IT'S LITTLE surprise the two teams that faced off in the biggest game of last season possess the best backlines in the competition.

But we believe Sydney has the edge over the premiers when it comes to the players called on to shut down the opposition forwards.

Aliir Aliir will become a regular in the side after a breakthrough season in 2016, while NAB AFL Rising Star Callum Mills is destined for great things.

The return of beloved skipper Bob Murphy will strengthen what was already a damaging and explosive Bulldogs' backline, featuring Norm Smith medallist Jason Johannisen.

Run and carry is the feature of Greater Western Sydney, with Nick Haynes and Zac Williams transitioning the ball quickly from defence into attack.

At the bottom end of the ladder, it's clear the Brisbane Lions will need to be patient with their young crop of defenders and allow them to reach their full potential.


B: Nick Smith, Heath Grundy, Dane Rampe 
HB: Callum Mills, Aliir Aliir, Jarrad McVeigh 
C: Dan Hannebery, Luke Parker, Jake Lloyd
HF: Kieren Jack, Sam Reid, Gary Rohan 
F: Tom Papley, Lance Franklin, Callum Sinclair
Foll: Kurt Tippett, Josh Kennedy, Isaac Heeney
I/C: Zak Jones, Daniel Robinson, Dean Towers, Oliver Florent 

Midfield: Harry Cunningham, Shaun Edwards, Robbie Fox, Jordan Foote, Brandon Jack, Tyrone Leonardis, Sam Naismith, Ben Ronke
Forwards: Darcy Cameron, Jordan Dawson, Sam Fisher, Will Hayward, George Hewett, Sam Murray, Toby Pink, James Rose
Defenders: Alex Johnson, Jeremy Laidler, Jack Maibaum, Harrison Marsh, Lewis Melican, Nic Newman, Colin O’Riordan, Michael Talia

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Our projection is that the Swans still have the best defence in the competition. They conceded the fewest points last season (1469) and boast the right mix of experience, hardness and excitement. Smith is one of the premier lockdown defenders in the AFL and Rampe's rapid improvement to All Australian selection is a credit to him and the club. Aliir was a revelation in 2016, keeping Ted Richards out of the side, and the Swans missed him in the Grand Final. We can't squeeze Jeremy Laidler into this side and he is a more than handy mid-sized defender, so this group must be going well.


B: Dale Morris, Marcus Adams, Matthew Boyd
HB: Robert Murphy, Easton Wood, Jason Johannisen
C: Lachie Hunter, Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae
HF: Caleb Daniel, Travis Cloke, Stewart Crameri
F: Jake Stringer, Tom Boyd, Tory Dickson
Foll: Jordan Roughead, Tom Liberatore, Luke Dahlhaus
I/C: Liam Picken, Clay Smith, Shane Biggs, Bailey Williams

Midfield: Tom Campbell, Bailey Dale, Tim English, Declan Hamilton, Lin Jong, Matthew Suckling, Mitch Wallis
Forwards: Josh Dunkley, Fergus Greene, Mitch Honeychurch, Patrick Lipinski, Toby McLean, Nathan Mullenger-McHugh, Jack Redpath, Tristan Tweedie, Lewis Young
Defenders: Kieren Collins, Zaine Cordy, Bradley Lynch, Josh Prudden, Fletcher Roberts, Roarke Smith, Lukas Webb

No other defensive unit in the competition boasts the versatility, dash, depth and extraordinary resilience of the one that provided the backbone to last year's premiership team. And the Bulldogs backline will be further strengthened by the return of skipper Bob Murphy and powerful full-back Marcus 'The Specimen' Adams, the latter being a revelation before being sidelined in his debut season. Both Dale Morris and Easton Wood can play tall or small, while the entire back six generates irrepressible run and flair. Their adaptability, selflessness and cohesion – instilled by the visionary Luke Beveridge and his coaching panel – was shown repeatedly last year when they overcame a series of crippling injuries to backmen, and the belief they gained from their stratospheric journey should sustain them for some time. 


B: Heath Shaw, Aidan Corr, Zac Williams
HB: Nathan Wilson, Phil Davis, Nick Haynes
C: Tom Scully, Callan Ward, Josh Kelly
HF: Toby Greene, Jeremy Cameron, Brett Deledio
F: Rory Lobb, Jonathon Patton, Steve Johnson
Foll: Shane Mumford, Dylan Shiel, Stephen Coniglio
I/C: Devon Smith, Lachie Whitfield, Jacob Hopper, Ryan Griffen

Midfield: Matt de Boer, Tom Downie, Matthew Flynn, Matthew Kennedy, Tendai Mzungu, Harry Perryman, Will Setterfield, Dawson Simpson, Tim Taranto
Forwards: Daniel Lloyd, Sam Reid, Lachlan Tiziani, Zach Sproule
Defenders: Matt Buntine, Isaac Cumming, Jeremy Finlayson, Harrison Himmelberg, Adam Kennedy, Tim Mohr, Jake Stein

The AFL's newest franchise is potentially on the cusp of becoming the No.1 team in the competition, and their superb defence is no exception. As much as the Giants are awarded rave reviews for their high-scoring, entertaining play, their back six deserves great credit for their rise from 16th to preliminary finallist over the past two seasons. They are in such a strong position that the loss of key defenders Joel Patfull (retired) and Caleb Marchbank (Carlton) is unlikely to cause a ripple, with Aidan Corr to join co-captain Phil Davis in the key posts. The 'Orange Tsunami' starts with the likes of brilliant veteran Heath Shaw (the AFL's rebound king last year), Nathan Wilson (10th) and Zac Williams, a fellow ball carrier with kicking penetration, while Nick Haynes is an intercept specialist. 

Veteran Heath Shaw was the AFL's rebound king in 2016. Picture: AFL Photos


B: Jake Kolodjashnij, Tom Lonergan, Jed Bews
HB: Zach Tuohy, Harry Taylor, Jackson Thurlow
C: Mitch Duncan,Cam Guthrie, Steven Motlop
HF: Daniel Menzel, Lachie Henderson,Lincoln McCarthy
F: Nakia Cockatoo, Tom Hawkins, Scott Selwood
Foll: Zac Smith, Patrick Dangerfield, Joel Selwood
I/C: Sam Menegola, Andrew Mackie, Mark Blicavs, Josh Cowan

Midfield: Rhys Stanley, George Horlin-Smith, Esava Ratugolea, Jordan Murdoch, James Parsons, Darcy Lang, Jordan Cunico, Ryan Abbott, Matthew Hayball, Sam Simpson, Jack Henry
Forwards: Brandan Parfitt, Quinton Narkle, Jamaine Jones, Aaron Black, Wylie Buzza, Cory Gregson
Defenders: Tom Ruggles, Tom Stewart, Zach Guthrie, Timm House, Ryan Gardner, Mark O'Connor

It's testament to the Cats' succession planning and list management that their backline can still be rated so highly following the retirement of club legend Corey Enright, hailed by some as perhaps the greatest half-back flanker in history. In 2017 they will have two quality recruits on the flanks – long-kicking ex-Blue Zach Tuohy and potential star Jackson Thurlow, who is returning from a knee injury that sidelined him for the entire 2016 season. Experienced pair Tom Lonergan and Harry Taylor provide solid foundations, with the versatile Lachie Henderson being another quality key defensive option, while Jake Kolodjashnij can play tall and small, and Jed Bews and Tom Ruggles are improving smaller defenders. 


B: Luke Brown, Kyle Hartigan, Jake Lever
HB: Rory Laird, Daniel Talia, Brodie Smith
C: Rory Atkins, Brad Crouch, Charlie Cameron
HF: Tom Lynch, Taylor Walker, Richard Douglas
F: Mitch McGovern, Josh Jenkins, Eddie Betts
Foll: Sam Jacobs, Rory Sloane, Matt Crouch
I/C: Kyle Cheney, Riley Knight, Wayne Milera, Scott Thompson

Midfield: Cam Ellis-Yolmen, Jordan Gallucci, Dean Gore, Hugh Greenwood, Curtly Hampton, Paul Hunter, David Mackay, Reilly O'Brien, Myles Poholke, Paul Seedsman, Matt Signorello, Harrison Wigg
Forwards: Jonathan Beech, Ben Davis, Harry Dear, Ben Jarman, Troy Menzel
Defenders: Tom Doedee, Elliott Himmelberg, Alex Keath, Jake Kelly, Andy Otten

The Crows boast a well-balanced backline capable of locking down nearly any forward line in the competition. Daniel Talia is one of the premier key defenders in the League and rightly deserved a return to the All Australian team. He receives great support from the improving Kyle Hartigan, while Jake Lever is an absolute star of the future who looked assured ever since he came into the League in 2015. Rory Laird and Brodie Smith provide great drive off the half-back line. Smith can do plenty of damage with his booming kick. Luke Brown and Kyle Cheney are versatile enough to cover small or tall forwards. 


B: Taylor Duryea, James Frawley, Kaiden Brand
HB: Grant Birchall, Ben Stratton, Shaun Burgoyne
C: Isaac Smith, Tom Mitchell, Billy Hartung
HF: Cyril Rioli, Ty Vickery, Luke Hodge
F: Luke Breust, Jarryd Roughead, Jack Gunston
Foll: Ben McEvoy, Liam Shiels, Jaeger O'Meara
I/C: Paul Puopolo, Ryan Burton, James Sicily, Josh Gibson

Midfield: Brendan Whitecross, Will Langford, Jonathan O'Rourke, Kieran Lovell, Kade Stewart, Marc Pittonet, Dallas Willsmore, Jonathan Ceglar, Oliver Hanrahan, James Cousins
Forwards: Ryan Schoenmakers, Tim O'Brien, Blake Hardwick, Mitchell Lewis, Jack Fitzpatrick, Conor Nash
Defenders: Daniel Howe, Ricky Henderson, Kurt Heatherley, Conor Glass, Teia Miles, Harry Morrison, Luke Surman

A look at Hawthorn's best 22 identifies several more players than we have listed who could play back. Shaun Burgoyne and Luke Hodge are interchangeable, Daniel Howe and Ricky Henderson can play at AFL level while key position players Tim O'Brien and Ryan Schoenmakers can play there as well. The Hawks were exposed down back at times last year and really need Kaiden Brand or Kurt Heatherley to become the second key defender and allow Josh Gibson to freelance as the third-man up and playmaker. It should also be noted that even when the Hawks were dominating the competition, it could be argued that their backline was good rather than great. 


B: Brad Sheppard, Tom Barrass, Will Schofield
HB: Sharrod Wellingham, Jeremy McGovern, Shannon Hurn
C: Lewis Jetta, Sam Mitchell, Andrew Gaff
HF: Elliott Yeo, Jack Darling, Mark LeCras
F: Jamie Cripps, Josh Kennedy, Josh Hill
Foll: Scott Lycett, Matt Priddis, Luke Shuey
I/C: Dom Sheed, Sam Butler, Chris Masten, Nathan Vardy

Midfield: Liam Duggan, Jonathan Giles, Mark Hutchings, Kurt Mutimer, Nic Naitanui, Luke Partington, Jack Redden, Jordan Snadden, Daniel Venables  
Forwards: Matthew Allen, Tarir Bayok (category B), Malcolm Karpany, Tom Lamb, Fraser McInnes, Drew Petrie, Willie Rioli, Simon Tunbridge, Jake Waterman
Defenders: Paddy Brophy, Tom Cole, Tom Gorter, Eric Mackenzie, Jackson Nelson, Josh Rotham, Francis Watson

The Eagles conceded the fifth fewest points in 2016, but the age of some of their defenders has seen them slip back a couple of spots in the rankings. Sam Butler (30), Shannon Hurn (29), Sharrod Wellingham (28) and Will Schofield (27) are all experienced campaigners who add a veteran presence to what is still a quality backline. Jeremy McGovern's intercept marking ability is superb. He took 47 contested marks last season on his way to making the All Australian team. Twenty-one year-old Tom Barrass has the poise of a 200-game veteran in his role as a key defender. 

Jeremy McGovern was an All Australian last season, with his contested marking a standout. Picture: AFL Photos


B: Neville Jetta, Tom McDonald, Michael Hibberd
HB: Jayden Hunt, Oscar McDonald, Christian Salem
C: Dom Tyson, Nathan Jones, Billy Stretch
HF: Dean Kent, Sam Weideman, Christian Petracca
F: Jeff Garlett, Jesse Hogan, Jack Watts
R: Max Gawn, Jordan Lewis, Jack Viney
I/C: Jake Melksham, Angus Brayshaw, Clayton Oliver, Bernie Vince

Midfielders: Alex Neal-Bullen, James Harmes, Jake Spencer, Mitch King, Jack Trengove, Aaron vandenBerg, Pat McKenna, Lachlan Filipovic
Liam Hulett, Dion Johnstone, Mitch Hannan, Jay Kennedy-Harris, Cameron Pedersen, Declan Keilty, Joel Smith, Tim Smith, Corey Maynard, Ben Kennedy
Defenders: Sam Frost, Tom Bugg, Josh Wagner, Mitch White, Colin Garland

When looking at Melbourne's defence, the first sign of note is that Colin Garland, Sam Frost and Tom Bugg don't get into our projected best 22 despite having demonstrated they can play good footy at AFL level. Jayden Hunt is on track to become a star, and this unit will be bolstered in 2017 with the recruitment of experienced Bombers Michael Hibberd and Jake Melksham, but what the Demons will be hoping for is the continued development of the McDonald brothers, Tom and Oscar. They could anchor this backline for years to come. 


B: Dylan Roberton, Nathan Brown, Jarryn Geary
HB: Leigh Montagna, Jake Carlisle, Sean Dempster
C: Nick Riewoldt, David Armitage, Jack Newnes
HF: Jack Billings, Josh Bruce, Maverick Weller
F: Tim Membrey, Paddy McCartin, Jade Gresham
Foll: Tom Hickey, Seb Ross, Jack Steven
I/C: Blake Acres, Luke Dunstan, Sam Gilbert, Shane Savage

Midfield: Koby Stevens, Jack Steele, Nathan Freeman, Billy Longer, Jason Holmes, Edward Phillips, Nicholas O'Kearney
Forwards: Nathan Wright, Darren Minchington, Jack Sinclair, Jack Lonie, Josh Battle, Ben Long, Lewis Pierce, Rowan Marshall
Defenders: Jimmy Webster, Daniel McKenzie, Brandon White, Hugh Goddard, Bailey Rice, Nicholas Coughlan, Ray Connellan, Darragh Joyce

Saints fans will rock up to Etihad Stadium for the season opener against Melbourne with great anticipation and excitement. One reason for that is a defensive unit that has been significantly bolstered over the summer. The Saints finally get to see Jake Carlisle in their colours after the 12 months Essendon supplements ban, while Collingwood premiership defender Nathan Brown is the new full-back, adding strength and experience. Talk to Saints fans and they'll tell you about the abundance of flanker types that have been forced to play tall, but that has now been addressed, so it is onwards and upwards from here.


B: Sam Wright, Robbie Tarrant, Marley Williams
HB: Shaun Atley, Scott Thompson, Luke McDonald
C:  Jamie Macmillan, Jack Ziebell, Sam Gibson
HF: Shaun Higgins, Ben Brown, Mason Wood
F: Majak Daw, Jarrad Waite, Lindsay Thomas
Foll: Todd Goldstein, Ben Cunnington, Andrew Swallow
I/C: Ryan Clarke, Ben Jacobs, Trent Dumont, Nathan Hrovat

Midfield: Paul Ahern, Jed Anderson, Will Fordham, Tom Jeffries, Oscar Junker, Declan Mountford, Braydon Preuss
Forwards: Sam Durdin, Taylor Garner, Ben McKay, Jy Simpkin, Kayne Turner, Corey Wagner, Cameron Zurhaar
Defenders: Lachlan Hansen, Mitch Hibberd, Aaron Mullett, Daniel Nielson, Matthew Taylor, Ed Vickers-Willis

When the Kangaroos' 2016 season went pear-shaped, it wasn't the fault of their backline, which battled manfully against the odds. Every defence needs at least one star and the Roos have that in newly appointed vice-captain Robbie Tarrant, who last year won the club best and fairest and was unlucky not to be selected in the All Australian team. He and the wily Scott Thompson form a full-chested key defensive combination that will keep power forwards honest. Rugged ex-Magpie Marley Williams will be a steal at pick 108 if he can regain confidence, and would add to the run of Shaun Atley, Sam Wright and Luke McDonald. Intercepting big man Lachie Hansen and the pacy Aaron Mullett are handy reinforcements, while Ben Jacobs can also play as a lockdown backman when not assigned a midfield tagging role. 

Robbie Tarrant was best and fairest in 2016 and unlucky not to make the All Australian side. Picture: AFL Photos


B: Darcy Byrne-Jones, Tom Jonas, Jasper Pittard
HB: Hamish Hartlett, Jack Hombsch, Matthew Broadbent
C: Brad Ebert, Ollie Wines, Jared Polec
HF: Chad Wingard, Justin Westhoff, Aaron Young
F: Jarman Impey, Charlie Dixon, Jackson Trengove
Foll: Patrick Ryder, Travis Boak, Robbie Gray
I/C: Brendon Ah Chee, Nathan Krakouer, Sam Powell-Pepper, Matthew White.

Midfield: Karl Amon, Joe Atley, Willem Drew, Billy Frampton, Sam Gray, Cameron Hewett, Dougal Howard, Emmanuel Irra, Matthew Lobbe, Peter Ladhams, Jimmy Toumpas, Will Snelling
Forwards: Brett Eddy, Dan Houston, Aidyn Johnson, Todd Marshall, Angus Monfries, Jake Neade, Jesse Palmer
Defenders: Logan Austin, Riley Bonner, Tom Clurey, Jarrod Lienert

Injuries to key personnel decimated the Power's backline last season. Jack Hombsch didn't play after round 10 while Tom Jonas and Hamish Hartlett also missed big chunks of the season. Having those three back adds plenty of experience, as does Matthew Broadbent and Nathan Krakouer. Jasper Pittard was a shining light the way he took the game on and provided drive off half-back. Darcy Byrne-Jones will look to build on an impressive rookie season. Jackson Trengove and Justin Westhoff could also be used to plug holes in the backline, while Logan Austin and Tom Clurey are handy back-up options to have.  


B: Trent McKenzie, Steven May, Adam Saad
HB: Kade Kolodjashnij Rory Thompson, Jarrod Harbrow
C: Pearce Hanley, Touk Miller, Alex Sexton
HF: Ben Ainsworth, Tom Lynch, Jack Martin
F: Callum Ah Chee, Peter Wright, Sam Day
Foll: Jarrod Witts, Gary Ablett, David Swallow
I/C: Jarryd Lyons, Jack Bowes, Aaron Hall, Jesse Lonergan

Midfield: Michael Barlow, Michael Rischitelli, Matt Rosa, Brayden Fiorini, Mitch Hallahan, Daniel Currie, Tom Nicholls, Matt Shaw, Mackenzie Willis, Josh Schoenfeld, Will Brodie, Brad Scheer
Forwards: Jarrad Grant, Brandon Matera, Ryan Davis, Darcy Macpherson, Cameron Loersch
Defenders: Jack Leslie, Sean Lemmens, Jesse Joyce, Jack Scrimshaw, Keegan Brooksby, Max Spencer

Only Essendon and the Brisbane Lions conceded more points than Gold Coast last season, but we're expecting the Suns' young stars to continue their improvement in 2017. Newly-appointed co-captain Steven May is one of the premier full-backs in the competition with his strength and ability to read the play. Rory Thompson has been criticised at times for drifting out of games, but at his best can be a very effective centre half-back. The big improvement will come out of Kade Kolodjashnij. With 59 games under his belt, the 21-year-old is poised to take his game to another level after averaging 17.5 possessions and six marks per game in 2016.


B: Tyson Goldsack, Lynden Dunn, Ben Sinclair
HB: Jeremy Howe, Ben Reid, Brayden Maynard
C: Daniel Wells, Adam Treloar, Steele Sidebottom
HF: Chris Mayne, Jesse White, Will Hoskin-Elliott
F: Jamie Elliott, Darcy Moore, Alex Fasolo
Foll: Brodie Grundy, Scott Pendlebury, Taylor Adams
I/C: Travis Varcoe, Jack Crisp, Josh Smith, James Aish

Midfield: Levi Greenwood, Jordan De Goey, Tom Phillips, Rupert Wills, Josh Thomas, Callum Brown, Max Lynch, Brayden Sier
Forwards: Jarryd Blair, Mason Cox, Ben Crocker, Tim Broomhead, Josh Daicos, Kayle Kirby, 
Defenders: Tom Langdon, Jackson Ramsay, Matt Scharenberg, Adam Oxley, Lachlan Keeffe, Henry Schade, Sam McLarty, Liam Mackie, Mitch McCarthy

The area of the ground that could make or break the Pies as they strive to return to the finals for the first time since 2013. Their key defensive stocks, particularly on the last line, look decidedly sketchy. They released struggling full-backs Nathan Brown (to St Kilda) and Jack Frost (Brisbane Lions) and will replace them with the likes of ex-Demon Lynden Dunn (just four games in 2016), the returning Lachie Keeffe (who has served a two-year doping ban) and the out of favour Tyson Goldsack. Despite all that, the Pies should have reasonable defensive depth overall, particularly if Matt Scharenberg, Jackson Ramsay and Ben Sinclair can arrest their injury issues. Ben Reid's fitness remains crucial. 


B: Simon White, Sam Rowe, Lachie Plowman
HB: Kade Simpson, Jacob Weitering, Sam Docherty
C:  Dale Thomas, Bryce Gibbs, Sam Kerridge
HF: Jack Silvagni, Harry McKay, Matthew Wright
F: Charlie Curnow, Levi Casboult, Dennis Armfield
Foll: Matthew Kreuzer, Patrick Cripps, Marc Murphy
I/C: Ed Curnow, Sam Petrevski-Seton, Andrew Phillips, Caleb Marchbank

Midfield: Blaine Boekhorst, David Cuningham, Zac Fisher, Daniel Gorringe, Nick Graham, Matt Korcheck, Rhys Palmer, Cameron Polson, Tom Williamson
Forwards: Andrew Gallucci, Liam Jones, Jed Lamb, Kym Lebois, Harrison Macreadie, Jarrod Pickett, Pat Kerr, Liam Sumner
Defenders: Dylan Buckley, Ciaran Byrne, Jesse Glass-McCasker, Kristian Jaksch, Ciaran Sheehan, Alex Silvagni, Billie Smedts 

There are some very good footballers in this group, including Kade Simpson and Sam Docherty, while 2015 No.1 draft pick Jacob Weitering is as good as advertised. Lachie Plowman might be the best of the GWS diaspora now residing on Royal Parade, although incoming Giant Caleb Marchbank has the makings of a star if he can keep himself on the park. Dylan Buckley, Alex Silvagni and Billie Smedts are handy depth players. This group could make great strides in 2017. 

Stalwart Kade Simpson remains a linchpin of the Blues defence. Picture: AFL Photos


B: Tommy Sheridan, Joel Hamling, Lee Spurr
HB: Michael Johnson, Alex Pearce, Garrick Ibbotson
C: Bradley Hill, Lachie Neale, Stephen Hill
HF: Harley Bennell, Cam McCarthy, Danyle Pearce
F: Michael Walters, Michael Apeness, Hayden Ballantyne
Foll: Aaron Sandilands, Nat Fyfe, David Mundy
I/C: Lachie Weller, Connor Blakely, Griffin Logue, Darcy Tucker

Midfield: Harley Balic, Zac Clarke, Sean Darcy, Jon Griffin, Ed Langdon, Nick Suban, Josh Deluca
Forwards: Brennan Cox, Hayden Crozier, Shane Kersten, Matt Taberner, Luke Strnadica
Defenders: Sam Collins, Zac Dawson, Ethan Hughes, Luke Ryan, Cam Sutcliffe, Taylin Duman, Brady Grey, Ryan Nyhuis, Matthew Uebergang

The Dockers have placed plenty of responsibility on the shoulders of young key defenders Alex Pearce and premiership-winning recruit Joel Hamling. Pearce, 21, has played just 21 games, while Hamling has enjoyed a meteoric rise after playing a pivotal role for the Western Bulldogs in their fairytale finals run last season. Hamling did a wonderful negating job on some of the premier forwards in the competition. The question now is whether he can do it on a regular basis. No.8 overall pick Griffin Logue is a terrific key position prospect. Michael Johnson, Garrick Ibbotson and Lee Spurr provide the experience for this Dockers backline.


B: Kamdyn McIntosh, Alex Rance, Dylan Grimes
HB: Bachar Houli, David Astbury, Nick Vlastuin
C: Shaun Grigg, Dustin Martin, Brandon Ellis
HF: Josh Caddy, Jack Riewoldt, Shane Edwards
F: Daniel Rioli, Ben Griffiths, Sam Lloyd
Foll: Shaun Hampson, Trent Cotchin, Dion Prestia
I/C: Anthony Miles, Corey Ellis, Connor Menadue, Jayden Short

Midfield: Reece Conca, Kane Lambert, Toby Nankervis, Jack Graham, Taylor Hunt, Ivan Maric, Jacob Townsend, Ivan Soldo
Forwards: Ben Lennon, Shai Bolton, Daniel Butler, Mabior Chol, Callum Moore, Tyson Stengle
Defenders: Jake Batchelor, Oleg Markov, Steven Morris, Nathan Broad, Nathan Drummond, Todd Elton, Ryan Garthwaite, Jason Castagna

Richmond's defence is headed by one of the very best there is – three-time All Australian Alex Rance. But it all becomes a bit workmanlike from there, and you had to feel for the over-worked Rance at times last season. What the Richmond back half needs is a bit more star power and 2017 shapes as a year when the Tigers need to have a good look at the likes of Oleg Markov and Nathan Broad to see what they might bring into the mix. 


B: Mark Baguley, Michael Hartley, Matt Dea
HB: David Myers, Michael Hurley, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti
C: Darcy Parish, Jobe Watson, Brendon Goddard
HF: Travis Colyer, Cale Hooker, Kyle Langford
F: David Zaharakis, Joe Daniher, Orazio Fantasia
Foll: Matthew Leuenberger, Zach Merrett, Dyson Heppell 
I/C: Tom Bellchambers, Jayden Laverde, Brent Stanton, Andrew McGrath

Midfield: Craig Bird, Alex Morgan, Heath Hocking, Ben Howlett, Dylan Clarke, Kobe Mutch, Sam Draper
Forwards: Yestin Eades, Shaun McKernan, Jackson Merrett, Mason Redman, Jake Long, Conor McKenna, Josh Green, James Stewart, Josh Begley
Defenders: James Kelly, Martin Gleeson, Aaron Francis, Mitch Brown, Patrick Ambrose, Jordan Ridley, Ben McNiece

The Bombers' back half has been bolstered dramatically by the return of Michael Hurley and David Myers, and there is also the possibility of redeploying swingman Cale Hooker to a key defensive role. They have also extended the careers of 2016 top-up players Matt Dea and veteran James Kelly, while Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti and Michael Hartley gained many admirers last year and should continue to improve in a better team. They also have reasonable back-up with Patrick Ambrose, Mitch Brown and Aaron Francis also capable of playing key roles. However, there is no escaping the consensus that the reconstituted Dons lack the overall class of the bulk of their rivals and it remains to be seen whether they can establish the cohesion required to become a miserly mob.  

Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti was a revelation for the Bombers, in defence and attack. Picture: AFL Photos


B: Darcy Gardiner, Jack Frost, Ryan Harwood
HB: Tom Cutler, Harris Andrews, Claye Beams
C: Rohan Bewick, Dayne Beams, Tom Bell
HF: Allen Christensen, Dan McStay, Sam Mayes
F: Lewy Taylor, Josh Schache, Eric Hipwood
Foll: Stefan Martin, Tom Rockliff, Dayne Zorko
I/C: Daniel Rich, Mitch Robinson, Rhys Mathieson, Hugh McCluggage

Midfield: Ben Keays, Ryan Bastinac, Jarrad Jansen, Nick Robertson, Josh Clayton, Ryan Lester, Jarrod Berry, Cedric Cox, Jacob Allison, Archie Smith, Corey Lyons, Cian Hanley, Blake Grewar, Matt Eagles, Jake Barrett, Oscar McInerney
Forwards: Josh Walker, Michael Close, Jono Freeman
Defenders: Marco Paparone, Liam Dawson, Sam Skinner, Alex Witherden, Matthew Hammelmann, Reuben William, Mitchell Hinge

It will be another steep learning curve for the Lions' youthful defenders. Harris Andrews and Darcy Gardiner are wonderful key position prospects who will continue to get better with every game they play. Former Collingwood defender Jack Frost is a solid addition to the group after falling out of favour at the Magpies. We haven't been able to find room for exciting draftee Alex Witherden, but there's every chance the No.23 overall pick from the Geelong Falcons gets an opportunity to show what he can do across half-back. For coach Chris Fagan, this year is about getting games into his young defenders and for them to continue to improve.