George Hewett of the Sydney Swans evades a tackle from the Bulldogs Caleb Daniel in an AFL game

‘The Irreplaceables’ and the ‘SEN Pressure Gauge’

Two interesting takes on AFL Season 2023 came out this week - here's the lowdown

Paul Bugeja, AFLFA staff writer

It's that time of the year when most are winding up work, preparing for Christmas celebrations of some kind or another and maybe turning an eye to the cricket...but only because the footy isn't on, right?!

But the footy never stops, and neither do the footy writers...thankfully.

Two interesting pieces caught our eye this week - Jon Pierik's The irreplaceables: Who your AFL team simply can’t afford to lose in 2023 in The Age and SEN's Nic Negrepontis who put together THE PRESSURE GAUGE: RANKING ALL 18 AFL TEAMS HEADING INTO 2023.

Jon Piereik's top player for each team

Pierik runs his eye over every club to focus on the one player he assesses as being critical to success for each team in AFL Season 2023. It's all subjective, of course, but Pierik has a good footy eye so his take is interesting, even if some might personally disagree with his list.

Some of the more obvious choices Pierik threw out there included the likes of the Demons' Clayton Oliver, for whom, surely, a Brownlow isn't too far away, and the Tigers' Tom Lynch, who must be eyeing off a Coleman.

But Pierek also overlooks some seemingly obvious choices at a couple of clubs, putting forward names you might not expect, such as back-to-back draft picks for the Roos in Harry Sheezel and George Wardlaw - which admittedly makes some sense for a club looking to reshape itself under new coach Alistair Clarkson - and (two-metre) Peter Wright for the Dons ahead of star players like Zach Merrett and Darcy Parish.

Negrepontis Pressure Gauge

Nic Negrepontis takes a different angle with his piece for SEN in assigning tiers to the competition by looking at how much pressure each side is under going into the AFL Season 2023:

  • Tier 1: Contend or bust
  • Tier 2: Finals or bust
  • Tier 3: Must be better than they were in 2022
  • Tier 4: Reigning premiers
  • Tier 5: Hawthorn

It will come as no surprise to most that Nic puts teams like Brisbane and Melbourne into tier 1 as sides with the talent that should help them push for Grand Final contention.

Tier 2 sides have a little less pressure on them, although it will come, and then some, if they can't bustle their way into a top 8 spot at the end of the season. This is particularly true of Carlton and St Kilda (under "the boss" new coach Ross Lyon), both considered contenders in 2022 but who fell agonisingly short (particularly Carlton) of sneaking into the 2022 finals.

No surprises in tier 3 - the only way is up for these sides but the pressure will come harder for sides like Essendon and the Giants given the expectations of what each side can bring under new coaches Brad Scott and Adam Kingsley respectively.

Reigning premiers Geelong get their own tier - which seems fair - and little pressure attached to this but with reasonable expectations of contending again...and down the bottom in tier 5 are the Hawks, who Negrepontis puts in "a bubble" of their own that could see them struggling for a few years as they lock in their next premiership side...or maybe pulling off another surprise like 2007-08 and climbing back into contention sooner.

That's the beauty of our game - there's always a surprise of some sort each season.

What will it be in AFL Season 2023?!