Some people do their best thinking in the smallest room in the house. Some do so in the morning, and others still, late at night.
Me; I do my best thinking, or most successful thinking when I’m tired. Sure, the writing that follows might be terrible, which is why I wait a day or so to do anything with it, but the thoughts are usually okay, at least. It’s as though I abandon reason and latch onto an idea, running with it until I stop. Where it ends up… no one knows. Not even me.
And that leads me to this article.
A weekday evening in the luxurious surrounds of Oak Park sees me at the computer, wondering whether I can find one left-field prediction for each team this season. I’ve decided to focus on individual players, as… well, I like doing that.
So, time to take this thought and turn it into a piece of work, or three. Here’s some kiss of death predictions for 2024.
MITCH HINGE TO MAKE THE AA SQUAD
Mitch Hinge found his niche in the back half of 2023.
After Jordan Dawson was shifted from half-back into the middle of the ground, Hinge was relied on to fill the void at half back, and surprisingly, he was able to do so particularly well.
Hinge averaged 19.6 disposals and 4.8 rebound 50 possessions per game across the year, but it is when you look at his output without Dawson in defence that the potency of his contribution really becomes apparent.
In the ten games with Dawson in the middle, Hinge averaged 23.3 and 6.6 in those same categories. Any way you slice it, those are elite numbers and if he can sustain them over the course of the season, the Crows may be looking at the next bloke to throw his hat into the ring when it comes to AA selections. I don’t think he’ll make the team, but making the squad is entirely possible, which is a fantastic result considering where he was at following the 2021 season.
CAM RAYNER TO BECOME A CLEARANCE BEAST
In the Brisbane season preview, I drilled down a bit on the clearance work of Cam Rayner. When he gets into the middle, he goes to work, but like any decent local government worker, Cam seems to enjoy shorter days at the office and only occasionally gives sustained effort.
I know this because I used to work for local government, you see?
Anyway, of all the Lions, Rayner had the best numbers when it came to winning clearances from the times he was at the stoppage. The issue has been that he could not sustain long periods on the ball.
If he has been able to work on his fitness over the off-season, he could be a game changer in the same way Jake Stringer was for Essendon a few years back, coming into the middle to spend bursts in the midfield before heading back imside 50. And if you want to read more about how Rayner’s numbers stack up, and how he impacted clearances in 2023, jump in and read our Brisbane season preview.
It’s a good one, I promise.
JYE AMISS CAN BE A 55+ GOAL KICKER IN 2024
There are two players who remind me of seasoned veterans. Ollie Hemry is one of them (Jack Gunston) and Jye Amiss is the other of them. He reminds me of Jack Riewoldt in the way he times his leads, picks the perfect place to lead to, and finds a way to win the footy despite being seemingly out of position.
It always amazed me how Riewoldt would win a contest. He would look all at sea in a contest and then the whistle would blow and there, right in Riewoldt’s hands, would be the Sherrin. He would somehow make it his own.
Amiss is like this, as well. He has that uncanny knack of winning the footy in a markimg contest, and like Riewoldt, its his second or third lead that kills teams, as he uses false starts to get separation from his opponent before making his genuine run at the footy. You cannot teach that. Players either have it, or they dont.
Amiss has it, and his conversion once he gets the footy is excellent. In a Freo team that struggled, he was a shining light last season. I expect more from the Dockers in 2024, and if they’re playing well and giving more opportunity to forwards, a smart player like Amiss will eat those opportunities up.
Kiss of death – yes, but he could one day be counted amongst Freo’s greatest ever goal kickers.
HB… going early.
THE FORM OF JACOB HOPPER MAKES RICHMOND FEEL LIKE THEY HAVE A NEW RECRUIT
The Tigers really haven’t had a taste of Jacob Hopper as yet. He has been on the tip of their tongues, but he hasn’t been as delicious as they’d hoped.
There’s some nice mixed McAvaney-an metaphors for you.
Richmond got the benefit of Tim Taranto in 2023. He surged to the Jack Dyer Medal with an excellent season, despite not being in the top 150 players in the league, apparently, but they needed the two-pronged attack from him and Hopper to revitalise the midfield. Taranto was largely left to do that on his own. As a result, the Tigers struggles at points.
If Hopper gets a clean run at it, the Tigers are getting one of the cleanest players in the league, and his in-and-under work will make Taranto an even more dangerous weapon. And I am sure Dion Prestia, Dustin Martin, and Shai Bolton wouldn’t be opposed to being on the receiving end of a few Hopper clearances, either.
Richmond have not got what they were promised when they brought Hopper on board. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way.
MATT FLYNN MAKES WEST COAST THINK TWICE ABOUT CHASING TIM ENGLISH
While the cat’s away, the mice will play, and at GWS, we saw Kieren Briggs slot in and pinch the number one ruck slot at a time when Matt Flynn should have been busy making it his own.
Flynn’s injury (and that too the walking injury, Brayden Preuss) opened the door for Briggs, and he barged right on in. Unfortunately, it also slammed the same door in Flynn’s face, with the Giants liking what they saw in Briggs More than they liked what Flynn had to offer.
This led to Flynn heading to West Coast where he will contend for the number one ruck role. He is 26 years old – right in the window for a ruck to come into his own, and with West Coast perhaps eyeing off a run at Tim English, I reckon that Flynn has the ability to make a difference to the team, and maybe even set them to wondering whether their money could be better spent elsewhere than at a position they have covered with both Flynn and Bailey Williams.
Do I expect him to dominate?
No… he may even have a real fight on his hands from.the improving Williams for top spot, but I expect him to add to the Eagles at a position they struggled on, and if he does that, do they really need to spend top dollar on English?
JAMARRA BECOMES THE MAN
We have seen some signs. There have been moments where Jamarra Ugle-Hagan has looked like the best forward on the park. His leap and ability to clunk the mark at its highest point have left defenders looking flat-footed at times, but he has also been guilty of going missing for extended periods.
In 2024, those periods should get shorter.
The Dogs knew what they had when they jumped up the order to grab Jamarra at pick one. That was back in 2020, and now we’re about to witness the boy become a man. No, not just A man. THE Man!
Jamarra has all the calling cards of a great modern forward, and if the Dogs can get the ball down fast and into space, Jamarra will start to reward them. He kicked 35 in 2023. 50 is not out of the question this season, and if he does, he might just go past Aaron Naughton as the number one man in the Dogs’ forward half.
And then… we can start talking about the approximate value this out of contract star has.
That’ll do for part one. The next two parts will go up behind the paywall, so if you’re a supporter of the sides above, congrats… you got a freebie.
If you’re a supporter of the teams to come, sorry.