After a decade in the wilderness, the Lions headed into a season in the unfamiliar position of being viewed as a premiership contender. Following on from their top-four finish last year, and subsequent straight-sets exit from the finals, they’re expected to be a finalist again in 2020. While their year got off to a bumpy start when they fell to Hawthorn by 28 points at the MCG, the good news is that ruckman Stefan Martin might not miss any games after injuring his posterior cruciate ligament against the Hawks, which ordinarily would have meant him missing 8-10 weeks. Veteran recruit Grant Birchall (hamstring) is also on track for round two after sitting out what would’ve been his first game against his old club. However, key defender Marcus Adams will probably be unavailable for a couple of games at least due to foot surgery.
The Blues will probably find it hard to avoid another bottom-four finish this season despite a honeymoon period in the second half of 2019 as David Teague took over as caretaker coach before being given the job, and the recruitments of Jack Martin and Eddie Betts. They kicked off the year in customary fashion with a four-goal loss to Richmond, which probably wasn’t an accurate reflection given they trailed by 50 points at one stage. Betts (calf) should be fit to make his long-awaited return with the Blues in round two against Melbourne, and he should be joined by Harry McKay (groin), Caleb Marchbank (knee), Nic Newman (elbow) and Zac Fisher (ankle). Matthew Kreuzer (foot) probably won’t be fit until round six or seven, while Carlton have said that Charlie Curnow (knee) is unlikely to feature at all in 2020 because of his knee injury, after having a setback in April.
Heading into 2020 on the back of consecutive September heartbreakers – a five-point loss to West Coast in the 2018 grand final and a four-point loss to Greater Western Sydney in the 2019 preliminary final – the Magpies have atonement on their mind. They showed in round one that they would be one of the teams to beat again with a nine-goal demolition of the Western Bulldogs, who many tipped to be a bolter this year. Adam Treloar (calf) has already been ruled out of the restart match against Richmond on June 11 after sustaining his injury on the first day back at training, but Travis Varcoe (shoulder), Ben Reid (ankle), Lynden Dunn (knee) and Matt Scharenberg (hip) should be available. However, Levi Greenwood (knee) and Tom Langdon (knee) are still a fair way off and Dayne Beams’ career seems all but over. Brody Mihocek is also under an injury cloud.
The Bombers remain one of the AFL’s biggest enigmas, and when you throw a coaching transition year into the mix, who knows what impact that will have on their attempt to break their run of six consecutive final losses over a span of 15 years. Their round-one meeting against Fremantle perfectly summed up where they’re at – they seemed to be cruising to an easy victory for the most part against a team that isn’t tipped to figure in the finals, and then had to hold on for dear life at the end to escape with a six-point win. Defenders Cale Hooker (hip) and Patrick Ambrose (knee) should be fit for round two but captain Dyson Heppell (foot) is no guarantee. Joe Daniher (groin) still appears to be a long way off a return, with coach John Worsfold unable to say if Daniher would play this year, but the forward has returned to running at training.
Not much is expected of the Dockers this year but they gave their fans something to cheer about in round one as they almost snatched a win from the jaws of defeat against the Bombers in coach Justin Longmuir’s first game in charge, at Marvel Stadium. They should regain former captain David Mundy (broken leg) for their first batch of Queensland games, beginning with the Brisbane Lions on June 13, while Nathan Wilson, who has had a toe injury, and Jesse Hogan, who has been dealing with mental health issues, could also be in the mix. Blake Acres (hamstring) and Joel Hamling (ankle) should feature at some stage, but it’s unclear whether Alex Pearce will recover from ankle surgery in time to play any part in 2020.
Ronny Lerner is a Sports reporter for The Age.