All 18 clubs will have one nagging issue to overcome in season 2023, ranging from converting on promise to avoiding a bottom out.
While some teams will have easier problems to solve, no club is perfect with the off-season the perfect time to get the issues right.
Foxfooty.com.au has broken down each club’s biggest issue heading into next season … and beyond.
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Making the jump
It’s been a gradual rebuild under coach Matthew Nicks since he took over – from 18th in 2020 to 15th in 2021 and 14th in 2022. With the addition of Izak Rankine and another pre-season for the likes of Riley Thilthorpe and Fisher McAsey, the Crows will now be expected to make another jump. The steady progress that has been made needs to be backed up with another rise up the ladder, particularly if the likes of veterans like Taylor Walker are fit and firing. If there’s a regression on 2022 or a plateau, questions will inevitably start to come about the club’s list build and football department.
Delivering on the potential
Expectations will be hard to contain with the arrivals of Josh Dunkley and Jack Gunston, not to mention star-in-waiting Will Ashcroft via the draft. There is going to be an enormous amount of expectation on the Lions to strike while the iron is hot with the likes of Daniel Rich and Dayne Zorko nearing the end of their careers and Lachie Neale at his peak. Chris Fagan is entering the final year of his current deal and there will be plenty of expectation to get through to a grand final under his tenure. All the pieces are in place for the Lions and it’s up to Fagan and the players to put it together.
Fagan resumes coaching Lions | 00:31
The Blues out-muscled teams in 2022, pounding them into submission. It’s an admirable one-wood in the first year under Michael Voss, but the challenge now will be to win in different ways. Voss at times has bristled at the suggestion the side needs to at least break even in contested possessions to win games, but there was a marked difference (particularly in the second half of the season) on the win-loss tally when contest work stalled. Granted, injuries hardly did them any favours and they began to add strings to their bow in the second half of the year, but continuing on with that is the challenge. As so often happens in the AFL, rival clubs identify strengths and look to neutralise them. After a season of getting beaten up by the Blues, many clubs will be prepared next time around.
No club in the history of the game has in one season won as many games by margins as narrow as Collingwood’s in 2022. It was simply a historical season for the club, flipping virtually all statistics on their head and rendering predictions all-but irrelevant. The issue for Collingwood next season is simple: anomalies are anomalies for a reason. Unless the Pies are somehow able to make lightning strike twice, the overwhelming likelihood is that those close games won’t be split as favourably in Collingwood’s favour next season. Because of that, it’s hard to get a true gauge of where the Pies sit. They might not be a top-four side next year but they also might not be bottom-10. As always, the truth may lie somewhere in the middle. Getting a sense of where the Pies actually sit is the challenge.
How will Grundy fit into the Dees? | 02:45
It’s one word, but stability has been so hard to come by for the Bombers. Compared to the club that commenced the 2022 season, the Bombers will have a new coach, a new CEO and a new president. Virtually all of the club’s key pillars have undergone change and because of that it’s a tenuous situation the club finds itself in. With Brad Scott appointed hopefully the club now settles, but it’s impossible to say it has because there still seem to be divisions within, with continued murmurings of more board upheaval before the first ball is bounced in 2023. Keeping united and keeping fractures from becoming full-blown chaos simply has to be the focus for the club, not to mention an improvement off-field.
Draft hopeful’s touching act during 2k | 00:36
The Dockers’ sensational defence during the year meant scoring the other way wasn’t as costly, but it reared its head later in the season and has to be a focus point over the off-season. Bringing in Luke Jackson is a big inclusion, but the reality is the side’s leading goalkicker from 2022, Rory Lobb, is no longer there, so goals might not be easier to come by next season. It’s the biggest drawback to their game style and until they fix it they can’t be considered a genuine premiership contender.
Luke Jackson confirmed to the Dockers | 01:48
Following up perfection
The Cats genuinely couldn’t have scripted the end to 2022 any better. A huge winning streak culminating in a premiership years in the making and a fitting farewell for a champion of the club in Joel Selwood, it was a perfect end to a season that was spectacular for Cats fans. It’s hard to see how the Cats can possibly back up the flag with a year as good or even better, even with their suite of additions via the trade period. The challenge will be scaling the mountain once more. As Melbourne showed in 2022, it doesn’t matter how good you finished the season prior or started the next, the hunted have a considerable amount of hurdles in front of them to finish atop the pile again.
Lions & Cats trade window review | 08:07
GOLD COAST SUNS
Converting promise into a finals berth
Gold Coast improved this season under Stuart Dew even without key goalkicker Ben King, but an inaugural finals berth remains elusive. There are impressive players across every line at the Suns and the likes of Noah Anderson and Elijah Hollands will only get better with yet another pre-season. Dew was re-signed despite some speculation about his future and the Suns are clearly backing him in, but the challenge he’ll face is one previous coaches simply couldn’t and that’s finishing in the top eight. It’s the natural next step of their build, but it won’t be easy to achieve.
Avoiding a bottom-out
The Giants made a calculated decision to straighten out their salary cap and playing list with the arrival of Adam Kingsley and are clearly looking at the new senior coach as the start of a clean slate of sorts. The loss of Tim Taranto, Jacob Hopper and Bobby Hill however will have an impact. Given the Giants have plenty of established talent on the list, they can’t really be finishing 16th like they did this year. The issue is their outs over the trade period are much bigger than the ins, even when taking into account their pending number one pick and other first round selections. The club has certainly set the stage for an evolving side, but they haven’t flat out said they are rebuilding. That means there’s an expectation they’ll be somewhat competitive in 2023. It’s a tough balancing act Kingsley faces in his first year.
Has trade period exposed a big problem? | 01:04
Managing to show some form of competitiveness after massive cuts
Hawthorn has made some massive changes this off-season, with the full extent of the impact perhaps not fully realised until the season starts in 2023. Sam Mitchell is clearly the club’s man moving forward and he has licence to aggressively rebuild, but these things are always easier in theory than in practice. The reality is the Hawks have set the stage for some considerable short-term pain after a decent enough 2022 campaign. More than 1000 senior games of experience are now gone in one off-season, so there is going to be a void when 2023 gets underway. The challenge is avoiding significant blowouts and still managing to show glimpses of hope amid what will likely be a dour season.
Hawks great stunned by forward swap | 01:54
Getting the forward mix right
Be it Max Gawn, Brodie Grundy or Jacob van Rooyen, the Dees need to find an answer to their inefficiency up forward. It’s not an easy void to fill, but Melbourne just needs more consistency in the attacking 50. Even when the Dees were piling on the wins in the first half of the season there were still warning signs in that forward mix and those molehills became mountains by the time Simon Goodwin’s side was dismissed in straight sets in the finals. Clearly Grundy’s addition is going to change the way the side plays, but until we see it actually work in practice, it’s hard to say with any confidence Melbourne’s forward 50 issues are a thing of the past.
Hunter joins Dees on deadline day | 01:22
Getting more out of the forward line
Lets be honest, there are issues upon issues for Alastair Clarkson to address when he officially begins at Arden Street on November 1, but the support up forward for Nick Larkey will be a key component. Larkey has at times looked battered and bruised, with he and Cam Zurhaar struggling to sink their teeth into games consistently. Key position depth could’ve come via Aaron Cadman in the draft, but the Roos traded out pick one in exchange for picks two and three, meaning Cadman is likely heading to the Giants instead. Club great David King was concerned by the move given Larkey’s need for support. Improving up the ground will certainly help matters, but getting more out of the forward mix will be key.
Horne-Francis wasn’t ‘up for the fight’ | 01:48
Clarity for Ken
Ken Hinkley’s future beyond 2023 is going to become a bigger story the longer the season goes. It’s a double-edged sword for the Power. If they’re losing, the discussion will be around whether the club is going to pull the plug. If they’re winning, the discussion will be around why Hinkley still hasn’t been re-signed. It’s a season of judgement for Hinkley and he is fully aware of that. It doesn’t make things any easier, but when it comes to the storyline around Port Adelaide next season, Hinkley is likely at the centre of it one way or another.
Might be another unstable year at North | 01:06
There were injuries aplenty for the Tigers in 2022, but the biggest absence was that of Dustin Martin. Even when in the side, Martin wasn’t able to consistently display his best football, which can catapult his side from a top-eight finish to one in the top-four. There was talk about Martin’s future ad nauseam in 2022, but he’ll be playing for Richmond in 2023. With Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper added to the side, a fully fit and firing Martin could well prove the final piece of the premiership puzzle.
Big Tiger crowds a lure for Hopper | 01:03
Ridding itself of flukey football
David King calls it “cheating forward” and a “fraudulent” style of play. For the last couple of seasons, the Saints have simply been far too easy to play against at times and far too conditional with their patches of good form. Ross Lyon says the club needs to pull its sleeves up in 2023 and beyond to improve and he is spot on in that regard. Lyon also said he had noted the side’s speed, but that won’t necessarily fix anything if all that speed is directed forward and not back. Clearly the Saints hierarchy believe more ruthless standards are required and they’ve earmarked Lyon to prove that. Now it’s up to Lyon to prove the Saints are fixable and not wedded to a doomed style of play.
Ross ready to rebuild the Saints | 02:42
Avoiding mental scarring
The stats suggest rebounding from a grand final thrashing is very difficult. Since 1995, teams that have lost a decider by 40 points or more have failed to win a final in the following season. Granted, Sydney certainly shouldn’t get any worse in 2023 from a list standpoint given the emerging youth and the fact that most veterans will still be there. Still, it is a heavy, heavy loss on football’s biggest day and is enough to shake the foundations of any side. It’ll be a hard issue for the Swans to address until the finals series, but it’s one they must conquer to get closer to premiership glory.
Study reveals alarming concussion trends | 06:23
WEST COAST EAGLES
The Eagles had a wretched run in 2022 for a variety of reasons, but the lack of continuity for key players was one of the biggest impediments. It was virtually impossible for Adam Simpson to get his best players out on the park together all at once. Concerningly, on the rare occasions they were, some of the established stars looked shadows of their former selves. It is going to be a transitional period for the Eagles, that much seems certain, but the consistency of several veterans – both in fitness and performance – may well prove the difference between a good-enough season and another nightmarish one.
Kingy calls out Johno & Western Bulldogs | 03:46
Maximising its surplus of talls
There were many eyebrows raised when the Dogs targeted Rory Lobb despite already having the likes of Tim English, Aaron Naughton, Sam Darcy and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan as key position prospects. Add to that a hopefully resurgent Josh Bruce in 2023 and it is not going to be easy at match committee to decide on a mix that works well. They made a big gain in addressing their key defensive stocks via getting Liam Jones, but there are a lot of pieces up the field that Luke Beveridge has to mix and match. One suspects the effectiveness of the tall brigade is going to be crucial to how well the Dogs fare in 2023.