Our AFL experts Niall Seewang, Jake Michaels and Matt Walsh dissect all of the main talking points ahead of Round 14.
Which list has the least amount of upside?
NS: As impressive as the Suns were in the early part of this year, I'd have to say Stuart Dew's squad. There's still a worrying amount of journeymen on that list and they will likely face further retention issues in coming years. They do however have another two first-round picks in November's draft, so who's not to say they can make my prediction look silly in the near future.
JM: This will certainly be controversial, but I'm saying Hawthorn. I spoke about this in our latest AFL podcast and truly believe the Hawks are heading towards some lean years. Of the 19 players on their list aged 23 or under, only three of them are rated as average or better for their position and age. That in itself is really worrying. If I was a coach looking for a gig -- including Alastair Clarkson -- I'd rather the Blues or Roos any day.
MW: There are two ways North Melbourne's next coach can go next year, and that's to clean out the older players and start afresh with a list already thin on young talent - particularly key defensive stocks. The other route is to top up with mature players and hope to scrounge a finals berth or win. I've gotta say I'm not sold on either approach, and that's the biggest worry of all.
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Where will Isaac Smith be playing in 2020?
NS: He should be in red and blue. Smith is exactly the type of midfielder Melbourne need, with his speed, run and carry and raking left boot. Yes, he's 30, but the Dees should bounce back into contention after this year's woeful season. As an unrestricted free agent at the end of 2020, the Hawks might be willing to make a tough call on Smith, as they have with Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis in the past. Win-win.
JM: Based on my answer above, I can't really see the Hawks letting Smith walk. He may not be having a great year, but remember he booted 26 goals and averaged 22 disposals per game last year - not many players can do that over the course of a season. I'd be inclined to see how he goes in the back half of 2019 and then 2020 could be last chance saloon.
MW: Clarko has form in shipping off 30-year-old players to other clubs for midrange draft picks, but I think Smith offers more value to the Hawks than any other club at this point. Sure, his 2019 has been a little underwhelming by his own lofty standards, but I expect him to bounce back and can serve Hawthorn for another two or three years.
Who is the best team in Perth?
NS: It's still the Eagles but the Dockers are closing the gap quickly. They are suddenly one of the most exciting teams to watch while still maintaining their defensive focus (they've conceded the second-least points in the league this year). But I still feel the Eagles are only cruising in second gear and the'll be able to lift when it matters. Won't the Derby in two weeks be massive?!
JM: The Dockers have definitely been impressive this year and probably exceeded expectations, but we might be getting a little carried away. West Coast has to still be the No. 1 in Perth, after all they are the reigning premier. They are tracking along really nicely and should be around the top four yet again come season's end.
MW: The Eagles' loss to Sydney a couple of weeks ago was a bad one, but the bye came at a good time for the reigning premiers. Ultimately, they're 8-4 and seem to be in third gear (sorry Niall!), so it has to be Adam Simpson's men at present. The Derby set for July 6 could be the closest and most competitive we've had in sometime...
Which player have you enjoyed watching most in 2019?
NS: Every time Jordan De Goey gets near the ball, my excitement levels lift a notch. He produces moments that just leave me shaking my head, giggling at the sheer audacity of what he can produce. His power through contests, hands overhead, cat-like agility and desire to deliver in big moments mean he is a nightmare for opponents but a joy for fans (even non-Collingwood supporters!)
JM: Most enjoyed watching and most impressed with has to be young Sydney Stack. To think that this guy wasn't drafted and is now the second favourite to win the Rising Star award is incredible. He's only played 11 games but has already had some truly memorable moments -- think that 55m bomb against GWS in his debut and that monster hit on Jack Viney. Can't wait for his next 250 games.
MW: Michael Walters has been electrifying this season and is a genuine match winner for the Dockers. I also really rated him mocking Xavier Duursma's bow and arrow celebration, too. He's one of those players you really love to watch, until he plays your team - and that's the best compliment of all.