THEY'RE the players to track closest over pre-season.
Can the youngsters and fresh faces eyeing holes left by delisted players and retirees step up and fill the void?
AFL.com.au looks at who's in line to replace a vacant role at your club in 2020 with a new name or non-regular from last year.
PLAY AFL FANTASY Click here to pre-register and receive our early announcements
Replacing: Eddie Betts (21 games in 2019)
Other contenders: Tyson Stengle, Shane McAdam, Ben Crocker
Already a standout this summer after much of his first season at West Lakes was ruined by a back injury. The Crows will be desperate to blood young talent in 2020 and bringing in McHenry (178cm) as a small forward will be the first step before his graduation higher up the ground. He showed his talent with a four-goal performance in the Crows' semi-final win in the SANFL. Stengle proved Betts' replacement when dropped in round 19 last year but the former Tiger played just two games and needs to hit the scoreboard more.
Replacing: Luke Hodge (22 games in 2019)
Other contenders: Callum Ah Chee, Grant Birchall, Mitch Hinge
The 2017 first-round draftee is due a change of luck after an injury-riddled opening two seasons netted only five senior games. Originally touted as a midfielder, the 20-year-old is now training with the defenders and is eyeing a senior role after a strong end to the 2019 NEAFL season. Will be in a fight against Ah Chee who was recruited to play a role in defence, with Birchall on a modified program through pre-season.
Replacing: Dale Thomas (20 games in 2019)
Other contenders: Tom Williamson, Jack Newnes
A no-brainer for the returning captain to slot straight back into his half-back role after two seasons out – despite calls for him to play on a wing. Has circled the Blues' Marsh Community Series clash on March 8 as a full-blown hitout ahead of round one as he begins to work back into match simulation after Christmas. Williamson will also be vying for opportunities after two injury-plagued seasons, while wingman Newnes can play on half-back if required.
Replacing: Levi Greenwood (17 games in 2019)
Other contenders: Nathan Murphy, Flynn Appleby, Trent Bianco
Aiming to join the main group later this month after recovering from a foot stress reaction and hip surgery. Will be first in line to win Greenwood's spot as the veteran sits out the bulk of the season rehabilitating his ACL. With John Noble a regular to end 2019 and interceptor Tom Langdon set to return in the early months of the season, Quaynor will need to do everything right to earn the vacant role in defence from round one.
Replacing: Mitch Brown (16 games in 2019)
Other contenders: James Stewart, Noah Gown, Harrison Jones
Essendon's refusal to trade Daniher and keep him for at least one more season cost Brown his job at the Bombers. Now, all hopes attached to John Worsfold's final season in charge rest on Daniher's ability to return to full fitness after 11 games in two seasons. While most of the personnel from last year's squad remains settled – pending a large chunk of off-season surgeries – the key forward post will be one of contention if Daniher has a slow start. Stewart (groin) and Gown (foot) need to overcome fitness hurdles and potential forward option Cale Hooker (hip) is still not back with the main group.
Replacing: Ed Langdon/Bradley Hill (22 games each in 2019)
Other contenders: Blake Acres, Darcy Tucker, Liam Henry, Adam Cerra
Has already received a glowing endorsement from captain Nat Fyfe after winning the 2km time trial upon return to training in November. With both wing roles now open, the mature-aged midfielder appears to have the inside running on one with his raking left boot and elite endurance seen as his major assets. The 24-year-old featured in a variety of roles in his seven matches during his debut season and will be out to impress during the Marsh Community Series to confirm his spot. Cerra and Tucker could make the move from midfielder/half-back to the wing if required.
Replacing: Tim Kelly (25 games in 2019)
Other contenders: Charlie Constable, Jack Steven, Cooper Stephens
Will need a big summer to prove he's ready to become a full-time midfielder after showing glimpses in his six matches last year. The West Australian's preparation for the 2019 season left him behind the eightball in the early stages of the season before finally earning a half-forward role in round 21. Being able to weave through traffic and burst away from stoppages has Narkle at the front of the queue to replace Kelly, however Constable will only improve his fitness, Steven will have a full summer under his belt and first-round draftee Stephens won't want to be making up the numbers. Established half-forward Brandan Parfitt is also craving more midfield time.
Replacing: Jack Martin (16 games in 2019)
Other contenders: Sam Flanders, Jy Farrar, Malcolm Rosas
Couldn't be a more ideal role for the pick three from the 2018 NAB AFL Draft. Was reduced to just three NEAFL matches last year around multiple hamstring injuries but will be eager to win a senior debut and impress after a full pre-season. The Suns looked at recruiting Eddie Betts on a longer term deal, but Rankine's trajectory should offset any pain in seeing Betts return to Carlton. Flanders will play across half-forward as Matthew Rowell and Noah Anderson take on midfield minutes, while Farrar and Rosas are smokeys for the front half.
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY
Replacing: Adam Tomlinson (25 games in 2019)
Other contenders: Jackson Hateley, Lachie Ash, Isaac Cumming
With the Giants' starting centre square stacked with talent, a role on the wing may be Caldwell's best chance of forcing his way into the 2020 line-up. The pick 12 from the 2018 NAB AFL Draft battled injuries before two AFL games last season and will be far more equipped physically for senior football this time around. Hateley presents as more of an inside option, while Cumming could make the jump from half-back, while there will be no limits on No.4 pick and running back Ash's rise.
Replacing: Jarman Impey (17 games in 2019)
Other contenders: Changkuoth Jiath, Conor Glass, Harry Morrison
The late bloomer showed his willingness to take the game on as a junior in South Australia last season before being taken as Hawthorn's highest pick since Cyril Rioli in 2007. While he'll need time in the gym, the 18-year-old has shown he can play against men in the SANFL reserves and will be given every opportunity to feature in early matches. Jiath enters his third season and will be buoyed by two AFL matches in 2019, while Glass and Morrison are other options given the thin mid-sized defensive stocks. Defender Jack Scrimshaw was basically first-choice last season, playing 10 AFL matches and three in the VFL around injuries.
Replacing: Sam Frost (22 games in 2019)
Other contenders: Harrison Petty, Joel Smith, Trent Rivers
After playing every match in 2018, McDonald was reduced to 12 games last season as he fell behind Frost, Steven May, Jake Lever and Marty Hore in the Demons' pecking order. The 23-year-old was even trialled as a forward last season, but his best chances will be filling the third-tall role behind May and Lever in defence in 2020. Petty and Smith – who failed to play at all in 2019 due to injury – have been used as forwards but could present as options, while 188cm draftee Rivers will put his name up.
"Everyone’s under the same sort of pressure so you’ve just got to either block it out or do whatever you have to do to perform whilst that pressure’s still there."— Melbourne FC (@melbournefc) October 15, 2019
Oscar McDonald shares how he overcame some challenges in 2019. 👇
📝: https://t.co/bVDMEb289f pic.twitter.com/0AFcyqqsdr
Replacing: Scott Thompson (19 games in 2019)
Other contenders: Sam Durdin, Ed Vickers-Willis, Majak Daw, Ben McKay
Looked a lock at Brisbane in the first seven games of 2019 before losing his spot to Marcus Adams and then later his position at the club. The Roos swooped in the delisted free agency window and will bank on the 27-year-old Walker providing a ready-made option. Has the body to play on the big forwards deep and allow Robbie Tarrant to play higher up the ground. Durdin played seven games after the bye last season and the Roos will hope Vickers-Willis and Daw can return to full fitness. McKay was given chances in 2019 and will want a big Marsh Community Series.
Replacing: Sam Gray (20 games in 2019)
Other contenders: Tobin Cox, Boyd Woodcock, Jake Patmore
The Power showed what they thought of Farrell by handing him a three-year deal last August after just 12 AFL matches across two seasons. The left-footer was given chances throughout 2019 that he failed to grab with both hands and is now in a fight for Gray's vacant position. Cox booted 25 goals from 12 SANFL matches last season, Woodcock has shown he's accomplished at reserves level and Patmore could push for a small forward role upon his return from an ACL. With Orazio Fantasia still in the Power's thoughts for this October, the time to nail down a spot is now.
Replacing: Brandon Ellis (23 games in 2019)
Other contenders: Kamdyn McIntosh, Oleg Markov, Marlion Pickett
Took the VFL by storm in the first half of 2019 which forced a senior debut and a subsequent match across rounds 12-13. Naish's outside speed and run and carry will be suited to the role vacated by Ellis, but the son of former Tiger Chris will need greater consistency after a quiet VFL finals series where he averaged 13 disposals. Pickett will need a spot after his sizzling AFL Grand Final, while McIntosh has proven he's up to the level when given the opportunity. Markov's athleticism is another one to watch.
Replacing: Josh Bruce (22 games in 2019)
Other contenders: Paddy Ryder, Dougal Howard, Jack Mayo
King's development was a major reason why the Saints didn't bow to Bruce's demands for greater career security and allowed him to walk to the Western Bulldogs. Another knee setback towards the end of 2019 cost the No.4 draft pick an AFL debut that will be only a matter of time as he shapes for this campaign with a greater workload post-Christmas. Ryder will have a role to play as Rowan Marshall's No.2, while Howard has shown he can play forward at Port Adelaide despite being recruited to play defence. Mayo is a left-field option in his first full season after being taken in last year's NAB AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft.
Replacing: Zak Jones (17 games in 2019)
Other contenders: Justin McInerney, James Bell, Jackson Thurlow, Matthew Ling
The ideal scenario for the classy draftee to be introduced as an outside midfielder as he works on his frame to stand up to the demands of AFL. The No.5 pick is ready to go after showing he can weave around senior men in 13 SANFL senior appearances last year. Swans fans got a glimpse of McInerney and Bell last season, while Thurlow will be around the mark again. Ling, the Swans' forgotten first-round draftee, will also hope to have his body ready to go for an AFL debut.
Replacing: Chris Masten (17 games in 2019)
Other contenders: Brendon Ah Chee, Jarrod Cameron, Brayden Ainsworth
Remember this man? A premiership player in 2018, Venables played six matches to round nine last year before sitting out the rest of the season with concussion. Now 21, Venables will be primed for senior football after winning silverware as a teenager with 15 games in 2018. Can play Masten's role as a link between the midfield and push high up the ground across the wing. Masten's position will be one of two available in the front half should Willie Rioli be suspended for 2020.
Replacing: Dale Morris (One game in 2019)
Other contenders: Lewis Young, Ryan Gardner
The Dogs remain incredibly settled going into 2020 with 32 of the 34 who played senior football last season still on the list. Morris' ACL sustained in round 19 last year forced a defensive re-shuffle and following his retirement, Keath is the perfect man for the full-time job. The 27-year-old came on in leaps and bounds as an interceptor in 2019 with 18 senior matches at Adelaide and is set for the same role in 2020 alongside Zaine Cordy and a combination of Easton Wood, Jackson Trengove and Young.