Will the Crows throw the kitchen sink at All Australian ruckman Brodie Grundy?
The Crows would have to make a Godfather offer to lure Grundy – a restricted free agent at the end of 2020 - out of Collingwood and bring him home to South Australia. The Magpies would ask for nothing less than the No.1 overall draft pick, currently belonging to the Crows, as a starting point, along with other compensation.
The Crows would love to catch, rather than chase, Brodie Grundy. Picture: AFL Photos
Are the Crows a genuine premiership threat, or are they making up the numbers?
The eighth-placed Crows (6-5) have a lot to prove in the second half of the season. The next two games against Greater Western Sydney and Richmond will give a better indication of how far the Crows can go this year. They have only beaten one top-eight side – Port Adelaide in round eight.
Can Josh Jenkins and Bryce Gibbs stay in the side for the rest of the season?
The pressure will be on the experienced duo for the remainder of 2019. Jenkins has to continue to provide a contest and use his size and strength in attack, while Gibbs needs to work hard with his defensive running. Cam Ellis-Yolmen and Hugh Greenwood have leapfrogged Gibbs in the midfield pecking order when everyone is fit. - Lee Gaskin
Will the Lions play finals?
From their current 7-4 record, they should make the top eight for the first time in a decade. Carlton, St Kilda and Melbourne await in the next three matches and they also host North Melbourne, Gold Coast and the Western Bulldogs. The season will be a big success regardless of the next 11 weeks, but missing the finals would be a disappointment from here.
Chris Fagan's men are humming and right in the mix for a top-four berth. Picture: AFL Photos
What's the right backline mix?
At stages, the Lions can be easy to score against. While the problem is not always a 'back six' issue – poor turnovers have often left the defenders out of position – it's the part of the ground that can be left isolated. It's a complex equation getting the right number of tall defenders along with some speed, but Chris Fagan and his coaches must solve it before Brisbane plays top-four teams later in the year.
Who's on the off-season shopping list?
Brisbane has been active the past two off-seasons, acquiring Charlie Cameron, Luke Hodge, Lachie Neale, Jarryd Lyons, Lincoln McCarthy and Marcus Adams. The playing list is almost complete for a top-four and premiership push in the next two or three years, but another midfielder and running defender would complement nicely. - Michael Whiting
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Who coaches the Blues in 2020?
Assistant coach David Teague has the reins of the club as its interim leader after coach Brendon Bolton was sacked on Monday. Carlton should cast the net as far and as wide as possible to find the best candidate, after a horror run that has seen it win just four of its past 43 games. Teague has an opportunity to put his imprimatur on the Blues' list in the second half of the season and, although it seems unlikely he'll hold onto the role, a consistent, improved performance will enhance his chances of grabbing the job long-term.
Can Charlie Curnow get back on the scoreboard?
It's been a frustrating season for the emerging Blues star, as he's dealt with niggling knee injuries. He has missed three games but has managed just eight goals in eight appearances for the Blues this season without appearing at his most dynamic and exciting best. It's hard to be a forward given some of Carlton's struggles and poor delivery into attack, but the Blues need Curnow firing to be able to post a winning score more often. He booted 34 goals from 20 games last season.
Will Sam Walsh win the NAB AFL Rising Star?
In a season of doom and gloom, this would at least pick up some Carlton spirits. Walsh has done everything asked of him in his debut season at the Blues, and more. The midfielder has played every game and averaged 24 disposals and nearly four clearances a game. The 18-year-old has spent the majority of the season on the wing, where his hard-running and game sense come to the fore. The No.1 pick is a future leader at the Blues and is the favourite for the Rising Star award. – Callum Twomey
Why isn't the star-studded midfield capitalising on Brodie Grundy's ruck dominance?
Grundy would probably be the All Australian ruckman to this point and has ensured the Woods have easily won the hitout counts in all but one game. However, they have held sway at stoppages just five times and are just +1 in overall clearances. A combination of factors could be at play, including a possible lack of chemistry after the injection of Dayne Beams (who hasn't yet had the expected impact) and a perceived lack of breakaway leg speed.
Can Mason Cox, Ben Reid and Brody Mihocek occupy the same forward line?
Highly unlikely. The Pies prefer to use two pillars in attack, and let's not forget that their best forward, Jordan De Goey, also plays tall. A third big man would make them too top-heavy and would take away from what has been one of the Pies' strengths: their medium-sized goalkickers, including De Goey, Jaidyn Stephenson, Will Hoskin-Elliott, Josh Thomas, Travis Varcoe and, when he returns, Jamie Elliott.
Is Daniel Wells' career over?
After overcoming a long-term foot injury the veteran midfielder played five VFL games gaining fitness and form and rebuilding trust in his injury-plagued body. A knee injury in his AFL comeback now has him sidelined until late August. Completing the grim picture, the Pies' VFL team is unlikely to play finals, so Wells would have limited opportunities for match play. Barring a rapid recovery and a resurgence by the VFL side, we can't see it happening. - Ben Collins
What happens if the Bombers don't make the finals?
They are only a win outside of the eight, but face a big three weeks after the bye against Hawthorn, West Coast (away) and Greater Western Sydney (at home). It could make or break their top-eight hopes. If the Bombers don't reach the top-eight, and hence go a 15th season without a finals win, immense pressure will come on coach John Worsfold for his position.
Which youngsters can establish themselves as stars of the future?
In the past three weeks midfielder Darcy Parish has shown his talent, averaging 29 disposals a game and also hitting the scoreboard. Essendon needs more players to emerge and sustain their performance in the second half of the year. If Andrew McGrath, Matt Guelfi, Aaron Francis, Mason Redman, Jayden Laverde and Kyle Langford can also jump a level in the back half of the year it would give them a strong platform for 2020.
Darcy Parish has gathered 31 disposals in each of the past two games. Picture: AFL Photos
How does Essendon add to its list this off-season?
The Bombers have traded out of the first round of three successive drafts (from 2017-19), meaning they don't have an early pick at this year's draft. That gives them one less chip to play with at the trade table, and also without a hit at the top-end of a promising under-18 pool. It will be fascinating to see how they look to bolster their list having hit the trade table hard by recruiting Jake Stringer, Adam Saad, Devon Smith and Dylan Shiel the past two years. – Callum Twomey
Will the Dockers play finals?
There was cautious optimism Freo could push for finals if everything went right in 2019, although few were brave enough to tip that outcome. But despite some setbacks – including a shock loss to Gold Coast in round two and injury woes – the Dockers are 6-5 and right in the mix for September. Fremantle faces seven teams currently outside the top eight on the run home and has six home games left. A return to finals for the first time in four years is on the cards.
Can Harley Bennell and Stephen Hill revive their careers?
Everyone at Freo is holding their breath Bennell's promising WAFL return doesn't come a cropper before he has the chance to prove himself at the elite level once more. Only two games in three-and-a-half seasons in the west leaves the former Sun in a precarious position in a contract year, while Hill – who is a free agent at the end of the season – desperately needs some luck with his troublesome quads.
Harley Bennell has been in impressive form since his comeback in the WAFL. Picture: AFL Photos
Will Ross Lyon be senior coach beyond this year?
Only last week Lyon said he is fully committed to the Dockers, loves Perth and wants to see out his contract to 2020 and hopefully stay with the club beyond that. But with Carlton joining North Melbourne on the coaching hunt, and with vacancies potentially opening at Essendon and St Kilda, the speculation over Lyon's position is unlikely to go away. - Travis King
Can the new game plan stand up at the MCG in September?
Been asking it since March, but only time will tell. This Friday night's clash against Richmond, a side against which the Cats have lost their past three at the MCG, will go a long way to answering it. After this weekend, they only play one more game at the MCG before finals – Hawthorn in round 18.
Will Tim Kelly stay?
The Cats believe they couldn't possibly do any more to support Kelly's time in Geelong. Turning 25 in July, the West Australian is in the prime of his career and will only be signing a long-term contract to ensure security for his family. That appears more likely to come in his home state than at the Cats.
How much longer does Gary Ablett have?
If you were to bottle his past month, then he's a certainty for 2020. However, talks are scheduled for September with his manager Liam Pickering and the club where the issue will be thrashed out. Should he stay injury free in the next 11 matches, then he'll be offered a contract extension. - Mitch Cleary
Can the Suns avoid falling in a heap?
The second half of the past two seasons has been an absolute train wreck. In 2017 they won just once in the final 11 matches, losing three by more than 50 points and one by more than 100. In 2018, the statistics were identical. No excuses, Gold Coast simply has to do better.
Can Peter Wright go up a gear?
Since Tom Lynch's departure, there's been a lot expected of 'Two-Metre Peter' to carry a youthful forward line. It's easy to forget Wright is still just 22 himself, but if the Suns' are to kick more goals and give themselves a chance to win more often, Wright must impose himself on more contests. He's good enough.
Will Jack Martin re-sign?
The Suns have done an incredible job getting key personnel to recommit long-term this year (think Witts, Swallow, Miller, Ainsworth, Bowes and Wright) but one signature still looms large - highly-talented West Australian Jack Martin. The 24-year-old was targeted by clubs last trade period and is surely in the crosshairs again as this is written. - Michael Whiting
Jack Martin looms as a major signing target for the Suns and other clubs. Picture: AFL Photos
When will Stephen Coniglio announce his decision?
It's unlikely to be anytime soon and it's clear by the way he's playing that he's in no rush to get rid of the media scrutiny. The Giants remain confident they'll retain the star midfielder so won't be pushing him to make a call.
How will Shane Mumford be managed through the second half of the year?
The aggressive ruckman has been a massive inclusion out of retirement, but the Giants need him healthy when September comes around. Don't be surprised if Dawson Simpson gets called in to give Mumford a week off two or three times after the mid-season bye.
How can Jon Patton fit into this side?
Jeremy Cameron, Jeremy Finlayson and Harry Himmelberg are working beautifully together but Patton will be back playing in the second half of the season. It's hard to see him playing as a permanent forward so maybe he could be another back-up option in the ruck. - Adam Curley
What to do with the older crew?
There will be movement in this regard – it's just a matter of how many. Decisions need to be made on veterans such as Jarryd Roughead, Shaun Burgoyne, Grant Birchall, Ryan Schoenmakers, Paul Puopolo, Ricky Henderson, James Frawley and Jon Ceglar, who are all out of contract. A recent report even linked Isaac Smith, who has signed through 2020, being shipped to the Dogs.
How many more games does 'Roughy' play?
This season will almost certainly be champion forward Jarryd Roughead's last, and he spent the past three weeks in the VFL after a high-profile demotion. That has enabled Mitch Lewis some fresh air to make his presence felt in the Hawks' forward line, as well as allowing them to play two genuine ruckmen.
Do the Hawks keep their first-round pick?
Hawthorn last used a first-round selection in 2015 (Ryan Burton), and before that it was 2010 (Isaac Smith). However, the Hawks invested heavily in early picks between 2004 and 2008, a period they snared the likes of Jarryd Roughead, Lance Franklin, Jordan Lewis, Grant Birchall and Cyril Rioli. The time seems right to start doing so again. – Marc McGowan
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What are the lessons out of what has been a failed year?
The Dees have endured a wretched run with injuries, a problem that has plagued them since the off-season, when numerous players went in for surgery. That hampered preparation has proven too much to overcome. A line-breaker would help, but the young core that led the side to a preliminary final last season is still good enough. It's important Melbourne doesn't overreact after initially expecting to contend for a flag.
Should the Demons trade their first pick?
Following on from the premise that they aren't far away, there are compelling cases for each argument. As it sits, they hold pick No.3. That's a huge asset. It could be swapped to add run to complement the midfield bulls. On the other hand, they haven't used a first-round selection since 2015, when they took Clayton Oliver and Sam Weideman. Ultimately, it depends what's on offer, but they should be open to giving up that prized selection.
It's been a disappointing season for the Demons. Picture: AFL Photos
How will Melbourne kick more goals?
They're third-last for scoring but quick improvement in that area is possible. Tom McDonald had his preparation hampered and has been underwhelming but booted 53 goals in 2018. Sam Weideman has struggled this year but if he steps up and Jake Melksham continues the form he displayed before his foot issue, coach Simon Goodwin should have enough to play with. - Dinny Navaratnam
Who should be the next senior coach?
There is no bigger question at Arden St than this. Rhyce Shaw made a bright start as the caretaker coach last week in the wake of Brad Scott's departure, but it will be a rigorous and lengthy process to decide Scott's long-term replacement. The Roos have a massive decision to make, starting with whether a proven or unproven option is the best fit.
Should we trade any of our stars?
Many of North's best or most-vital players – Shaun Higgins, Ben Cunnington, Robbie Tarrant, Jack Ziebell, Todd Goldstein and Scott Thompson – will all be 28 years or older by the end of June. Goldstein and Thompson are both out of contract and free agents at season's end, with the 2015 All Australian ruckman, who turns 31 in July, holding the most currency on the open market.
After an ordinary 2017, Todd Goldstein has been back in top form the past two years. Picture: AFL Photos
What is the right balance of youth to play?
This is a topical one, with Carlton guilty of playing too many youngsters – and the price was Brendon Bolton's job. Both Brad Scott and Rhyce Shaw stated they think the Roos have got the mix right so far. However, there were only five players 21 or younger in Friday night's side, which wouldn't even be a talking point if North wasn't 13th on the ladder. – Marc McGowan
Are the Power contenders or pretenders?
Port has looked brilliant at times this season and disappointing at others. Consistency is still the biggest enemy, which is going to happen when you've got a new game style and young players in the side. If the Power are able to put it all together in the second half of the season, then they’re going to be a formidable opponent.
Where does Steven Motlop fit in Port Adelaide’s best 22?
The former Geelong speedster is in his second year of a four-year contract with the Power, but he's hardly been a walk-up start this season. Motlop has spent time in the SANFL and has been a fringe player when he has been in the AFL set-up. At his best, he can be an X-factor, but it's a matter of getting that out of him consistently.
Can Charlie Dixon make an impact in the second half of the season?
The Power have been crying out for a key forward this year, and they get it when Charlie Dixon makes his long-awaited return in the next few weeks. Dixon hasn't played since sustaining a serious leg injury in August last year. His presence in the forward 50 and ability to take a contested mark is important to the Power's attacking structure. - Lee Gaskin
Charlie Dixon could take the Power from finals cusp to premiership hopeful. Picture: AFL Photos
Will Marlion Pickett play this year?
Taken in the mid-season draft, the half-back/midfielder broke a previously broken finger playing for South Fremantle just days before he was signed. Sidelined for another 7-9 weeks, could Tim Kelly's former teammate make a shock debut just before finals? Or did the Tigers draft him so he could play in 2020?
Where does 27-year-old Marlion Pickett fit into the Tigers' plans? Picture: richmondfc.com.au
How many small forwards is too many?
Richmond's small forward stocks was once a serious point of concern, but times have changed. The Tigers regularly go into matches with five or six small forwards, with Josh Caddy or Dustin Martin playing the second tall to Tom Lynch. There have been matches where the Tigers have been too short or the disposal inside forward 50 not the right sort for the smalls to capitalise on. Jack Riewoldt's eventual return from injury will help, but the mix may have to change in the short-term.
Will Brandon Ellis stay at Tigerland?
The born-again winger is a restricted free agent at the end of this season, meaning his pay falls in the top 25 per cent of the club's contracts. After years at half-back, the 25-year-old was moved to the wing this year, and after a rocky start, has found his feet. He's averaging 23.4 disposals, up from 19.8 last year, and at his age is an attractive proposition for rebuilding clubs. – Sarah Black
Will Alan Richardson survive as coach?
The Saints probably won't make finals – they're 5-6 with a percentage of 85.6 – so it's long odds he will fulfil the trigger clause in his contract to stay on. That's hard to get past. Having said that, if they remain competitive, which they had accomplished despite a chunk of the list's top-end talent being sidelined before the Port Adelaide thrashing, it might be tough to justify sacking Richardson.
What's reasonable to expect from Dan Hannebery?
He's arrived on a five-year contract worth $4 million after two injury-riddled seasons and has missed the first half of 2019 as the club rebuilt his body. That's seriously concerning for St Kilda. It's almost impossible to think he can deliver the form that deal demands, especially in the ensuing months. A realistic goal is for him to earn selection in round 14 against Brisbane (the Saints and Sandringham have a bye coming up and Hannebery needs at least one more game under his belt), doesn't miss a match from there and is one of the side's better performers.
Former Swan Dan Hannebery hasn't been able to get on the park. Picture: AFL Photos
When will the Saints bring Max King in?
Barring injury, soon. The tall forward nicknamed 'Winx' is too good not to play. In the VFL, he's displayed the star power that saw him picked at No.4 despite a right knee reconstruction wiping out most of his draft year, and the team's long bombs into the forward line would make more sense with another marking target. Expect him to feature in the month after the bye. - Dinny Navaratnam
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How will John Longmire handle his ageing veterans?
The Swans won't be playing finals, so the coach must continue to look to the future. Heath Grundy has already retired, while Jarrad McVeigh and Nick Smith are still in the best 22 when fit, but Kieren Jack could be one to find himself on the outer should Sydney opt to go for youth.
Kieren Jack's days at Sydney could be numbered if the Swans opt for youth. Picture: AFL Photos
Can Lance Franklin and Daniel Menzel get going after the bye?
Both players spent the summer in the rehabilitation group but last week's clash with Geelong was the first time they've played together. Their match fitness will improve, and the Swans will be hoping their on-field chemistry heads in the same direction.
Will Longmire throw the magnets around during the second half of the season?
With finals out of the equation, the coach can afford to try a few things with 2020 in mind. Callum Mills to the midfield, Nick Blakey on a wing, Oliver Florent to half-back. Might as well see some different looks to get something out of the year. - Adam Curley
Can the Eagles push for second spot?
Five wins in a row has lifted the reigning premiers a game clear in fourth spot and they are on the same amount of wins as second-placed Greater Western Sydney, albeit with a far inferior percentage. Geelong looks uncatchable at the top of the ladder but the Eagles will be eyeing second to guarantee themselves two home finals and the easiest path back to the decider. If that doesn't eventuate, Adam Simpson's men would certainly take a double-chance come September.
How and when will Nic Naitanui return?
All signs are pointing to a WAFL comeback on June 22 at East Fremantle Oval, where Naitanui launched his return from his first knee reconstruction. If all goes well, the Eagles would then have to decide whether to take their most valuable asset to face Hawthorn at the MCG, or hold him back for one more week for a blockbuster return in the 50th Western Derby. The spring-heeled ruckman's rehab has been smoother than last time and insiders are confident Naitanui will be just as dynamic as last season.
Nic Nat on the training track - and edging towards a return. Picture: AFL Photos
Will relocating to a new headquarters disrupt the season?
It's a slightly offbeat question but the Eagles are packing up and preparing to move from their tired home at Subiaco Oval for a plush nest at Mineral Resources Park. The new facility is still having the finishing touches applied but West Coast will be ready to go after facing Sydney this Sunday. There is obviously plenty of excitement at the switch, and potentially some anxiety about upsetting the apple cart mid-year. - Travis King
What is a pass mark for the Bulldogs?
It's hard to get a read on the Bulldogs. Resounding wins against Richmond and Hawthorn compared to dismal losses at the hands of Gold Coast and Carlton makes you wonder where they should sit. None of our reporters at AFL.com.au had them in the top eight in the 2019 crystal ball and they are currently 14th with four wins. Finishing the season on or near eight wins seems about right in their development.
Is Aaron Naughton's future forward or back?
He finished fourth in the Bulldogs' best and fairest award in 2018 as a defender and has played forward all of 2019 to date. The 19-year-old took 14 marks and kicked five goals in a breathtaking display against the Tigers and is an exciting talent at either end. The Dogs have conceded 100-plus points three weeks in a row, but Luke Beveridge has resisted the temptation to put Naughton back. Forward looks like his position.
Can the Dogs land a big fish?
The retirement of Tom Boyd and to a lesser extent Liam Picken has provided the Bulldogs with the money to target an elite player, the question is whether that hypothetical player would be willing to sign at Whitten Oval. Money talks, but for many, a more immediate shot at premierships talks louder. It might take a monster deal. – Paul Bastin