Is the era of success about to end?
Doubtful, if by success you mean finals. Geelong's list management has been good enough over the years to ensure it can does not drop off completely, despite several big name departures.
There's enough quality to make the eight, and to be in the mix for the top four again. A fit again Tom Hawkins is frightening for the competition.
Who becomes their no.1 ruckman will be one to watch.
KEY PLAYER Joel Selwood. Their hard-at-it skipper is an inspiration.
ONE TO WATCH Jackson Thurlow. The Tasmanian has grown in confidence after another year in the system, and is ready to make an impact.
Can they sneak into the eight?
Not this year, but expect the Suns to be playing finals quality football by the end of the year. The young Suns, with its talented midfield brigade and exciting forwards, such as Charlie Dixon and Tom Lynch will be looking to close the gap and get some more ``big wins'', like their triumph over Collingwood last year.
KEY PLAYER Gary Ablett. The player of his generation. Enough said.
ONE TO WATCH Jack Martin. The hype is overwhelming about how good this kid is, but the early indications are the midfielder-half-forward oozes class.
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY
How much will they improve?
Considerably, but you must remember they are coming from a very low base. Shane Mumford, Heath Shaw and Josh Hunt will add some experience and stability to a line-up, and in Tom Boyd, Jon Patton and Jeremy Cameron, it has the makings off an outstanding front-half.
Improvement won't be measured in wins though, more how they perform, as there won't be many.
KEY PLAYER Shane Mumford. Giants were desperate for a big, powerful ruckman and they got one. If he were to go down with injury it would be a disaster.
ONE TO WATCH Tom Boyd. Went at No.1 in the draft for a reason. Has all the attributes to be a powerful forward in the competition, but will take time.
It might certainly be the case as the Hawks have enough riches in attack in Jarryd Roughead, Jack Gunston, Luke Breust, Cryil Rioli, David Hale etc to cover Lance Franklin's defection to Sydney.
And they've also added former St Kilda ruckman Ben McEvoy, which is a scary proposition.
The Hawks' versatility allows them to be adaptable to almost situations, so as long as their mind is in the right place, the Hawks look again to pushing the top of the mountain.
KEY PLAYER Hard to find just one, considering they are such an even team, but if Jarryd Roughead were to go down then suddenly Buddy's absence would be felt.
ONE TO WATCH Hopefully it will be Dayle Garlett. The talented forward was previously overlooked due to behavioural issues, but Hawthorn has taken the risk, and has recently taken a step back from the game. Is extremely talented, so hopefully he can get a senior start at some stage this year.
THE BIG QUESTION
What will the Roos effect be?
This will be judged by attitude, not wins, as this group simply isn't talented enough to make a huge jump up the ladder straight away.
The small glimpses so far indicate a more possession based game plan, with a heavy focus on tackling.
A forward-line based around Chris Dawes, Mitch Clark and Jesse Hogan has much promise, but the worry is who's going to get the ball down to them on a consistent basis.
KEY PLAYER Nathan Jones. The tough nut midfielder has finally been given the (co-) captaincy. Was one of few Demons to hold his head up time in the tough times, and looks like the type of player that will enjoy Roos' coaching.
ONE TO WATCH There is so much hype around young key forward Jesse Hogan, but then there's small forward Jay Kennedy-Harris, who has been very impressive in the preseason.
Are they as close as last year suggested?
North just missed out on the finals thanks to an unkind collection of close losses, but there was a reason why it was a case of close, but no cigar. It's defensive work and decision making under pressure will need to be refined if it is to make big strides in 2014.
But, with an impressive collection of talls and the recruitment of Nick Dal Santo, the Kangaroos look likely to bounce into the eight and could make a strong impact.
KEY PLAYER Todd Goldstein. Outstanding ruckman, who was extremely unlucky not to make the All-Australian team last season.
ONE TO WATCH Father-son pick Luke McDonald looks a quality midfielder, while Shaun Atley is expected to spend more time in the midfield after doing some great work off half-back. ql