The six most intriguing players in the AFL going into 2019

SEN - Wed, 23rd Jan 2019 - 0 Comments

As neutral fans, we will all look at the Round 1 fixture and immediately be drawn to watching certain players.

Whether it’s players in new teams, exceptional circumstances, breakout candidates or those returning from injury, here’s six players to who provide an intriguing narrative early in the 2019 season.

Some unlucky to miss out include players involved in high-profile trades like Jesse Hogan, Chad Wingard and Dan Hannebery, as well as the likes of Joe Daniher, Sam Walsh and Paddy McCartin.

Here’s the top six:

Note: These are not in any particular order.

1. Liam Stocker (Carlton)

Like it or not, all eyes will be on Carlton first-round pick Liam Stocker given the situation surrounding his drafting.

The Blues gave up their 2019 future first-round selection to the Crows – which seems likely to be in the top five – for Adelaide’s pick 19, which they used to take Stocker.

The simplistic narrative of comparing Carlton and Adelaide’s ladder positions over the course of the year will likely come up over and over, but also important is Stocker’s form.

If he shows signs of being a future A-grade midfielder, Blues fans will shrug their shoulders at the situation. If, however, he struggles or doesn’t debut and Carlton give him time in the VFL, questions will be asked and debate will rage on and on.

2. Tom Lynch (Richmond)

All eyes will be on Tom Lynch in Round 1.

The key question will be how he operates opposite Jack Riewoldt and Richmond’s crop of small forwards and whether the mix works.

Questions have also been raised about whether Lynch is as good as his contract value suggests and it may take a few months for us to find out.

Whether he clicks or not with the Tigers’ structures, there’s no doubt people will be tuning in to see how he goes.

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3. The 2015 key forward draft crop

This is the year for Josh Schache (pick two), Sam Weideman (nine), Harry McKay (10), Eric Hipwood (14) and Harrison Himmelberg (16) to take over the competition.

This group promised a lot coming out of the draft and all have shown signs of stardom and have also frustrated their respective fans.

Weideman broke out late last year and has been put in a position to be one of the Demons’ key pillars of 2019.

McKay similarly hasn’t been given too many opportunities at Carlton, but showed at stages the ability to be a future star.

Hipwood and Himmelberg have both played more games than the two above and both are in situations where they’ll be relied on to take their respective sides to the next level in 2019.

Schache is the most interesting of the crop as the number two draft pick and given it’s his second year at the Bulldogs.

This is the year for these guys to start proving whether they’re the next generation of superstars.

4. Andrew Gaff (West Coast)

There will be plenty of interest in Andrew Gaff's Round 3 return.

After the moment of madness in which Gaff punched Fremantle’s Andrew Brayshaw and was subsequently suspended for eight weeks, the Eagles midfielder became the talk of the town for weeks.

On top of all that, he ended up re-signing with the Eagles despite rampant speculation that he was set to join North Melbourne as a free agent.

His first outing back with the Eagles will be the Grand Final rematch against Collingwood which will be a must-watch situation.

How the incident impacts the way the 2018 All-Australian plays and whether he can pick up where he left off after missing out on premiership glory will be fascinating.

5. Dayne Beams (Collingwood)

Unlike Gaff, Dayne Beams elected to leave his club, departing Brisbane to return to Collingwood – despite saying multiple times that he would remain in Queensland.

Beams captained Brisbane until the halfway point of the 2018 season, where he handed over the job to Dayne Zorko for personal reasons, and was set to be integral for a Brisbane team hoping to push for finals after the addition of Lachie Neale.

Now he’s back in the black and white and part of a star-studded midfield alongside the likes of Steele Sidebottom, Adam Treloar, Scott Pendlebury, Taylor Adams and Tom Phillips.

It’ll be interesting to see how his return to Collingwood unfolds and whether it takes them to the next level.

6. Gold Coast’s draft trio

Aside from Stocker, no draftees will be more closely watched than Jack Lukosius, Izak Rankine and Ben King.

The Suns’ issues retaining players and also struggling to draft players in the top 10 who go on to perform at a high level are well documented.

They had picks two, three and six in the 2018 National Draft and given the talent that’s left the club in the last two seasons, it’s incredibly important these three players pan out and not only stay at the club, but become some of their best.

Rankine and Lukosius in particular are must-watch 18-year-olds as it is, let alone given the pressure that will be on them to immediately perform at a club with little playing depth.