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AFL 2023: The Sporting News’ 10 bold predictions for upcoming season

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The 2023 AFL season is under 40 days away, with Richmond and Carlton facing off in their traditional campaign opener on Thursday, March 16.

Normally around this time, footy fans and lovers tend to look into the crystal ball to see what their teams might achieve in the year ahead.

As most do, supporters tend to back their own side to win the premiership or their favourite players to claim the awards toward the end of the season.

However, given that 18 teams vying for the cup and well over 600 listed players capable of winning the Brownlow, Coleman and Rising Star Medals, predictions can be well off.

Nevertheless, we’re going to look the mathematical unlikelihood of nailing our estimations dead in the eye and give it a big Dustin Martin don’t argue.

MORE: AFL pre-season news – Everything you need to know

The Sporting News’ 10 bold predictions for the 2023 AFL season:

Richmond roars back on top

Starting with a premiership winner, Richmond are the pick of the crop for 2023.

Despite losing by two-points in an elimination final to Brisbane last year, the Tigers were tipped to do serious damage in the finals last year.

During 2022, they missed 2017 Brownlow Medallist Dustin Martin for the bulk of the year and were downed by injuries to Dion Prestia, Dylan Grimes and Tom Lynch throughout.

However, what gives them the edge heading into 2023 is they’ve added experienced GWS midfield duo Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper to the mix.

This allows players like Shai Bolton and Martin to play more aggressively forward of centre.

Their forward line now presents even more of a threat and with Lynch firing on all cylinders (averaged 3.32 goals in 2022) they’ll be hard to stop.

Coach Damien Hardwick has developed a system that has proven to work for some time, winning three flags in four years across 2017-2020.

The core of those premiership players are still there and have been topped up by some stars across the journey to put them in the sweet spot for their 14th trophy.

Also at this time, the Tigers have a minimal injury list, with youngster Josh Gibcus the only real concern heading into round one.

Richmond are $8 on TAB to take home the premiership.

Touk takes home Charlie

We all love making predictions about the AFL’s most prestigious individual award and who will take it home.

Gold Coast’s Touk Miller has become one of the game’s most underrated players given the fact his side has struggled to win and claim prime-time TV slots.

However, Miller’s trajectory over the past two seasons has him well and truly in contention to claim the Brownlow Medal in 2023, especially after falling just short to Patrick Cripps last year.

The 26-year-old was recognised in the All-Australian team and the AFLCA Champion player of the year in 2022 to go along with his second club best-and-fairest.

Miller will join Gary Ablett as the other Gold Coast player to win a Brownlow and make an official statement as a bonafide star of the AFL.

Miller is sitting at $13 to win the 2023 Brownlow Medal on TAB.

Which brings us to the next bold prediction.

Suns to break September drought

Following a stellar and important dominant season from Miller, the Suns will finally play finals football in 2023.

The club has never finished higher than 12th (2014 and 2022) and was poised to make September action but unfortunately fell away at the end of last year.

Gold Coast were crippled by multiple injuries to key players, including not having Ben King for the entirety of the 2022 year as well as ACL injuries to Lachie Weller, Will Powell and Connor Budarick to add more salt to the wound.

However, the emergence of Noah Anderson, the consistency of Mabior Chol (kicked goals in every game but two) and the development of Jarrod Witts offers a lot of hope heading into next year.

Not to mention the recruitment of Bailey Humphrey (pick six in 2022 Draft) and the additions of experienced players Jed Anderson and Connor Blakely will assist coach Stuart Dew in his pursuit of finals.

Since their inception, the AFL world has been rooting for Gold Coast to make finals and the wait will be over come September.

Gold Coast are $4.25 on TAB to make the top eight. 

Blues bomb out and miss finals, again

Carlton fans will hate hearing this but they will miss out on finals in 2023 and here’s why:

There’s no doubt that the Blues have the cattle to push for a top eight spot, with the reigning Brownlow and Coleman Medallists on their list as well as stars like Adam Cerra, Sam Walsh, Harry McKay and Jacob Weitering.

However, with injuries to Walsh (likely to miss the first month of football) and Zac Williams, it puts the club on the back foot from the get-go.

Carlton will also have scarring from their 2022 season, which had them placed in the eight the entire year except at the completion of round 23.

Turning an 8-3 start into 12-10 indicates a level of experience and maturity needed at IKON Park and losses to lowly teams Adelaide and St Kilda in the second half of their campaign further issues the point.

Admittedly, the disappointment should stir some emotions and drive the club forward but if anything from 2022 was to go by, the Blues are at times their own worst enemy.

Carlton are $2.85 to miss the eight on TAB.

Tom Mitchell – Trade of the year

Collingwood were adamant on getting a clearance specialist into their team after consistently poor returns through the midfield in 2022.

The Pies were one of the worst-ranked clearance sides and lent on their ability to play sling-shot football to remain in games.

Tom Mitchell’s arrival at the AIA Centre is met with excitement and optimism that he can right a few of the wrongs.

The 2018 Brownlow Medallist will slot straight into the starting midfield and will likely be surrounded by Jordan De Goey and Jack Crisp, who have plenty of breakaway speed.

The former Hawk’s ideal game is based on winning the ball at the coalface and at his best, can do it better than anyone.

Mitchell consistently finds the ball and also offers great link up play, which will suit Craig McRae’s men as they like to put speed on the footy.

Brisbane smash Grand Final hoodoo but fall short of prize

Over the past four seasons, Brisbane fans have been hopeful that their club will secure another flag but unfortunately have been met with disappointment.

In 2019, they finished second with a home qualifying final against Richmond, to which they fell short. Brisbane was then eliminated in straight sets by GWS.

The COVID-19 ravaged season, 2020, should’ve been the Lions’ year. The Grand Final was played at the Gabba and once again, Chris Fagan’s men came second. They beat the Tigers first up but were smashed by Geelong in the preliminary final. Missed opportunity.

The following year, Brisbane finished fourth and were done by Melbourne in the first week. This disappointing performance was accompanied by arguably one of the greatest modern finals match, where the Lions lost to the Bulldogs by one point.

In 2022, there was no expectation as the club finished sixth. Impressive wins against the Tigers and Demons saw another preliminary final berth against eventual premiers Geelong, but that’s where it ended.

However, 2023 has a different feel to it than previous years and the additions of Josh Dunkley, Jack Gunston and father-son guns Will Ashcroft and Jaspa Fletcher add further excitement to the year.

Fagan has all the means at his disposal, with one of the best scoring sides in the competition and arguably the strongest midfield.

The backline can be a worry but if Harris Andrews can return to his best, there’s no doubt Brisbane fans will have something to cheer about late in September.

However, forecasting a loss to a handy Richmond side in the decider, the Lions will give themselves a chance at flag number four.

Jeremy Cameron comes close to snagging Brownlow

Adam Goodes was the last non-midfielder to win the Brownlow Medal and that was 16 years ago in 2006.

And the time before that was 1992, when Footscray ruckman Scott Wynd took home the prestigious award.

Since Goodes took home ‘Charlie’, the closest a forward, ruck or defender has gotten to securing the Brownlow was Matthew Richardson in 2008.

‘Richo’ was awarded with 22 votes and came fourth, whilst Adam Cooney claimed a shock victory with 24.

That same season, Lance Franklin – who kicked over 100 goals and averaged 4.5 per game – came in sixth with 20 votes, hinting at the extreme difficulty for non-midfielders to secure the award.

However, 2023 spells a little different for the modern big man, with the elite being able to play like midfielders but also be damaging on the scoreboard.

Geelong’s Jeremy Cameron currently fits this mould and is a Franklin-esque reincarnate but for this era.

Jeremy Cameron Geelong

Standing at 196cm and 94kg, Cameron is arguably the hardest player to face and in 2022 he proved that once again.

Rolling up the ground, thrown in on centre bounces and left one-out deep in the Cats forward line, the number five has all the tools to make it a nightmare for defenders.

The former Giant came ninth in the 2022 Brownlow count but still has plenty more to offer as he nears the twilight of his career.

With the bold prediction that Gold Coast’s Touk Miller will swipe ‘Charlie’ this year, Cameron won’t be far behind.

Non-midfielder Brownlow Medallists (from 1979)

Year Player Name Votes
2006 Adam Goodes – Sydney 26
1992 Scott Wynd – Footscray 20
1991 Jim Stynes – Melbourne 25
1987 Tony Lockett – St Kilda 20
1984 Peter Moore – Melbourne 24
1983 Ross Glendinning – North Melbourne 24
1981 Bernie Quinlan – Fitzroy/Barry Round – South Melbourne 22
1980 Kevin Templeton – Footscray 23
1979 Peter Moore – Collingwood 22

Non-midfielders finishes since 2006 

*Top-10 finishes only

Year Non-Midfielder Votes Winner Votes
2022 Jeremy Cameron (FWD) – 9th 19 Patrick Cripps 29
2019 Brodie Grundy (RUCK) – 7th 23 Nat Fyfe 33
2018 Max Gawn (RUCK) – 4th 20 Tom Mitchell 28
2017 Lance Franklin (FWD) – 5th 22 Dustin Martin 36
2016 Nick Riewoldt (FWD) – 10th 19 Patrick Dangerfield 35
2015 Todd Goldstein (RUCK) – 10th 18 Nat Fyfe 31
2014 Lance Franklin (FWD) – 4th 22 Matt Priddis 26
2011 Lance Franklin (FWD) – 8th 20 Dane Swan 34
2010 Aaron Sandilands (RUCK) – 7th 20 Chris Judd 30
2009 Jonathon Brown (FWD) – 5th 19 Gary Ablett 30
2008 Matthew Richardson (FWD) – 4th 22 Adam Cooney 26

McLachlan extends his stay past ‘Gather Round’

Flashback to April 12th 2022, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan made the shock decision to stand down from his role.

After 10 years in the role, McLachlan’s legacy is unrivalled and unparalleled as he nears life after footy.

Introducing the AFLW and all 18 teams, navigating the competition through two COVID-19 ravaged seasons, working through multiple Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA) for men and women (including the current one which could be combined between the two competitions), TV rights, Tasmania’s side and overall spectacle of the game.

Not to mention orchestrating the game’s inaugural ‘Gather Round… A festival of footy’ which takes place in Adelaide for round five (April 13 to 16) of the men’s competition.

McLachlan has done it all.


However, his initial departure date was meant to be early in 2022 but a lack of clear successors and other looming jobs that needing his expertise kept him in the top seat for a while longer.

Then, once officially revealing the ‘Gather Round’, McLachlan confirmed that his exit from the AFL house would be immediately after round five.

However, alike early in 2022, there are still impending tasks that can evolve his reputation into uncharted waters.

Tasmania’s 19th license is expected to go through but hasn’t been settled upon.

The combined CBA between the men and women is currently being worked on, with no exact date for completion set.

The ongoing racism case involving Hawthorn and its past players continues to rear its ugly head, despite its independent search for justice.

Although movie producers will have McLachlan finish where it all started (Adelaide’s his home town), there may be a few things left on the checklist that need ticking off.

Not to mention finding a suitable replacement during the busy opening months of the season.

Coleman Medal winner hits six-year first

In the past six years, not one Coleman Medal winner has kicked 70 goals in the home-and-away season.

Albeit the 2020 campaign that was affected by COVID-19 prevented an onslaught of majors due to the reduced game time, the surrounding years has failed to live up to the yesteryear’s of the AFL.

Lance Franklin slotted 69 in 2017 and Jeremy Cameron nearly matched him with 67 of his own in 2019.

For the footy lover, it seems that an endless parade of goals from the same players seems so farfetched that it’s not even considered a part of our game today.

With midfielders resting forward, defensive zones and presses making it hard for opposition teams to score, the Coleman Medal is a shell of what it once was.

According to the AFLtables, scoring on average has dropped dramatically.

For instance, let’s use the 2000 numbers and compare them to 2022.

In 2000, an average of 15.2 goals and 10.0 behinds per team was scored, resulting in around 100 points.

Last year was 12.1 majors and 8.4 points, equalling a total of around 80 per team.

However, a saving grace for high-scoring match fans is that since 2018, the average overall has been on a slow decline (excluding 2020) and 2022 is arguably on the way up.

Clubs have realised that playing defensive brands doesn’t necessarily win you games and almost halts your own momentum.

Geelong’s 2022 year is evidence enough to suggest that being able to score at will can win you flags.

So with that said, a player in 2023 will hit 70-plus goals.

Recently retired West Coast gun Josh Kennedy was the last player to hit the 70-plus in 2015.

Jeremy Cameron always poses as the likely of all forwards to do so, while Richmond’s Tom Lynch had the best average goals per game in 2022.

Even Carlton’s Charlie Curnow deserves a look-in, slotting 64 majors in 2022 from 106 shots on goal.

Tom Lynch - Richmond

(Say one player featured in 22 games, they must score goals at a rate of 3.18 per game.)

Power turns out for Hinkley

Port Adelaide senior coach Ken Hinkley will be shown the door following a disappointing year.

Despite the Power’s great off-season which saw them land Jason Horne-Francis and Junior Rioli, their opening five games does spell disaster and will ultimately set up their campaign.

In 2022, Hinkley’s men started 0-5 and finished the year 11th with 10 wins. 

This came as a shock after back-to-back preliminary finals (2020, 2021) and could be an indication of the current slide the Power are on.

Despite not wanting to start 2023 the same way, bettors and tipsters will have them winning only one of those matchups against Adelaide, but even the Crows have proven to trouble their arch rivals in past games.

The Power also play Geelong, Richmond, Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs twice, suggesting a tough road to the finals. reported that Port Adelaide had the fourth hardest fixture in 2023, Fox Sports said the sixth hardest draw and the worse of the non-finalists, whilst ZeroHanger believes the Power has the toughest journey ahead.

If all this turns out to be true, Hinkley will struggle to last to the end of the season.

However, given his success without premierships and longevity in the role, the two-time AFLCA coach of the year (2013, 2020) will be given the courtesy of going out his own way.


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