AFL 2023: The moves every club should make next season

New coach Brad Scott can’t make the same mistakes Ben Rutten did last season. He has to make this key change to stamp his authority in season 2023.

New coaches, new recruits, new draftees.

With every new season comes some new ideas as AFL clubs search for an edge to climb the ladder or keep themselves in premiership calculations.

Here are the moves we think your club should make in 2023, from changing captains to blooding youngsters and making magnet moves.

ADELAIDE

1. Play Izak Rankine in the midfield

It’s something that already looks to be on the cards with Rankine around the ball in match-sim. He can tear open a game as a small forward but the Crows can use his class around the ball.

2. Keep Jordan Dawson off half-back

Dawson is the Crows’ Swiss Army knife with Matthew Nicks throwing him around everywhere. But he looked to play his best footy off half-back especially with his kicking.

3. Blood Luke Pedlar

Only five games for the No. 11 draft pick. But the Crows could use his hard tackling both in the forward line and in the midfield, 2023 could be a breakout year for Pedlar.

-Simeon Thomas-Wilson

BRISBANE

1. Blood Will Ashcroft early

The No. 2 draft pick is a ready-made AFL player who could step up to the top level straight away and provide a spark, perhaps starting across half-back or on a wing.

2. Implement a stronger defensive system

The Lions ranked second for scores for last season, but 10th for scores against. Defence wins premierships and Brisbane needs to improve in that area if it wants to challenge in 2023.

3. Find a spot for Conor McKenna

Could the former Essendon rebounding defender find a new home on a wing or up forward? Brisbane already has a pair of running half-backs in Daniel Rich and Keidean Coleman.

– Chris Cavanagh

CARLTON

1. Let Blake Acres have one wing

The Blues identified they needed some more outside run and secured that during the trade period with the former Fremantle wingman. Put Acres on one wing and let him get to work.

2. Give Jesse Motlop more opportunities

The small forward played 12 games in an exciting debut season and booted multiple goals in three of his last eight matches. He has the potential to be something special.

3. Get Mitch McGovern fit

The switch to defence worked well – when McGovern was on the field. He only played seven games after being struck down by another hamstring injury. If he can play a full season in 2023 it could make a big difference for the Blues.

– Chris Cavanagh

COLLINGWOOD

1. Give Darcy Moore the captaincy

With Scott Pendlebury finally stepping aside as skipper, Moore looks the man for the job. He’s all class on and off the field and at 26 years old he is primed for the role.

2. Give Nick Daicos some more midfield time

The father-son was incredible across half-back on his way to a Rising Star award in his debut season. But his talents could also be well utilised in the attacking half.

3. Use Tom Mitchell wisely

The Hawthorn recruit isn’t a great kick, but he can win you plenty of clearances in the thick of the action and is defensively minded. Play him to his strengths on the inside.

– Chris Cavanagh

ESSENDON

1. Return Andrew McGrath to half-back

The 2016 No. 1 draft pick spent significant time as a midfielder this year, but looks most at home as a rebounding half-back. The Bombers have other options to play onball.

2. Get more games into Massimo D’Ambrosio

The mid-season draft pick from this year can play and is already impressing in his first AFL pre-season. He deserves some more opportunities next season.

3. Bring back integrity of selection

There were Bombers players getting senior games last season when their form and on-field actions didn’t warrant them. New coach Brad Scott must change that.

-Chris Cavanagh

FREMANTLE

1. Don’t play Luke Jackson as a forward

The Dockers will likely split their star recruit between the ruck and forward line but is that the best way to utilise the young gun? Jackson didn’t set the world alight at Melbourne as a forward, but with his ability when the ball hits the ground could he be a big-bodied midfielder?

2. Play Nat Fyfe as a forward

It has been something the Dockers have looked at in the past, and hasn’t worked. But with Jaeger O’Meara now in purple should they look at trying it again?

3. Give Liam Henry a chance on the wing

The Dockers have some serious speed on the outside and through their half-backs. If Henry can play more than the seven games he did in 2022 they can become even more dangerous.

-Simeon Thomas-Wilson

GEELONG

1. See what Esava Ratugolea can do as a defender at AFL level

Shifted to defence in the VFL, Ratugolea impressed so much in his new role that he had Port Adelaide trying to lure him out of Geelong. The Cats should see what he can do at the top level.

2. Continue the ruck rotation

For all the talk that Chris Scott disliked ruckmen the Cats landed on a winning formula in 2022 by rotating Mark Blicavs and Rhys Stanley through the ruck. It can continue to work in 2023.

3. Move Max Holmes inside

Playing on a wing Holmes was key in implementing the Cats’ new game style in 2022. But if Geelong are looking to evolve in 2023 then the Cats should give him a chance to go through the middle.

-Simeon Thomas-Wilson

GOLD COAST

1. Play Jack Lukosius down back

After impressing with his ball use from the back-half of the ground, Lukosius was thrown forward in 2022. He had his moments in his former position but is he a better AFL player as a defender?

2. Unleash Mac Andrew

The No. 5 pick had to wait until the final four games of the season to get his chance at AFL level and showed off his raw talent. The Suns must keep this going despite a club-imposed two game suspension after he was caught driving under the influence of alcohol on New Year’s Eve.

3. Play Ben Long consistently as a half-back

The former Saint was used in a variety of positions by St Kilda in 2022. But two years prior he impressed for St Kilda in a consistent role off half-back.

-Simeon Thomas-Wilson

GWS GIANTS

1. Establish Tom Green and Finn Callaghan as key midfield duo

There is still midfield depth despite losing Jacob Hopper and Tim Taranto with senior operators Callan Ward, Stephen Coniglio and Josh Kelly to continue leading the charge. But their departures also give Green, who had a breakout 2022, and the prized Callaghan more opportunity to establish themselves. Both tall midfielders, their strengths are complementary with Green a ball-winner and Callaghan all class.

2. Channel Braydon Preuss’ aggressive play

Hulking ruckman Braydon Preuss is an aggressive presence around the ball but missed games last season with striking and rough conduct suspensions. If new coach Adam Kingsley can ensure the big man’s attack on opposition and ball remains legal, the Giants could regain some much-missed assertiveness at stoppages.

3. Give Leek Aleer an intercepting licence

The Giants recently re-signed Aleer until the end of 2025 in a show of faith and the high-leaping defender should complement Sam Taylor’s shutdown efforts next season. Showed rapid development in the SANFL before being drafted as a mature-ager and playing four AFL games at the end of last season.

-Owen Leonard

HAWTHORN

1. Moore midfield time

The Hawks should make crafty forward-mid Dylan Moore a full-time onballer to help cover holes left by Jaeger O’Meara and Tom Mitchell. Has shown spark, big engine and ball-winning ability, racking up 25-plus disposals in a handful of games last season.

2. Forward-line Fergus

Fergus Greene, who the Hawks signed in the off-season, should slot straight into the forward line. The nearly 25-year-old former Bulldog booted 53 goals for Box Hill in the VFL last season, so could command a position as a medium 187cm forward, providing some relief after Jack Gunston’s exit.

3. Give Kozzie first crack at key-forward posting

Jacob Koschitzke has been swung back and into attack but with Gunston gone, an opportunity arises for an extended crack as Mitch Lewis’ key-forward deputy. Kicked 27 goals in 2021 before development slowed last season.

-Owen Leonard

MELBOURNE

1. Sit Max Gawn and Brodie Grundy behind the ball rather than forward

Much has been made of who out of the star ruck pair will spend more time forward. But what about behind the ball? Opposition simply wouldn’t be able to bomb the ball forward with Gawn/Grundy, Steven May and Jake Lever waiting to swoop.

2. Blood Jacob Van Rooyen

Ben Brown hasn’t been able to recapture his imperious 2017-19 form, Sam Weideman is gone and while the Dees recruited Josh Schache, Van Rooyen could bang the door down in his second season. The 2021 draft pick 19 booted 36 goals from 18 VFL games last season, including bags of six and five.

3. Give Kozzie more on-ball bursts

Melbourne’s midfield is star-studded but coaches have since identified on-ball rotating as an area of improvement for next season. A beefed-up Pickett could use his extra size and breakaway speed at stoppages in five-minute bursts.

-Owen Leonard

NORTH MELBOURNE

1. Inject Will Phillips and Tom Powell into the engine room

Powell was a dominant junior inside ball-winner but has been consigned to half-forward and outside roles, while Phillips has been unlucky with injury and illness. Both should be challenged to establish themselves as inside midfield locks ahead of Hugh Greenwood while replacing Jed Anderson.

2. Use Griffin Logue to release Ben McKay

McKay could cement himself as the game’s best interceptor if he’s confident new defensive partner Logue has the best key forward covered. McKay averaged the most intercept marks of any player last season so should leave the shutdown defending up to Logue and Aidan Corr in 2023, freeing himself up to take his aerial presence to another level.

3. Maximise Tarryn Thomas and Jaidyn Stephenson

Both players have shown extraordinary glimpses of talent but neither took the step hoped for in 2022. They have speed and class – something North’s midfield unit lacks – so could form part of a midfield rotation that complements the inside work of Davies-Uniacke and Cunnington, as well as running off half-back or threatening up forward.

-Owen Leonard

PORT ADELAIDE

1. Play Jeremy Finlayson as their No. 1 ruck in certain games

The former Giant impressed when called upon as a ruck after Scott Lycett went down with a shoulder injury. He might not be able to win the tap-outs against traditional ruckmen but he makes up for it when the ball hits the ground.

2. Consider Mitch Georgiades further up the ground

The Power are going to face a challenge fitting Georgiades, Charlie Dixon, Todd Marshall and Finlayson in the same forward line. Georgiades can fly high but he can also move impressively and it might be worth the Power seeing what he can do when he gets the licence to run.

3. Start Jason Horne-Francis as a half-forward

The ex-No. 1 draft pick will be a gun midfielder but given the Power’s start to the season they will be better placed by using seasoned players like Travis Boak, Ollie Wines and Willem Drew in the midfield.

-Simeon Thomas-Wilson

RICHMOND

1. Put the new recruits in the guts

Clearances have long been a weakness for the Tigers, but should not be any more with the additions of former Greater Western Sydney on-ballers Jacob Hopper and Tim Taranto.

2. More time forward for Dustin Martin

With the additions of Hopper and Taranto, the Tigers can afford to give Martin more time forward. He is a highly dangerous proposition for opposition defenders, who has kicked more than 30 goals in four separate seasons.

3. Continue with Ben Miller forward

Miller showed some promise as a forward and back-up ruckman in the back half of last year. The experiment needs to continue, with Jack Riewoldt entering his final season.

– Chris Cavanagh

ST KILDA

1. Move Jade Gresham forward

Yes, he can play as a midfielder. But Gresham is most dangerous when he is around the goals. He kicked 35 majors as a forward in 2018. Get him back there.

2. Get Rowan Marshall back in the ruck

The big man finished second in the best-and-fairest in 2019 as No. 1 ruckman. With Paddy Ryder gone, he can get back to that rather than splitting his time forward.

3. Give Cooper Sharman more games

With key forward Max King set to miss the start of the season with a shoulder, the Saints might need Sharman to step up as a marking target in attack.

– Chris Cavanagh

SYDNEY SWANS

1. Emphasise team morale

Teams who get belted in grand finals like Sydney did often sink in their next season – think Port Adelaide post-2007, Adelaide from 2017, GWS after 2019 and to a lesser extent the Western Bulldogs in 2022. If any club can buck the trend it is Sydney, with team psyche to prove paramount.

2. Keep Buddy fresh

Franklin played 23 games in 2022, his strongest tally since 2017. But by finals, it seemed to show, with the 35-year-old managing only 23 touches and two goals in three games. The Swans shouldn’t get carried away when he boots a bag and instead rest him regularly to ensure he’s fresh to perform when it counts.

3. Settle on a key-forward set-up

With Buddy going around again, there should be stiff competition to fill the forward-line spot alongside him. Logan McDonald has been a natural frontrunner as a top draft pick, while Joel Amartey and Hayden McLean have shown different strengths and also offer ruck pinch-hitting. Whether injury-prone veteran Sam Reid is backed in again remains to be seen.

-Owen Leonard

WESTERN BULLDOGS

1. See how Darcy fares in defence

The Bulldogs will bring in Rory Lobb, making for a crowded tall forward-line already including Aaron Naughton and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan. The Dogs remain leaner in defence despite bringing in Liam Jones, so could develop Sam Darcy as an intercepting threat. Beveridge hinted Josh Bruce could play down back so how they set up will be fascinating.

2. Station Tim English behind the ball after stoppages

If Tim English can drift back like Max Gawn often did for Melbourne last season the Dogs’ defence could be hard to penetrate aerially, particularly with the addition of Liam Jones. Rory Lobb’s arrival means the front half is covered in the air, so English should be stationed behind the ball to help the likes of Jones and Ryan Gardner.

3. Challenge Bailey Smith to add another layer

Smith averaged 29 disposals in 2022, but 21 of those were uncontested. His elite endurance and breakaway speed are traits that suit such outside style of play, but could establish himself as a true elite midfielder with more time in the clinches. That opportunity might’ve opened after ball-winner Josh Dunkley departed.

-Owen Leonard

WEST COAST

1. Return Andrew Gaff to a wing

Gaff has won two All-Australian blazers on a wing but was used a lot by the Eagles as an inside midfielder in 2022. He should return to his best position.

2. Play Greg Clark in the middle

Despite looking like an inside midfielder Clark has been used on a wing by the Eagles. Given the Eagles are rebuilding they should see what Clark can do on the inside.

3. Throw Reuben Ginbey in early

The Western Australian draftee looks like he has an AFL-ready body and Eagles fans will be clamouring for him to get an early debut.

-Simeon Thomas-Wilson

Originally published as The positional moves every club should make for the 2023 season

https://www.codesports.com.au/afl/the-positional-moves-every-club-should-make-for-the-2023-season/news-story/fcba259c7c88e8150908dfe528640f98?nk=27b73540a7efd04115fc1253933d7c07-1673937667 AFL 2023: The moves every club should make next season

Ryan Sederquist

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