Every pre-season there are question marks raised concerning which players must take the next step.

Whether it a veteran short on time, a major talent returning from injury or a player enveloped by new surroundings, we’ve run the rule over which individuals need to step up at your club.

So, who is Under The Pump ahead of season 2018?


Bryce Gibbs
The Crows are well and truly in the premiership window and feel they can snare an elusive flag with a player of Gibbs’ calibre in the 22.

Essentially parted with Pick 10 for the 11-year Blue, who will turn 29 in March, and who boasts 231 games against his name.

With the Crows getting as close as they did in 2017, the pressure is on Gibbs to deliver in 2018 and help the club win a first premiership since 1998 having come off one of his most prolific season yet.


Pressure is also on…

Josh Jenkins
Accused of being the recipient of ‘easy’ goals. Went missing on Grand Final day and was below average in the Qualifying Final. Needs to become a more dominant and dependable key forward despite his decent goalkicking returns.


Lewis Taylor
After winning the Rising Star award in 2014, Taylor has been ok without setting the world alight.

Now 22, Taylor has 85 AFL games under his belt and should now be taking the next step from a decent forward/midfielder to a 25+ possession key contributor now that Tom Rockliff has left.

The challenge is there for him to have an impact similar to superstar teammate Dayne Zorko and show the football world why he was ranked the number one youngster in the game just three years ago.


Pressure is also on…

Allen Christensen
Endured a tough 2016 with injury following a decent first season with the Lions. Is capable of averaging over 20 possessions and kicking a goal a game. Needs to bring that in 2018.


Levi Casboult
Casboult turns 28 a week before the new season starts. At this age, and after 94 games, should now have a much more commanding presence.

While 34 goals is an ok return, Levi needs to do more as the youthful exuberance of Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay is breathing down his neck.

He has to kick at least 40 in 2018 so he can assure himself status as a Carlton player into his 30s.



Ben Reid
Where is he best suited? Is he a defender or a forward?

Ultimately, that is Nathan Buckley’s decision but nevertheless, Reid MUST stand up and be counted in 2018.

29 in April and 136 games is enough experience to avoid being dropped and to contribute more effectively.

A consistent and injury-free Reid could be the difference between the Pies making or missing the finals.


Pressure is also on…

Jarryd Blair
Expectations are much lower than that of Reid but Blair basically has to resurrect his career in 2018.

Lost his way in 2017, playing just 12 games – the first time under 20 since his debut season in 2010. The writing could be on the wall if Blair doesn’t deliver next year.


Jake Stringer
The most talked about player, apart from Gary Ablett, during the trade period.

There is no doubting Stringer‘s raw ability but does he have the application and mental strength to bounce back from a disappointing 2017?

Turns 24 in April and could still have the football world at his feet if he can rediscover his best at Windy Hill. If he does, that can lead the Dons to the finals and individually to another All-Australian selection.

After being shown the door by the Dogs, has a hell of a lot to prove.


Pressure is also on…

Jayden Laverde
Approaching his 22nd birthday and fourth year in the system, the number 20 selection of 2014 has to take the next step. Just 23 games so needs to impress in pre-season and stake his claim as a Bombers regular.


Cam McCarthy
The Dockers did a lot to get McCarthy to the club and the player gave up a year of footy to get there.

Heading into his second year season at Freo and hopefully with a full pre-season under his belt, the 22-year-old must become the clubs out and out number one forward.

McCarthy’s best and worst are at the opposite end of the scale so he must bridge that gap to become a more consistent commodity and truly fulfil the potential that saw him kick 35 goals as a 20-year-old at GWS.



Gary Ablett
Normally there wouldn’t be a great deal of pressure on a 33-year-old two-time premiership player and Brownlow Medallist but you just get the feeling that Gary Junior will be acutely scrutinised in 2018.

The clubs favourite son is back in the blue and white hoops, adding pure quality to a midfield that already boasts dynamic duo ‘Dangerwood’, so it is safe to say that expectations on the Cats are at an all-time high.

Ablett actively pushed for a move away from the Gold Coast Suns with the notion of clinching a final flag before calling it quits, meaning anything short of a Grand Final berth in 2018 will be seen as a failure.

The question is: Can the great Gaz deliver?

The proof will be in the pudding…


Pressure is also on…

Rhys Stanley
Is heading into his fourth year with the Cats and now must bring his absolute best. Has not produced what the club would have expected of him since joining from St Kilda in 2014. Needs to become a more reliant avenue to goal when Tom Hawkins is down.

Gold Coast Suns

David Swallow
His potential could deliver the world but he has only been dealing in atlases of late.

Now 25, the time is right for the former number one draft pick to become a bona fide star of the game.

Won the Suns B&F in 2014 but has played just 24 matches since so it is crucial he gets over his injury woes and consistently stands up so the Suns can be relevant.

There is a gaping Ablett-sized hole on the Gold Coast and Swallow is the perfect man to fill it.


Pressure is also on…

Lachie Weller
The Suns gave up Pick 2 for Weller so that immediately sets the pressure gauge high. Add to that the fact he has played close to 50 games, averaged 20 possessions last year and is expected to play 200+ times for his new club which he may well captain one day.

GWS Giants

Rory Lobb
No longer is there the monumental shadow of Shane Mumford to hide in.

Rapidly approaching 25, Lobb will be viewed by the Giants’ coaching staff as the player who will become their number one big man.

Has the athleticism to perform adequately as a ruckman but does he have the aggression and aptitude to completely take a game by the scruff of the neck?

Will be tasked with the duty of giving the sublime GWS midfield first use while protecting his talented teammates – an obligation Mummy revelled in.


Pressure is also on…

Ryan Griffen
18 games in two years is not enough output for a former club captain. Has to get body right this pre-season otherwise faces a quiet exit from the game. 32 next year so basically HAS to perform to keep his spot as a Giant!


Jaeger O’Meara
At 23, this guy has already experienced heaping mounds of pressure.

His delicate knees have been much the talking point since his arrival in the game as the number one pick of 2011 mini-draft. Much has also been documented about what the Hawks gave up to land him from GWS.

At close to 24 years of age and no longer a kid, there can be no more excuses for the 50-game O’Meara who has a glut of ability flowing inside a body that has failed him so far.

The gauntlet is laid down for Jaeger to convert himself into a pre-eminent performer in today’s game.



Jake Lever
Wanted out at Adelaide and got his desired return to Victoria despite being a key player in a side that made the Grand Final.

So much was said after Lever walked out the Crows exit door that you don’t know which side to believe.

Soon turning 22 and with 56 games of AFL experience, he has to contribute remarkably to have the impact required to help a team without a final since 2006 when he could still easily be operating amongst a group of players firmly in a premiership window.


Pressure is also on…

Tomas Bugg
Simply has to earn the respect of the public, his teammates and his peers following his cowardly act of striking Callum Mills.

North Melbourne

Todd Goldstein
Was once the dominant ruckman of the competition but is now a player whose name is continually muddled in trade talk.

At 29 and with near-on 200 games by his side, the onus is on Goldstein to wrestle back the form which delivered him All-Australian selection and the Kangas B&F in 2015.

His pride should implore him to keep Braydon Preuss and Majak Daw away from ruck duties after his worst season numbers-wise since 2010.

His pride should also implore him to produce a season which alleviates any doubt surrounding his career.


Port Adelaide

Jack Watts
Recent comments regarding Port being closer to a flag than former club Melbourne has turned the pressure metre right up on Jack.

He was loved by many at the Dees but has jumped ship in search of success following an inconsistent campaign.

Many believe the soon-to-be 27-year-old has not hit the heights he should have given his natural talent. In a new environment, it is now time to show the footy world what he is truly capable of.

The word consistency is somewhat of a stigma when Watts’ name is raised and the ball is now firmly in his own court to address that persistent issue.


Pressure is also on…

Travis Boak
The Power skipper has been questioned in recent weeks. Some say he is not in their best 15, mainly because his power and pace are allegedly on the decline. Time in midfield looks to be restricted now that Tom Rockliff has arrived so he needs to counteract by reinventing himself as a goalkicker.


Dustin Martin
It may seem a touch harsh to nominate the first player in history to claim the Brownlow, Norm Smith and premiership medal in the one season.

But the pressure on Dusty’s shoulders is only set to increase.

Richmond’s hopes and dreams lay with the prime mover whose brute strength and brilliant artistry have made him the best player in the game today.

If the Tigers are to avoid a Bulldogs-like hangover, Martin must be at the forefront.


Pressure is also on…

Shaun Hampson
It is going to be hard to uproot premiership-winning ruckman Toby Nankervis, especially having not played since August 2016. Turns 30 in 2018 and has had back issues. Does he still have the passion?

St Kilda

Paddy McCartin
Taken at number one in the 2014 draft but has only tallied 22 games.

A series of concussions have hindered his career thus far but he has been assured he will be fine and now needs to string together some consistent footy.

The mammoth vacancy left by Nick Riewoldt needs to be filled and at 22 next year, McCartin is the man to step in and grab the bull by the horns.



Kurt Tippett
Tippett has spent 10 seasons in the AFL system yet 2017 was his worst output.

Injuries may have restricted him to just nine matches but he appeared to be devoid of the ability of a player who kicked 30+ goals in seven consecutive years from 2009 until 2015 inclusive.

The ruck role is not his. The key forward role is not his. So where does Tippett fit?

Wherever it is, he needs a big 2018 or it could be curtains for Kurt.


Pressure is also on…

Gary Rohan
Potential aplenty inside a body that fails him in keeping with the pace and rigours of modern footy. Just 95 games in eight seasons means it is definitely time to stand up and become a Swans star.

West Coast Eagles

Lewis Jetta
Has underachieved massively at the Eagles with only 27 matches over his two seasons.

Was one of the game’s best run-and-carry players at Sydney and you would have backed him in to improve further on the wide expanses of Subiaco, but he simply has not delivered.

West Coast has lost a lot of experience this off-season so a 154-game player who turns 29 in 2018 really must bring the goods.


Western Bulldogs

Clay Smith
Younger players have gone past the former first-round pick.

Says he is determined to enjoy his footy and the only way to do that is to be playing in the seniors and contributing greatly, as he did with such assuredness late in the premiership season.

The small forward game built on pressure is one that can be controlled by individual acts so Smith has it in his own hands to fight his way back.


Pressure is also on…

Tom Liberatore
Redeemed himself to a degree late in the season but it must be said that overall, Libba’s 2017 was a failure. The 2014 B&F epitomises the hard-working, effort-based, no frills footy that won the Dogs the flag but last season the effort simply was not there.