WHILE we wait for play to resume, and with the little bit of knowledge we've gleaned from round one, we're taking this opportunity to put the microscope on every club.
THE PRESSURE GAUGE Which coach is under the most heat?
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The biggest lesson from round one was…
Nic Naitanui with a proper fitness base is a dangerous proposition. Coming up against triple All-Australian Max Gawn, Naitanui took the points with 23 hitouts, 13 possessions and six clearances – a stat only surpassed by Melbourne's Jack Viney. Naitanui hasn't had an interrupted campaign since 2015 and enjoyed a strong build-up to 2020 with an injury-free summer. Despite the shorter quarters, he played 61 per cent of the match to highlight the need for a second ruck in the Eagles' line-up.
What’s their weapon in 2020?
By adding Tim Kelly, the midfield depth becomes irresistible. Kelly will join captain Luke Shuey, Andrew Gaff, Elliot Yeo, Dom Sheed and Jack Redden at the feet of Naitanui. Their weapon could also become their downfall if they try to fit too many midfielders who can't play in other positions. As Adam Simpson pointed out in pre-season, Gaff and Shuey rarely play deep forward, so it'll be crucial for their teammates to be able to adapt to other roles.
What could be their downfall?
The lack of small forwards was Simpson's biggest headache coming into round one. With Willie Rioli (ASADA suspension), Jarrod Cameron (pubic bone) and Daniel Venables (concussion) missing, Brendon Ah Chee got his chance alongside Liam Ryan (three goals). Jack Petruccelle has been playing higher up the ground but presents as an option. Pre-season signings Jamaine Jones and Nic Reid will have ample time to get their fitness to AFL standard, while Anthony Treacy is waiting in the wings.
Who missed out on round one and what does it mean for them?
Forward Jake Waterman was overlooked as the Eagles played two genuine ruckmen and rotated a midfielder in attack. Looking on team balance, he may need to rely on a change of structure or an injury in order to squeeze into the line-up. Mark Hutchings will get his chance if the Eagles opt for a hard tag, while Will Schofield missed as the Eagles went smaller in defence. Bailey Williams (emergency) and Nathan Vardy sat out from the ruck department.
Which players could benefit from the break between games?
Jeremy McGovern had a slower preparation during summer due to heel surgery in November. While he didn't look out of place in round one, the extended break will help his body. Oscar Allen's ankle injury meant he ran out of time to be fit for the season opener, while Vardy had surgery on his ankle and was overlooked after an interrupted pre-season.
Who looked set for a breakout season?
Jarrod Brander's move to play as a big-bodied wingman remains a work in progress after 13 disposals in round one. However, after stints as a forward and defender in his first two seasons at the Eagles, the 20-year-old will relish the chance to be settled in one spot. The first-round draft pick from the 2017 NAB AFL Draft has the endurance to compete with the running machines at rival clubs, while hie work in the air will excite the Eagles' defenders when he pushes back to help out.
Spearhead Josh Kennedy falls out of contract at season's end and AFL.com.au understands he is leaning towards retirement more than playing on. Andrew Gaff is set to activate the final four years of his contract that were an added option when he committed as a free agent in 2020. It is expected to come inside the next couple of months and keep him at the Eagles until 2024. With the ability to re-sign new deals currently frozen, former skipper Shannon Hurn will be looking for a new contract when it re-opens. Vardy's new deal might hinge on the rise of the untried Williams . Liam Ryan, Jack Petruccelle and Lewis Jetta are among others out.