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What does the average age of your AFL team tell us about its chances of success in 2023?


What does the average age of your AFL team tell us about its chances of success in 2023?

Once again, Geelong will enter the 2023 season as the oldest team.

Despite the retirement of the 35-year-old, 355-game captain Joel Selwood and the addition of youngsters Ollie Henry, Tanner Bruhn and Jack Bowes during the trade period, the Cats’ squad has an average age of 25.5 years and has played an average of 92.4 games entering this season.

In recent years they've been labelled too old and many, including me, predicted that the cliff was coming.

Coach Chris Scott made his critics look foolish last year, and Geelong has quashed the old theory that the AFL is best suited to players under 30.

They will again have 12 players in its squad over 30 (three more than any other team) yet will start raging premiership favourites.

There's much to analyse from the information. Unsurprisingly, Hawthorn is the youngest team in the competition by some margin - the average age is only 23.1. The Hawks cannot avoid the on-field pain that comes with such inexperience, and the club has just three players who have played 150 games or more. With such an inexperienced group, it will be impossible to avoid the inevitable on-field carnage that will result.

New Essendon coach Brad Scott quickly poured cold water on any finals expectations when he took over in September. He's carried that theme throughout the pre-season. It's easy to see why.

The Bombers are the second youngest squad in the competition at 23.9 and the average number of games played is just 56. Data not lost on Scott.

“With the demographic of this list, talent is just speculation when they're 18 or 19. I've been impressed with the capability on our list, but the reality is, and the facts are, they're very young, and they're going to take time to develop and therefore the team is going to take a bit of time to get right.” he said.

The 2023 version of the Baby Bombers will not break its finals drought this year.

Impressively, last year's grand finalists Sydney are the fifth youngest team, with an average age of just 24. Perhaps they overachieved.

The Swans have speed and potent ball users, players such as Gulden, Warner, Stephens, McDonald, Hayward, Florent, Campbell and McInerney have yet to come close to reaching their potential. Still, it might take a few more pre-seasons and exposure in big games before this young group is ready to go all the way.

Similarly, Fremantle, who won a final last year under its exceptional coach Justin Longmuir, is the fourth youngest team in the competition. Too much experience went out the door in the off-season, and the big-money play for speculative forward/ruckman Luke Jackson is no guarantee to hit. Fremantle needs to score and risk missing the eight in 2023.

There's pressure on the Western Bulldogs, the second-oldest team in the league. The playing list is stacked, and they topped up with experienced veterans such as Rory Lobb and Liam Jones to plug holes in the trade period. Anything outside of a top-four finish will be a failure for newly signed coach Luke Beveridge and his aging list.

Then we arrive at the teams in the flag-winning sweet spot. Brisbane, Richmond, Melbourne and Collingwood slot into this category. All four teams have an average age of 25 and recent exposure to big finals appearances amongst their players. All four teams are near certainties to finish inside the eight and probably higher.

How much should we read into the age and experience of each team and how many clubs can we write off on birth certificate numbers alone?

AFL teams by average age in 2023

Geelong – 25.5 years
Western Bulldogs – 25.4 years
Brisbane – 25.1 years
Richmond – 25.1 years
Melbourne – 25.1 years
Collingwood – 25.0 years
Gold Coast – 24.8 years
Carlton – 24.7 years
West Coast – 24.5 years
St Kilda – 24.4 years
Port Adelaide – 24.4 years
GWS – 24.2 years
North Melbourne 24.1 years
Sydney – 24.1 years
Fremantle – 24.0 years
Essendon – 23.9 years
Adelaide – 23.8 years
Hawthorn – 23.1 years

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