Sports

Club, ladder and Brownlow Medal predictions


Can the Demons go back to back? Can Richmond, with new captains and a rebuilt Dustin Martin, contend for a fourth flag in six years? Will the Bombers continue their upward trajectory? Will new Carlton coach Michael Voss finally unlock the potential of the Blues’ list and lift them into the eight?

For everything you need to know about the 2022 AFL season, explore our team-by-team interactive. The Age’s football experts assess every team and provide their ladder predictions, and chief football writer Jake Niall gives his take on every team. Teaser: he thinks there are two things that could stop Melbourne reprising their premiership success at their MCG home.

Scroll down past the interactive to drill into the burning questions of the season in our experts’ time capsules. Who wins the Brownlow and the Rising Star? What will be the fans’ biggest gripe, and which coaches are under pressure? Watch videos of our experts Caroline Wilson, Jake Niall and Michael Gleeson answering reader questions. And listen to the Real Footy podcast each Monday during the season. The preview episode is already live, and embedded below.

There is no more thankless task than picking September winners in March, but The Age’s football writers have put their egos on the line in our 2022 AFL time capsule.

Jake Niall, chief football writer

Brownlow: Clayton Oliver (Melbourne). He’ll be in a winning team and while Christian Petracca is slightly more dynamic, Oliver’s inside game and ability to break out of stoppages and run is the kind the umpires favour.
Rising star: Nick Daicos (Collingwood). Where Daicos differs from North’s Jason Horne-Francis, is that he’ll play half-back and midfield, and thus accumulate more than forward Horne-Francis.
Story of the season: Alastair Clarkson’s destination (football). Mistreatment of women by clubs/AFL/men (off-field).
On the rise: Richmond
On the slide: West Coast
Headline you won’t see: AFL gives gambling the boot
Fans’ biggest gripe: “But I paid for my membership for two years and couldn’t go.”

Caroline Wilson

Reader question: When will Gillon McLachlan leave the AFL?

Brownlow: Josh Kelly (GWS) Provided he remains a permanent midfield force the 27-year-old looks primed for his most consistent, influential season with the Giants certain to challenge again.
Rising Star: Nick Daicos (Collingwood) The hype has not abated over his maiden pre-season and now Daicos looks a starter for round-one, with no one at Collingwood attempting to play down their excitement.
Story of the season: Alastair Clarkson’s coaching future and the AFL’s role in trying to establish him at the Gold Coast before the end of 2022.
On the rise: Carlton
On the slide: Geelong
Headline you won’t see: AFL to unveil night grand final spectacular
Fans’ biggest gripe: The mounting challenges posed by getting to a game of football and sitting where you want, with the people you want.

Greg Baum

Brownlow: Marcus Bontempelli (Western Bulldogs). If not, they should scrap it.
Rising Star: Nick Daicos (Collingwood). Didn’t you know?
Story of the season: AFL presidents reject Tassie team. Secession vote follows.
On the rise: Fremantle
On the slide: West Coast.
Headline you won’t see: AFL men agree to pay cut to boost women’s game
Fans’ biggest gripe: Now that they’re back at the grounds, the infernal din.

Emma Kearney, North Melbourne AFLW captain

Brownlow: Patrick Cripps (Carlton). Coming off an injury free off-season, and with the Blues likely to win more games, he’ll be in a position to poll more votes.
Rising star: Jason Horne-Francis (North Melbourne) Thrives on pressure, is explosive in congestion and has the body to hold up to senior footy.
Story of the season: The future of Adam Simpson at the Eagles
On the rise: Richmond
On the slide: West Coast
Headline you won’t see: WA borders closed AGAIN!
Fans’ biggest gripe: 50 metre penalties for disrespect towards umpires (some will be warranted).

Michael Gleeson

Brownlow: Dustin Martin (Richmond). He looks fitter and hungrier than ever and will reclaim his place as the best player in the competition.
Rising Star: Nick Daicos (Collingwood). He will play from day one. He is class and he is Collingwood with the Daicos name, and will attract attention.

Nick Daicos could steal the Rising Star award from Jason Horne-Francis.

Nick Daicos could steal the Rising Star award from Jason Horne-Francis.Credit:Getty Images

Story of the season: Tassie gets the nod for team in 2028
On the rise: Richmond and Fremantle
On the slide: West Coast Eagles.
Headline you won’t see: “People are so nice on social media, I love the feedback:” every AFL player.
Fans’ biggest gripe: Players giving away 50-metre penalties for frustration at umpiring decisions.

Reader question: Are Essendon a top-four side?

Andrew Wu

Brownlow: Tim Taranto (GWS). A player who loves his life away from football, the Giants midfielder will relish a more normal year (fingers crossed) and after coming back in immaculate condition from a much-improved 2021 is readyto make the step from very good to elite.
Rising star: Josh Ward (Hawthorn). The No.7 pick in last year’s draft looks a ready-made player capable of playing in the centre square, on a wing and possibly even behind the ball. His composure is striking for a player his age.
Story of the season: Players become reluctant to tackle opponents to the ground due to match review fears.
On the rise: Carlton
On the slide: West Coast
Headline you won’t see: AFL cuts length of trade period to give other sports clear air
Fans’ biggest gripe: After watching at home on TV in 2020-21, Victorian fans complain about the cold weather at the football.

Jon Pierik

Brownlow: Marcus Bontempelli (Western Bulldogs). Runner-up last season, Bontempelli is primed for another strong season, whether that be on the ball or up forward. He is a vote catcher – one of a handful capable of polling more than 30 votes.
Rising Star: If the noises from Arden St are right, No.1 draft pick Jason Horne-Francis could be something special. Should play most games.

Jason Horne-Francis is tipped for the Rising Star.

Jason Horne-Francis is tipped for the Rising Star.Credit:Getty Images

Story of the season: Brett Ratten, off contract this year, will hope for early wins to ease the pressure. If the Saints struggle, expect executive/board ramifications, with Grant Thomas in the thick of it.
On the rise: Richmond
On the slide: Port Adelaide
Headline you won’t see: Time’s up: Swans sack Buddy. If this season proves one too many for Lance Franklin, any announcement will reflect his exalted status in the game.
Fans’ biggest gripe: The AFL have tightened the holding-the-ball interpretation but many supporters will still be shaking their heads come mid-season.

Peter Ryan

Brownlow: Marcus Bontempelli (Western Bulldogs) Runner-up last season without polling a vote in the final four rounds. Would be a worthy winner.
Rising star: Jason Horne-Francis (North Melbourne) will play most weeks and has the right profile to make an immediate impact.
Story of the season: The AFL’s hunt for a successor to CEO Gillon McLachlan will accelerate as presidents decide on whether to grant a standalone Tasmanian team entry into the AFL.
On the rise: Fremantle. They are well coached and have the depth of talent.
On the slide: West Coast have had a horror off-season and if injuries stop them winning games early in the season they won’t recover.
Headline you won’t see: AFL postpones match because too many [insert team here] stars missing with COVID-19.
Fans’ biggest gripe: In the first month of the season the Friday night doubleheader will have fans, particularly South Australians, up in arms.

Sam McClure

Brownlow: Josh Kelly, free of injury, will dominate for the Giants and re-emerge as one of the best players in the competition.

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Rising Star: Jason Horne-Francis, a teenager who has proven better than men at SANFL level, will get plenty of game time for North and prove the best young player in the country.
Story of the season: Alastair Clarkson as the shadow looming over the Gold Coast Suns.
On the rise: GWS
On the slide: West Coast
Headline you won’t see: Blues Better off without Liam Jones
Fans’ biggest gripe: Gambling advertising.

On Wednesday, follow our live blog of the season-opening grand final rematch between Melbourne and the Western Bullodgs from 6pm with Roy Ward. This is your home for analysis of all the big moments; stick around afterwards to see what the coaches have to say.

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