Six long months of waiting and the AFL season has finally started. While we already knew who the big guns were going to be heading into the season, there have been a few standouts that are worthy of keeping an eye on.
1. Oliver Wines, Port Adelaide Power
They call this guy ‘Quadzilla’ because of his massive (and I really mean massive!) legs. He was also a first round draft pick. He also won the Rising Star nomination for the first round. Seriously… if you haven’t heard of this guy, you better get on Google. He is my number one to watch.
2. Brett Goodes, Western Bulldogs
You almost feel bad for Brett… but then he dominates and you stop pitying and start being in awe. Brett’s older brother Adam Goodes was the captain of the Sydney Swans until earlier this year and has been a strong presence in AFL for 1999 (19 years old). Brett, on the other hand, had to wait until he was 29 to get picked up by an AFL club. But it was worth the wait. In his first game, he managed 24 possessions, 6 marks and assisted with clearances 6 times proving to clubs everywhere that some people really do get better with age. Brett has a lot to prove – I’d watch closely.
3. Kieren Jack, Sydney Swans
It’s not exactly news that Jack’s great, but you should keep a closer eye on him this year. This year, he got bumped up to captain when previous captain, Adam Goodes, stepped down. He followed that with three goals against GWS in the first round, clearly illustrating that he can step up and meet expectations. Sure, he was nominated as a Rising Star in 2007 (his rookie year), but I think this year will be his time to shine.
4. Jack Viney, Melbourne Demons
Viney is Wine’s good mate and I have my fingers crossed that their friendship will evolve into a Bird-Johnson type rivalry. Wines was picked ahead of him in the draft (Viney was a Round 2 pick) and beat him out for the Rising Star nomination, and that was a close call. Viney scored a goal in his first AFL game – which is practically unheard of – and took it upon himself to speak to the club after their embarrassing 79 point loss (to Wines!). I can’t wait to see how this all plays out.
5. Bryce Gibbs, Carlton Blues
Another guy who has been playing for several years (since 2007) and his abilities have never been in question. It was, however, his ridiculously high AFL Dream Team score of 133 that has made me take a second look. This year, new coach Mick Malthouse has offered his a role in the midfield, which is a certain change from the defense he’s used to playing (he’s still, technically, a back man but he now gets to win the ball). He has taken the change in stride and dominated the game.
BONUS: Jobe Watson, Essendon Bombers. Watson won the Brownlow Medal last year (which is, arguably, the highest honour in AFL, reserved for the best player of the season) and his spectacular performance against Adelaide last weekend makes you wonder: if he can avoid the tag… will he win back to back medals?