AFL makes a mockery of preseason predictions

AFL team the Sydney Swans
The Sydney Swans are in the middle of the pack, but have plenty of time for a big push. Photo: Steve Baty, Wikimedia Commons

Before the 2018 AFL season kicked off, many pundits picked the Sydney and Adelaide teams as the ones to watch. At the end of round 5, only GWS sit inside the top four, in third place. The Crows, Power and Swans are currently coming eighth, ninth and tenth respectively. So how has this happened, and who has surprised?

One key factor is how even the competition has been this year. 5 rounds in no teams are undefeated, and nine have three wins. This means that every week there is a radical restructuring of the AFL ladder based on both wins and ratios. Gold Coast, who are currently twelfth, are only two premiership points behind GWS – a single win would put them ahead.

Richmond and West Coast have also been surprisingly strong. The Tigers were tipped to show themselves to be a flash in the pan team that won a premiership last year through luck, and would struggle to make the eight this time. They have, however, proven their credentials and will be a team to keep an eye on come September.

West Coast opened their season with a loss at home to the Swans, but since then have won twice at home and twice in Melbourne. If they can keep this form up they will be a serious threat to a lot of teams.

Even clubs like Collingwood and North Melbourne, who haven’t been AFL powerhouses in a long time, look like challenging for a finals spot this year. We have seen over the first five rounds that any team, on its day, can beat any other team. What will decide the make-up of the top eight will be consistency, combined with depth. With that in mind, here are my teams to watch.

The Tigers will again challenge for the title, especially with most of their games being played at the MCG. The Crows are not a consistent team by any means, but they have shown that they can win without their stars so I think they will win more than they lose. Sydney and GWS both have too much firepower to miss out.

I think the constant travel between the east coast and Perth will weary the Eagles too much, and they don’t have the depth to challenge this year. Once we get to the pointy end of the season the experience of Geelong and Hawthorn will show – if they can keep it on the field. At least one of them should play finals football.

I think these teams will make up five of the top eight of the AFL – but not with a lot of confidence. At the moment I would tip the Tigers, GWS or Sydney to take out the 2018 AFL premiership.