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Who has the best defence?

Jack Henry and Jake Kolodjashnij spoil eagle Jack Darling. - Geelong Cats
Jack Henry and Jake Kolodjashnij spoil eagle Jack Darling.

IT MIGHT surprise a few that Richmond just edges out West Coast for the best defence in the competition.

Of course, the Eagles' premiership defence is nothing to scoff at.

All teams would love to have a Jeremy McGovern, Shannon Hurn and Tom Barrass marshalling their defence, and taking intercept mark after intercept mark.

But it isn't always about the big names.

The Tigers have built a backline that operates like a well-oiled machine, and their depth in particular in this area is what makes them stand out from the crowd.

Dylan Grimes and David Astbury are two of the most underrated defenders in the competition, but both play a pivotal role in the success of Richmond's back six.

At the other end of the scale, it's not a shock to see Gold Coast ranked at No.18.

Things won't get any easier for the Suns in 2019 with Steven May's departure leaving a huge void in defence.

Although his arrival at Melbourne will certainly give the Demons a welcome backline boost.


1. RICHMOND

The best backline in the land. And with good reason, having averaged the second-fewest points against in the competition last year. As well as that, the Tigers led the AFL for intercept marks last season, a particular strength of stars like Alex Rance and Nick Vlastuin. They're enabled to do that thanks to the lockdown work of Dylan Grimes and David Astbury, who are two of the League's most underrated and workmanlike defenders. Then there's the run and penetration of Jayden Short and Bachar Houli from half-back. In reserve, players like Nathan Broad, Oleg Markov, Ryan Garthwaite and Kamdyn McIntosh provide handy back-up who can step up to AFL level with ease.

B: Dylan Grimes, David Astbury, Alex Rance
HB: Bachar Houli, Nick Vlastuin, Jayden Short
C: Shaun Grigg, Dustin Martin, Shane Edwards
HF: Dan Butler, Jack Riewoldt, Daniel Rioli
F: Josh Caddy, Tom Lynch, Jack Higgins
Foll: Toby Nankervis, Dion Prestia, Trent Cotchin
I/C: Brandon Ellis, Jason Castagna, Kane Lambert, Jack Graham

Defender depth: Nathan Broad, Oleg Markov, Ryan Garthwaite, Patrick Naish, Ben Miller, Derek Eggmolesse-Smith

Forward depth: Shai Bolton, Callum Moore, Jacob Townsend, Noah Balta, Mav Weller, Liam Baker, Mabior Chol, Jake Aarts

Midfield depth: Kamdyn McIntosh, Connor Menadue, Riley Collier-Dawkins, Luke English, Jack Ross, Fraser Turner

Ruck depth: Ivan Soldo, Callum Coleman-Jones 


2. WEST COAST

In round one last season, West Coast's backline was all at sea as Sydney superstar Lance Franklin bagged eight goals, but the Eagles' experienced unit only conceded 100 points once more for the season – against Melbourne in round 22. Three-time All Australian star Jeremy McGovern has arguably taken the No.1 key defender tag from Alex Rance, and has played plenty of football with Shannon Hurn, Brad Sheppard and Will Schofield, which has helped Tom Barrass, Tom Cole, Lewis Jetta and Liam Duggan integrate with a minimum of fuss. The Eagles are probably short another experienced tall defender but expect Oscar Allen or Jarrod Brander to be called upon if required.

B: Brad Sheppard, Tom Barrass, Shannon Hurn
HB: Tom Cole, Jeremy McGovern, Lewis Jetta
C: Chris Masten, Elliot Yeo, Dom Sheed
HF: Jamie Cripps, Jack Darling, Jake Waterman
F: Willie Rioli, Josh Kennedy, Liam Ryan
Foll: Nathan Vardy, Jack Redden, Luke Shuey
I/C: Liam Duggan, Mark Hutchings, Tom Hickey, Daniel Venables

Defender depth: Jackson Nelson, Josh Rotham, Will Schofield, Francis Watson

Forward depth: Matthew Allen, Oscar Allen, Jarrod Brander, Jarrod Cameron, Harry Edwards, Jack Petruccelle

Midfield depth: Brendon Ah Chee, Brayden Ainsworth, Hamish Brayshaw, Luke Foley, Andrew Gaff*, Kurt Mutimer, Xavier O'Neill, Josh Smith

Ruck depth: Keegan Brooksby, Fraser McInnes, Nic Naitanui*, Bailey Williams 

Winners are grinners (L-R): Jeremy McGovern, Shannon Hurn and Tom Barrass. Picture: AFL Photos

3. MELBOURNE

At the start of the year, Champion Data had the Demons' defence ranked second in the League. The addition of Jake Lever, alongside Tom McDonald, was set to further strengthen the backline. But all of that was thrown out the window when Lever went down with a serious knee injury early in the season, and McDonald was swung forward with much success. The Dees leaked goals this year. In 2017, they averaged 87.9 points against, but that blew out to a competition high 104.5 in 2018. With Lever to hopefully return mid-season, and the addition of former Suns skipper Steven May, Melbourne’s defence should be in much better shape come next season.

B: Neville Jetta, Steven May, Michael Hibberd
HB: Christian Salem, Oscar McDonald, Jayden Hunt
C: 
James Harmes, Jack Viney, Kade Kolodjashnij
HF: Alex Neal-Bullen, Tom McDonald, Jake Melksham
F: Charlie Spargo, Sam Weideman, Christian Petracca
Foll: Max Gawn, Clayton Oliver, Angus Brayshaw
I/C: Bayley Fritsch, Joel Smith, Braydon Preuss, Nathan Jones

Defender depth: Sam Frost, Marty Hore, Jake Lever*, Jordan Lewis, Harrison Petty, Josh Wagner, Guy Walker

Forward depth: Toby Bedford, Jeff Garlett, Mitch Hannan, Aaron vandenBerg, Kade Chandler, Tim Smith, Declan Keilty

Midfield depth: Oskar Baker, James Jordon, Jay Kennedy-Harris, Corey Maynard, Aaron Nietschke, Tom Sparrow, Billy Stretch, Corey Wagner

Ruck depth: Austin Bradtke 


4. ESSENDON

Now that Cale Hooker has settled down back, his partnership with fellow All Australian Michael Hurley is what ranks the Bombers so high. Much of the scoring conceded in 2018 (ranked 11th) came from a lack of midfield pressure and the arrival of assistant Ben Rutten is said to be doing wonders to the Bombers' defensive outlook this pre-season. Aaron Francis' end to 2018 has those at Tullamarine excited, providing the perfect option as a third tall in defence to complement Hurley and Hooker. Martin Gleeson's return from injury will be important to ensure Conor McKenna and Adam Saad can provide attacking flair.

B: Conor McKenna, Michael Hurley, Martin Gleeson
HB: Aaron Francis, Cale Hooker, Adam Saad
C: David Zaharakis, Dyson Heppell, Andrew McGrath
HF: Orazio Fantasia, Shaun McKernan, Devon Smith
F: Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, Joe Daniher, Jake Stringer
Foll: Tom Bellchambers, Zach Merrett, Dylan Shiel
I/C: Darcy Parish, Kyle Langford, David Myers, Patrick Ambrose

Defender depth: Matt Dea, Michael Hartley, Luke Lavender, Ben McNiece, Jordan Ridley, Mason Redman*, Brandon Zerk-Thatcher

Forward depth: Mark Baguley, Josh Begley*, Mitch Brown, Noah Gown, Brayden Ham, Jordan Houlahan, Jayden Laverde, Jake Long, Irving Mosquito, James Stewart

Midfield depth: Dylan Clarke, Matt Guelfi, Tom Jok, Kobe Mutch, Trent Mynott

Ruck depth: Zac Clarke, Sam Draper

Michael Hurley and Cale Hooker are a formidable duo down back for the Bombers. Picture: AFL Photos

5. GEELONG

While the Cats conceded the fewest points in the 2018 home and away season, the queries into 2019 centre around personnel. Harry Taylor looked a shadow of his best last year and while he's back running impressive times, it's tough to see the Cats picking him, Mark Blicavs, Lachie Henderson and Jack Henry in the same side. A second-year revelation, Henry has settled in defence and is the perfect foil for Zach Tuohy and All Australian Tom Stewart, who added an attacking element to his game this year. Jed Bews is a lock to take the opposition No.1 small forward, while Jake Kolodjashnij may have a fight to keep the Cats' top draft pick Jordan Clark out of the side.

B: Jed Bews, Mark Blicavs, Jack Henry
HB: Zach Tuohy, Lachie Henderson, Tom Stewart
C: Brandan Parfitt, Joel Selwood, Mitch Duncan
HF: Sam Menegola, Esava Ratugolea, Luke Dahlhaus
F: Gary Rohan, Tom Hawkins, Gary Ablett
Foll: Rhys Stanley, Patrick Dangerfield, Tim Kelly
I/C: Jake Kolodjashnij, Scott Selwood, Quinton Narkle, Cameron Guthrie

Defender depth: Harry Taylor, Zach Guthrie, Mark O'Connor, Jordan Clark, Stefan Okunbor

Forward depth: Nakia Cockatoo, Wylie Buzza, Lachie Fogarty, Nathan Kreuger, Gryan Miers, James Parsons, Jamaine Jones, Ben Jarvis, Jake Tarca, Blake Schlensog

Midfield depth: Charlie Constable, Jordan Cunico, Tom Atkins, Oscar Brownless, Jacob Kennerley, Sam Simpson

Ruck depth: Zac Smith, Ryan Abbott, Darcy Fort

6. ADELAIDE

The Crows slipped defensively last year, dropping from the fourth-stingiest side in their Grand Final season in 2017 to 12th, however they still boast one of the better backline units in the competition. Reliable key defender Daniel Talia has found a sidekick in Tom Doedee, who plugged the sizeable gap left by intercept star Jack Lever and finished runner-up in the NAB AFL Rising Star award. Losing Brodie Smith (ACL) for most of last season hurt, but it meant Wayne Milera found a niche as a rebounding half-back and Rory Laird was brilliant again. Adelaide has a balanced mix of smalls and talls and appears relatively settled.

B: Rory Laird, Daniel Talia, Jake Kelly 
HB: Wayne Milera, Tom Doedee, Brodie Smith 
C: Paul Seedsman, Rory Sloane, Bryce Gibbs 
HF: Tom Lynch, Taylor Walker, Richard Douglas 
F: Eddie Betts, Josh Jenkins, Jordan Gallucci 
FOLL: Sam Jacobs, Matt Crouch, Brad Crouch 
I/C: Luke Brown, Hugh Greenwood, Rory Atkins, Shane McAdam

Defender depth: Kyle Hartigan, Alex Keath, Andy Otten, Andrew McPherson, Will Hamill, Jordon Butts

Forward depth: Darcy Fogarty, Elliott Himmelberg, Riley Knight, Lachlan Murphy, Ben Davis, Ned McHenry, Tyson Stengle

Midfield depth: David Mackay, Cam Ellis-Yolmen, Myles Poholke, Patrick Wilson, Chayce Jones, Lachlan Sholl

Ruck depth: Reilly O'Brien, Paul Hunter, Kieran Strachan 

Tom Doedee was a revelation in his first season, finishing second in the NAB AFL Rising Star. Picture: AFL Photos

7. HAWTHORN

The Hawks tightened up in defence in 2018, conceding 89.6 points per game in comparison to their 2017 average of 93. They were also ranked the second-best team in the AFL when it came to spoils in their defensive half, thanks largely to the work of Ben Stratton and Blake Hardwick. The Hawks sorely missed the drive of Grant Birchall off half-back last season, and he'll be like a new recruit if he can get his body right for 2019 after his latest setback. Harry Morrison showed plenty of promise, while James Sicily should improve again as a defender. In terms of depth in this area, the Hawks are quite young and inexperienced which could see them vulnerable if they sustain injuries to key players.

B: Blake Hardwick, James Frawley, James Sicily
HB: Grant Birchall, Ben Stratton, Harry Morrison

C: Isaac Smith, Tom Mitchell, Ricky Henderson
HF: Chad Wingard, Jack Gunston, Shaun Burgoyne
F: Paul Puopolo, Jarryd Roughead, Luke Breust
Foll:
 Ben McEvoy, Jaeger O'Meara, Liam Shiels
I/C: James Worpel, Dan Howe, Jarman Impey, Jon Ceglar 

Defender depth: Kaiden Brand, Conor Glass, Damon Greaves, Changkuoth Jiath, Jacob Koschitzke, Teia Miles, David Mirra, Tim Mohr, Tim O'Brien, Jack Scrimshaw

Forward depth: Oliver Hanrahan, Will Langford^, Mitch Lewis, Darren Minchington, Conor Nash, Jackson Ross, Ryan Schoenmakers, Mathew Walker

Midfield depth: James Cousins, Will Golds, Harrison Jones, Dylan Moore, Tom Scully*

Ruck depth: Marc Pittonet

8. SYDNEY

The Swans rank mid-range for defensive depth, despite boasting a number of All Australians within their ranks in Dane Rampe, Nick Smith and Jarrad McVeigh. Across half-back, Jake Lloyd has become a prolific ball-winner, while Aliir Aliir continues to find his feet as one of the game's most promising intercept players. While the likes of Rampe and Smith remain among the best for their position, McVeigh and Heath Grundy are both the wrong side of 30. Finding cover for those two is essential. Matthew Ling is a high draft pick, while the club added to its stocks by luring Jackson Thurlow from Geelong. Lewis Melican also provides capable key-position back-up.

B: Nick Smith, Heath Grundy, Dane Rampe
HB: Jake Lloyd, Aliir Aliir, Jarrad McVeigh
C: Zak Jones, Josh Kennedy, Oliver Florent
HF: Will Hayward, Sam Reid, George Hewett
F: Ben Ronke, Lance Franklin, Tom Papley
Foll: Callum Sinclair, Luke Parker, Isaac Heeney
I/C: Callum Mills, Harry Cunningham, Nick Blakey, Ryan Clarke

Defender depth: Matthew Ling, Jack Maibaum, Lewis Melican, Colin O'Riordan, Harry Reynolds, Jackson Thurlow, Durak Tucker

Forward depth: Jordan Dawson, Kieren Jack, Tom McCartin, Daniel Menzel*, Toby Pink, James Rose, Sam Wicks

Midfield depth: James Bell, Zac Foot, Robbie Fox, Justin McInerney, James Rowbottom, Ryley Stoddart

Ruck depth: Joel Amartey, Darcy Cameron, Sam Naismith

Heath Grundy makes life tough for opposition forwards. Picture: AFL Photos

9. COLLINGWOOD

The Pies might not have the biggest names in their defensive unit but what they lack in profile they more than made up for by working effectively together last season. Lynden Dunn, Ben Reid, Matt Scharenberg and Darcy Moore all missed the Grand Final, but players such as undersized duo Tom Langdon and veteran Tyson Goldsack held up manfully in September. Collingwood added more top-end talent by drafting runner Isaac Quaynor and father-son key defender Will Kelly, and recruited tall backman/ruck Jordan Roughead, so Nathan Buckley has plenty of options - provided his injury-plagued defenders can stay on the park.

B: Brayden Maynard, Lynden Dunn, Tom Langdon
HB: Jeremy Howe, Darcy Moore, Jack Crisp
C: Steele Sidebottom, Scott Pendlebury, Taylor Adams
HF: Will Hoskin-Elliott, Brody Mihocek, Jaidyn Stephenson
F: Jordan De Goey, Mason Cox, Jamie Elliott
Foll: Brodie Grundy, Dayne Beams, Adam Treloar
I/C: Travis Varcoe, Daniel Wells, Brayden Sier, Josh Thomas

Defender depth: Tyson Goldsack, Ben Reid, Matt Scharenberg, Flynn Appleby, Nathan Murphy, Jack Madgen, Isaac Quaynor, Will Kelly, Mark Keane, Sam Murray

Forward depth: Ben Crocker, Tim Broomhead, Anton Tohill, Atu Bosenavulagi

Midfield depth: Tom Phillips, Chris Mayne, Levi Greenwood, James Aish, Callum Brown, Tyler Brown, Josh Daicos, Rupert Wills

Ruck depth: Jordan Roughead, Max Lynch 

10. GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY

With Phil Davis having a marvelous season at the helm, this settled defensive unit was ranked sixth for points against in 2018. They fared even better in one-on-one wins, finishing second to Adelaide, showing just how under-rated this group is outside of NSW. A fit-again Zac Williams provides an explosive element running out of the back 50 and don't be surprised if Lachie Whitfield interchanges with Williams and Adam Kennedy to add another layer of polish. 

B: Heath Shaw, Aidan Corr, Adam Kennedy
HB: Nick Haynes, Phil Davis, Zac Williams
C: Josh Kelly, Callan Ward, Lachie Whitfield
HF: Toby Greene, Jeremy Cameron, Brett Deledio
F: Stephen Coniglio, Harry Himmelberg, Zac Langdon
Foll: Dawson Simpson, Tim Taranto, Jacob Hopper
I/C: Adam Tomlinson, Sam Taylor, Sam Reid, Matt de Boer

Defender depth: Matt Buntine, Isaac Cumming, Jeremy Finlayson, Connor Idun, Lachie Keeffe, Harry Perryman, Jake Stein

Forward depth: Aiden Bonar, Callum Brown, Dylan Buckley, Jack Buckley, Brent Daniels, Ian Hill, Daniel Lloyd, Jon Patton*, Zach Sproule

Midfield depth: Jye Caldwell, Jackson Hately, Xavier O'Halloran, Tommy Sheridan, Nic Shipley

Ruck depth: Kieren Briggs, Matt Flynn, Shane Mumford* 

Phil Davis is a rock in defence for the Giants. Picture: AFL Photos

11. PORT ADELAIDE

Despite conceding the fourth-least points on average in 2018, leaking 100+ points back-to-back in the final two matches cost the Power a September berth. As Jack Hombsch departs for Gold Coast, big responsibility falls onto the shoulders of developing talls Tom Clurey and Dougal Howard. Captain smoky Tom Jonas is the rock in defence, while the arrival of Ryan Burton and return of Hamish Hartlett provide strong half-back options. The forgotten Matthew Broadbent, who last played in round 19, 2017, would be a welcome addition if he can return to his best and will provide healthy competition for Dan Houston and Darcy Byrne-Jones.

B: Dougal Howard, Tom Clurey, Dan Houston
HB: Darcy Byrne-Jones, Tom Jonas, Ryan Burton
C: Sam Gray, Ollie Wines, Steven Motlop,
HF: Travis Boak, Justin Westhoff, Robbie Gray
F: Scott Lycett, Charlie Dixon, Connor Rozee
Foll: Paddy Ryder, Sam Powell-Pepper, Brad Ebert
I/C: Tom Rockliff, Todd Marshall, Riley Bonner, Hamish Hartlett

Defender depth: Matthew Broadbent, Xavier Duursma, Riley Grundy, Jarrod Lienert, Sam Mayes, Trent McKenzie

Forward depth: Tobin Cox, Kane Farrell, Aidyn Johnson, Jack Watts, Boyd Woodcock

Midfield depth: Karl Amon, Joe Atley, Zak Butters, Willem Drew, Joel Garner, Cameron Hewett, Jake Patmore, Jack Trengove

Ruck depth: Billy Frampton, Sam Hayes, Peter Ladhams

12. FREMANTLE

The proof might not be there yet in a side that conceded the fifth-most points last season, but the Dockers are building a strong defensive unit around key pillars Alex Pearce and Joel Hamling. Former GWS superboot Nathan Wilson and Luke Ryan are outstanding kicks and have been impressive inclusions, while Reece Conca's leadership will be valuable wherever he plays. Griffin Logue has huge potential as a third tall who can rebound, while Brennan Cox and Taylin Duman can play similar roles. Finding a gun lockdown defender is a work in progress but with the likes of Stephen Hill, Connor Blakely and Adam Cerra able to roll through half-back, Freo has most bases covered.

B: Luke Ryan, Joel Hamling, Griffin Logue
HB: Nathan Wilson, Alex Pearce, Reece Conca
C: Bradley Hill, David Mundy, Ed Langdon
HF: Michael Walters, Brennan Cox, Adam Cerra
F: Rory Lobb, Jesse Hogan, Hayden Ballantyne 
Foll: Aaron Sandilands, Nat Fyfe, Connor Blakely
I/C: Andrew Brayshaw, Bailey Banfield, Travis Colyer, Brett Bewley

Defender depth: Taylin Duman, Ethan Hughes, Shane Kersten, Ryan Nyhuis, Tobe Watson

Forward depth: Hugh Dixon, Brandon Matera, Cam McCarthy, Lachlan Schultz, Sam Sturt, Sam Switkowski, Matt Taberner

Midfield depth: Jason Carter, Mitch Crowden, Harley Bennell, Stefan Giro, Stephen Hill, Tom North, Darcy Tucker, Luke Valente

Ruck depth: Sean Darcy, Scott Jones, Lloyd Meek 

Joel Hamling has slotted in nicely since crossing from the Bulldogs. Picture: AFL Photos

13. WESTERN BULLDOGS

It might surprise some to see the Bulldogs ranked so far down the ladder in this category, given they boasted the fourth-stingiest defence in the competition in 2018. But when you cast Easton Wood, Dale Morris and Jason Johannisen aside, the Bulldogs' defence is still fairly inexperienced. They have some promising youngsters, like Lewis Young, coming through the ranks, but they still need time to develop before they can hold down a permanent spot in the senior side. One area the Dogs will need to improve on in 2019 is the one-on-one defensive contests, as they were the third-worst team in the competition last season.

B: Easton Wood, Dale Morris, Zaine Cordy
HB: Bailey Williams, Aaron Naughton, Jason Johannisen

C: Lachie Hunter, Marcus Bontempelli, Jackson Macrae
HF: Toby McLean, Josh Schache, Sam Lloyd
F: Billy Gowers, Tom Boyd, Tory Dickson
Foll: 
Jackson Trengove, Tom Liberatore, Mitch Wallis
I/C: Ed Richards, Caleb Daniel, Josh Dunkley, Hayden Crozier

Defender depth: Matthew Suckling, Taylor Duryea, Brad Lynch, Roarke Smith, Lewis Young, Fletcher Roberts, Laitham Vandermeer, Lachie Young, Buku Khamis

Forward depth: Liam Picken, Patrick Lipinski, Lukas Webb, Fergus Greene, Ben Cavarra

Midfield depth: Lin Jong, Bailey Dale, Bailey Smith, Rhylee West, Will Hayes, Callum Porter

Ruck depth: Tim English, Jordan Sweet 

14. NORTH MELBOURNE

Out of their three lines, the Roos’ defence is where they are most vulnerable. Robbie Tarrant and Majak Daw provided the height and marking prowess down back for North Melbourne in 2018, but that will now change next season with Ben McKay and Sam Durdin the likely contenders to fill that position. It will be a big challenge for the youngsters with just 10 AFL games experience between them. Recruit Jasper Pittard will be a welcome addition off half-back, but there will be hot competition for spots. Luke McDonald will be keen to rediscover his best form after a disappointing 2018, while veteran Sam Wright will also be pushing his claim.

B: Marley Williams, Robbie Tarrant, Ed Vickers-Willis
HB: Jamie Macmillan, Ben McKay, Jasper Pittard
C
: Jared Polec, Ben Jacobs, Trent Dumont    
HF: Mason Wood, Jack Ziebell, Jy Simpkin
F: Shaun Atley, Ben Brown, Kayne Turner     
Foll
: Todd Goldstein, Ben Cunnington, Shaun Higgins
I/C: Jed Anderson, Paul Ahern, Dom Tyson, Aaron Hall

Defender depth: Sam Durdin, Luke McDonald, Tom Murphy, Scott Thompson*, Declan Watson, Sam Wright, Majak Daw*

Forward depth: Joel Crocker, Taylor Garner, Nathan Hrovat, Nick Larkey, Red Og Murphy, Curtis Taylor, Tarryn Thomas, Tom Wilkinson, Cameron Zurhaar

Midfield depth: Luke Davies-Uniacke, Kyron Hayden, Tom McKenzie, Bailey Scott, Will Walker

Ruck depth: Tom Campbell, Tristan Xerri

Jasper Pittard joins the Kangaroos from Port Adelaide. Picture: AFL Photos

15. BRISBANE

Despite the low ranking it wouldn't surprise to see the Lions rise in 2019. The back six was relatively settled last season and the addition of Marcus Adams should give some real flexibility with Josh Walker and Dan McStay also able to play at either end of the ground. Brisbane was ranked in the top half of the competition for one-on-one defensive wins and has plenty of good ball users in Alex Witherden, Luke Hodge and Daniel Rich but would love to find some leg speed to break the lines.

B: Darcy Gardiner, Harris Andrews, Nick Robertson
HB: Luke Hodge, Josh Walker, Alex Witherden
C: 
Hugh McCluggage, Jarrod Berry, Tom Cutler
HF: Lewy Taylor, Dan McStay, Lincoln McCarthy
F: Charlie Cameron, Eric Hipwood, Cam Rayner
Foll: Stefan Martin, Lachie Neale, Dayne Zorko
I/C: Jarryd Lyons, Daniel Rich, Mitch Robinson, Zac Bailey

Defender depth: Marcus Adams, Noah Answerth, Allen Christensen, Cedric Cox, Matt Eagles, Mitch Hinge, James Madden, Jack Payne, Sam Skinner

Forward depth: Connor Ballenden, Tom Berry, Tom Fullarton, Connor McFadyen, Toby Wooller

Midfield depth: Jacob Allison, Ryan Bastinac, Tom Joyce, Ben Keays, Ryan Lester, Corey Lyons, Rhys Mathieson, Ely Smith, Brandon Starcevich

Ruck depth: Oscar McInerney, Archie Smith 

16. ST KILDA

Arguably the most reliable part of the Saints' list and it needed to be last season with the ball spending more time in their defensive 50 than any other team's, bar Carlton. Jarryn Geary, Jimmy Webster, Jake Carlisle and Daniel McKenzie all finished inside the top 10 at the best and fairest, while Logan Austin is now at an age (25) where he should be ready to take full advantage of Nathan Brown's opening-round suspension.

B: Jarryn Geary, Logan Austin, Dylan Roberton
HB: Jimmy Webster, Jake Carlisle, Daniel McKenzie 
C: 
Dan Hannebery, Jack Steven, Hunter Clark
HF: Jade Gresham, Tim Membrey, Jack Billings
F: Ben Long, Rowan Marshall, Paddy McCartin
FOLL: Billy Longer, Seb Ross, Jack Steele
I/C: Blake Acres, Jack Newnes, Dean Kent, Jack Sinclair

Defender depth: Nathan Brown*, Bailey Rice, Oscar Clavarino, Darragh Joyce, Callum Wilkie, Shane Savage, Nick Coffield, Brandon White

Forward depth: Jack Lonie, Josh Battle, Max King*, Robert Young, Matthew Parker, Josh Bruce, Ben Paton

Midfield depth: Ed Phillips, Doulton Langlands, Jack Bytel*, Luke Dunstan, David Armitage, Nick Hind

Ruck depth: Lewis Pierce, Sam Alabakis 

Jake Carlisle is an important cog in the Saints' backline. Picture: AFL Photos

17. CARLTON

An injury that is likely to rule co-captain Sam Docherty out for the entirety of the 2019 season again depletes Carlton's young backline. Although Jacob Weitering, Lachie Plowman, Caleb Marchbank and Lochie O'Brien are early picks, they're all relatively inexperienced and will be forced to carry a lot of the workload next season. Nic Newman is a handy pick-up from the Swans and will aid Kade Simpson and O'Brien in providing some run out of defence. Tom Williamson returns from a season on the sidelines to give the Blues some depth alongside Liam Jones and Harrison Macreadie. However, the fact is this is a team that ranked last for points against in 2018. It's why the Blues are ranked so poorly and why they must improve significantly for the team to rise up the ladder.

B: Nic Newman, Jacob Weitering, Lachie Plowman
HB: Lochie O'Brien, Caleb Marchbank, Kade Simpson
C: Ed Curnow, Will Setterfield, Marc Murphy
HF: Sam Petrevski-Seton, Charlie Curnow, Paddy Dow
F: Mitch McGovern, Harry McKay, Alex Fasolo
FOLL: Matthew Kreuzer, Patrick Cripps, Zac Fisher
I/C: Matthew Kennedy, Tom Williamson, Dale Thomas, Sam Walsh

Defender depth: Sam Docherty*, Angus Schumacher, Harrison Macreadie, Hugh Goddard, Ben Silvagni, Liam Jones

Forward depth: Jack Silvagni, Tom De Koning, Jarrod Garlett, Cam Polson, Patrick Kerr, Levi Casboult, Kym LeBois, Matt Owies, Finbar O'Dwyer, Tom Bugg, Jarrod Pickett*

Midfield depth: Darcy Lang, David Cuningham, Liam Stocker

Ruck depth: Matthew Lobbe, Andrew Phillips

18. GOLD COAST

Only Carlton conceded more than the Suns' 99 points a game last season and with the loss of co-captain and star defender Steven May, it could be another long year. The key posts look sound with Rory Thompson and either Jack Hombsch or Sam Collins, while best and fairest winner Jarrod Harbrow offers plenty of dash from the defensive 50. Gold Coast would love a full season out of luckless Pearce Hanley, while unearthing a hybrid defender who can play on talls and smalls would be high on Stuart Dew's wishlist.

B: Jesse Joyce, Rory Thompson, Jarrod Harbrow
HB:
 Callum Ah Chee, Jack Hombsch, Pearce Hanley
C: Lachie Weller, David Swallow, Alex Sexton
HF: Jack Martin, Josh Corbett, Ben Ainsworth
F: Darcy MacPherson, Peter Wright, Izak Rankine
Foll: Jarrod Witts, Anthony Miles, Touk Miller
I/C: Brayden Fiorini, George Horlin-Smith, Jack Bowes, Aaron Young

Defender depth: Charlie Ballard, Sam Collins, Caleb Graham, Connor Nutting, Ben King, Jack Leslie, Jez McLennan, Michael Rischitelli, Josh Schoenfeld, Harrison Wigg,

Forward depth: Chris Burgess, Sam Day, Jacob Heron, Sean Lemmens, Jack Lukosius, Wil Powell, Brad Scheer

Midfield depth: Will Brodie, Jacob Dawson, Corey Ellis, Nick Holman, Jordan Murdoch

Ruck depth: Brayden Crossley, Tom Nicholls

Best and fairest winner Jarrod Harbrow was a shining light for the Suns in 2018. Picture: AFL Photos

Players suspended for round one, or who have long-term injury concerns likely to keep them on the sidelines early in the season, have been left out of the sides. They are denoted with an asterisk in the above lists. 

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs