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The AFL players at your club that need a big pre-season


These are the players at your team that need a big pre-season leading into 2021 for whatever reason.

Adelaide club banner

Darcy Fogarty

Entering his fourth year in the AFL system, the time is now for Fogarty to take the next step.

The 21-year-old somewhat regressed in 2019 after a promising debut 10-game season before adding another 10 games to his tally in 2020.

Fogarty simply MUST have a huge pre-season on the training track so he can build himself a fitness base that will allow him to become a much more reliable footballer.

He clearly has plenty of natural ability, but now it’s time to put it all together and take the baton passed on by Taylor Walker as Adelaide’s number one forward.

Wayne Milera

We hear so much about how good Milera is, and he has shown it in glimpses, but just cannot get on the park frequently enough.

When in full flight he provides plenty of run and carry off half-back and uses the ball exceptionally well.

He missed most of 2020 with stress fractures in his foot, but once he recovers from that, it is time for the 23-year-old to fully deliver.

The Crows absolutely need talented players like Milera at their best if they want to improve and turn this rebuild around quickly.

Andrew Slevison

Brisbane club banner

Cam Rayner

Cam Rayner showed signs throughout the 2020 season to justify his status as the number one pick in the 2017 National Draft.

He doesn’t win much of the ball, but those flashes will have Brisbane fans incredibly excited about what the talented forward could look like as a finished product.

Rayner now has 63 games under his belt and will be hoping for a big pre-season to build his tank because his elevation could be what takes the Lions to the top.

Joe Daniher

This one goes without saying, really. The Lions have taken a big gamble on Joe Daniher as potentially the final piece of their premiership puzzle.

Of course, the 26-year-old has played 15 games since the end of the 2017 season as various lower body injuries held him back.

A big, incident-free pre-season would do wonders for his confidence and gives the Lions the spearhead they’ve been hoping for inside 50.

On top of that, Daniher fully fit and coupled with Brisbane’s midfield could see him rocket back into All-Australian calculations.

Nic Negrepontis

Carlton club banner

Mitch McGovern

Charlie Curnow is injured again. Mitch McGovern is the player that must fill that void once again alongside Harry McKay and Levi Casboult.

While many will feel McGovern disappointed in 2020, he actually started the year quite well, playing further up the ground as a marking option between the arcs and was a key part of Carlton’s structures.

This was before hamstring issues once again derailed his campaign. The Blues desperately need McGovern to get his body right over summer, get as fit as possible and put together the season they hoped to get from him when they lured him from Adelaide.

Paddy Dow

Paddy Dow was supposed to be a key part of Carlton’s rebuild, taken at pick three in the 2017 National Draft, but it hasn’t quite clicked yet.

The midfielder struggled to break into the Blues’ best 22 in 2020, playing just the three games and struggling with injuries early in the season.

He is still only 21 and the explosive midfielder needs to have a pre-season working on winning the ball and general ball-use.

If he puts the pieces together, he could still play a big role in 2021 as Carlton builds depth through its midfield and half forward line.

Nic Negrepontis

Collingwood club banner

Jordan De Goey

It’s been said for years now, but Jordan De Goey appears to only be scratching the surface of his potential.

He has returned to pre-season on multiple occasions out of shape, and will be looking to impress to make a full-time move into the midfield.

He shows flashes of his brilliance as a deep forward and explosive ball-winner, and is now at the stage of his development where he should be ascending to another level. This off-season could be the launchpad that catapults De Goey to superstardom.

Brayden Sier

Like De Goey, Sier is another Pie who has failed to take the next step that many expected after a breakout 2018.

With Treloar’s trade opening up a spot in the Pies’ engine room, Sier looms as the number one replacement as an inside midfielder.

With a big body, slick hands and the ability to find time and space, Sier could find himself as an integral member of the club’s best 22 with a strong pre-season and clear run of injury.

Lachlan Geleit

Essendon club banner

Jake Stringer

Amid Essendon’s disappointing season, it’s easy to forget how much they missed the enigmatic forward, who eventually returned after sustaining a syndesmosis injury earlier in the season, but never really recaptured his best form which saw him kick three goals against Collingwood in Round 5.

At his best, Stringer is one of the club’s most damaging forwards and without Joe Daniher, he’ll have to shoulder more responsibility forward of centre next year.

If he can have an uninterrupted pre-season, he looms as a crucial piece of the puzzle at the Bombers in 2021.

Dyson Heppell

The Essendon captain has struggled badly with injury in recent times, playing just three games this season after sustaining a serious ankle injury, before a foot complaint heavily restricted him last pre-season.

The Bombers will start next season under plenty of pressure and Heppell's presence as an on-field leader cannot be understated.

The club desperately missed him on the field this year and while he’s likely to take a back seat in the midfield in favour of some of the younger on-ballers, Heppell’s leadership and calm demeanour in the heat of a contest is of significant importance for the Dons in 2021.

Laurence Rosen

Fremantle club banner

Joel Hamling

It’s easy to forget that Hamling is a premiership player.

The Dockers defender had two separate surgeries in 2020 to try and fix an ankle injury, but he was unable to play a single game throughout the season.

It would’ve come as an immense disappointment for the 27-year-old defender, who had hardly missed a game since crossing from Western Bulldogs following their flag in 2016.

Hamling is a vital cog in the Fremantle defence and would be hoping there’s no further setbacks ahead of 2021.

Connor Blakely

Blakely’s name was thrown up in trade circles, but after eventually staying at Fremantle, he now faces an off-season where he’d hope to win the trust of head coach Justin Longmuir.

Having two years left on his contract, Blakely struggled for game time in 2020, playing just five times despite being fit throughout the season.

Still just 24, the ball winner lost his place in the side largely due to Longmuir’s defence-first game plan and would no doubt be doing everything he can to rectify those defensive flaws over the off-season.

Laurence Rosen

Geelong club banner

Quinton Narkle

Geelong re-contracted Narkle on a one-year deal after much speculation over his future during the trade period.

The talented 22-year-old will look to make every post a winner in 2021 and a big pre-season is required to break into the Cats’ star-studded midfield.

The Perth product will hope for more senior chances next season after making just five AFL appearances early in 2020.

It’s an important year for the Cats youngster who will embark on his fourth season at the club.

Charlie Constable

Another Geelong youngster starved of opportunities throughout last season, Constable needs a breakout year in 2021 after featuring just twice for the Cats in 2020, taking his career games tally to nine in two seasons.

The 21-year-old midfielder was linked with a move away from Geelong throughout the trade period and was reportedly told to explore his options with a year to run on his contract.

He’ll look to go to new levels during the pre-season in the hope of getting more midfield minutes at AFL level.

Alex Zaia

Gold Coast club banner

Alex Sexton

Sexton went from being indispensable to out of favour at stages last season.

Gold Coast’s leading goalkicker in 2019 found the going tougher in 2020 and was dropped twice after lean patches mid-season. He finished the year strongly by kicking 10 goals in his last four matches but losing his place in the side would have been a wake-up call for the 26-year-old.

2021 will be Sexton’s 10th season at the Suns and a big individual year could catapult the club into finals contention.

Will Brodie

Brodie was linked with a move to Essendon during the trade period but ultimately stayed at the Suns.

The 22-year-old, who is contracted until 2022, found senior opportunities scarce in 2020 playing just one match – the Round 1 loss to Port Adelaide.

A former top-10 draft pick in 2016, Brodie is searching for a breakout year having managed just 20 games across four seasons.

Brodie will look to break into a talented Gold Coast midfield in what shapes as a career-defining campaign.

Alex Zaia

GWS Giants club banner

Stephen Coniglio

It might be seen as a bit harsh on one of the club’s hardest workers, however, Coniglio’s debut season as captain certainly did not go to plan for both he and the entire club.

The Giants were hurting from their 2019 Grand Final defeat to Richmond and many expected that they’d bounce back strongly with ‘Cogs’ as skipper.

But 2020 went the opposite way for the Giants and for Coniglio, who was sensationally dropped late in the season.

The proud midfielder must set the scene this pre-season so both he, and his team, can return to their absolute best.

Harry Himmelberg & Jesse Hogan

There’s a Jeremy Cameron sized hole at GWS and it is up to a promising youngster and a new recruit to fill it.

Himmelberg has been developing nicely over the past few seasons but he has to go to another level if the Giants are to be considered a genuine flag threat once again.

For Hogan, the expectations aren’t quite as high as he’s had to deal with some personal issues in the past few years.

But there is no doubting his talent and now at a third club and with his career effectively on the line, he must stand up and be counted.

Andrew Slevison

Hawthorn club banner

Mitch Lewis

The key forward is entering his fifth season at the Hawks and coach Alastair Clarkson will be expecting him to give them a consistent marking threat inside 50.

After showing some exciting signs in 2019 when he kicked 20 goals in 12 games and proved a focal point up forward for the Hawks, Lewis could only muster eight games in 2020, kicking five goals.

With time running out on Tim O’Brien and Jonathan Patton’s persistent injury problems, the Hawks need Lewis to take the next step in 2021 and give them a legitimate second forward option alongside 2020 Peter Crimmins medalist Jack Gunston.

Jarman Impey

Impey was having a stellar debut season for the Hawks in 2019 after crossing from Port Adelaide before suffering a torn ACL late in the year.

Impey returned this season to spend most of his time as a small forward, playing five games and booting two goals. A late-season rib injury again ended his year prematurely, but Hawks fans have seen enough to know what a fit Jarman Impey adds to their team.

Be it as a dashing half back, where he played mostly in 2019, or as an electric small forward, a healthy Jarman Impey gives the Hawks’ starting 18 some much needed playmaking flair.

Brent Sternberg

Melbourne club banner

Ben Brown

The prospect of Melbourne's much-talked about midfield having someone with Brown’s credentials in the forward line to kick to next year is a tantalising prospect.

But after a year marred by injury and eventual high-profile exit from North Melbourne, Brown will be looking for an uninterrupted off-season and to attack Round 1 with a solid training block under his belt.

Brown will be the focal point at the Demons, while also allowing Sam Weideman to continue his gradual progression.

If he can stay fit next year, he could land up being one of the bargains of the trade period.

Tom McDonald

McDonald eventually stayed at the Dees after a trade period which saw him linked to several clubs.

After playing just nine games last season, the 28-year-old has a battle on his hands to regain a constant place in the side, especially on the back of Ben Brown’s recruitment.

53 goals from 20 games just two years ago is proof of McDonald’s importance to the side when he’s at his best, but after an unsettling trade period he now faces a pivotal off-season.

The key question here is if the Dees can afford to play McDonald, Brown and Weideman in the same team and who will be left out of the senior side next season.

Laurence Rosen

North Melbourne club banner

Jaidyn Stephenson

Stephenson’s first comments after being traded by Collingwood were that he wished to prove them wrong for giving up on him after one average year.

That starts in the pre-season and hopefully that motivation puts him in a position to get as fit as he’s ever been, allowing him to play more midfield time, as the Roos have hinted.

Stephenson was impacted by glandular fever this time last year and was a big factor in his slugging 2020 campaign.

The former NAB Rising Star winner will be one of the more interesting players in the competition to watch in 2021, given everything that has happened.

Jared Polec

It’s easy to forget that Polec was the first North Melbourne player really impacted by the club’s sudden change in direction, dropped after his side’s loss to Carlton, despite being awarded coaches votes by David Teague for his performance.

Polec clearly had a falling out with then-coach Rhyce Shaw and was one of the players North Melbourne had on the trade block.

However, no suitors came for the wingman and his large contract and so he finds himself back at Arden Street for 2021.

How David Noble deploys him and whether trust can be regained will be interesting and Polec will be one to watch over summer.

Nic Negrepontis

Port Adelaide club banner

Orazio Fantasia

Fantasia will look to hit the ground running after returning home to South Australia to play for Port Adelaide in 2021.

The small forward managed just five games in an injury-interrupted final season at Essendon and will look to get his body right to return to the football he displayed during his 39-goal campaign in 2017.

The 25-year-old still has time on his side to put his injury woes behind him and a fresh start at the Power could do him wonders. He needs a big pre-season under his belt.

Ryan Burton

Burton finished second in the Rising Star award in 2017 and showed immense promise at Hawthorn before he was traded to Port Adelaide as part of the Chad Wingard deal.

The 23-year-old defender has missed several matches through injury since joining the Power and will hope for a clean run at it during the 2021 pre-season.

Burton managed just eight games last season and wasn’t at his best in both of Port Adelaide’s finals. The former Hawk has plenty of upside still, however.

Alex Zaia

Richmond club banner

Sydney Stack

The enormously talented Stack had a year to forget in 2020 after a promising beginning. He played nine games for the Tigers before his season was ended after a late night alcohol-fuelled souvlaki incident on the Gold Coast which broke COVID protocols and attracted a 10-game suspension.

His offsider on that night was promising ruckman Callum Coleman-Jones who must also prove himself to the club in 2021, and that all starts with a massive pre-season.

Stack can be a versatile weapon off half-back, through the midfield and as a small forward if he wants to get serious about making another positive impact at Punt Road.

There is no doubting Stack’s huge potential, but he needs to apply himself in order to fulfil that.

Josh Caddy

Caddy endured a difficult 2020 which saw him in and out of the team with calf and hamstring injuries. His opening in the side was ultimately closed late in the season mainly due to form.

He was a victim of circumstance in that there was no absolute role for him in the forward line, which was sorted by Tom Lynch and Jack Riewoldt, while Kamdyn McIntosh and Marlion Pickett had the wing spots nailed down.

The 28-year-old is one of just two players (the other being Gold Coast’s Brandon Ellis) who played in the first two Tiger flags but did not play in the third and he’ll no doubt be intent on atoning for that with a massive pre-season and subsequent 2021.

Andrew Slevison

St Kilda club banner

Brad Hill

St Kilda had a successful 2020 season, but its prized recruit Hill didn’t have the debut year he would have liked.

Hill, who joined the Saints on a lucrative long-term contract, will be keen to atone in his second season at Moorabbin.

The skilful wingman showed glimpses of his capabilities, but struggled for consistency during the condensed season, well down on disposals and metres gained compared to his 2019 campaign. Back under the roof at Marvel Stadium in 2021, Hill has a point to prove.

Jack Lonie

Lonie was on the periphery at times last season and the arrival of Richmond livewire Jack Higgins only increases competition for spots.

Lonie kicked 12 goals in 13 games in 2020 and played in both of St Kilda’s finals, but found himself out of the team for multiple weeks during the year.

The 24-year-old is entering his seventh season at Moorabbin and doesn’t have the security of a long-term deal after signing a one-year extension for 2021. It’s a big year coming up for the small forward.

Alex Zaia

Sydney club banner

George Hewett

The unheralded Swan will be looking to again cement his spot in the club’s engine room after managing only six games in 2020.

A back injury limited his playing time last season, and Hewett would have been disappointed to have been shopped around by the club in the trade period.

The 24-year-old was once considered a key piece in John Longmire’s side, and a strong pre-season could help him transition from run-with man to ball winning midfielder.

Nick Blakey

With two years in the AFL system, Blakey will be looking at a big pre-season to help close the gap between his best and worst performances.

The high half forward’s potential was shown with a dazzling 18-disposal, two-goal outing in an upset win against the Giants, and the Swans will be hoping to see more of that in 2021.

Blakey showed his versatility in 2020, and a third off-season could help him increase his running capability and add some much-needed size to his lean frame.

Lachlan Geleit

West Coast club banner

Jack Petruccelle

The Eagles speedster enters his fourth season after playing only six games in 2020.

Petruccelle played 20 games and booted 21 goals in 2019, but it was a five-goal burst against Port Adelaide in round five that exhibited Petruccelle’s match-winning capabilities as a lightning speed medium forward.

After 29 games and 25 goals through his first three seasons, the Eagles hope Petruccelle and his x-factor speed will have opponents in a bind on the wide expanses of Optus Stadium on a weekly basis next season.

Alex Witherden

The former second round pick of the Lions fell out of favour under Chris Fagan, playing just six games in 2020 after missing only two games across 2018 and 2019.

Witherden moves to the Eagles to play a role in defence, a position made all the more important with the surprise axing of veteran Lewis Jetta.

Witherden will surely be expected to slot into the Eagles back six and contribute immediately.

After losing his spot in a resurgent Lions team, Witherden has a chance to resurrect his career in the west by assuming an important role as a reliable ball user for a side known for cutting teams to pieces with precision ball use.

Brent Sternberg

Western Bulldogs banner

Josh Schache

It’s hard to see where Josh Schache fits in this Bulldogs team with Aaron Naughton, Josh Bruce and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan inside 50 in 2021.

However, Schache is not a prototypical key forward and is capable of playing a more mobile role across half forward, on the wing or in defence.

He was talented enough to be selected second in the 2015 National Draft and Luke Beveridge is a master of shuffling the magnets around.

Hopefully a big summer and a fresh outlook can see Schache reinvented for the 2021 season.

Tim English

Tim English has shown signs of the dominant ruckman he could become, but he has also been the Achilles heel of this Bulldogs team at times, including in their Elimination Final loss to St Kilda.

Even with the inclusion of Stefan Martin, the Bulldogs need English to have a big pre-season and take the next step.

If not, they may be better off riding with Martin at stages throughout the 2021 season.

English is a talented intercept marker and could be used in a variety of roles developed over summer.

Nic Negrepontis

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