The 124th AFL season gets underway on Thursday, March 19th as defending champions Richmond take on Carlton at the MCG. 18 teams have been using the Australian summer to prepare for another long and grueling campaign, which will come to a conclusion with the Grand Final on September 26.
Rosters have been improved and a number of sides have brought in key personnel ahead of the 2020 season, but the title holders are the team to beat once again.
Out in Front
Richmond claimed their 12th Premiership in 2019 – their second in three years, so it’s no surprise that the Tigers are widely tipped for a successful defense. If we take a look at the Aussie Rules betting markets from bet365, Richmond are clear favorites for another Grand Final win at 13/4, with that figure giving the team a clear lead over the chasing pack.
Interestingly, the Tigers have chosen to keep faith with the roster that got them through to that 12th Premiership victory 12 months ago. As the team headed into the final weeks of pre-season, no gains had been made, while seven players, including the retired pair of Shaun Grigg and Maverick Weller, had left the squad.
Has that been the right move or will Richmond’s decision not to trade open the door for other clubs?
According to the sportsbooks, the closest challengers to Richmond in 2020 will be 2019’s beaten finalists, West Coast. Like their title rivals, the Eagles have also been quiet in terms of player trades but they have moved to add Tim Kelly from the Geelong Cats.
At the same time, a number of fringe players have been delisted but there have been no retirements, meaning that there are no obvious holes in this West Coast roster.
Just behind the second favorites are Collingwood, and then we move out marginally to Greater Western Sydney. Before we come to the real outsiders, the Brisbane Lions, Geelong, and the Western Bulldogs are on the fringes of the chasing pack.
All of those teams will feel that they have a chance when the 2020 Aussie Rules season kicks off, but Geelong could be the ones to watch. The Cats finished the 2019 regular campaign at the top of the table before giving eventual champions Richmond a battle in the preliminary finals.
The entire 2020 AFL season could hinge on Richmond’s decision not to build on their existing roster. Supporters will argue that you don’t change a winning formula but there are instances, both in Aussie Rules and in other sports, of successful teams slipping because they’ve failed to refresh and renew.
The West Coast Eagles will obviously get some support, as they reached the Grand Final last year, but that was a one-sided game where only one team turned up. Perhaps we should look further down at the sides who have been busier in pre-season. Geelong Cats look especially strong and, while they have lost Tim Kelly to West Coast, the arrivals of Josh Jenkins and Jack Stevens can boost a serious challenge in 2020.