Richmond has been tipped by rival captains to reach a fourth grand final in five seasons, with Brisbane deemed most capable of dethroning the back-to-back AFL premiers.
- Seven opposition skippers tipped the Tigers to reach the grand final
- Five expect the Lions to contest the season decider
- Bulldogs star Marcus Bontempelli was predicted to be the Brownlow Medal frontrunner
In the league’s annual poll of on-field leaders, the skippers also picked Marcus Bontempelli to claim his first Brownlow Medal and Gold Coast gun Matt Rowell to snare the Rising Star award on his return from injury.
Captains were asked to pick which opposition club was most likely to reach the grand final, rather than who would win the season decider.
Seven opposition skippers believe the Tigers can continue their strong run of grand final appearances after reaching three of the past four deciders and winning flags in 2017, 2019 and 2020.
Five captains tipped Brisbane to contest the grand final on the last Saturday in September, while only three picked last year’s minor premiers Port Adelaide, who had their heart broken by the Tigers in a thrilling preliminary final.
Two selected last year’s runners-up Geelong to reach a second straight decider and one tipped West Coast, who lost in the first week of the finals series in 2020.
All 17 rival captains predicted last year’s top four — Richmond, Brisbane, Geelong and Port Adelaide — would reach the finals again.
West Coast and St Kilda (15 votes each) were also popular picks.
The Western Bulldogs (nine) were the only other club to receive a finals tip from more than half of the opposing captains, while two tipped Gold Coast to play finals for the first time.
Jeremy Cameron’s arrival in the Geelong forward line has only boosted confidence in Tom Hawkins, who eight captains believe will win another Coleman Medal.
The long-time Cats spearhead claimed the goalkicking award for the first time last year.
The AFL season begins on March 18, with the Tigers facing the Blues at the MCG.
Pendlebury backs AFL rule change
Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury says he supports the AFL’s new — but controversial — stand rule.
The new rule prohibits players on the mark from moving in any direction and has been introduced by the league to open up more of the field.
It has been tested already in the men’s preseason matches, courting some controversy from fans.
Pendlebury said he had no issue with its introduction.
“We just don’t want to give away 50 [metre penalties],” Pendlebury said.
“We literally just have to stand when the umpire says ‘stand’. It opens up probably the inside 45 kicks a bit more but I think it’s a good change for the game.
This season the number of interchange rotations will drop from 90 to 75 and the length of each quarter will return to 20 minutes, plus time on.
Pendlebury said he felt the effect of the reduction in rotations during the Magpies’ preseason match against Richmond at Docklands last Friday night.
“I can tell you that I was hurting a lot more at the end of each quarter on Friday night,” he said.
“The rotations will play a part. Seventy-five doesn’t sound like much coming back from 90 but when you increase the quarters, it is quite a lot.
“I think by round five or six we’ll probably get a look at how sides are handling that conditioning-wise, rotation-wise.”
Richmond captain Trent Cotchin said it would take several rounds for players and sides to adjust to the new rules.
“I think it’s one of those things that over the first five or six rounds of the season we’ll see how it’s impacting how we structure up or opposition teams as well,” he said.
“I know personally the rotations won’t help me but I think we have a pretty durable team so I think the proof will be in the pudding.”
Carlton captain Patrick Cripps said it was a bit unknown what impact the new rules would have but so far in the preseason the man-on-the-mark rule appeared to have opened the game up.
“I think it encourages players to be a bit more risky with their ball movement and a bit more creative,” Cripps said.
“I think you’ll see a lot more creativity in the game, which is something as a spectator that you’ll probably like to see.”