Suns were quite unlucky with injuries to key players in 2012 and if they can keep Nathan Bock, David Swallow and Michael Rischitelli and certain other on the field, there is nothing stopping them from having a much better 2013.

The addition of some amazing young talents like Jaeger O’Meara and Jesse Lonergan just makes this young list even more daunting for the opposition in the years to come.

It is now the third year in the system for many of the Suns players and that means it is time to step up and take control of games. Key forwards Sam Day and Tom Lynch will be looking to increase their scoring abilities and give the gun midfield clear targets. Harley Bennell has the potential to move into the elite category of midfielders in the next few years and he will cause headaches for the other 17 coaches in 2013.

The most important thing for the Suns in 2013 is for the younger players to shoulder some of the responsibility around the ground. This will allow Gary Ablett and the experienced players to contribute without the feeling of the whole team’s success riding on their every move.

2013 will be another year of development for the young squad but it is a defining year for the Suns and the AFL to track the success of expansion. They have the pure ability to win games and were quite unlucky with some close losses in 2012. If they can find that winning hunger and transfer it into putting teams away, they could end up with anything between four and eight wins.

 

Greater Western Sydney
2012 win/loss record: 2-20
2012 ladder position: 18th
Projected ladder position: 17th – 18th

Greater Western Sydney’s debut season went quite similar to the Suns in 2011; number of big losses and few highlights but overall an excellent showcase of the young talent on the list combined with starring roles from experienced players.

Having 11 of the first 14 draft picks and uncontracted recruits including Tom Scully and Rhys Palmer, the Giants managed two wins and 20 losses. However, the football world witnessed the birth of a club that will be dominant in five or six years time with young guns like Toby Greene, Taylor Adams and Adam Treloar having standout seasons in 2012.

The landmark first win came against Gold Coast at Manuka Oval and 12 rounds later they upset Port Adelaide in a dominant display from their draftees. The fact that they had an astounding eight nominees for the Rising Star award shows how much upside this team has in 2013 and beyond.

Prediction
The Giants will obviously look to improve on their win/loss ratio from 2012 but the development of their younger players is priority number one, and it is very possible they may win the same amount of games as they did last year.

Having received the first three picks in the National Draft and recruiting Lachie Whitfield, Jonathan O’Rourke and Lachlan Plowman, they will continue to have an abundance of pure skill in all areas of the ground. Just like the Suns in their first two years, the Giants will need big contributions from their experienced players. Tom Scully had a very solid 2012 but must take control of the Giants’ midfield and become more of a leader in 2013.

Jonathan Giles had an amazing 2012 and will handle the majority of the ruckwork, and key position players including young guns Jonathon Patton and Jeremy Cameron will need to step up their game if the Giants are to improve their ladder position.

The Giants could definitely catch a few teams off guard with their speed through the midfield and their tall timber up forward, but you would think that they will struggle to move out of the bottom four this year and are the most likely candidate for the wooden spoon.