AS the start of the 2017 TAC Cup season draws near, AFL Draft Central’s Matt Balmer will look at the six metro sides and investigate which ones are contenders, and which ones are pretenders this year. To check out Peter Williams‘ country previews, click here.
Calder Cannons only had a single player drafted in the AFL National Draft last season, but showed off their ability to win games when they needed to and finished in eighth place in the TAC Cup.
Their 2017 season will be relient on Noah Balta, who some predict the tall could easily find himself as a top 10 pick by November. The tall has played through the ruck and up forward and covers the ground well for a player at 194cm.
Their bottom age group is full of future stars including Rhylee West (son of Western Bulldogs great Scott), Curtis Taylor and Jack Bytel and they will be hoping to get plenty of opportunity in 2017.
Brad Bernacki showed some good form last season and has been named captain of the Cannons group. Bernacki finished third in the Cannons’ best and fairest last year and will be looking to take another step forward to lead his team.
I think overall it will be a similar season to 2016 for the Cannons, but if their top talent can gel together they will be able to take some scalps across the season and fight their way into the top eight.
Finishing position: 8th-10th
2016 saw the Sandringham Dragons have five players drafted in the top 20 – well Eastern may equal that with some top talent that is sure to mark them as premierships favourite before the ball is even bounced on the season.
AFL Academy members Joel Garner, Sam Hayes and Jaidyn Stephenson were strong performers in 2016, with Hayes named as an All-Australian after a steller Under 18 championships with Vic Metro.
Hayes was good in the ruck, as well as showing off his skills inside 50 taking marks and kicking goals.
The smooth moving Garner might just be the best Metro player, with the Scotch College student using his speed and agility to take the ball inside 50 on his left boot.
Adam Cerra and Jackson Ross are two others who have not got the plaudits of the other three and may be two others who could be first round talents come November.
With Eastern the best team from Metro, it should be enough to see them reach the TAC Cup Grand Final – but with a different finals system in 2017 anything can happen.
Finishing position: 1st-2nd
The Northern Knights had a coaching change over the summer with Justin Wenke appointed to take over from Andrew Shakespeare.
The Knights had some strong bottom agers last season who will progress into their top-age year nicely and should hopefully push them into finals.
Patrick Naish (son of former Richmond player Chris) headlines their draft prospects and will likely play more of a role in attack, after spending 2016 playing off the half back flank.
Jack Petruccelle will provide much needed speed through their midfield and is a player that should be noted down to keep an eye on this season. Ethan Penrith is another who showed speed from defensive 50 in 2016 and will look to take a bigger role this season.
Christian Farchione and Max Dreher are two who impressive in school football last year and when available the Knights have some strong talent from the AGSV schools.
After missing out on finals in 2016, they have a list that is capable of contending for the top eight and they have some real talent that could find themselves on AFL lists in 2018.
Finishing position: 6th-10th
It’s hard to tell how the Chargers will go in 2017. With a large contingent of APS and AGSV school boys they are always going to be strong when they aren’t playing – but what type of performances will they dish up when they lose half of their best players?
Having Jack Higgins available all year will be a big plus for their midfielder, as Higgins can win the football on the inside and then push forward and hit the scoreboard.
Toby Wooller impressed up forward for Scotch and the Chargers last year and having finished school will head up their forward line looking for a 30+ goals season.
Louis Cunningham was one of the closest players to being drafted last year using his steller left boot coming out of defence, but the Chargers will look to push him up the ground this season which hopefully should help his draft chances.
Charlie Thompson has had injuries in the past but some of his performances in 2016 showed that he could be the surprise packet in the Chargers list.
2016 captain Jack Roughsedge continues on the road to recover after an injury riddled season and it will be good to see him back out on the field later in the season.
Overall you know what you’re going to get with Oakleigh, they have a strong enough team to make the finals and if it all clicks come September anything is possible.
Finishing position: 3rd-7th
After a record breaking 2016 draftee numbers and a TAC Cup premiership, Sandringham will look to continue their superb work in 2017.
Andrew Brayshaw, Hayden McLean and Isaac Morrisby were all a part of the Grand Final and their experience will hopefully drive the 2017 Dragons to another finals appearance.
Like Oakleigh, they have a truckload of talent when school football isn’t on – but they will look towards others to step up in their absence.
McLean has been named captain of the Dragons and his strong form inside 50 saw him gain a stop in the AFL Academy for 2017. He marks well overhead and hit the scoreboard at will last season.
Charlie Constable has been a strong performer in the preseason after missing most of 2016 with injury, whilst twins Max and Ben King will be two talls at either ends who will standout as likely top 10 players for the 2018 draft.
Father-Sons Devlin Brereton (son of Dermott) and Joel Crocker (son of Darren) are two that may get opportunity throughout the season.
While winning back-to-back premierships will be tough, they will be at team that will make finals and have the depth in their squad to know they have what it takes to get to the Grand Final.
Finishing position: 3rd-6th
The Jets have some high top age talent that should be able to help them jump into finals in 2017.
Midfielders Lachlan Fogarty and Cameron Rayner are the pair that will make the Jets hard to beat in the centre contest. Fogarty is a smart player around the contest, while Rayner bashes in hard and can push forward to take a contested mark overhead.
Tall Tristan Xerri impressed last season as 23rd man and is one that may bolt if he can help the Jets to a finals berth.
Smart defender Thomas Yorgey joins the Jets in 2017 and his mature football brain will help them remain composed coming from defence.
Judah Dundon was very close to being selected in the 2016 draft and will be out to impress clubs in what is hopefully an injury free season.
The Jets have a balanced squad and they are expected to win a lot of the contested ball which should hold them in good stead to hit the scoreboard.
Finishing position: 7th-11th