MELBOURNE, VICTORIA - SEPTEMBER 29: Tom Barrass of the Eagles celebrates with the Premiership Cup after the 2018 AFL Grand Final match between the Collingwood Magpies and the West Coast Eagles at Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 29, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/AFL Media/Getty Images)

The 2019 AFL season does not even get underway for another few weeks. However, every sports fan loves to gaze into the crystal ball, so let’s take a look at how this year’s event is likely to pan out, and which teams we can expect to be battling it out at the business end when the season draws towards its conclusion. Here are some of the most compelling picks, in alphabetical order.

Collingwood

2018 was a fantastic year for Collingwood, and few could have predicted that they would finish in the runners up spot after a dire 2017 that saw them languishing 13th in the standings. The Magpies have got a settled team that is bristling with both talent and confidence. Expect the likes of Dayne Beams, Mason Cox and Scott Pendlebury to be at the top of their game. If they are, Collingwood will be a match for anyone. For those wondering where to use their bet365 with a preseason wager, bookmakers have Collingwood at even money for a top four finish, 3/1 to make the final and 6/1 to go a step better than last year.

Essendon

2018 was a year to forget, but Essendon seem almost certain to come back stronger in the new season. Dylan Shiel will be a welcome addition, and if he can form a good working partnership with the likes of Jack Stringer, Michael Hurley and Jo Daniher, expect to see Essendon duking it out at the sharp end of the ladder from the word go. Right now, they are a 2/1 shot to finish in the top four, and that is one of the most tempting offers going.

Richmond

Many of the bookies have Richmond penciled in as early favourites to go all the way and have them at around 4/1 for Grand Final winners. That’s not unreasonable, as they were the stand out team for the majority of the 2018 campaign and finished well clear at the top of the ladder. It was only in the post-season that the wheels came off, with their surprising capitulation to Collingwood in the semi finals. Expect more of the same in 2019, when Richmond will still be the team everyone wants to beat.

West Coast

In last year’s pre-season, it would have taken some courage to include West Coast on a list like this. Who would have believed they would not just finish second in the table but would go on to win the grand final? While Richmond are marginally ahead of them as far as the bookmakers are concerned, this is a team that has a genuine chance of a successful defence. Much is being made of Mark Lecras retiring and Nic Naitanui potentially being absent for much of the season as he continues to recover from a serious knee injury. But West Coast has as much depth in talent as anyone, and will turn out one of the best lineups, regardless of injury problems. 7/1 for a successful defence looks like very tempting odds.