Christmas is around the corner and wish lists are in full swing as the end of 2022 nears.
From a footy point of view, clubs and fans alike will have at least one standout hope for the 2023 season, no matter how outlandish some may seem.
Foxfooty.com.au ponders what wish might be at the top of every club’s 2023 list this festive season.
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McLachlan confirms umpire axing | 02:32
Christmas wishlist: Izak Rankine continues to blossom
The Crows gave up pick No.5 to secure Izak Rankine, not to mention a lucrative deal, so they’ll be hoping the hybrid forward can at the very least match his superb 2022 season and even improve on it to become perhaps the most damaging small forward in the game. Some midfield minutes could be on the table, but Rankine offered the Suns an enormous amount forward of centre this season, both in terms of hitting the scoreboard and generating scores from pressure acts or savvy ball use. He’ll turn 23 in April and is posed to get even better with another strong pre-season and a clear run on the injury front. Rankine’s age puts him in the sweetspot for where Adelaide is at in its rebuild and a great season from him will help Matthew Nicks improve upon this year’s result.
Christmas wish: Will Ashcroft lives up to the hype
Josh Dunkley is an established product already, so he is likely to slot in with ease at the Lions, leaving the real intrigue centred on Ashcroft. There has been no shortage of promise in what Ashcroft has shown in his draft year and he looks like a plug-and-play midfielder at the Lions from round one. If he can put together a debut senior season in the vein of Nick Daicos and Sam Walsh, he will add a significant amount to the Lions’ engine room along with Dunkley and that could very well prove key in the side going a step or two further than their recent campaigns. Everything appears poised for the Lions to break through for a premiership under Chris Fagan and Ashcroft could prove the icing on a delicious cake.
Christmas wishlist: Some slack from the footy gods
Losses in the final two weeks of the season were largely of their own doing, but the Blues had to deal with a mountain of injury setbacks throughout 2022, a season in which, ironically, Charlie Curnow made a barnstorming return from a long injury-enforced lay-off. After a promising start to the season things quickly fell apart on the injury front, with the likes of Zac Williams, Marc Pittonet, Mitch McGovern and George Hewett just some of the names to be curtailed throughout the season. Michael Voss refused to buy into any suggestions the squad was hampered as a result, but a full or close to full compliment of players to choose from in 2023 could very well make the world of difference to a side that missed out on finals by the barest of margins.
Cripps’ main motivation for 2023 season | 02:11
Christmas wishlist: Lightning to strike twice
There’s no denying that Collingwood’s record in close matches this season was a statistical anomaly. Equally, however, there’s no denying the Pies know better than any other side how to handle the tight matches, thanks in part to the teachings of Craig McRae and the coaching staff along with the belief instilled through the initial nailbiting wins. It has resulted in a tougher draw for the Pies in 2023, but regardless it may not matter much if the side’s infectious belief and style of play transfers over into McRae’s sophomore year at the helm. The Pies have added some potentially significant recruits and are placed as well as they can be heading into 2023, it’s just the intangibles that they’ll be hoping carry on into the new year.
Christmas wishlist: A new beginning
The Bombers have changed a host of key positions off the field and will be hoping the boardroom turmoil is done and the on-field promise can return. Brad Scott’s first year at the helm will be full of intrigue as he manages a list that on paper appears talented but in practice has been middling. All the turbulence suffered over this off-season has been well documented, but Essendon fans are surely wishing it is all behind them now and that the only way is up from here. A united front is needed as the side looks to return to September in the near future and hopefully break its infamous finals win drought.
Christmas wishlist: An injury-free Nat Fyfe
No, this isn’t deja vu, this was exactly what was on the Christmas wishlist for Fremantle fans last season. Unfortunately, a fit Nat Fyfe remains a hope rather than a reality after another season of injury setbacks. Fyfe is stopping at nothing to try and get himself right for a push at a maiden Fremantle premiership and will be desperate to regain consistency after just seven senior games in 2022. Luke Jackson is an eye-catching inclusion, but Fyfe has the capacity to be virtually another new star recruit given how rare his best has been in this side in recent seasons through no fault of his own. It may sound simplistic, but you can’t blame Fremantle fans for wishing a two-time Brownlow medallist plays good, injury-free football in 2023.
AFL releases full 2023 fixture list | 01:37
Christmas wishlist: The same present as last year
Anything Geelong gets for Christmas this year would be a bonus after the side finally broke through for its second premiership under Chris Scott following so many near misses. There isn’t much reason to believe Geelong will slide too far down the ladder in 2023 given many of the veterans remain barring Joel Selwood and the addition of talented youngsters via the trade period and draft. There may be some challenges early with a shorter pre-season than other sides and the injury setback to Tom Hawkins, but the Cats should be right among the action again come September.
GOLD COAST SUNS
Christmas wishlist: A seamless return for Big Ben
Ben King is an imposing figure at just 22 years of age and it’s amazing to think the Suns did as well as they did in 2022 without arguably their most important player. After a season ruined by an ACL injury, King looks to have bolstered his frame as he eyes off full training and a successful pre-season heading into 2023. If he’s at or near his best, King could well prove the difference between a near miss and a maiden finals berth, such is the talent of the two-time club leading goalkicker. Mabior Chol and Levi Casboult were incredible as a forward duo in 2022, but King could help supercharge the side and prove the missing piece of a puzzle Stewart Dew has been assembling for some time.
Christmas wishlist: A satisfying mix of development and success
Adam Kingsley’s first year in charge at the Giants will see him face a delicate balancing act, with several gun players still in the side but a host of youngsters continuing to emerge at the same time. The loss of Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper will have an impact in the engine room, but the likes of Tom Green and Finn Callaghan have a chance to further cement themselves in the senior side. Aaron Cadman is a tantalising prospect and the number one draft pick, but he could well take time to develop before having a genuine impact at senior level. There’ll be a mix of success and development in 2023 – Giants fans will be hoping it’s a satisfactory one as opposed to this season.
Christmas wishlist: Patience
It’s the same wish for Hawthorn this year as it was last year, but it’s even more pronounced heading into 2023. The Hawks have culled the list from an experience point of view and have set themselves up for some substantial on-field pain in the short term after a relatively sound 2022 campaign. It is going to be tough for the side to notch up wins given the age demographic, so Sam Mitchell’s task will be to minimise the damage in the short term as the Hawks’ list develops. Setting realistic expectations is key and the buy-in from supporters is vital.
Hawthorn racism investigation extended | 00:58
Christmas wishlist: A breakout key forward target
It could be Max Gawn, it could be Jacob Van Rooyen, it could be a resurgent Tom McDonald or Ben Brown, but Melbourne is simply craving a bona fide key forward star. Bayley Fritsch has done a lot of the work in the forward 50 and had to play a lone hand, while those around him have struggled with form or injury. Shoring up the forward-half game is key for Melbourne if it’s to get back to the biggest stage after a disappointing season in 2022. The Dees are still well and truly in the premiership window, but the forward mix remains their biggest weakness.
Christmas wishlist: A reason for fans to believe
It has been a wretched time for North Melbourne fans in recent years, with the club aimless at times off the field and turbulent off it. The Roos got their man in Alastair Clarkson after a lengthy pursuit, but even that has been fraught with uncertainty amid allegations centring on his time at Hawthorn. Should he coach the side for the next five years as contracted to do, Roos fans will be hoping for something to hang onto in 2023. Be it a career-best year from Nick Larkey and Cameron Zurhaar, the return to form of Tarryn Thomas, the continuation of Ben Cunnington’s inspirational comeback or a promising debut year from top-end draft picks Harry Sheezel and George Wardlaw, there just needs to be some hope for a side whose games must be so difficult to front up for given its recent struggles.
Recruiting role secures Shiels | 01:11
Christmas wishlist: A better start to the season
Many within Port Adelaide have looked to put an 0-5 start in 2022 down to a combination of injury and misfortune in tight contests, which is their prerogative given the relative consistency the side has shown in recent seasons. Still, arguably no team in the competition is in need of a strong start more than the Power, with coach Ken Hinkley expected to get his side performing far better than it was at the start of last season. Some notable inclusions in Jason Horne-Francis and Junior Rioli have likely only added to expectation. The season is a marathon rather than a sprint, but in the Power’s case a quick start out of the blocks is vital.
Christmas wishlist: The best at their best
Injury prevented some of the Tigers’ best players from consistently playing at their best, while for Dustin Martin it was personal circumstances that saw him spend some time away from the game before a hamstring concern also curtailed him. The likes of Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper appear to be plug-and-play additions, so the best-case scenario for the Tigers is that the other established guns can be fit and firing enough to get them into the finals and hopefully supercharge their September campaign as opposed to this season.
Christmas wishlist: Something sustainable
The Saints have been all over the shop in recent years. When things were good, they were great, but when they were bad, they were bleak. It was a rollercoaster ride of fluctuating form under Brett Ratten as the side’s list built towards a premiership tilt that perhaps was far further away than anticipated. Ross Lyon’s arrival at the club coincides with a review that demanded stronger training standards and communication. The inconsistency the side showed this year simply cannot remain under Lyon if the coaching changeover is to be deemed a success. There’s plenty of development to come for the young brigade, but the experienced core demands a better output in 2023 and one that’s more sustainable than what was at times one-way running in 2022.
St Kilda cop massive blow with King scan | 01:27
Christmas wishlist: Leaps and bounds for Logan
It was perhaps the most brutal selection call of the finals series to drop Logan McDonald for the decider, but it could well prove added fuel for the key forward to launch himself into the AFL spotlight in 2023. Virtually everything went wrong on grand final day for the Swans so McDonald wouldn’t have been the difference, but the former pick No.4 is definitely yet to reach his full potential. Key forwards take time, but 2023 will likely be McDonald’s last season alongside Lance Franklin and more key position depth has been added via Aaron Francis, albeit he’s likely to spend more time in the back half. This could be McDonald’s last chance to thrive before he attracts even more defensive scrutiny in 2024 and beyond. The Swans are well set, but McDonald could prove a big point of difference in 2023 if the stars align.
WEST COAST EAGLES
Christmas wishlist: Something … anything other than this year
There’s virtually no way Eagles fans could look back on season 2022 and be satisfied. Virtually everything that could go wrong did go wrong. On the positive side, it leaves plenty of room for improvement in 2023. Another potential positive is that Eagles fans may take far more measured expectations into 2023 than many of the footy world had at the start of 2022. It’s not exactly a great situation, but the club has earned a mulligan year of sorts after such consistent performances in recent years. Just anything other than what happened in 2022.
Christmas wishlist: A top-four berth… finally
It remains staggering that the Dogs could win a premiership and make a grand final and still not have finished in the top four once under Luke Beveridge’s tenure. If anything, the Dogs have grossly overachieved when it comes to their finals output given they haven’t had a double chance to play with since 2010. If the Dogs can break that drought, there’s no reason to think they can’t go all the way given how much they’ve been able to accomplish without it so far.
Story Credit: foxsports.com.au