WHAT WE LEARNED FROM THE AFL PRE-SEASON SERIES
* It pays to have options in the ruck:
Some clubs will be without their first and second ruck choices in round one after existing tall timber issues were exacerbated during the pre-season series.
Essendon could be without Matthew Leuenberger (hamstring) and Tom Bellchambers (knee), West Coast will be without Nic Naitanui (knee) and Scott Lycett (shoulder) and the Western Bulldogs will have to make do without Jordan Roughead (hamstring) and Tom Campbell (ankle).
* Carlton might be in for a torrid year:
The Blues and the Bombers were the only clubs to go through the pre-season series winless but while Essendon showed promise, there were worrying signs for Carlton fans. Brendon Bolton’s rebuilding team looked well off the pace in thrashings by Melbourne and St Kilda before showing some signs of life in a 21-point loss to Fremantle.
* Several teams improved their chances this season at the trade table:
It will take some time to get used to Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis in West Coast and Melbourne colours respectively, but the former Hawks duo have already made their new teams better. Likewise Dion Prestia, Josh Caddy and Toby Nankervis, who have created a buzz amongst Richmond fans. The same goes for Zach Tuohy at Geelong, Travis Cloke at the Dogs and Jaeger O’Meara at Hawthorn, to name a few.
* Going up?
St Kilda, Melbourne and Collingwood finished ninth, 11th and 12th respectively last season, but have showed enough to suggest they can push higher in 2017. The Saints’ and Demons’ recent early draft picks looked good with another pre-season under their belts and Nathan Buckley’s men displayed some impressive form ahead of a big year for their coach.
* Diamonds in the rough:
The pre-season is when rookies get their best opportunities to shine and several did just that. Mature-aged Port Adelaide rookie Brett Eddy kicked five goals against Hawthorn, Geelong’s Zach Guthrie average 21 possessions across two matches and Melbourne’s Joel Smith – son of former Demons high-flyer Shaun – impressed, as did Jason Castagna and Mabior Chol for the Tigers.
* It’s time for the AFL to put some serious thought into the pre-season series:
No one doubts the need for warm-up games but watching teams play in giant, empty stadiums is flat as a tack as far as entertainment value goes. Perhaps it’s time to banish the likes of Etihad Stadium and Subiaco and take the game to the people of regional Australia where fans pack smaller venues that have a carnival atmosphere.