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Your AFL club's biggest storyline to watch in 2024 - and one flying under the radar


With the 2024 AFL beginning in just two weeks, we’ve taken a closer look at the storylines surrounding all 18 clubs.

We’ve picked the major story set to tell the tale of each side’s upcoming season, as well as another narrative that’s flying under the radar.

Check out the storylines for each team below!

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ADELAIDE club banner

Will they extend Nicks and how will that play out?

It is highly likely that the Crows will extend Matthew Nicks at some stage this year. It could be sooner than later.

He is deserving of a new deal given he has overseen the rebuild, but now he needs to step out of that rubble to ensure that the club contends.

The Crows made the decision that Nicks was the right person for the rebuild and now they must show confidence in him by offering him a multi-year contract.

However, the story will revolve around how the Crows perform in 2024 with many expecting them to return to finals.

So if Adelaide does extend him, and then struggles to finish in the top eight, then it certainly will be a key talking point and a major storyline to follow.

How will the defence cope? What does the future hold for Sloane?

Adelaide has lost Tom Doedee to Brisbane and Nick Murray to injury which has weakened the club’s defender stocks.

The Crows did recruit Daniel Curtin and do have the likes of Jordon Butts and second-year prospect Max Michalanney, but their key defensive depth will be tested.

A lot of the pre-season predictions and forecasting has question marks over the Crows’ backline. They were superb in attack but lacked down back last year.

Can opponents pinpoint that perceived weakness and kick some scores on them? Nicks will have to get creative until Murray returns.

What the future holds for veteran Rory Sloane is also intriguing.

The former captain wanted to desperately go around again in 2024, but will he be given a chance in Adelaide’s midfield?

His eye injury is a worry, but if anyone can fight through it and find form it’s Rory.

Andrew Slevison

BRISBANE club banner

Can the Lions go one better in 2024?

After falling just short last season, can the Lions go one better in 2024?

Everything on paper suggests they can, but recent sides that finished second in Sydney (2022) and the Western Bulldogs (2021) both fell all of the way to eighth after finishing runners-up.

One thing Brisbane has going for them is that they weren’t embarrassed in the decider unlike the Swans and Dogs and shouldn’t have too many scars as a result of the loss.

With enough games at the Gabba and a star-studded line-up, it appears a certainty that the Lions will finish top four.

Like last year, it’ll be a matter of finding their best footy when it counts. You get the feeling Brisbane’s year will be truly evaluated on September 28.

Will the MCG hoodoo continue hanging over their heads?

One thing Brisbane will need to do to win on Grand Final day is overcome their MCG hoodoo.

While they won a Semi-Final at the venue in 2022, in 2023 the Lions were 0-3 at the ‘G and went down to both the Demons in Round 18 and Collingwood in the Grand Final in games they really could have won.

Overall, Brisbane have only won at the MCG once since 2015. They’ll need to overcome any fears they have of the ground in 2024 to achieve what they have set out to this pre-season.

Lachlan Geleit

CARLTON club banner

Which half of 2023 was the real Carlton?

Carlton’s 2023 season was so distinctly split into two halves that it’s hard to know what to expect in 2024.

The Blues lost eight of nine games heading into their bye last season, before going on a run that saw them rise from bottom four to the Preliminary Finals.

Given how they finished the season and their list on paper, they go into this season full of confidence and hype – but will it come to fruition? No team some early validation more than Carlton in 2024.

Brisbane at the Gabba in Opening Round will be a great litmus test.

Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay need help

Do you know who the last Carlton player to kick 30 goals in a season is – outside of Charlie and Harry?

It was Levi Casboult and Matthew Wright – in 2017.

For Carlton to win the flag in 2024, someone has to end this drought and provide the third scoring option this team desperately needs.

Coming off an excellent pre-season and into his third season, Jesse Motlop could certainly be that player.

Jack Martin, if he plays 23 games, could also do it. Maybe Orazio Fantasia gets the clean run at it he deserves and becomes the x-factor Carlton needs?

Whoever it ends up being, this is a six-year drought the Blues must end in 2023.

Nic Negrepontis

COLLINGWOOD club banner

Can the Magpies go back-to-back for the first time in 88 years?

After lifting the cup in 2023, the big question surrounding Collingwood is whether they can climb the mountain again in 2024.

While Collingwood have returned to pre-season in good shape by all reports, winning back-to-back flags is easier said than done and only three teams in Brisbane (’01-03), Hawthorn (’13-15) and Richmond (’19-20) have done it since the turn of the century.

Looking at Collingwood’s history as well, they last went back-to-back in the 1935 and 1936 seasons. That’s 88 long years since they last achieved the feat.

Before 2023, the last time the Magpies won a flag was 2010 and they’d go through 2011 finishing as minor premiers before falling in the Grand Final to Geelong.

We know that everyone else is improving, so Collingwood will no doubt have to go to another level again if they’re to keep hold of the cup.

Will a key forward step up in the year-long absence of Dan McStay?

With Dan McStay sidelined for the 2024 season with an ACL injury, can the Magpies find a second key forward to pair with Brody Mihocek?

While they managed without McStay in last year’s Grand Final, they needed the former Lion to get to the last Saturday in September and there’s no doubt he’ll be missed in 2024.

Ash Johnson appears the frontrunner while Reef McInnes and Nathan Kreuger have shown signs at the top level. One of them might need to become a best 22 lock for the Pies to improve again this year.

Lachlan Geleit

ESSENDON club banner

Will the Bombers break that pesky finals drought?

As it seems to be every year of late - the main storyline engulfing the Bombers will be their finals drought.

They have not saluted in September since 2004 and the winless finals days are continuing to bank up.

Under Brad Scott, simply making finals will not be enough for the Dons in 2024. They must qualify for the eight then go and win at least one final to prove that the club is moving forward.

If they fail to reach that goal this year, they simply must in 2025. Otherwise it’s just treading water.

Scott is the right guy to do it. The players now need to come to the party.

Are Stringer and Shiel in the best team? How much will the recruits impact?

There has been some conjecture as to whether or not Jake Stringer and Dylan Shiel are locks for Essendon’s starting side.

You’d imagine that Scott would love a fit Stringer close to goals as well as bursting through the middle in small patches. Shiel has struggled with form and fitness in recent years and needs to force his way back in.

But the coach may have to get tough if results aren’t good early and it will be intriguing to see which senior players are in danger of not getting a regular game.

The club went down the recruiting path last trade period, bringing in Ben McKay, Xavier Duursma and Jade Gresham.

A lot could depend on how they assimilate and what sort of impact they have in their debut season in red and black.

Andrew Slevison

FREMANTLE club banner

Will Justin Longmuir receive a contract extension?

Unfortunately, when a coach is out of contract the focus externally tends to zero in on that.

In Justin Longmuir’s case, he has one of the youngest lists in the competition, but a poor 2023 followed up a finals win in 2022.

If things go poorly in 2024, do the Dockers move on and start fresh with a new coach? Or do they back in Longmuir to turn things around?

This will be an intriguing one to monitor this season as missing the eight for Freo isn’t necessarily a failure.

What does Freo’s best forward mix look like?

With the Dockers seemingly committed to playing both ruckmen, as well as Jye Amiss and what appears to be a fully fit Matt Taberner – how does Freo balance their talls?

Throw in Michael Frederick, Josh Treacy, Sam Switkowski, Michael Walters, Sam Sturt, Bailey Banfield, Tom Emmett, etc – there are some selection headaches there, particularly with Lachie Schultz’s spot open.

Do they stick with the veteran in Taberner or does Treacy push ahead? Who fills the Schultz void? How much time does Nathan Fyfe spend forward?

They have a lot to solve.

Nic Negrepontis

GEELONG club banner

Is the cliff here?

For as much as Chris Scott and Geelong would love a premiership, they’d love definitive proof that the supposed cliff no longer exists even more.

For as long as Geelong’s dynasty of success has existed, so to have the queries on their age profile. It’s never caught up with them, but this year, it looks as if the likes of Patrick Dangerfield, Tom Hawkins and Mitch Duncan are all in their final campaigns.

Now more than ever, Geelong needs its youngsters to show they are players for the future. Can Tanner Bruhn and Max Holmes become full time midfielders? Are the likes of Jhye Clark, Connor O’Sullivan and other top draft talent the real deal?

2024 could well spell the end of the Cats’ time at the pointy end of the ladder and force Scott’s hand on a rebuild. But on the flip side, it could suggest there’s plenty of highs to come.

Is Patrick Dangerfield finished?

The Geelong captain has a CV that few players in the history of the competition can rival, let alone his current day colleagues.

He’s now a premiership player, a captain, a Brownlow Medallist, eight-time All-Australian and four-time best and fairest. Aside from captaining his own flag, the 33-year-old has achieved all he can in the game.

But he’s had his last three seasons interrupted by injury and hasn’t set the competition alight since 2021. Can Dangerfield put his side on his back in 2024 and prove there’s more to come?

Seb Mottram

GOLD COAST club banner

Can the Suns defy history and play finals?

For all that is in Gold Coast’s favour in 2024 – and there’s an awful lot – there are as many or more factors dragging them down.

This is the Suns’ 14th season in the AFL, with the previous 13 returning no finals wins. They’ve never finished higher than 12th on the ladder.

It’s not easy history to defy. They’ve had just one pre-season with a new coach and have so often fallen apart towards the back end of the season, another factor set to haunt the campaign even if Gold Coast gets off to a strong start.

The competition needs the Suns to play finals and with Damien Hardwick, there will be more pressure and headlines than ever before.

Does Dimma still have it?

If the Suns do falter early in their campaign, plenty of eyes will be on Damien Hardwick.

He’s a triple premiership coach and a famed mentor. But less than 12 months ago he cited burnout when walking away from Richmond. His Tigers endured a slow start to that season before a revival under Andrew McQualter.

It’d be ludicrous to question Hardwick’s ability. But there’s a little question mark over whether he still has it, and whether he can help the Suns.

Seb Mottram

GWS GIANTS club banner

Was 2023 simply a magical late run or a sign of things to come?

GWS finished with a wet sail in 2023, winning 9 of their last 11 home games to finish seventh.

Before that 9-2 record, the Giants started the year 4-8 and looked nowhere near finals football.

Thankfully for GWS, they backed up that home and away run with some impressive September results, going on the road to beat St Kilda in an Elimination Final, Port Adelaide in a Semi-Final and falling just one point short of Collingwood in a Preliminary Final.

The question now is whether they were riding the momentum late in 2023 or whether it was the start of something genuinely special under Adam Kingsley.

If it was the latter, the Giants look every bit a top-four team and could easily win the 2024 flag.

We’ll know pretty early on which is true.

Can Finn Callaghan take the next step to become an A-grader of the competition?

While GWS have some star older heads on-ball in Stephen Coniglio and Josh Kelly, it’s the group under them that’s really driving some improvement.

Tom Green is already an out-and-out star, but he could have a running mate in Finn Callaghan join him in the competition’s elite bracket.

Callaghan has all of the tools to become that player – with size, speed, skills and the footy IQ to match it with any other young talent in the comp.

2024 could be a big breakout year.

Lachlan Geleit

HAWTHORN club banner

How will the backline overcome the pre-season injury carnage?

The last few weeks have been a disaster for the Hawks.

They were already somewhat thin from a key defensive perspective and that situation became even worse at their intra-club scratch match last week.

James Blanck ruptured his ACL and will now miss the entire 2024 season. Changkuoth Jiath, while not a key defender, will be sidelined for up to eight weeks with a hamstring injury.

Add to that Denver Grainger-Barras, who will miss up to 14 weeks with a toe issue, and there isn’t a great deal of options for Sam Mitchell.

Captain James Sicily will have to take on a central defensive role, which may curtail his intercept and rebound, Sam Frost will likely start and Jack Scrimshaw could be asked to play taller.

The fallback plan is SSP addition Ethan Phillips who is fresh out of the VFL.

How the Hawks overcome this lack of depth in defence will be an intriguing watch early in 2024.

Will the Hawks close the gaping chasm between their best and their worst?

Hawthorn’s best and worst was worlds apart in 2023.

They managed to beat premiers Collingwood and Grand Finalists Brisbane in the home and away season, but went down to Geelong (82 points), Fremantle (69 points), Gold Coast (67 points) and Carlton (60 points), among other defeats.

Closing the gaping chasm between their highest and lowest quality footy will be key in their development as they strive to improve on last year’s seven victories.

Can Mitchell make them a sturdier, more consistent outfit? It will be a crucial element if they are to get better this year.

Andrew Slevison

MELBOURNE club banner

Will the off-field drama Dee-rail their 2024 season?

Melbourne has easily been the biggest talking point of the off-season and have spent numerous amounts of days in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Starting from the drama around Clayton Oliver during the trade period, to the Joel Smith findings and allegations on the use of banned substances, the Demons have really had an off-season from hell.

How much of this will carry into 2024, and will the off-field commotion be too much for the club to handle? That’ll be the question on everybody’s lips as the season begins on March 7 in Sydney.

Old age could be catching up to the Demons

Going into 2024, Melbourne has enough players that are aged 28 or older on their list, to field a team without a bench (18). No other club in the competition has more than the Demons.

And with a few of these players being considered as part of the club’s best 23 (Gawn 32, May 32, Viney 30, Petracca 28, Brayshaw 28, Lever 28 and Salem 28), the time for another premiership with these star players could be edging closer to being too hard to reach.

Zac Sharpe


Can North Melbourne finally get off the canvas?

North Melbourne haven’t won more than four games in a single season across any of the last four campaigns.

Since 2020, they hold a 12-win, one-draw and 51-loss record. That’s near the worst run seen at the club since the 1930s.

With Alastair Clarkson at the helm and some young guns beginning to make a name for themselves, surely this is the year North get off the canvas.

While they may not push above the bottom few on the ladder, they need to win at least six games to show that they’re on the rise.

Winning will breed a little more hope and give North fans something to look forward to in years to come.

How good can Harry Sheezel be?

Just how good this young Roo can be?

He sent tongues wagging in his first season and with a potential midfield move on the horizon, can he go to the next level?

If he’s really following in the Nick Daicos trajectory, Sheezel could well and truly win an All-Australian blazer in his second campaign.

He’s reportedly had a dominant pre-season and there’s no doubt he’ll be the player to watch in royal blue and white this campaign.

Lachlan Geleit

PORT ADELAIDE club banner

Is Ken Hinkley ever going to win a premiership at the Power?

Unless Hinkley wins a Grand Final or his side suffers a wretched run of injury over the next two years, it feels like his new two-year contract – signed in August last year – will be his last at the club.

If he coaches out this year and next without tasting the ultimate success, he will have gone 13 seasons as head coach without a flag. Coaches are sometimes lucky enough to last a decade. But not 13.

Hinkley is clearly a very good coach and has inspired Port Adelaide to six finals appearances, as well as three double chances in September. But now that the pressure’s off, he’s given arguably his best shot at a flag.

Recruits that fill key holes, another year of experience into a developing list and a midfield envied competition-wide, there’s plenty of reasons Port Adelaide can perform in 2024.

But whether Hinkley has what it takes to win a premiership as coach shapes as one of the biggest talking points.

Are Esava Ratugolea and Brandon Zerk-Thatcher good enough to hold key pillars in Port’s defence?

Credit to the Power recruiting team. Hinkley desperately needed another two key defenders and a dependable ruckman, with all three coming in during the 2023 trade period.

While Ivan Soldo has a good grounding at Richmond, Zerk-Thatcher and Ratugolea in particular are less exposed in terms of their best footy.

Ratugolea has received 10 coaches votes in a game previously as a defender (Round 8 vs Adelaide, 2023), while Zerk-Thatcher has put on size in recent years while improving in the air.

But the fact remains their best football is unproven. If they don’t work out in 2024, the Power are no hope and Hinkley’s time at the club may be over.

But on the flip side, if the duo play their roles and more, Port’s Achilles heel may have just become a strength.

Seb Mottram

RICHMOND club banner

Which direction will Richmond go under Adem Yze?

It’s a new era at Tigerland, with Richmond starting a season without Damien Hardwick at the helm for the first time since 2009.

Instead, the Tiger faithful will be eagerly watching the handiwork of first-time senior coach Adem Yze, hoping some fresh eyes can bring Richmond back into the finals hunt.

Yze hasn’t shied away from moving on from the past, bringing in a brand-new set of assistant coaches, as well as making the controversial decision to move Richmond’s premiership memorabilia out of clear sight at Punt Road.

The Tigers finished 13th with just 10 wins in 2023 and are widely expected to follow up with another middling campaign in 2024.

Yet with new faces in every facet of the club and a revamped game plan, it will be fascinating to see if Yze can turn Richmond’s trajectory around.

What should we be expecting from Dusty?

One of the greatest players of this generation, Dustin Martin is something of an enigma as he enters his 15th AFL season.

With Trent Cotchin and Jack Riewoldt both calling time on their careers in 2023, Martin stands alone as the figurehead from Richmond’s premiership era, yet is beginning to wind down in his own right.

Martin looked a step off his game-breaking self throughout Richmond’s disappointing 2023, however, he was still capable of dominant stretches, a significant improvement from an injury-riddled 2022.

While it’s unlikely that he’ll reach the absolutely outrageous heights of his past, a fit and firing Martin is still one of the most valuable weapons in the competition, and that’s not even considering the extra motivation that comes from his contract situation.

The monster deal that Martin signed back in 2017 is set to expire at season’s end, and at age 32, the star Tiger is rapidly approaching his final big payday.

Despite having already taken out almost every AFL award under the sun, the final chapter of Dusty’s career is looking to be the most intriguing.

Jack Makeham

ST KILDA club banner

Will a fully fit Max King take the next step?

Max King has promised so much as a key forward but has been riddled with injuries since the day he got drafted.

He's fully fit heading into Round 1 and looks primed to take the competition by the scruff of the neck.

But we've seen this story before.

If King can play the whole season, he'll easily have over 100 shots on goal and he's done a lot of work on his goal kicking which should see a big return!

If the Saints are going to go deep this year, King will need to announce himself as a power forward like Charlie Curnow, Harry McKay and Nick Larkey have.

St Kilda's injury list is quietly worrying

St Kilda released an injury update just weeks away from Round 1 and it didn't look pretty.

The Saints look set to be without Dan Butler and Paddy Dow for Round 1, with their medical department describing the duo as “touch and go” for the opening rounds.

Their best player and dual All-Australian Jack Sinclair is also in a rush to be fit with the back-to-back best and fairest winner on a modified program with a calf injury.

Hunter Clark is also dealing with a facial structure after a brutal clash at training and won't be seen in Friday's practice match against Essendon with a return date unclear.

Throw in the fact that Jack Hayes and Ben Paton will miss large chunks of the season, Ross Lyon has a few injury headaches.

Hugh Fitzpatrick

SYDNEY club banner

What does life for the Swans look like post-Buddy?

It is never easy when a club great finally hangs up the boots. It’s even more difficult when that player was a once in a generation talent in Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin.

In the years leading up to his retirement at the end of 2023, we had seen glimpses of Sydney’s new-look forward line given how often Franklin was injured or managed. However, the young forwards in Logan McDonald, Hayden McLean and Joel Amartey bear a massive responsibility in filling the void left by Franklin.

McLean had a breakout 2023 campaign with a career high 21 goals including a match winning performance against GWS in Round 21. McDonald also had a career year with 32 goals and Amartey strung together 15 games for the Swans and was a regular in the side from Round 13 onwards.

The three combined for 73 goals in 2023 whilst Franklin averaged 56 goals a season across his 19 years in the AFL. If the tall forwards fail to lift their goalscoring, they leave a heavy burden on the midfield to be able to kick a winning score each week.

Is this John Longmire’s final crack at another flag?

The Swans were one of the most active teams during the trade period and coach John Longmire now has arguably the most talented squad at his disposal since the 2012 Premiership season.

Horse enters his 14th season in charge and is four games shy of registering 300 games as a senior coach. If the Swans fail to win the flag, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that Longmire could step away and with long-term assistant Dean Cox waiting in the wings, could we see a succession plan at Moore Park?

Charles Goodsir

WEST COAST club banner

Can Harley Reid possibly live up to the local hype?

Since January 7, Harley Reid has featured on the back page of the West Australian at least 15 times – and he hasn’t even played a game yet.

Going into the WA market as potentially the saviour of West Coast is a big ask for a teenager, particularly given the state the team has been in for a while now.

The number one draft pick will reportedly begin his career off half back for the Eagles. The absolute best case scenario is a Harry Sheezel like debut season, finishing up near the All-Australian squad, but that kind of impact doesn’t necessarily translate to wins.

The worst case scenario is Reid, like many young players, needs a few seasons to find his feet at the level. Will the local press turn on him? Will the pressure mount?

It will be something to track across the 2024 season.

Does Adam Simpson have it in him to get this team off the canvas?

The Eagles stood by Adam Simpson last season, with the hefty payout required to sack him likely a big factor in that.

However, they have a new CEO in Don Pyke at the helm and questions will once again be asked if West Coast remains on the canvas in 2024.

Nic Negrepontis


Is this it for Bevo?

Nobody is entering the 2024 season under more pressure than Luke Beveridge.

2023 ended in less than spectacular fashion for the Bulldogs, missing out on finals by just two premiership points after losing back-to-back games to bottom four sides in the home stretch of the season.

With the calibre of talent on the Bulldogs’ list, last season can be seen as nothing other than a failure, and the expectations for finals won’t be any different this year.

Now with reports surrounding the club regarding tension between Beveridge and Bulldogs footy boss Chris Grant, the seat has never been hotter for the established senior coach.

For a coach that has led his club to a flag and a second Grand Final appearance during his tenure, such high stakes may seem unreasonable, however that is the hand that Beveridge has been dealt, and he has no choice but to perform.

How many times can the Bont narrowly miss out on a Brownlow?

The window for Marcus Bontempelli is slowly starting to close, and it seems baffling that the superstar has yet to claim the AFL’s highest honour.

The Bont put together a career year in 2023, averaging 27.6 touches and 7.6 clearances per game, however finished just two votes behind Lachie Neale, marking the second time he has been named Brownlow runner-up.

Throughout his 10 seasons of senior footy, Bontempelli has already finished in the award’s top 10 five times, having polled 169 total votes since his debut in 2014.

As one of the true stars of the current era, the Bronwlow seems glaringly absent from Bontempelli’s resume, and with the new crop of dominant midfielders such as Nick Daicos and Tom Green taking over the competition, the Bulldog mighn’t have much time left to be recognised.

Jack Makeham

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