The AFL blogging spreadsheets have been distributed which can only mean one thing, footy is back!
The off-season was certainly a joyous one for the premiers who deservedly celebrated their first bit of silverware since 1954. For 17 other clubs and supporters however it was a time of deep reflection and motivating for the year ahead.
Season 2016 was a year of big surprises on a number of fronts, making this year all the more unpredictable. Let’s dive into what we can look forward to in the year ahead.
It wouldn’t be an AFL season without them. From the notorious hands in the back to rushed behinds and now the newest edition to the knee-jerk reaction rule changes, penalising the third man up. But season 2017 could see the biggest change of them all with the debated 17-5 system.
While this is still very much up in the air, it will certainly be something that the AFL will analyse deeply over the course of the season.
Such a significant change to the system will no doubt turn a few heads, especially when it is one heavily endorsed by many who believe that will create a fixture that is not only fair but logical.
Whether the AFL goes through with this or not will certainly be a massive talking point throughout the year, and one we can all expect various opinions being expressed on the matter.
See the Bombers fly…
What will the Bombers do this season? Will they flop having a number of stars returning after not having played for a year? Or will the team be ignited by a profound bond that culminated at the club during the tumultuous saga?
Last season may have been John Worsfold’s first year as coach but we all know that is reign officially starts now. The Bombers are back and are craving success with many of their stars returning and ready to make a significant impact.
All eyes will be on the Bombers as they take on rivals Hawthorn at the MCG which will certainly be hyped through the roof as the match of the round.
Expect the odd 70,000 people to walk through the gates for this one for this will mean more than the four points for the Bombers and their supporters who have been edging to see their team back in action without an axe hanging over their heads.
The footy world is divided as to the direction of Essendon’s flight path in 2017. A finals berth would be euphoric for a club that has dealt with so much heartache over the years, something that will drive the players to infinity and beyond.
Will it be a fairy tale welcome back season or will reality kick in and spoil the party?
Oh Captain my Captain!
Seven clubs will have new players lead them out of the dressing room and directing traffic out on the field this coming season.
The Swans, Saints and Hawks may have gone with experience in appointing Kennedy, Geary and Roughead as their respective captains but other clubs have opted for youth, elevating exciting young talent to the front to lead their teams into a bold new era.
This was certainly the mindset of the Gold Coast Suns who in the wake of the new season appointed Steven May and star forward Tom Lynch as co-captains. After what has been an underachieving few years this shift symbolises the new direction the club believe to be heading be in.
Lynch is one of the most exciting forwards in the competition being a shining light in a dull few seasons for the Gold Coast. Expect the 24-year-old to go further in 2017, continuing to grow as a footballer and leader.
Likewise the Bombers have appointed fan favourite Dyson Heppell to lead them this year. Heppell’s elevation epitomises the dawning of a new era for the Bombers, who believe the 24-year-old has what it takes to lead the success deprived Bombers back to the promised land.
The Demons also made changes to their leadership ahead of a very important season. Jack Viney was named co-captain along with Nathan Jones which will very much excite fans and bring about a sense of nostalgia having a Viney leading the team out.
Will Fyfe stay or will he go?
Nathan Fyfe was another man who was appointed as the captain of his club. Fyfe remains the hottest free agent heading into the season with many clubs already hot at his heels.
The recent announcement in giving him the captaincy has raised many questions as to the future of the 25-year-old.
Does this mean Fyfe has pledged his loyalty to the club? Or is this a clever ploy to make him want to stay at the Dockers?
Despite the 2015 Brownlow medallist missing last season due to injury this will not faze a number of clubs who have expressed their interest in acquiring his services in midfield.
Captain Fyfe will certainly have big shoes to fill taking over from club legend and multiple All-Australian Mathew Pavlich.
A strong pre-season should see Fyfe roaring to go seeking to recapture the form that saw him be crowned Fremantle’s inaugural Brownlow medallist.
One thing is for sure, the longer he remains a free agent the greater the speculation will grow.
Finals or Bust: Eddie may have re-signed but will Bucks?
For anyone that isn’t a Collingwood supporter 2017 could be a very fun year. Collingwood is almost certain to be heavily under the microscope, making bold claims already about their aspirations this season.
The side has greatly stagnated since last making the finals back in 2013, which according to their fan-base is a crime for a club of its size. The recent set back to former Roo Daniel Wells will not help their cause but a ruthless and bloodthirsty mindset could just be what the Pies need to get back into the swing of things.
A forward-thinking attitude is the first step in the club returning to promise land, the only thing that remains is making it count within four quarters on a consistent basis.
Exacerbating the pressure on the Pies this season is that coach and favourite son Nathan Buckley may find himself on the chopping block if performances are unsatisfactory.
Collingwood would not be ones to treat mediocrity lightly and with pressure coming in from all angles will anything less than a finals berth be enough to show Bucks the door?
If one thing is for certain it’s that the Pies will be in the papers in 2017.
These are only a handful of things to look out for in 2017. The season ahead is shaping up to be one of the most unpredictable to date but if one thing is for certain it is that we are set for one hell of a ride.