AFL Season Preview: The players to watch at your club



As the 2017 season draws closer, let’s take a look at your club’s rising stars, new recruits and some lesser names who might just make an impact. From the Crows to the Dogs, find out who could shine this year in more ways than one.





Eddie Betts. The speedy forward kicked 75 goals in 2016. Since moving from Carlton, he has developed into a genuine match winner and his highlight reel is miraculous. He is the barometer of the team. When Betts fires, Adelaide usually wins.


Defender Jake Lever is set to have another promising year in the backline. He will continue to push to cement his spot in the back six. His tall and strong defensive style has him up with the likes of Daniel Talia and Kyle Hartigan. As a strong reader of the play, there are high hopes for a promising 2017.




Speed demon Charlie Cameron is spending his preseason training in the midfield with the likes of Rory Sloane, and he would add a sense of speed to the across the middle of the ground. His ability to burst out of a pack and set himself up in the right positions highlights how Cameron can expand his versatility in 2017.





Onballer Dayne Beams had his 2016 season cut short, however, his presence in general will lift the young group and bring some direction into the playing future. His clean ball skills will allow movement between attack and defence. Known for his hardness around the pack and ability to win contested football, it would be no surprise if Beams becomes dangerous again wherever he is needed, especially in attack.


Prized draftee Hugh ‘Bags’ McCluggage, will look to put his best foot forward and earn his spot in this rebuilding period. A unique goal kicker for a midfielder, he is a strong kick that is mobile enough to move outside the packs and use his speed to his advantage. McCluggage is noted as a classy and composed yet determined young and upcoming star.




An explosive Allen Christensen, who, after a disappointing 2016, has been all guns blazing on the preseason track, dropping excess weight and building muscle. His versatile and quick game style should be improved from previous years. It will be no surprise if Christensen steps up to lead this young Lions group on the field.



Jack Silvagni. With a lot riding on his name, his short 2016 season was bumpy, but had highlights proving his future is positive. The young gun showed potential when reading the play, was fearless and took the game on. His ability to chase and tackle as well as hurt teams on the scoreboard will be a major winner in 2017.


Sam Docherty will continue his positive and consistent form in the 2017 season. A solid year of defence has set him up for another strong year, where his ability to read play and anticipate scenarios will come in handy when matching up on big power forwards. A year where Docherty will continue his leadership duties, the backline will look to him to steady the ship and use his football smarts to his advantage.




Harry McKay kicked 20 goals from 13 VFL games in 2016.  He is yet to play a senior game, however Carlton are hoping he lives up to the hype. Is strong overhead and is agile for his size. Alongside Silvagni, the question must be raised; is he the long term answer to the Blues attacking issues?




Matthew Scharenberg is on the verge of a full return to AFL, showing off his skills throughout the preseason, playing across half back. When fit, he is a ready-made footballer, a polished mover in heavy contests. His mix of height and pace will prove a winner as he can become a more versatile addition to the lineup. He’s flexible and precise by foot which will be handy.


Josh Daicos, son of club legend Peter has been working through his preseason with Jamie Elliot as a small forward. A player who has been praised for his poise, his debut season will hopefully cement him as a strong forward player. His kicking style is unique, and he reads the play well. Collingwood will look to Daicos to bring speed and steady their forward line after the loss of power forward Travis Cloke to the Bulldogs.




Jordan De Goey, a versatile midfielder who is electric on the field. Can be used as a forward when needed, as he showed off his impressive goal kicking skills throughout 2016. He plays at a high intensity and can play as a rotating medium forward and midfielder. A strong and quick decision maker, always one step ahead of his opponent. De Goey is fearless and will put his body on the line in 2017.








Andrew McGrath, the number one draft pick will have a lot to prove in his 2017 season. Has been noted as a future leader who will bring some class to the Bombers young list. Will play as a midfielder who can move to half back. He has line breaking speed off the half back flank and is willing to take risks in contests and one on one. Known to read the play extremely well, this skill will be a necessity to intercept opposition forward line entry. There will be no surprise if McGrath’s 2017 season is one to remember.


Young gun Zach Merrett had a fantastic 2016 season. He showed his capabilities in his attacking style and pressure applied consistently. Confident in the midfield, Merrett can tackle ferociously, break through packs at high speed and has the ability to anticipate next movements. A sharp left footer with valuable speed, he has plenty to continually offer. Merrett will now step up as vice-vaptain and will have to show well-earned responsibility and leadership.




Cale Hooker, who was named vice-captain, will come back into the Bombers side and pick up from where he left off.  A reliable backman, he can shut down key forwards regularly. He should return to his form fairly quickly. Can be used in the forward line as he has shown the ability to kick goals. Has propensity to dominate the competition with his contested marking.




After an injury ridden 2016, Garrick Ibbotson will look to cement his spot in the Dockers best 22.The defender will use his speed and height to his advantage to hold down power forwards. Ibbotson is versatile playing across half back and also occasionally up forward. Ibbotson should be looking to use his interception ability to his power in 2017.


Michael Walters is hard at it this preseason. The super skilled small forward will stay at an elite level and step up as a leader. Walters doesn’t need much time or space to devastate his opponents with his clean and fast left foot. His confidence to kick long goals or hit targets in pressure situations shows Walters is able to carry himself in the right manner. A good decision maker, be sure to watch for another powerful year where he can kick at least 30 goals.





Shane Kersten and Joel Hamling.


Hamling was fourth choice defender for the Western Bulldogs in the 2016 season. After the collapse of numerous Dogs due to injury, Hamling was last man standing and ended up playing a key role as part of the Dogs 2016 premiership side. Now at his third club, is Hamling is the real deal, or was he just in the right place at the right time?


Shane Kersten a tall mobile forward, has headed back to his home town for 2017 and beyond. A second tall forward option to Tom Hawkins previously at Geelong, Kersten lost his place late in 2016 and did not play finals. This year, Kersten will be able to become a main target up forward. His confidence needs to improve so he can show how important and efficient he really is.





In 2016, Sam Menegola had to wait until round 18 to make his debut, but did not disappoint. He averaged 24 disposals over his 6 game break out. A mature aged 2016 recruit, Menegola was used as an inside midfielder. His ability to read play and burst out of packs is handy as he will be play a main role in Geelong’s midfield. It’s time for Menegola to take the next step in his career and lead the new midfielders in the right direction.


Zach Tuohy. Recruited from the Blues, Tuohy is the running half back the Cats have been looking for. After the loss of Bartel and Enright, the Cats made the right choice picking up a mature half back to fill the gap between their elite defenders and rookies. An aggressive runner off half back and a pounding kick, Tuohy will be able to take the game on whenever he wants. A fresh start at Geelong will help him to rekindle his love for footy. Tuohy will become a backline asset, now all he has to do is follow through.




Jackson Thurlow, who is making a return after a knee reconstruction in 2016, showed promising signs in 2015 and prior. He has used his rehabilitation to come back as a bigger and stronger backline asset. Will be able to play on a wide range of forwards. Thurlow has a lot to prove this season, as he needs to show why he deserves his spot in the Geelong backline.





Kade Kolodjashnij is a smooth mover who can use his pace to his advantage. The Suns will look to cement Kolodjashnij in a half back spot for years to come. He is an excellent left foot kick and is a continually improving the defensive side of his game. Can be used on third tall forwards and possibly as a tagger. Kolodjashnij should be expected to step up as a young leader.


2016 saw a mixed bag for Alex Sexton, who proved he could play deep in the midfield as well as wider on a wing. After a few injuries early, Sexton returned and spent some time in the middle of the ground. A hard runner with clean cut skills, Sexton can also win the contested ball. Can also hit the scoreboard. Looking forward to watching this versatile talent come back to his best in 2017.




Adam Saad has stamped himself as one of the Suns most important. After an injury ridden 2016, Saad is expected to make a flying start to 2017 across the defence. His fast paced run and carry off the back half will help the Suns who are in need of some confidence and composure.




Steven Coniglio had the most disposals for GWS in 2016, with a breakout year. With leadership skills like his, it would be fair to predict a future captaincy for Coniglio. The development of Coniglio’s skills sees his midfield spot cemented for 2017 and beyond. Noted as ruthless when it comes to contests, his clean cut skills mixed with fearless attitude will definitely help him take another step forward this season.


Dylan Shiel had an outstanding 2016 season and will look to follow up his fantastic form in 2017. His ability to carry the ball at a fast pace proved a real winner. He averaged over 27 disposals a game which proved his importance to his team. He is versatile and able to break out of packs and win contested ball. A natural born leader, Shiel should be expected to step up yet again to guide this young team to something special.




Devon Smith. The skillful forward can be damaging inside 50. A very flashy and explosive player, yet he can apply extra pressure which often goes unnoticed. Smith is versatile enough to switch between the midfield and forward line, setting himself up to be a 35+ goal player in 2017.





Jaeger O’Meara hasn’t played since 2014 due to injury, however is expected to fit right into the Hawks powerful midfield in 2017. His ability to read the play and become versatile when needed is what the Hawks need after the loss of veterans Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis. If O’Meara can play with the fearlessness and explosiveness out of the midfield as he did at the beginning of his career that will go a long way to keeping his new team in finals contention.


Billy Hartung now has the opportunity to step up into the gap left by Brad Hill, meaning he can take up the speedy role starting on the wing. With an average of 19 disposals in 2016, Hartung showed some promise in his game. He is a speedy young gun with the ability to break through contests and score if necessary. He will be expected to step up and become elite on the wing in 2017.




James Sicily kicked 30 goals in 2016. A straight and reliable kick, Sicily can be trusted with the ball in many situations. He is a fine contested mark and works well in pressure situations, confident in himself. In 2017 he will have the opportunity to cement a spot in the Hawks front half.





Jesse Hogan is one of the best young forwards of the competition, he needs to prove himself as a force to be reckoned with in 2017. Booting 41 goals in 2016, Hogan highlighted how he has the ability to hurt opposition on the scoreboard. Melbourne has faith in the young gun, who has a steady kick as well as a strong mark. Even though young, Hogan has spent this preseason building himself up to become stronger in contests.


Half forward gun Christian Petracca spent 2016 trying to establish himself in the Demons best 22. He played as a lead-up forward who averaged 17 disposals and kicked 12 goals in only 17 games. The Demons rate him as a key player in their drive to finals football. Petracca has the physical strength and the right mentality to only improve in 2017.




Clayton Oliver. The strong and big bodied midfielder left a mark in the young Demons team in 2016.  He is capable of winning the contested ball gathering high clearance numbers. Has great vision in contests and heavy traffic. If he improves his stamina he will become a key cog in the Demons midfield.




After 10 seasons in the AFL, defender Robbie Tarrant had a breakout 2016, winning North’s best and fairest. He has finally settled into a key defender role and dominates opponents with his strength and pace and intercepting marking as well as playing a shut down role. Tarrant will be looked up to as a leader yet again for a changing North team.


Jarrad Waite. A wonderful start to 2016 unfortunately ended in injury, however showed his best forward form in years. Before his injury, Waite kicked 27 goals in nine rounds, showing off true ability. In 2017, Waite will look to have a massive impact on the scoreboard with his presence, steady kick and strong mark.




After the loss of Drew Petrie, Majak Daw has his opportunity to step up and take his chance to become a forward target and back up ruck to Todd Goldstein. An incredible athlete who needs to to step up and dominate this season.





Ollie Wines has already built a reputation as a leading midfielder at his young age. Regarded as one of the best young leaders in the AFL, it will be no surprise if Wines steps up yet again and takes his game to the next level. In 2017, he is expected to improve his disposal efficiency to become elite.


Hamish Hartlett needs to step up in 2017 in the tough Port defence. Hartlett has been elevated into the leadership group and is expected to improve his disposal average. At his best, Hartlett uses the ball well and will run and carry out of defence. After a tough off season, he needs to work harder and re-establish himself at Port this coming season.




Angus Monfries is finally returning after his ASADA ban over 2016. Monfries will be desperate for the season to start, and will hopefully be back in blistering form in the forward line. He is a dynamic forward who has the ability to kick bags of goals on a regular basis. He is confident with his kicking, has good hands and will be looking to slip right into the Power team once again.





Taylor Hunt, a true competitor at heart, has cemented his spot in the Tiger’s team. The small defender/midfielder adds pace and vision to the backline. After coming from Geelong, Hunt is now a vital part of the run and carry off half back. A confident tagger, Hunt should be expected to play his shutdown role yet again in 2017.


Brandon Ellis. A durable midfielder who is an established outside runner who has fantastic vision through traffic. With clean hands, Ellis can make his way through contests and possibly hurt teams on the scoreboard. In 2017, he aims to work hard to build an inside element to his game.




Now at his third AFL club, Josh Caddy is at the cross roads of his career. Starved of on-ball opportunities at Geelong, Caddy finds himself as an experienced player in a club under immense pressure. A great talent who needs to be consistent in 2017.





Maverick Weller. The forward is a value to his young St Kilda team. An aggressive player who applies pressure and tackles hard, he may look to spend more time in the midfield this season  He has good skills and can also mark extremely well overhead adding a great variety to the Saints forward line.


Jarryn Geary. The defender took a massive leap in 2016 earning him the captaincy in 2017. Reliable on small forwards, Geary is an fast, attacking defender and a confident play reader who can spoil and run. 2017 will be a real test for the young man who will not only lead the backline, but the whole club.




Tim Membrey had a breakout 2016 and has established himself as a vital part of St Kilda’s attack. Membrey has the footy smarts and strong mark that makes him a dangerous player up forward. A smooth and straight kick, he can be trusted with ball in hand. Membrey works hard and travels up the ground allowing movement behind him in the forward line. Membrey should be able to become even more effective in 2017.





At only 20 years of age, Isaac Heeney has quickly established himself as part of the Swans strong midfield. His 2016 finals series was exceptional. His ability to hurt teams on the scoreboard increases his value. He is strong with great pace. This is his year to step up and become an elite versatile midfielder.


Aliir Aliir had a breakout season in 2016, starring in defence in the second half of the season. He showed his amazing intercept marking and ability to read the game while playing shut down roles on key opposition forwards. In 2017, Allir should look to become a consistent reliable attacking defender.




Callum Mills. The 2016 Rising Star starred in defence showing the maturity and confident of a well-seasoned veteran. Will he be used to boost the midfield in 2017?  After a very promising 2016, the football world belongs to him. He will show us why he deserves the same respect in 2017.





Luke Shuey. Won the best and fairest last season and proved to everyone how elite he has become.  Shuey has impeccable vision and a great ability to break the lines and tackle ferociously. This year, Shuey is expected to keep up the high standard he set and will work hard again to play a key role in 2017.

Jeremy McGovern, who won an All Australian spot last year, had a great year in defence for the Eagles. A great intercept mark and strong in the contest, McGovern will prove himself yet again as an asset to a changing Eagles side. 2017 should be a year for McGovern to continue grow as a footballer.




Nathan Vardy has only played 25 games in the past 5 seasons due to persistent injuries and hasn’t had a proper opportunity to showcase his talents in the AFL. A strong mark, he can play alongside Drew Petrie and rotate through the ruck. A steady kick and a fair play reader, Vardy has a massive opportunity at the Eagles. Is he the key forward/ruckman replacement for the injured Naitanui? Will he live up to the hype put on him at Geelong, and will his body pull through?






After break out year in 2015, Tory Dickson proved he belongs in the AFL. An accurate kick in front of goal, Dickson has the ability to hurt teams on the scoreboard, while also applying defensive pressure. It is almost forgotten that he can play on a wing, and can be used providing strong run and attack on the ball. Dickson has much to prove in 2017 to maintain his spot as an important forward. Needs to kick at least 35 goals if he wishes to stay on top of a young Dogs side who have to show why they deserve success again.


Early in 2016 Jake Stringer was being compared to some of the great forwards of the game, however dropped off as the season continued and struggled to maintain his consistency eventually being dropped eventually returning to play his part in the Grand Final win. Stringer is a trusty kick in front of goal, reads the play extremely well and finds space. The only question is his focus and hunger for the game, which he must show in 2017.




Clay Smith, had a stand out 2016 finals series as he proved how his defensive pressure added another element to his game as a forward and midfielder. A good, confident, run and carry player with great vision puts Smith up there with the best players at the club. 2017 will be another big year and he needs to maintain his work efforts to repeat his 2016 performance.



About Anna Pavlou

Anna 'Pav' Pavlou is a current student and a born and bred Melburnian who has a passion for sport and sharing people's stories. She is an intern journalist for AFL VICTORIA and writes for The Roar, the Victorian Amateur Football Association (VAFA Media), the Mongrel Punt and is a Melbourne Cricket Club contributor. She also appears on North West FM 98.9 radio show. Most winter weekends you'll find her down at the Ross Gregory Oval in St Kilda, supporting Power House FC, who play in Division 2 in the VAFA. She works as the Division 2 writer for the VAFA. She completed work experience with 3AW Radio and has been published in The Age as well as with Carlton FC and Geelong Cats. Check out her website below for more sport pieces!


  1. Jamie Simmons says

    Anna, I see time and effort here and sense genuine passion. Well done. As a Lions man I’m going to put forward Harris Andrews as a “watch out for”. Good luck to your Cats and may they not finish too far below us.

  2. John Butler says

    Good on you Anna. I agree with Jamie’s comment above.

    Re the Blues, if the All Australian team was actually picked on performance, rather than reputations, Sam Docherty should have been picked on a half back flank last year.

    Excited to watch Harry McKay’s development now he’s injury free. Still needs to put meat on his bones, so expect he’ll be a slow burn. You are right, we need to find a way to kick goals. C Curnow likely to be part of that answer also.

Leave a Comment