2014 footy teams in-depth: part 1



How much of an impact will the loss of their skipper have?

Again the Crows will be without a key player for the majority of the season. After missing Taylor Walker last year, Nathan van Berlo will be on the sidelines until August, putting more pressure on the likes of Scott Thompson, Patrick Dangerfield and Rory Sloane, coupled with the loss of Bernie Vince to Melbourne.

On the plus side, it will boast a potent front-half with Walker, James Podsiadly and Eddie Betts, but look likely to fall short of the eight.

KEY PLAYER Patrick Dangerfield. Absolute freak both in the guts and attack, and a genuine Brownlow chance.

ONE TO WATCH Brad Crouch. Tough young midfielder showed good signs last year, and expect him to further improve this year. His brother Matt also looks quality as well.



Will a new coach make any difference?

Not in 2014. In fact, the Lions are more likely to go backwards than anything this year, when you consider the amount of departures (Patrick Karnezis, Elliot Yeo, Jared Polec, Sam Docherty, Billy Longer and Simon Black) and the heavy reliance on Jonathan Brown.

Will take an extraordinary effort to even be in finals contention, and by the end of the year there's a good chance the Lions will be the number two side in Queensland.

KEY PLAYER Tom Rockliff. Became one of the competition's most dangerous midfielders last season and needs to continue at that high standard if the Lions are to have any hope of climbing the ladder.

ONE TO WATCH James Aish. The seventh pick in last year's draft has already played with men in the SANFL, so expect the classy Aish to have an impact in the big league.



Dale Thomas; a great get or not worth the money?

There is a considerable risk from the Blues in signing Thomas on a $2.8 million over four years when you consider the problems he has had with his ankle.

If he can get back to his 2010 form, when Thomas was considered one of the best in the game, the Blues will be well pleased, but needs to be able to contribute on a consistent basis to keep the Blues faithful on side.

Finding another key forward is also a priority for Mick Malthouse, with Tasmanian-born Levi Casboult seemingly a front-runner.

Midfield depth will again see it pushing towards the eight.

KEY PLAYER Jarrad Waite. If he can get his body and mind all going in one direction, the Blues can be a force, whether he is playing forward or back. Ditto Chris Yarran.

ONE TO WATCH Troy Menzel. Classy forward who is just about ready to secure a senior spot.



Are the Magpies coming or going?

Neither. The Pies waved goodbye to senior players Alan Didak, Darren Jolly, Heath Shaw, Dale Thomas and Andrew Krakouer, all who could have had an impact this season, and traded to get two top 10 picks and GWS' Taylor Adams  brought  in a sign that Nathan Buckley is looking to build his own team.

Which will take a couple of years to fully develop. Judge this policy beyond 2015. In the now, there's talent, led by new skipper Scott Pendlebury, Dane Swan, Travis Cloke and Steele Sidebottom to at least hold their ground.

KEY PLAYER Travis Cloke. Even with Jesse White and Quientin Lynch on board, the Pies lose their structure completely if Cloke is not around clunking them in the front-half.

ONE TO WATCH Brodie Grundy. The young ruckman was very impressive in the last few games of 2013, and with Darren Jolly gone, will get more of an opportunity.



How do the Bombers bounce back from the supplements scandal drama?

This is the question on the lips of all football supporters. The Dons showed a huge resilience last year in the face of constant pressure and scrutiny, recording some of the club's most memorable and emotional wins.

If they take that same attitude, which saw them win 14 wins, Mark Thompson's year in charge will be a positive one.

List-wise, Essendon is well positioned to challenge for a top four position, as long as it can find a consistent target in attack.

Jake Carlisle has been pin-pointed as that man, with Joe Daniher, Paddy Ryder and Thomas Bellchambers (when fit) providing support in an attack now minus Stewart Crameri and Scott Gumbleton.

KEY PLAYER Jobe Watson. Captain courageous and one of the best inside-midfielders going around. His leadership was a huge part of Essendon not falling into a heap last year. Throw in their tall timber considering the club is yet to define its forward-line, which is why Bellchambers' early injury is such a blow.

ONE TO WATCH There are two here actually. Paul Chapman, who will look to prove he is not ``washed up'' like Geelong may have though, and Joe Daniher, the boom-youngster who will be given more of an opportunity.



How do they respond to the grand final defeat?

This is new territory for the Dockers, but not for Ross Lyon. Expect the professional nature of the way teams that he coaches to continue, and the Dockers to be right up there again.

Some say they need to find more of an attacking edge, but at the end of the day they weren't that far away from a premiership.

KEY PLAYER Ryan Crowley. As much as you might hate him (which everyone which is not a Freo fan would), Crowley is a gun when it comes to shutting down ball-magnets.

ONE TO WATCH Colin Sylvia. Wasted his talents at Melbourne, but the midfielder-half-forward will add some class to grand finalist.


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