ONLY two coaches enter 2021 without a contract for next season.
But where do they rank compared to their rivals in this year's pressure gauge?
AFL.com.au reporter Mitch Cleary puts the microscope on your club's boss and ranks them from 18-1 on a pressure gauge.
18. Damien Hardwick – Richmond
Pass mark: Finals
Started at the Tigers: 2010. Contract: 2021
Record: 145 wins, 104 losses. Finals: 10 wins and 5 losses (three premierships from three Grand Finals).
We say: Not many coaches get the opportunity to enter a conversation that includes Alastair Clarkson, Leigh Matthews, North Smith and Jock McHale as a leader of a three-peat. This year Hardwick gets his chance. Able to navigate rocky waters and claim his third flag in four years last season, Hardwick is on the verge of an extension at Punt Road where he will most likely get a statue one day.
17. David Noble – North Melbourne
Pass mark: Avoid the wooden spoon
Started at the Roos: Debut season. Contract: Rolling deal
We say: Joins as the calm head in a time of need. Part of the sub-committee that selected Chris Fagan to steer Brisbane out of the doldrums, Noble has similar time on his side with the third-youngest list in the competition. However, the ranking won't be so generous in 12 months' time if the Roos deliver a wooden spoon with three of their best five players – Todd Goldstein, Robbie Tarrant and Ben Cunnington – all over 30 and another year older.
16. Justin Longmuir – Fremantle
Pass mark: 8-10 wins
Started at the Dockers: 2020. Contract: 2022
Record: 7 wins, 10 losses. Finals: Nil
We say: Made the biggest in-roads of any of the first-time coaches last year all while having to teach a completely new defensive structure to a young team from various hubs. Not many are tipping the Dockers to make the top-eight and with one of the most talented young midfields in the competition should be afforded another year of development. But like his captain Nat Fyfe, Longmuir isn't content with just showing improvement.
15. John Longmire – Sydney
Pass mark: In contention for the eight with a month to go
Started at the Swans: 2011. Contract: 2023
Record: 144 wins, 89 losses. Finals: 10 wins and 10 losses (one premiership from three Grand Finals).
We say: This year has to mark Longmire's last season of getting a free pass. The Swans last made the finals three years ago and seriously contended five years ago. But now with three top-five picks at their disposal from the past two drafts, they need to start the incline back up the table to justify the three-year extension they handed Longmire on top of his 2020 deal in late 2019, all while finding long-term replacements for Josh Kennedy and Dane Rampe.
14. Alastair Clarkson – Hawthorn
Pass mark: Avoiding the bottom-four
Started at the Hawks: 2005. Contract: 2022
Record: 221 wins, 145 losses. Finals: 16 wins and 10 losses (four premierships from five Grand Finals).
We say: Clarkson has been on the front foot this summer acknowledging the need to "educate" Hawks members on why 2021 will be a development year. It's arguably been the biggest changing of the guard in a single season in his 16 years at the helm after losing four premiership players, two other veterans and his head of football. However, Clarkson himself said at the start of 2019 the Hawks needed to be showing signs of contending by the end of his 2022 contract if he's to get another. And it starts this year.
13. Chris Fagan – Brisbane
Pass mark: Top four
Started at the Lions: 2017. Contract: 2023
Record: 41 wins, 46 losses. Finals: One win and three losses (no Grand Finals).
We say: Fagan has steered a brilliant rebuild of a football club and still enters 2021 with the fourth-youngest list. However, despite winning a two-year contract extension, the Tasmanian will be hell-bent on his side progressing even further with the recruitment of Joe Daniher and young guns Harris Andrews, Hugh McCluggage and Jarrod Berry now 23-24. Fagan made it loud and clear in last year's losing preliminary final post-match press conference that his side needed to get bigger and stronger to contend with the top teams. Now it's time to make it show.
12. Ken Hinkley
Pass mark: Top four
Started at the Power: 2014. Contract: 2023
Record: 103 wins, 75 losses. Finals: Four wins and four losses (no Grand Finals).
We say: What a difference 12 months makes. The coach under the most pressure heading into 2020, Hinkley took the Power to within a kick of a Grand Final berth and won himself a new contract in the off-season. Has an abundance of young talent that looks set to flourish this season, however needs to contend while Travis Boak and Robbie Gray (both turn 33 this year) are still performing. Hinkley has been ranked ahead of Fagan purely on the age of the lists (Power ninth-oldest).
11. Matthew Nicks – Adelaide
Pass mark: Avoid the bottom-two
Started at the Crows: 2020. Contract: 2022
Record: 3 wins, 14 losses. Finals: Nil
We say: Nicks took control of a complete rebuild in challenging circumstances last year and has now had a second pre-season to teach his style. He should be afforded at least another 12 months with the youngest list in the competition before questions are asked. But the competitive final five weeks of 2020 needs to be the new normal. Another wooden spoon and the ranking will be higher than No.11 next year.
10. Brett Ratten – St Kilda
Pass mark: Top four
Started at the Saints: 2019 (interim). Contract: 2022
Record: 13 wins, 10 losses. Finals: One win and one loss (no Grand Finals)
We say: The Saints are itching for success and another active Trade Period suggests they're ready to strike now. Ratten was superb in his first full season at the helm but the Saints can't be content with another semi-final exit with Brad Crouch and Jack Higgins joining the swag of 2019 recruits on a list that is now brimming with depth. The Saints now have the most players (18) in the 24-28-year bracket in the competition.
9. Adam Simpson – West Coast
Pass mark: Preliminary final
Started at the Eagles: 2014. Contract: 2022
Record: 104 wins, 55 losses. Finals: 7 wins and 5 losses (one premiership from two Grand Finals).
We say: Simpson is under no threat of losing his job and a new deal could be imminent for the 2018 premiership coach. But time is ticking to make the most of one of the best lists in the competition. Shannon Hurn and Josh Kennedy could be into their last year, while Nic Naitanui, Luke Shuey, Jack Redden and Brad Sheppard will be all into their 30s at season's end. The decision to go for the now and part with early picks for Tim Kelly means Simpson doesn't have the top-end talent some of his rivals have at their disposal.
8. Ben Rutten – Essendon
Pass mark: Within touching distance of the eight
Started at the Bombers: Debut season. Contract: 2023
We say: Officially takes the reins for the first time but Rutten should be treated more as a second-year coach. The former Richmond premiership assistant has had an integral say on the Bombers' gameplan for the past two seasons and was basically coach in his own right last year. The Bombers' faithful are restless for a finals win and Rutten won't be afforded the same honeymoon period of a typical first-year coach. Yes, they brought in three early picks, but Port Adelaide did the same in 2018 and were contending inside two years.
7. Stuart Dew – Gold Coast
Pass mark: Touching distance of the eight
Started at the Suns: 2018. Contract: 2022
Record: 12 wins, 48 losses. Finals: Nil
We say: Has been afforded patience to build the club over three years, now it's time to see the fruits of the labour. The Suns made an incremental jump last year but were given plenty of games in their own backyard and once again fell away late, winning just one of their last 10 games. The first- and second-year players Dew took on, including Ben Ainsworth, Jack Bowes, Will Brodie, Charlie Ballard and Wil Powell, are now 22 and 23. And with the coaching panel fully assembled to his liking, Dew needs his side to be knocking on the door of finals.
6. Chris Scott – Geelong
Pass mark: Grand Final
Started at the Cats: 2011. Contract: 2022
Record: 162 wins, 72 losses. Finals: Nine wins and 13 losses (one premiership from two Grand Finals).
We say: Incredibly, the Cats keep finding a way to contend. But the premiership hunt this year extends beyond a decade, and they couldn't be more built for the now after landing Jeremy Cameron, Shaun Higgins and Isaac Smith. They'll finish the year with 12 players over 30 and there's unknowns around how much longer Joel Selwood and Tom Hawkins (both turn 33) can keep performing at their peak beyond 2021. The question will be is there too much of a gap between their top-end talent and their next wave given they have the fewest players (six) in the competition in the 24-28 year age bracket. Need to strike now or it could be too late.
5. David Teague – Carlton
Pass mark: Finals
Started at the Blues: 2019 (as interim). Contract: 2022
Record: 13 wins, 15 losses. Finals: Nil
We say: The honeymoon period at Ikon Park has ended. Captain Patrick Cripps is at the peak of his powers and wants to contend as he enters a year of contract uncertainty. And the Blues have gone and used the salary cap they've been banking for more than five years on Zac Williams and Adam Saad additions. Plus, the first-round kids they drafted across 2015-2016 including Jacob Weitering, Harry McKay, Charlie Curnow and Sam Petrevski-Seton are now men. The Blues simply can't regress.
4. Luke Beveridge – Western Bulldogs
Pass mark: Winning a final
Started at the Bulldogs: 2015. Contract: 2023
Record: 74 wins, 60 losses. Finals: Four wins and three losses (one premiership from one Grand Final).
We say: Has now gone four seasons without winning a final since the breakthrough 2016 premiership and there's no excuses this year. Beveridge has the most stacked midfield in the competition and the best new kid in the country to go with readymade recruits Adam Treloar, Stefan Martin and Mitch Hannan. The Dogs' age profile suggests they won't be falling away anytime soon but their winless finals run simply can't extend into a fifth year.
3. Nathan Buckley – Collingwood
Pass mark: Finals
Started at the Magpies: 2012. Contract: 2021
Record: 113 wins, 90 losses. Finals: Five wins and seven losses (0 premierships from one Grand Final).
We say: One of only two coaches entering this season without a contract for next year. But unlike Damien Hardwick, there's nothing imminent for Buckley and the Pies. And his team is worse on paper than last year after losing gun midfielder (Adam Treloar) and NAB Rising Star (Jaidyn Stephenson) without adding anything of note in the off-season. Put it on record himself to AFL.com.au that he'd leave if the time is right which will be strongly dictated by the first half of the season.
2. Leon Cameron – GWS Giants
Pass mark: Finals
Started at the Giants: 2014. Contract: 2022
Record: 87 wins, 70 losses. Finals: Six wins and five losses (0 premierships from one Grand Final).
We say: Won a two-year contract extension last year but with a six-month payout option, the heat will come on Cameron if the Giants start the season poorly. After getting blown off the park in the 2019 Grand Final, last year's finals miss must be seen as a once off given the talent that still remains even after the loss of Jeremy Cameron, Zac Williams and Aidan Corr. The first month reads: St Kilda, Fremantle (away), Melbourne and Collingwood.
1. Simon Goodwin – Melbourne
Pass mark: Finals
Started at the Demons: 2017. Contract: 2022
Record: 42 wins, 45 losses. Finals: Two wins and one loss (no Grand Finals).
We say: Two years of missed finals has been tough for the Melbourne hierarchy to swallow. Three years would be a disaster and all eyes will be on Goodwin if the Demons have another slow start to the season. Have gone out and recruited North Melbourne spearhead Ben Brown and while he's injured to start the season, he arrives with the need for an immediate fix at a club crying out for firepower. The Demons have continually told us the 17th placed finish in 2019 was the aberration and not the 2018 finals run. Now let's see.