(Last year finished 5th)
Predicted Average: 1737
Injuries and suspensions were the Jackal’s worst enemies in 2016. Bennell, Hurley and Ryder missed the entire season. Shiels, Sidebottom and McVeigh also suffered untimely injuries that curtailed the beginning of the Jackal’s season. Similarly, a few Jackals again begin 2017 under injury clouds including repeat offenders Bennell, Scott Selwood, Wells, McVeigh and Hurley. Like the Ducks the Jackals also didn’t feature in an offseason trade and they continued to target young players in the draft. A sneaky late season pick-up of Bob Murphy could pay dividends this year.
Breakout Player – Darcy Parish
I’m hesitant to nominate second year players for breakouts but, like Oliver, I think Parish will buck the trend. Parish was dropped in the deep end in 2016 and survived which will only make him a better player. His preseason has been solid and the return of a few more senior players to dish the ball out and teach him the craft has me backing him for a big year. Another player the Badgers unashamedly threw out offers for but couldn’t get a deal over the line.
Special mention: Petracca
Time to Slide – Jarrad McVeigh
The obvious choice. Not only will McVeigh again miss the start of the year through injury but the Swans have a lot of players pushing to fill his role in the team. Lloyd, Mills and Jones are all capable of swinging between the Swan’s defence and midfield. Swans actually boast one of the youngest lists in the competition and have a reputation for developing players from within so expect McVeigh to step back further throughout the year.
Make or Break – Harley Bennell
The ongoing Bennell saga has been shrouded in rumours of drug use. He’s currently still listed as a 5-7 week “calf” injury. As previously mentioned there are some juggernaut forward lines in the league and the Jackals need Bennell back and firing especially if Wells, Ryder and Robinson miss chunks of the season. Bennell was a high selection at the initial draft that has not paid dividends but there’s still time to turn it around.
That’s a Bold Strategy Cotton, Let’s See If It Pays Off For ‘Em…
For a team with their premiership window open the Jackals didn’t make a single move in the off-season to improve their odds and probably even went backwards. They had the opportunity to take both Roughy, Watson or Tuohy but instead selected Ainswerth, Jayden Hunt, Preuss, Bonner and Weller. Ainswerth at pick 6 seemed especially early. I don’t expect any of those players to contribute in a meaningful way to the Jackal’s season. They delisted established players Griffen, Menzel, Bugg and Bagueley to do so. The window isn’t shutting as quickly for the Jackals as other teams but if they narrowly miss out then they might regret this draft.
The Jackals can claim the strongest midfield in the league thanks to Dangerfield, Sloan, Sidebottom, Scully and Cotchin. Jackals don’t really have an outstanding weakness which is the sign of a team ready for a premiership. Injuries and a shaky ruck bench may cause them issues through the year but there isn’t much they can do about the first and they can always swing Ryder from their forward line back to their ruck division if they need. If competition is as tight as predicted in the top half of the ladder then the Jackals might need to change tact and bring in some more experienced players.