MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 01: Jack Viney of the Demons is tackled by Jade Gresham of the Saints during the 2018 AFL round 15 match between the Melbourne Demons and the St Kilda Saints at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 01, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

A new season means the opportunity for some new up and coming stars to make a name for themselves and drive a club forward. Yet while that is always exciting, from a fan perspective, there is nothing quite like seeing names we expected to be fading into history return stronger than ever. We’ve seen it in cricket with the news that Peter Siddle is to return to the ODI side after an eight year absence. But who are the old dogs in the football world who might just be able to show us that their best years are still to come?

Nic Naitanui

Some might be experiencing a sense of déjà vu, given that this time last year, all the talk was about the likeable Eagles ruckman finally having a chance to re-establish himself after missing almost the entire 2016 and 2017 seasons with a ruptured ACL. No sooner was he back than he ruptured the other one, and there were those who questioned whether he would ever be seen in the middle again. Naitanui is still only 28, and there is time for him to rediscover the form that saw him named as first choice ruckman in the All-Australian team in 2012.

Rory Sloane

If anyone deserves a bit of luck and another shot at the big time, it is Rory Sloane. Last year was blighted by tragedy in his personal life, and in the context of that, the injury worries, contract speculation and off-field club scandals all pale into insignificance. Sloane has a positive outlook and is bristling with talent, and 2019 could be the year he gets to put all the toxicity behind him. There is also some quiet confidence among the tipsters at that the Crows will be back in serious contention this year. One thing is certain, regardless of team affiliation, the whole league will be wishing Sloane well.

Jack Viney

Melbourne’s hard-as-nails midfielder is only 24, so hardly a veteran. However, after an explosive start to his career and appointment as captain, he was conspicuous by his absence in 2018, appearing in only 10 games due to an ongoing foot injury. The recently married Viney says he is fighting fit and ready to carry on where he left off in 2017. Don’t be surprised if he is being discussed as one of the most influential players in the league by the end of the season.

Aaron Hall

Two seasons ago, the media and pundits alike could not get enough of the Tasmania-born midfielder. Last year, injuries combined with the broader morass at the Gold Coast Suns to see him increasingly marginalised. New coach Stuart Dew has his own ideas about how to change the team’s fortunes, and clearly they do not involve Hall, so it was no surprise to see him traded to Melbourne. His speed and talent are undoubted, and a new environment could be exactly what is needed to bring them back into the limelight.