With the 2019 AFL season almost upon us, it’s time we at the Mongrel Punt took a look at the players around the league that are in need of a big season in 2019.

All of these players have differing reasons they need to increase their output on previous seasons, and all involved are good players. More importantly, they’re probably good people, but that doesn’t excuse that all of these players need to improve their respective outputs. If they fail to improve, consequences could be dire for their club, or their careers.

 

Jarryn Geary

From a playing stand point, perhaps no captain in the AFL is less known than Saint Jarryn Geary. This entry isn’t focusing too much on his output on the field, and instead is looking at his leadership. It’s no secret that coach Alan Richardson is under immense pressure to keep his job beyond season 2019. If Geary can help steer this team to achieving anything this year, it will go a long way to keeping Richardson out of hot water.

 

Taylor Walker

By his own lofty standards, Walker’s 2018 campaign was extremely average. 26 goals from 14 games, poor on-field leadership, and a tendency to get far too aggressive hindered Adelaide’s season as they slumped to missing the finals after coming so close to the summit in 2017.

With Rory Sloane joining Tex as a co-captain this year, the onus is on Walker to return to his best, both as a captain and strong goal kicking forward. The spotlight as captain may be shared, but it is focusing solely on him to guide the Crows back to where many people think they belong.

 

Jaeger O’Meara & Chad Wingard

When Tom Mitchell’s leg snapped underneath him, the collective breath was forced from the lungs of every single Hawthorn fan. Finals hopes were dashed, and the season may as well be written off now, right?

But with every dark cloud comes a silver lining. The Hawks midfield needs a new leader, and what better time than now for O’Meara to step up and fill the reigning Brownlow medallist’s shoes? If we’re being honest, Mitchell is irreplaceable, but if O’Meara can increase his 2018 output, it will repay the club that invested so heavily in him and perhaps push the ageless Hawks towards another premiership tilt.

On the other side of the Tom Mitchell broken leg coin, is ultra-talented, but enigmatic, Chad Wingard. His arrival to the Hawks was met with disdain by some, who struggled to accept him given the Hawks departed with their first 2 picks in the draft, as well as talented youngster Ryan Burton. Alastair Clarkson has already labelled Wingard as Cyril Rioli’s replacement, and he needs to find his way back to his All Australian best, and quickly. A 40+ goal kicker for 3 straight seasons, if Wingard can return to this form, Hawthorn supporters will be far more forgiving about the way he joined the brown and gold brigade.  

 

Joe Daniher

Essendon’s leading goal kicker for 2018 was Jake Stringer, with 30 goals. This is what makes Daniher so vital to the Bombers. Injury ruined Daniher’s 2018, and he must overcome his troublesome body and return to his 2017 best. With the addition of Dylan Shiel, Essendon fans will be expecting to see finals in 2019.

A fit and firing Joe Daniher is the key to achieving that goal, and a calf tear right on the eve of the season isn’t the right way to start.

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Travis Boak

After captaining Port Adelaide tremendously for 6 years, Travis Boak has handed over the baton. The Power’s midfield is super talented, and Boak often found himself squeezed out and moved forward.

With the burden of captaincy now off Boak’s shoulders, he will be able to solely focus on returning to Port Adelaide’s engine room, and push the Power to finals. We know he has the talent, he must now prove he can still be the best midfielder on a contending team.

 

Eric Hipwood

Young man, it’s time to step up. Not since Jonathan Brown retired in 2014 have the Lions had a big, commanding presence in the forward line. The puzzle pieces are starting to come together, and it’s up to Hipwood to improve again, as he has done each season, and fill Browny’s big shoes.

Hipwood booted 37 goals last season, a decent return for a 21 year old, and it’s time to push that tally closer to 50. If he can produce a season of 45-50 goals, there’s no telling how much the Lions will improve.

 

Tom Boyd & Josh Schache

When Tom Boyd signed with the Dogs, on a 7 year, $7 million contract, he was seen as the next Chris Grant. Some Bulldogs supports would argue that Boyd’s starring role in the 2016 Grand Final made the investment worth it. I would suggest that he has failed to build on that game and indeed the entire finals series. Thrust into the number 1 ruck role, Boyd must overcome his troublesome back and find the sort of form that his contract demands.

The other key forward hope is Josh Schache, a man who is yet to live up to his draft selection. The Bulldogs need a key forward capable of kicking bags of goals. Billy Gowers leading the goal kicking with 26 is never going to be enough. Schache has been in the AFL system for the same length of time as Eric Hipwood, and it could be argued that the two aren’t close in terms of their current development. A 30-40 goal return from Schache in season 2019 will go a long way to easing the Dogs forward line woes.

 

Dan Hannebery

An average 2018 saw Dan Hannebery return home to Victoria. Hannebery’s numbers plummeted from his usual lofty standards, and there is concern he may never return to his best. Much like Jarryn Geary, Hannebery’s leadership, toughness and ball winning ability will help the young Saints find their feet again.

He arrives at Moorabbin with the expectation that he can become the ball winning beast that freshens up St Kilda’s midfield, but like Travis Boak, will he be able to prove that his best football isn’t best viewed in the rear view mirror?

 

Jacob Weitering

It could be argued that Weitering best season in his brief career has been his 2016 debut season. In moving Weitering forward during season 2017, he suffered bad second year blues, and Brendon Bolton’s constant shifting between forward and back has hurt the young man’s development.

Weitering is his best as a marking defensive interceptor, and for Carlton to improve in the next few seasons, it is up to the Carlton coaching staff to leave Weitering where he belongs. What that means to other interceptors remains to be seen.

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Jesse Hogan & Rory Lobb

This article has been written after reports emerged that Hogan would be missing round 1 after breaking an alcohol ban. Previous to that, when Fremantle parted with picks 6 and 23, Hogan was seen as the key forward they were craving since Matthew Pavlich’s retirement. Everyone can see the talent is there, after all he has produced 3 seasons of 40+ goals (the other being ruined with injury and personal setback). The question is, can he ever overcome his mental demons and be the player Fremantle have been in desperate need of for so long?

I have also included Rory Lobb, who will have to carry Fremantle’s forward line in Hogan’s absence. Lobb made no secret of the fact that he wasn’t a fan of playing in the ruck, and going home to a club that already boasts Aaron Sandilands and Sean Darcy will ease his mind. If we assume Hogan returns to his best quickly, it means Lobb will have the oppositions number 2 defender; a position that will favour a man of his size.

 

Sam Weideman

I know it’s possibly a bit early to say that a 21 year old key forward with only 20 games under his belt would need to have a big year, but with the Demons trading out Jesse Hogan, it is clear the Melbourne hierarchy sees big things in the future for Weideman.

 His performances in the 2018 finals series illustrated how effective he can be alongside Tom McDonald, and he will need to be if the Demons are to break their 55 year premiership drought. It’s a lot of weight to place on such young shoulders – let’s see if he can carry it.

 

Tom Liberatore

It must be so frustrating for Bulldogs supporters to see the younger Liberatore continue to waste his natural football talent. It may seem unfair to label him as such, given he is coming back from an ACL injury that wrecked his 2018 season, but his raw numbers would suggest a man not living up to his potential.

Forget the previous off field indiscretions, the free agency chatter, and those horrible tattoos, the best thing for Liberatore would be to take 2019 by storm, and prove to everyone that he, along with his fellow young pups, can lead the Bulldogs back to the Promised Land once more.

 

15 players that need to produce seasons of significance. Some to ease the pressures on their coach; others to fulfill the potential of their draft selection; and a few that have proven their best and need to produce it once again. Did we miss any out? Let us know in the comments.

 

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