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Your club's burning questions: Can Jack stand up, does Eddie go?

Can Jack Darling be the man in September? Will Eddie Betts go back to Carlton? - AFL,Adelaide Crows,Brisbane Lions,Carlton Blues,Collingwood Magpies,Essendon Bombers,Fremantle Dockers,Geelong Cats,Gold Coast Suns,GWS Giants,Hawthorn Hawks,Melbourne Demons,North Melbourne Kangaroos,Port Adelaide Power,Richmond Tigers,St Kilda Saints,Sydney Swans,West Coast Eagles,Western Bulldogs,News,All-Club Special
Can Jack Darling be the man in September? Will Eddie Betts go back to Carlton?

Will Don Pyke be coaching the Crows in 2020?
Pyke is contracted for two more years, but his tenure could be cut short pending the results of an external review. If Pyke stays, expect changes to be made around him in response to missing the finals the past two seasons.

Will Eddie Betts be at the club next year?
Speculation is mounting the champion forward will be elsewhere next season, with Carlton and Gold Coast among the possible destinations. However, any deal could centre on how much, if any, of next year's salary the Crows are willing to pick up.

Are the Crows about to start a full-on rebuild?
With so many older players on their list, the Crows could be tempted to go young and bottom out for a couple years. This will result in short-term pain, but might be what they need for the long-term success of the club. - Lee Gaskin

Josh Jenkins could find himself at another club in 2020. 

Can the Lions handle the finals heat?
The Lions have plenty of experience – 11 players with more than 100 games – but not much in September. How their young core, and even the likes of older heads Stefan Martin and skipper Dayne Zorko, adjust to their first finals campaign could go a long way to deciding how deep this run goes.

Are the tall forwards good enough?
In the final two rounds against Geelong and Richmond, Eric Hipwood, Dan McStay and Oscar McInerney not only struggled to kick goals, but more worryingly were regularly out-marked by their more seasoned opponents. They need to halve their contests in September to give the Lions a chance.

Who will the club target this off-season?
Last year it was a stealth move for Lachie Neale and an opportunistic snaffling of Jarryd Lyons. The year before it was Charlie Cameron quietly being attracted. Noise around potential trade targets has been quiet to date, but you can bet Brisbane is chasing another big fish this off-season. - Michael Whiting

Lachie Neale and Charlie Cameron have been stunning successes at Brisbane. 

Is there another 'big fish' around?
The Blues missed out on Stephen Coniglio, but do they have their eyes on another blue-chip midfielder to put alongside Patrick Cripps? They have been strongly linked with Jack Martin and Tom Papley, but don't be surprised if the question is asked of another A-grade onballer.

What does David Teague's coaching structure look like?
Carlton's new head coach has already started assembling his coaching structure. Brisbane's triple-premiership great Luke Power has been approached for a senior development position, while former development coach Shane Watson has already departing the club. It's been suggested Brent Stanton could be in line for a promotion.

Does Eddie get a fairytale return?
It's the move all Carlton fans want to see, but will Eddie Betts wind up back at the Blues next season? One thing is for sure, should he land at Ikon Park it won't be on the wages he's currently earning at the Crows. That looms as the sticking point in negotiations between the two parties. David Teague certainly thinks Betts, who is set to turn 33 later this year, has something to offer. A lot of Blues fans might agree with him. - Riley Beveridge

Back in blue? A Carlton return isn't out of the question for Eddie

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Will Darcy Moore's hamstring hold up under finals heat?
Recent history says no. Intriguingly, after Moore's latest scans came up clear, Pies coach Nathan Buckley last week departed from his usual conservative approach by declaring Moore would play in the qualifying final against Geelong. We suspect 'Bucks' was putting the acid on his star key defender.

How many players is too many to bring back at one time after long lay-offs?
The Pies will again have the services of star goalkickers Jordan De Goey (after six weeks with a hamstring) and Jaidyn Stephenson (12 weeks – betting ban). Without them they would probably lose. Steele Sidebottom is also returning from a ruptured testicle, and then there's Moore. James Aish (seven weeks – shoulder) would perhaps be one too many.

 

Will the Pies strike the right balance in attack with De Goey, Stephenson and Jamie Elliott?
The gun trio has occupied the same forward line just seven times – most recently way back in round eight before injury and suspension intervened – and at times either Elliott or Stephenson were reduced to a bit-part role. All three play their best footy as the deepest forward, so chemistry, clarity of roles and selflessness will be critical. They're brilliant enough to make it work. - Ben Collins

Do the Bombers need to win a final for it to be a successful season?
Yes. Another elimination final defeat won't signal great progress for the club this season, and will add another year to the longest drought without a finals win in the competition. Even without Joe Daniher and Devon Smith for most of the season, the Bombers need a September victory to get a pass mark for 2019. 

Does John Worsfold's future rest on Thursday night?
Worsfold says it doesn't and that he's comfortable with discussions he's had with the club about coaching on in 2020, when he's contracted. But the noise continues to follow Worsfold and his future at the club. A strong performance against West Coast in this week's elimination final will help subdue that. 

Will Essendon be busy in the off-season again?
Without a first-round draft pick, the Bombers will need to lose someone if they are to be active in the trade period. Orazio Fantasia says he will definitely be at the club next year, while Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti has just re-signed, so the Bombers have locked in most of their best talents (aside from Aaron Francis). They have remained interested in wantaway Sun Jack Martin, who tried to get to Essendon last year. - Callum Twomey

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Who will the next senior coach be?
Even before Ross Lyon was sacked, the talk around Perth was that Collingwood assistant Justin Longmuir and WA under-18s mentor Peter Sumich would be contenders and it appears they are the early frontrunners. He is about to lead Essendon into a final, but John Worsfold's name continues to be raised for a director of coaching role.

Can the Dockers poach Tim Kelly?
Should he request a trade from Geelong to West Coast like he did nearly 12 months ago, that doesn't necessarily mean the Dockers are out of the race. If returning to WA is Kelly's priority, Fremantle is set to have far more appealing draft picks to negotiate with the Cats if the Eagles fail to satisfy Geelong's demands. 

What can Fremantle get back for Bradley Hill and Ed Langdon?
St Kilda is touted as Hill's strongest suitor and given he is contracted until 2021 the Dockers can play hardball. They should be eyeing the Saints' pick No.5, while WA midfielder Blake Acres, 24, fits their list needs and age profile so why not try shaking him loose? Langdon to Melbourne has been mooted for several seasons and the Demons' pick 20 looks a good starting point. - Travis King

Can Rhys Stanley become a premiership ruckman?
In what loomed as a major selection dilemma late in the season, Stanley's return in round 23 has him primed for September. He'll have no bigger task than containing Collingwood All Australian Brodie Grundy this Friday night, but splitting the points will go a long way to Geelong's flag tilt.

Is the post-bye record fact or fiction? 
Since the 2011 premiership, Geelong is 2-11 in matches immediately following byes in-season, which would point towards fact. But ask Chris Scott and it's fiction. Only four players remain from the 2012 team that started the run and it can be put to bed by beating the Pies.

Does Gary Ablett have another sparkling September in him?
As he weighs up his future for 2020, Ablett finds himself in strong form after a three-goal, 28-disposal outing against Carlton in the final round. With 13 days' rest from that evening, Ablett's track record first-up from breaks suggest the Pies will need to be on their toes. - Mitch Cleary

 

Is Shaun Burgoyne the right fit?
The Suns want to add experience to their young list but have to consider many things with Burgoyne. His class is obvious, and a strong family man would undoubtedly be a good influence, but the 36-year-old has suffered three hamstring strains in the past 18 months. The "Luke Hodge model" worked for Brisbane because of Hodge's peerless leadership. Gold Coast have to weigh up whether Burgoyne can offer similar on a multi-year deal.

What assistance – if any – will the AFL provide?
Gold Coast has pitched the AFL Commission on the state of its club and just what help they might need to climb the ladder. If, as has been floated, the club gets a priority pick at the top of the draft, that would obviously add some instant help. But could assistance come in other forms?

Has the bleeding stopped?
Jack Martin and Callum Ah Chee have already asked to be traded. There's no sense any other players are keen to leave, but this time last year there was no inkling the club would mutually part ways with Jarryd Lyons for nothing. - Michael Whiting

Will Brett Deledio play again?
The retiring veteran looked destined to go out on another calf injury but he's responded well to his latest bout of rehabilitation and is in the frame to face the Western Bulldogs on Saturday. It might be a risk but it would be great to see Deledio go out on his own terms.

Can the Giants sign Jeremy Cameron and Lachie Whitfield before next season?
They've secured the prized signature of Stephen Coniglio but the Giants now have to lock down two more stars. Cameron and Whitfield are out of contract at the end of 2020 but GWS will be keen to get both deals done sooner rather than later.

 

Is Shane Mumford set for a second retirement?
The big ruckman did well to play 16 games during the home and away season and while he's been a warrior for the Giants, his dodgy knee made it difficult for the veteran, and he'll turn 34 next year. If GWS go after someone like Adelaide's Sam Jacobs or Port's Paddy Ryder, the call might be an easy one. - Adam Curley

To draft or not to draft?
The Hawks last selected in the first round in 2015, when they plucked a South Australian by the name of Ryan Burton. For all their success in turning those picks into top talent from other clubs, this dynasty began at the draft – and Hawthorn's ageing list could do with a promising kid.

How hard should the Hawks fight for Shaun Burgoyne?
Burgoyne played well enough this year for not only Hawthorn to want to keep him but for Gold Coast to try wooing him. The Hawks' club policy is not to offer more than one season at a time to 30-plus-year-olds, so they'll have to convince Burgoyne, 36, to stay another way. 

Are Luke Breust and Jack Gunston untouchable?
Hawthorn is never afraid to be a mover and shaker at the trade table if it means improving its list. These two All Australian forwards were underwhelming in 2019 and will both be older than 28 when next season starts. - Marc McGowan

Would the Hawks consider trading Jack Gunston if the price was right?

What should we expect of Melbourne in 2020?
Making finals should be the minimum expectation. There's no way the Demons should be among the worst teams in the competition, considering the high-end talent on the list. Was the preliminary final appearance in 2018 flattering though? It seems neither result was completely reflective of where the Dees sit in the scheme of things.

Is Simon Goodwin the man to turn this around?
He needs to be. The club signed him up until the end of 2022 in March when pundits were tipping a Melbourne flag. There's been a shake-up already, with assistant coaches Craig Jennings and Brendan McCartney among those to have left, while the appointment of fitness guru Darren Burgess will be critical after a horrific injury toll. After changes have been made around him, the heat will come on the coach if the Dees don't start well next year.

What happens with the captaincy?
Considering how magnificent Max Gawn was while his teammates largely limped through the season, it seems logical he will be captain next year. Nathan Jones is slowing down and his future was only formalised recently, so he likely won't continue in his leadership role. The more interesting question is whether Gawn is the skipper or a skipper, alongside Jack Viney. - Dinny Navaratnam

Does Rhyce Shaw need a senior coaching mentor?
At Shaw's public unveiling as coach, he indicated a desire to have someone with experience to advise him from next season. The Roos made a play for ex-St Kilda coach Alan Richardson but the Demons beat them for his services. Should Shaw abandon the search or look elsewhere? 

Can Sam Durdin and/or Ben McKay step up for the retired Scott Thompson?
The two first-round draft picks have both had long apprenticeships, with McKay starting the year in the senior side and Durdin ending it there. The 2020 campaign could be a make-or-break season for them. Robbie Tarrant can't do it all by himself down back, especially with there still being doubt about Majak Daw.

Will Luke Davies-Uniacke prove next season why he was a top-five pick?
North Melbourne's promising, big-bodied midfielder has certainly shown glimpses of his ability, but has won at least 20 disposals only twice in 21 games. Davies-Uniacke needs to put in a big summer and hit the ground running to try to replicate Jy Simpkin's breakout third season. - Marc McGowan

 

Can the Power return to the finals in 2020?
Port Adelaide was inconsistent this season but showed it can compete with the best teams in the competition when it is at its best. Another season of development from the young players could see the club take the next step.

Is Ken Hinkley's long-term future secure?
Any doubt about the Power coach continuing next year was quickly erased. However, Hinkley needs to get the Power into the finals to trigger his contract in 2021. It's going to be a crucial season in Hinkley's eighth year in charge.

Will co-captains remain next year?
The decision to install co-captains for the first time in Port Adelaide's long history was a contentious choice among the club's supporters. Injuries limited Ollie Wines' season, so it will be interesting to see if he and Tom Jonas continue in the role next year. - Lee Gaskin

Ollie Wines and Tom Jonas became Port's inaugural joint skippers in 2019. 

Can the Tigers play two genuine ruckmen?
Richmond has traditionally shied away from playing two big men, even resorting to one and midfielder Shaun Grigg during the premiership year. With Ivan Soldo and Toby Nankervis both in strong form, coach Damien Hardwick indicated the pair may be rolled out against Brisbane for the first time in over two years. The Tigers' fierce pressure and quick forwards is their trademark. Will playing 'Nando' affect it?

How will Richmond go on the road?
The Tigers have played seven straight games at the MCG to finish the season but are now faced with their first trip to the Gabba since early 2017. Win or lose, they will finish the season off in Melbourne, meaning this is the one interstate test the team faces. Unlike the Adelaide Oval, the scene of Richmond's last interstate final in 2014, the Tigers have a strong record at the Gabba, having won their past eight games there.

Will Brandon Ellis stay at Tigerland?
It was a question mid-year, and it's still a question now. The premiership midfielder still hasn't re-signed with the club and is a restricted free agent. Giant Stephen Coniglio, who also fell into that status, chose to stay after drawn-out contract talks. Ellis is averaging 22 disposals having played 20 of 22 games this year. – Sarah Black

Who's going to be the coach?
It's looking pretty likely Brett Ratten will get the gig. He has plenty of experience, and has proven valuable and popular in his first season at Moorabbin, first as an assistant to Alan Richardson, then in the caretaker role after Richardson's demise.

How different will the squad look in 2020?
Very. Bradley Hill, Zak Jones and Paddy Ryder are among the names being touted as inclusions, with gun Adelaide defender Alex Keath having toured the facilities. Jake Carlisle, Jack Steven and Jack Newnes could be on the way out. Then there's the long-term future of injured pair Dylan Roberton and Paddy McCartin, neither of whom is a certainty to return.

That being said, are finals are a realistic expectation next year?
Yes. The Saints eked out nine wins despite the side missing so much of its star talent. Woeful ball use hampered the club, along with a lack of speed through the middle. Hill would be very handy in improving both areas. Jones isn't always the best kick but does offer pace, and also brings a nasty edge, a trait not associated with St Kilda in recent seasons. There should be enough progression to think making the top eight is a possibility. - Dinny Navaratnam

Will Daniel Menzel get another crack?
The recruit failed to have an impact in his debut year at the Swans, managing just seven goals from seven games. Pre-season groin surgery was obviously a factor, but given Sydney's focus on youth, will the sharp shooter get a new contract for 2020?

Will the Swans go hard to land a star free agent or trade?
With so much experience exiting this year there's salary cap room for the recruiting team to splurge, but will they? If there isn't a genuine off-contract star to suit their needs, will the Swans focus on the draft, or try and snare a contracted gun?

Can Lance Franklin find his best next year and beyond?
He's been hobbled by groin and hamstring injuries over the past two years and this season saw him kick just 27 goals from 10 games, his lowest haul since his debut year in 2005. An actual pre-season will help, but can the body stand up? - Adam Curley

Can the Eagles win back-to-back premierships from fifth?
History shows it's never been done by a non-Victorian club under this finals system, however nobody is writing West Coast off just yet. The Eagles' interstate record over recent seasons will give them confidence they can beat anyone, anywhere. First things first, they must overcome a dangerous Essendon and favourite son John Worsfold in Thursday night's elimination final. 

Will Nic Naitanui's return ignite the midfield?
An engine room featuring Luke Shuey, Elliot Yeo, Andrew Gaff, Dom Sheed and Jack Redden should be turbocharged by Naitanui's return, and boasts a top gear few can match. The problem has been sustaining that output across four quarters this year. If the Eagles show the same desperation in the contest they did last finals series everything will flow from that.

 

Can Jack Darling be 'the man' in September?
It has been a career-best season for first time All Australian Darling, and with dual Coleman medallist Josh Kennedy in decline it could be up to his long-time sidekick to lead the attack. Kennedy averaged 3.2 and eight marks in three finals last year, while Darling averaged 2.1 and six grabs. They will probably need to reverse those numbers, across four matches, for the Eagles to have another shot at the flag. - Travis King

Is this offensive game style the real deal?
The Bulldogs scored 666 points in the final six rounds of the season – about 20 points per game more than the next best side. Is this just a hot streak, or has Luke Beveridge managed to find a game style that will hold up long term? 

What's Jackson Trengove’s future in this team?
Trengove had played 16 consecutive games before making way to keep Lewis Young in the backline in round 23. If Beveridge prefers Young over Trengove in that second key defender/back up ruckman role, perhaps Trengove might reassess where he wants to be in 2020. 

Where will Tory Dickson play in 2020?
Dickson is an unrestricted free agent and has had his best year since 2016. There’s plenty of suitors for a sharpshooter and he looks to have a bit more left in the tank. The Bulldogs have been linked to Jack Martin and Alex Keath in recent weeks and only a few players left out of contract, so there’s plenty to play out in this space. - Jourdan Canil

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The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs