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Aussie Rules: Big 2023 AFL preview

The long wait for all AFL fans is almost over with the 2023 campaign set to get underway on Thursday and it promises to be better than ever.

It seems an age ago since Geelong won the 2022 AFL Grand Final, beating the Sydney Swans with ease back in September, and they will begin their defence this week.

Chris Scott’s men look to be the team to beat again this season but there will be a number of teams looking to dethrone them, including Melbourne, Brisbane Lions and Richmond Tigers. The race to make the eight and play finals will be intriguing as will the battle to avoid finishing bottom of the ladder and picking up the wooden spoon.

There will be some clubs embarking on a new era with a new coach at the helm, but also plenty of familiar faces and top quality players to entertain the fans.

It all gets underway again on Thursday night so strap yourself and get ready for what is sure to be an exciting six months of action. Here is the big 2023 AFL preview.

First-round Fixtures

As per usual it is down to Richmond Tigers and Carlton to open up the new season under the lights at the MCG on Thursday night. Both of these sides have high hopes for the season ahead and the Tigers are priced at 1.72 to begin the season with a win while Carlton can be backed at 2.15.

The reigning premiers Geelong then begin their defence with a cracking game against Collingwood on Friday night. The Cats are priced at 1.47 to continue where they left off with a win.

There are four games to look forward to on a ‘Super Saturday’. North Melbourne and West Coast get things up and running before Port Adelaide take on Brisbane Lions and Melbourne entertain Western Bulldogs.

To wrap up the day the Gold Coast Suns take on Sydney Swans, who are priced at 1.62 to win. Then on Sunday it is the turn of Greater Western Sydney who play Adelaide, Hawthorn entertain Essendon and St Kilda host Fremantle.

The Premiership contenders

The race for the flag is sure to be a closely-fought battle, but again it looks as though Geelong (5.50) will be the team to beat. Former captain Joel Selwood may have retired but Patrick Dangerfield steps in to replace him which is hardly a backward step.

The Cats dominated in 2022 when winning 18 of the 22 matches played in the regular season, before cleaning up in finals. The likes of Jeremy Cameron are to shine, then they have the up-and-coming stars like Max Holmes and Sam de Koning so Geelong look set for another big year.

Melbourne (6.50) swept aside all that was put before them in 2021 when marching to grand final glory and were expected to be big hitters again in 2022. However despite a very strong start it did not pan out that way as they were hit by injuries and one or two issues away from the field that resulted in a disappointing campaign on the whole.

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They will be keen to prove a point and bounce back in the new season. They still have a list packed with quality including Clayton Oliver, Max Gawn and Christian Petracca so are capable of regaining the flag in 2023.

Brisbane Lions (7.50) have an outstanding record of playing finals in recent years and despite slipping down the ladder slightly in 2022 to finish sixth they should be pushing higher in the season ahead. They have a list packed with quality and a good mix of youth and experience.

Dayne Zorko has stepped aside as captain but the Lions are still in a very good place with Harris Andrews and Lachie Neal operating as co-captains.

After winning three flags in four seasons and then dropping out of the top eight completely in 2021, the Richmond Tigers (9.00) showed signs of improvement when playing finals in 2022. They are all set to improve again with three-time Norm Smith Medallist Dustin Martin expected to be fully fit and firing again following a disappointing 2022.

They have also recruited well when snapping up Jacob Hopper and Tim Taranto from GWS. The experience is still there with Jack Riewoldt and Trent Cotchin while they have plenty of exciting young players like Shai Bolton, Noah Cumberland and Josh Gibcus.

Sydney Swans (10.00) will have gone away and licked their wounds following the humiliating grand final defeat but they have the potential to get back there in 2023. The legend that is Lance Franklin will be leading the line in what could be his last year in the game and there are plenty of young guns that will give coach John Longmire plenty of reason to be optimistic.

They include Chad Warner, James Rowbottom and Dylan Stephens, while the Swans also have one of the best midfielders in the comp in the form of Luke Parker.

Collingwood (10.00) were very much the surprise package under the leadership of first-year coach Craig McRae who took them from the lower regions of the ladder and into finals. They made the top four when winning 16 games and a number of those were close encounters that went their way.

It could be a tough ask for Collingwood to do the same again this season but they will be out to prove the doubters wrong once again.

The race for the eight

Elsewhere the battle to make it into the top eight will be a fierce one. Fremantle will be determined to stay there following a strong 2022 that saw them return to finals and are priced at 1.75. Carlton (1.55) looked good for a top eight spot all year before sliding down the ladder late on.

They will be keen to make up for it this year, while the Gold Coast Suns (4.00) could be contenders to make the eight this year. The same can be said of St Kilda who are now led by returning coach Ross Lyon. Western Bulldogs and Port Adelaide will also be knocking on the door.

Wooden spoon contenders

North Melbourne will be out to make big improvements under new coach Alastair Clarkson, while West Coast Eagles will also look to climb the ladder. North are priced at 2.50 to suffer the most losses this season, while Hawthorn are priced at 3.25 as they begin their second year under the leadership of Sam Mitchell. West Coast are 4.75.

Greater Western Sydney, Essendon and Adelaide could all flirt with the lower reaches of the ladder but should be looking up instead of down.

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