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Stars primed to atone for poor 2022 seasons, comebacks, recovery from poor form, analysis, breakout players, latest news

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Every year AFL players strive for greatness in the hope of winning the ultimate prize – the premiership.

But of the 17 clubs that fell short to Geelong in 2022, many of their problems can be found in the underperformance of some of their stars.

Here are the 10 players primed to overcome a less than stellar 2022 to put their side back in contention this season.

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Jordan de Goey (Collingwood)

It’s no secret Jordan de Goey endured a very controversial 2022 campaign as contract talks stalled amid the fallout of his Bali nightclub drama.

Handed a suspended $25,000 fine and forced to issue an apology, de Goey returned to the club after his moment of Mid-Season madness to show exactly how damaging he can be on the field.

The mid/forward was instrumental in helping Collingwood reach the preliminary final where they endured a one-point heartbreaking loss to the Swans.

But despite his big finals run, according to AFL Player Ratings, de Goey’s season could only be classed as average – after four successive years of elite and above average figures.

But with his contract now sorted and a shoulder clean up already undertaken, de Goey is ready to live up to the hype that has surrounded him since his early days at the club.

Moore voted in as captain by teammates | 01:32

Elliot Yeo (West Coast)

2022 was a year to forget for premiership Eagle Elliot Yeo.

A serious pre-season injury derailed his opening rounds before his attitude was questioned in the Round 6 loss to Port Adelaide.

Yeo was filmed throwing his mouthguard in disgust before concussion, Covid, hamstring and calf injuries restricted him to just five games.

He has also “fat-shamed” by AFL commentator Kane Cornes as the Eagles sunk to 17th.

“His standards have slipped at West Coast … he shouldn’t playing if he presents like that,” he said. “He is always injured. He has to get fitter.

“He looked out of shape to me.”

But after returning to main training in the New Year, Yeo is “flying”, according to 7NEWS’ Ryan Daniels.

“He seems to have power/burst back,” he said.

Coach Adam Simpson said he could see Yeo returning to his All Australian best.

“Yeo is an All-Australian half back, people don’t remember what he did in that position,” he said on SEN WA.

“It was really difficult for players like Yeo to come back and get back into the season after missing so much footy. Despite the criticism, when Yeo came back as a halfback he looked really good.

“I think there are definitely opportunities for him to do that.”

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Andy McGrath (Essendon)

Andy McGrath is facing one of the biggest years in his career.

The former number draft pick has had to endure the scrutiny that comes with being that prized selection since he was snapped up in 2016.

But he’s enjoyed just one AFL season rated above average since his debut in 2017 as the hype surrounding him as starts to die off and the criticism begins to rise.

Last year, AFL Player Ratings ranked McGrath as “average”, with his tackle count and clearance work all down on previous years.

“He’s been underwhelming as a number one draft pick,” footy commentator Kane Cornes lamented on SEN.

“There’s no damage and there’s no substance to the possessions that he wins. As impressive as he is off the field, he’s yet to establish himself as even a B-grade footballer yet.”

McGrath had his lowest disposal, tackle and clearance numbers since 2019 last season in a worrying sign for the midfielder. But a new game plan under coach Brad Scott is set to boost the talented mid’s efficiency in 2023.

Bombers dismiss Stringer injury concerns | 02:30

Matt Rowell (Gold Coast)

If Matt Rowell is guilty of anything, it’s of being too good in his opening three AFL games.

His performances in those clashes were extraordinary and set perhaps an unrealistic benchmark for the early years of his career.

Injury certainly hasn’t helped, with shoulder and knee injuries hampering him.

With a cleaner run this pre-season, Rowell looks poised to kick into gear in 2023, according to teammate Touk Miller.

“He’s doing really well,” Miller told

“He’s a really good bloke to be around … it’s going to be exciting what he brings to the table, he’s only going to get better every single year.

“He probably came out of the blocks almost too fast and that stuff does happen sometimes.

“He’s still going to be a superstar.”

At 21 and with three seasons under his belt, Rowell is primed to up the ante this season.

Suns chairman leaves with no regrets | 01:00

Ed Langdon (Melbourne)

The former Docker became Melbourne’s dynamic weapon when they marched to the 2021 premiership in stunning scenes.

He started 2023 in a similar vein of form as the Dees went on a remarkable 10-game winning run.

But opponents quickly realised the impact Langdon had from the wing and moved to shut him down – with success.

Hawthorn were the first to lock onto Langdon, as Finn McGuinness kept him to just nine touches – his worst as a Demon and his lowest tally since 2018.

As Melbourne’s success dried up, so too did Langdon’s dominance with the wingman ranked just “average” in season 2022.

His infamous “all duck no dinner” sledge against the Magpies had the opposite effect as he fired up the Collingwood outfit and wore a massive Brayden Maynard tackle for his troubles.

But season 2023 looks promising for Langdon thanks to the recruitment of former Dogs wingman Lachie Hunter.

Hunter’s inclusion will no doubt free Langdon up on the opposite side of the ground, after he was left to carry a heavy load due to Christian Salem’s injury and Angus Brayshaw’s positional switch.

“They’ve already got one of the best wingmen in the comp in Ed Langdon, so if Lachie Hunter can get back to his best, they’re going to have an awesome wing combination,” AFL journalist Josh Gabelich said on SEN.

“(Melbourne) obviously identified a spot on the wing that they needed to address.”

Gawn relieved to avoid serious injury | 00:29

Bailey Smith (Western Bulldogs)

Bailey Smith is a controversial addition to this list.

While his 2022 season was rated as elite by AFL Player Ratings, it wasn’t without drama or controversy.

Smith managed just 17 games in 2022 – his lowest tally since his 2019 debut for the Dogs as a drugs scandal, a headbutt suspension and injury hampered his season.

Affected by a hip issue throughout 2022, he served a two-game ban for headbutting Zach Tuohy and then a further two-game suspension for illicit drug use.

While apologising after a leaked video showed him snorting a substance, Smith’s reputation as one of the game’s stars took a hit.

Smith sunk from elite in goal ranking to average in 2022 as he managed just six goals for the year.

There’s no doubt a clean bill of health and some time out of the headlines will help his game to a new level in 2023.

More midfield minutes could be on the cards on the back of the departure of Josh Dunkley, while Lachie Hunter’s absence on the wing will give Smith more room to work.

Bulldogs remain cautious with Smith | 02:03

Zak Butters (Port Adelaide)

The Power were the biggest underachievers of 2022 as their late finals push fell two wins short.

But they’ve backed in the talent they’ve got with Ken Hinkley’s job firmly on the line in 2023 – and one of those players ready to step up is Zak Butters.

Butters enjoyed a breakout 2020 season before injury cost him in 2021.

As Port’s form waned last year, so too did Butters’ – who has been described by coach Hinkley as “special”.

Former number one draft pick Bryce Gibbs believes 2023 is the year Butters lives up to his potential.

“He took his game to another level two years ago, making the All-Australian squad,” Bryce Gibbs said on SEN.

“Injuries cost him last year but he’s looking forward to bouncing back this year.”

Statistics showed Butters attended just 38 per cent of Port’s centre bounces last season, but he could look to more forward minutes off the back of Robbie Gray’s retirement.

With boom recruit Jason Horne-Francis likely to play midfield to cover veteran Travis Boak’s step back, either way, the addition of Horne-Francis provides options for Hinkley with Butters as the two can alternate roles.

“Zak is a different player. He’s got an elite level of decision-making in and around traffic. Robbie Gray handed his jumper over to him for an obvious reason,” Hinkley said.

“We see composure and leadership with Zak and what he’s trying to bring.

“He’s tough, too tough, but he’s going to bang into Petracca, Dangerfield and Fyfe and they’re big bodies.”

Dixon feeling good ahead of season 13 | 01:21

Toby Greene (GWS)

It was far from an ideal start to 2022 for Greene, who had to wait until round six to get out on the park due to a carry-over suspension from 2021.

By the time he returned, the Giants’ season had already gone off the rails.

With a new coaching group comes a virtual fresh start for Greene, who at 29 has plenty of good football left in him.

Having the opening few rounds of the year to build a season on will be a welcome change for Greene.

“I feel really good, I’ve done 100 per cent of pre-season so far,” he told

“It was a bit different to last year when I knew I was missing the first few games. I’ve been good, it’s been a really hard, solid pre-season but sort of getting to the game stuff now so a bit more match play, I’m looking forward to it.”

Mills eager to stay Swans all-rounder | 00:51

Dylan Shiel (Essendon)

Yes, it’s harsh to have two players from the same club on this list.

But the Bombers midfielder admits 2022 had “one of the hardest moments” of his career when he was dropped for poor form after Round 6.

And it only got worse for Shiel when he was caught up in a spiteful ducking taunt from Swan Luke Parker.

With Essendon’s season sinking fast, the former Giant revealed he was at a “really low point”.

But from the devastation came some really great late season form that’s set to propel him back to his 2017 All Australian heights.

With a settled family life and support from new coach Brad Scott, Shiel has been described as being in “the best physical condition of his career” by journalist Jay Clark.

The star Bomber may have been rated elite by AFL Player Ratings for clearances last season, but his overall form was patchy.

Expect to see more from Shiel in 2023.

Lions ace Charlie Cameron backs his boss | 02:04

Joe Daniher (Brisbane)

Joe Daniher failed to live up to his lofty 2021 standards last season as a mid-season shoulder injury derailed his run.

The big Lions forward managed seven goals in three games – including a matchwinning three goals against Richmond in the elimination final.

But, after missing his side’s successful semi final for the birth of his child, Daniher’s form waned once again as Brisbane were smashed by Geelong in a one-sided prelim contest.

Daniher was recruited by the Lions to be that big target up forward, but at times Brisbane were accused of going too tall heavy.

With Dan McStay now a Magpie, there’ll be more space for Daniher to work in 2023.

According to AFL Player Ratings, Daniher was down on average more than three disposals a game in 2022 but his work as a back up ruck also suffered as he was down more than 10 per cent on hit outs to advantage.

His marking and tackle count also suffered in 2022.

Given Brisbane defender Harris Andrews revealed Daniher had undergone a procedure on his shoulder recently, it’s expected the star forward will be raring to go come Round 1.

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