AFL club by club season preview: Adelaide to Fremantle

Footy is finally (almost) back. With the new season just around the corner, we're assessing each club's hopes for 2019 in a three-part series, starting with Adelaide-Fremantle, then Geelong-North Melbourne and finishing up with Port Adelaide-Western Bulldogs.

Here, we preview the Crows through to the Dockers.

The second and third instalments of this series will be published on Monday March 18 and Wednesday March 20.


What's changed since 2018?
It was a year to forget for the Crows; after their 2017 grand final loss, the following season was marred by the controversial preseason camp and the fact they failed to make the finals. At the trade table, they lost forward Mitch McGovern to Carlton in exchange for picks, but also secured what looks like a high 2019 draft pick in another trade with the Blues. The Crows will be buoyed by the return of key movers Brodie Smith and Brad Crouch -- both of whom had excellent preseason campaigns after playing just two games between them in 2018.

JLT results
Adelaide 106 defeated Port Adelaide 89
Adelaide 75 defeated GWS Giants 57

First month
It's a tough looking first three weeks on paper, but all things considered the Crows shouldn't be troubled by either the Hawks or Cats at home. The Swans may be a handful in Sydney, but Adelaide should be too strong for North at Marvel Stadium. A 3-1 start is a pass mark for Don Pyke's crew.

Round 1: Hawthorn, Adelaide Oval, Saturday March 23
Round 2: Sydney, SCG, Friday March 29
Round 3: Geelong, Adelaide Oval, Thurday April 4
Round 4: North Melbourne, Marvel Stadium, Saturday April 13

Prediction: Adelaide to drop one of their first three games but take care of North Melbourne with ease.

ESPN traffic light rating (green = rising, red = falling, amber = treading water)
Green. The Crows will be stinging after missing the finals last year and their list is in its prime. They have a tough first three matches but if they can be 3-1 after the first month, they'll be in the box seat for a top four finish.


What's changed since 2018?
It was a bittersweet offseason for the Lions, who traded out former skipper Dayne Beams to Collingwood while also bringing in former Fremantle star Lachie Neale. Brisbane also added mature bodies Jarryd Lyons (from Gold Coast), Marcus Adams (from the Bulldogs) and Lincoln McCarthy (from the Cats) into the mix, while they should also expect more output from their star signing from last year Charlie Cameron, who could manage only 11 games last season before succumbing to injury.

JLT results
Brisbane 102 defeated Hawthorn 60
Brisbane 104 defeated Melbourne 97

First month
The Lions have been dealt the premiers in Round 1, though playing them at the Gabba may level the playing field a touch. North Melbourne at Marvel is a much more palatable prospect given the Roos' defensive woes, while Port Adelaide and the Bombers in Rounds 3 and 4 are good early challenges for coach Chris Fagan's side. A 2-2 start would be a big tick.

Round 1: West Coast, Gabba, Saturday March 23
Round 2: North Melbourne, Marvel Stadium, Sunday March 31
Round 3: Port Adelaide, Gabba, Saturday April 6
Round 4: Essendon, MCG, Saturday April 13

Prediction: Beating the reigning premier is a tough ask in Round 1, but the Lions could still snag two wins -- probably against North and Port Adelaide.

ESPN traffic light rating (green = rising, red = falling, amber = treading water)
Green. Many are tipping the Lions to take a big step forward in 2019, with one expectation being they start to bring back the glory days of the 'Gabbatoir' and make their home a tough place to play. If this young side experiences the organic growth it ought to, then it won't be surprising to see them challenging for a top eight finish.


What's changed since 2018?
No. 1 draft pick Sam Walsh has been the talk of the town since impressing in his three preseason hit outs (if you count the scratch match Carlton played against the Hawks). A well-balanced prospect, Walsh is the newest face of the Carlton rebuild which is now well-and-truly entering its "build" phase. Further additions of Mitch McGovern from Adelaide, Alex Fasolo from the Pies and Nic Newman from the Swans bolster a young side which desperately requires mature bodies.

JLT results
Carlton 100 defeated Essendon 91
Carlton 73 lost to Collingwood 77

First month
As has become the norm over the past five year, the Tigers in Round 1 is a daunting prospect for Brendon Bolton's men. It doesn't get easier in Round 2 -- they travel to play the Power at Adelaide Oval (who have beaten them by 90 and 103 points at the venue). They're not without a chance against the Swans at Marvel Stadium, while they should take care of business against the Suns in Round 4.

Round 1: Richmond, MCG, Thursday March 21
Round 2: Port Adelaide, Adelaide Oval, Saturday March 30
Round 3: Sydney, Marvel Stadium, Saturday April 6
Round 4: Gold Coast, Metricon Stadium, Sunday April 14

Prediction: It's a tough start to the year for the Blues, who will be lucky to be 1-3 through the first month.

ESPN traffic light rating (green = rising, red = falling, amber = treading water)
Green. The only way from the bottom is up, right? Carlton will be hoping that its investment in the draft will continue to pay off this season, as another wooden spoon probably won't go down well at Princes Park. Expect the Blues to be better than the Suns and possibly the Saints, but it's hard to see them challenging for the eight just yet.


What's changed since 2018?
For a side which only narrowly missed out on winning the premiership last season, it's scary to think Collingwood's best 22 will only improve on that which took the field in late September. Former Brisbane skipper Dayne Beams returned to Collingwood during the trade period, Jordan Roughead was traded in from the Dogs and impressed in preseason, while names like Darcy Moore and Jamie Elliott will also rejoin the fray and add to the selection headaches coach Nathan Buckley is sure to have.

JLT results
Collingwood 111 defeated Fremantle 84
Collingwood 77 defeated Carlton 73

First month
The good news is the Pies play their first four matches at the MCG. The bad news is they can't quite be pencilled in as certain wins. Collingwood should be too strong for Geelong first up, but Richmond will be hunting revenge after last year's preliminary final, while in Round 3, West Coast will no doubt be happy to return the scene of last year's Grand Final victory.

Round 1: Geelong, MCG, Friday March 22
Round 2: Richmond, MCG, Thursday March 28
Round 3: West Coast, MCG, Saturday April 6
Round 4: Western Bulldogs, MCG, Friday April 12

Prediction: All four of these matches are winnable but it isn't beyond the realms of possibility that they drop one, perhaps against Richmond or West Coast. A 3-1 start is on the cards for the Magpies.

ESPN traffic light rating (green = rising, red = falling, amber = treading water)
Green. A grand finalist which is only predicted to get better can mean just one thing ... if Buckley's troops can remain healthy, this group could be tough to beat in 2019. The dynamic forward line, the experienced, silky midfield and excellent ball users in the back half make for one hell of a package.


What's changed since 2018?
Arguably the biggest move of the trade period was Essendon's acquisition of star Giant Dylan Shiel. Bombers fans will be hoping that his addition to the best 22 will finally tip their team over the edge and well into premiership contention. Essendon should also be bolstered by the return of Joe Daniher up forward, while Zac Clarke shores up the ruck stocks. The loss of Brendon Goddard may be an understated one considering it was the Bombers' back six under most pressure during JLT.

JLT results
Essendon 91 lost to Carlton 100
Essendon 73 lost to Geelong 101

First month
It's a return to western Sydney for Shiel in Round 1 when the Bombers face the Giants, followed by three games in Melbourne; against the Saints in Round 2 at Marvel Stadium, and two MCG games against the Demons in Round 3 and Lions in Round 4. The fresh injury to Daniher, which could rule him out for a month, makes these early assignments even tougher.

Round 1: GWS Giants, Sydney Showgrounds, Sunday March 24
Round 2: St Kilda, Marvel Stadium, Saturday March 30
Round 3: Melbourne, MCG, Friday April 5
Round 4: Brisbane, MCG, Saturday April 13

Prediction: A 2-2 start to the year looks likely with wins over St Kilda and Brisbane, but it wouldn't be a surprise if they snagged a win over one of the Dees or Giants to be 3-1.

ESPN traffic light rating (green = rising, red = falling, amber = treading water)
Green. The Bombers are clearly harbouring a "win now" mentality and their list profile suggest they're gearing up for a serious tilt at the flag. They still have some issues defensively, but should at the very least improve to make (and win) a final.


What's changed since 2018?
Much like the Lions, the trade table was a double-edged sword for Fremantle - they landed a big fish in Jesse Hogan but traded out a big fish in Lachie Neale. The Dockers also acquired ruckman Rory Lobb from the Giants as well as speedster Travis Colyer from the Bombers.

JLT results
Fremantle 84 lost to Collingwood 111
Fremantle 58 lost to West Coast 109

First month
Expectations aren't exceptionally high for Ross Lyon's men, however the opening month of the season is a kind one for Freo. The Dockers face North Melbourne, Gold Coast, St Kilda and West Coast through four rounds, travelling interstate just once.

Round 1: North Melbourne, Optus Stadium, Sunday March 24
Round 2: Gold Coast, Metricon Stadium, Sunday March 31
Round 3: St Kilda, Optus Stadium, Sunday April 7
Round 4: West Coast, Optus Stadium, Saturday April 13

Prediction: It's not ridiculous to think that the Dockers could be 3-1 after four considering North and St Kilda will need to overcome the travel factor, and Gold Coast has possibly the weakest list in the league. They may falter when they play the Eagles in Round 4, while looking further ahead in the fixture ... it ain't pretty.

ESPN traffic light rating (green = rising, red = falling, amber = treading water)
Amber. The acquisition of Hogan is a good one, but the loss of Neale will be felt. His workload was significant in 2018, and relying on organic growth from Fremantle's young midfielders might not be enough to plug the gaps. Expect the Dockers to miss out on the top eight again.