This year will no doubt be remembered as one of the greatest in the modern era, thanks largely to the shock, fairy tale grand final win by the Western Bulldogs, after a 62-year premiership drought.
But can 2017 be bigger and better yet again?
We sat down with one of the pioneers of the player agent industry, Ricky Nixon, to have a look at what 2017 has in store for us.
Nixon suggested that the Hawks will bounce back in 2017, while he says the Cats have a point to prove next year.
“I think the Cats have got a big incentive, no one was ever to predict what would happen to the two teams that won the first week that they would go out in the preliminary finals, it is unheard of,” Nixon told Zero Hanger.
“There’s no doubt the clubs will prepare a lot differently next year, I’d say if there’s a bye again before the finals then those clubs will have a massive hit out that week.
“The way the game is played now it’s an athletic event, you can’t play two games in four weeks at the level a final is played at and expect to win.
“I can even see Greater Western Sydney just blitzing the whole competition next year. That would be the least of my surprises, them just blitzing it and going through and winning the grand final by six goals. I just don’t know whether they’ve got enough physical strength to match it with a Geelong or Hawthorn just yet in a grand final.”
“I could also definitely still see the Hawks winning it. If O’Meara stays fit and shows the ability he’s got, the kid could certainly be as good as a Nat Fyfe. I’m not saying he will but he’s got the ability to.
“Clarkson’s a genius…he’ll create new game plan next year which I reckon will be the same as the Western Bulldogs, it will be fast off half back…but what Hawthorn has got that is far superior than any other club, is foot skills and they maintain possession of the football and that’s hard to beat.”
The 53-year-old said the Saints and the Tigers will be the sides to show big improvement, while Essendon will also push for finals in 2017.
“The big improvers will certainly be the Saints. I think they’re probably two years behind the Western Bulldogs. The other one I think where there will be a change in direction will be Richmond. I’ve just got a feeling Cotchin might step up to the plate.” he said.
“The other one’s Essendon. Essendon’s got a fantastic list now and they should finish sixth to eighth and that would surprise a few people, but it won’t surprise me.”
Down the other side of the ladder, Nixon said there are only two teams he can categorically rule out of reaching the finals at this early stage.
“I think what’s impacting Gold Coast, is young blokes living on the Gold Coast is not good for footy. There are too many temptations, they also drafted a lot of individual type players…and that hasn’t helped them and they didn’t get the concessions that GWS got.”
When it comes to the next generation of young stars, Nixon said the Giants once again have one of the best in the league who is his hot tip for the 2017 rising star.
“Will Setterfield, that’s the kid I like. He’s six foot four, plays in the midfield, but can play forward, catches it, he’s the Bontempelli of the draft.
“So he’s the one I’m suggesting people keep their eyes on.”
For those wondering what may become of now former Gold Coast captain, Gary Ablett, Nixon said he believes the two-time Brownlow Medalist will only play on beyond next season, if he plays at Geelong.
Nixon has also proposed a radical new format for pre-season matches to re-engage the fans prior to the season.
The proposed new format would be a shorter game with a smaller number of players on the field in a knockout tournament, which could be the ideal preparation for the season proper.
“The players should be getting on the front foot and creating a Big Bash style format in AFL football, that’s exciting, quick and fast,” he said.
“My idea is that every club has three teams and there are only 12 players on each team. In those 12 players, you have to have six players under 25 and six over and those six over 25 have got to have a past player of the club.
“Those games only go for half an hour and you play the games at all venues around Australia, and it’s an FA Cup style (knock out tournament). So Collingwood’s got three teams, two of their teams might go out in the first round, but their team led by Scott Pendlebury might win the first game.
“Your getting fitness, your getting physicality, but less physicality, because it is only 12 players, so it is perfect for a warm up and if you lose in the first round, those losers still play practice games and winners keep going. Short and quick is what people want.”
Nixon, who is no longer working as a player agent, has recently released a book, entitled, My Side, on his time in the industry, his fall from grace and subsequent journey back from a difficult time in his life.
“It’s basically a book about, you get knocked down, you get back up again, you get on with it and this is how you get on with it,” Nixon said.
Nixon was one of the industry’s leading player agents, managing players such as Wayne Carey, Gary Ablett Snr, Jason Dunstall and Ben Cousins, before it all came crashing down.
“I made a big mistake, I’m the one to blame…So when you accept the blame and you decide you want to do something about it, that’s when your life starts to climb back up a mountain again.”
“There’s also lots of good footy stories in there. Some that will surprise some people about some great deals I did…and the other things in the book are about life experiences.
“The book also enabled me to draw a line in the sand and move on.”
My Side is available online for $19.95 at www.rnsport.com.au.