WE are a couple weeks away from the start of another season, one where the Bulldogs are reigning premiers, Sam Mitchell plays for West Coast, Jordan Lewis plays for Melbourne yet the most important player for the Hawks, who won three of the last four flags, hasn’t played for them yet nor played a game the last two years.

This will be a weekly column (hopefully) where I can offer some thoughts on footy, some insightful, some observational, some even from the grapevine.

 1.    The commentary on the TAC withdrawing their sponsorship of Geelong after Joel Selwood’s driving offence has been awful. That because either “we’ve all done it” and/or because “Selwood’s a good bloke” is the sort of rhetoric that flies in the face of the great work the TAC is trying to achieve. They were well in their right to dump the Cats who are sponsored to be ‘brand ambassadors’, so for the captain of the club to be caught 27 kmh over in a 100 zone is hardly ambassadorial.

2.    Dustin Martin will not only offer no contract update all year, he will vehemently look to avoid the issue. Why? Primarily because it’s a distraction to his footy each week, but mainly because he won’t publicly state he has either given a new club a verbal agreement for 2018 or that he is mulling over two or three offers, none of which include re-signing. Richmond need a miracle to keep him and they know it.

3.    In a cynical way the main focus for Gary Ablett this year is to nurse his body through unaffected so that he is able to make a contribution on the field to Geelong next year. This year in red and yellow means very little for the two-time Brownlow medallist.

4.    There’s a lot riding on Steve Johnson’s shoulders this year, to play ‘what if’ is always fraught with danger but there’s every chance he might have been the difference in that prelim last year, then who knows the week after. This looks to be his final year in the game and the pressure on the leaders at the GWS to deliver their club’s first flag this year is enormous.

5.    How’s the Buddy-Sydney marriage going? Sure, they’ve won a lot more than they’ve lost and they’re right in it again this year as one of the flag fancies, but they made a substantial financial investment, over a long-term, for no flag as of yet. He is 30 years old now, in his fourth of seven years with the club, the pass mark was to be one, if not two premierships to justify the move, so far not so good.

6.    Watch the CBA get done nice and smoothly, all this talk of being poles apart, the threat of strikes and sit-downs, it’s a whole lot of hot air compared to any of the workforce action that goes on in the States with their major sporting leagues.

7.    Josh Daicos might be one of the very few highlights for Collingwood in 2017. He was largely overlooked in the draft before going after a mid-draft bid from North Melbourne. But even the Pies’ coaching staff are surprised at how poised and natural he is looking when mixing with the senior players and rival clubs are already making Caleb Daniel comparisons, someone who can warrant midfield time right away and who will impact games as a teenager. A Rising Star smokey.

8.    The Nat Fyfe situation will be mega awkward all year at Fremantle. Deliberately not voted in by his peers as captain last season, one where Mundy was, then the captaincy process was scrapped this season so that the club could anoint Fyfe as part of a ploy to keep the pending free-agent at Freo for 2018. It’s a messy one the coaches will be very keen to manage carefully.

9.    The new Perth Stadium is well on track for the 2018 season and the transition for West Coast and Fremantle from Subiaco to Burswood is massive. The capacity prospects alone are stark – Footy Park and Adelaide Oval hold roughly the same amount, Subiaco holds 40,000, the new ground holds 60,000, 10,000 more than Adelaide Oval. You think the Showdown is something at its new home, the first Derby at Burswood will be something else.

10. Not only do the Giants possess the best list in the league, who arguably had the most talented side from last year’s finals series (no disrespect to the Doggies), the addition of Tim Taranto and Will Setterfield is just staggering, two kids who already are warranting midfield time in a side oozing with existing talent. They won’t miss Lachie Whitfield in the first couple months one iota.

11. Carlton will have a tough time this year kicking a winning score, and to make matters worse the off-season plans to improve that area are seemingly being questioned already. To face that conundrum before Round One is a big problem.

12. West Coast were fantastic in 2015 before doing a Greg Norman on Grand Final Day. They then had the shocker of all shockers in 2016 with a horrendous record away from home yet still finished sixth, losing in the first week of the finals to the eventual Premiers. The top four beckons this year especially with the addition of Sam Mitchell.

13. Christian Petracca looks like he will continue in a forward/mid role which is to the relief of some rival clubs who are convinced once the high draft pick gets a full time role in the middle he will dominate games like Mark Ricciuto at his best.

14. Adelaide are still dirty they didn’t get the Bryce Gibbs trade done. They fully believed the addition of the South Australian would have been the final piece to a real flag tilt this year.

15. One trade that did go through which might look like some of the best business when we look back in a few years’ time – Jack Steele to St Kilda. The Giants won’t miss him but in isolation he was, pardon the pun, an absolute steal with the compensation the Saints paid for him. Already flying on the track and such a snug fit with the existing St Kilda list and with the progress they are making with their rebuild.

16. Something is amiss with Port Adelaide. It’s almost unexplainable to many at the club who can’t work out what’s preventing such a talented list from getting back to the good footy they played two to three years ago. Not looking good.

17. The Footy Show returns this week and those closely involved are concerned that the twenty-plus year run is getting very close to its end; there are only so many adjustments you can make, hosts, format, etc., before enough will be enough. It rated ‘ok’ last year but it’s not going to track back up in the ratings anytime soon let’s be honest.

18. This year will be the last ‘day’ Grand Final, there’s even suggestions the twilight timeslot will come in for 2017. That’s unlikely, but 2018 is at very short odds to be something around a 4:40pm start.

19. Bit combative between Collingwood and Fox Footy in the off-season. The channel wanted Nathan Buckley back on Monday nights, however he made it quite clear, with the support of the club, he wanted little do with Mark Robinson for another season after the drug story from this time last year. Not at all friendly.

20. The AFL expansion is right where it should be with one club but very much in a spot of bother with another when you look at the membership numbers for their 17th and 18th clubs. The Gold Coast are stagnating badly whereas there is real progress being made in Western Sydney.

The Suns had 14k members in their first year but have since gone 11, 12, 13, 13 with 9k signed up so far this year. The Giants on the other hand, one year younger, kicked off with 10k before going 12, 13, 13, 15 last year and already onto 16 this year. The Gold Coast will be the same last year, if not less, either way it will be a poor result. The Giants can break 20 this year, definitely a step in the right direction.

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