MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 29: Josh Kennedy of the Eagles has his kick smothered by Tom Langdon of the Magpies during the 2018 Toyota AFL Grand Final match between the West Coast Eagles and the Collingwood Magpies at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 29, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

As the 2019 campaign begins in just under three weeks, it’s time to look at the big contenders for this year’s premiership crown!

Richmond

Despite not making the Grand Final last year, the Tigers played some compelling football throughout the season removing any talks of a ‘premiership hangover’. They were overrun against a mean Collingwood outfit, but the Tigers were undoubtedly the hot favourites heading into September action.

The addition of Tom Lynch has been spoken about in all football corners, and while he played just 10 games last season and 19 the year before, Lynch is a player who will benefit off the talented midfield crop at Tigerland.

The former Suns’ captain kicked 66 goals in 2016, winning many games of his own shoe, and pairing him with Jack Riewoldt may take time, but will be effective long-term. A maturing mosquito fleet of Dan Butler, Jack Higgins, Kane Lambert, and Daniel Rioli – who have all played 74 games or less – will be sure to have defenders second-guessing all season long.

Collingwood

An unexpected runner-up season wasn’t the result Nathan Buckley was after, especially for a coach who knew what his side was capable of. For the Magpies, they start again, this time with the help of 2010 premiership star Dayne Beams – who came across from Brisbane last trade period.

Injuries aside, Collingwood have one of the deepest lists in the competition. With an engine room that runs 10 players deep, it was other areas that Magpie fans were questionable about leading into 2018.

Now, following Brodie Grundy’s maiden All-Australian nod, a controlled back six led by Jack Crisp and Jeremy Howe, and a lively forward line featuring young stars Jordan De Goey and Jaidyn Stephenson, Collingwood has set themselves up for another deep season.

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West Coast

When remembering how the Eagles performed like they did last September without both Nic Naitanui and Andrew Gaff (arguably two of their most important players), it’s hard to count them out of flag talks for the season ahead.

West Coast weren’t major players in last year’s trade period, yet managed to find decent ruck cover after trading for St Kilda’s Tom Hickey.

Expect to see Elliot Yeo cement his spot as one of the top footballers in the country, while Tom Barrass and Jeremy McGovern build their own defensive fort for years to come. Last year wasn’t a fluke, there’s still plenty of upside for the Eagles in season 2019.

Melbourne

It was a devastating finish to an exciting season for Demons fans, who had to cancel their September holidays for the first time since 2005! Melbourne played some exciting finals football, and albeit a dismal preliminary performance on the road, 2019 is now their greatest opportunity to end the 54-year premiership drought.

The one-two tandem of Max Gawn and Clayton Oliver will be damaging for years to come, but adding a fully-fit Jack Viney alongside the growth of James Harmes – Melbourne will look to generate their best footy from the middle.

Simon Goodwin has turned Tom McDonald into a genuine spearhead forward. If they manage to get both Jake Lever and newest recruit Steven May on the same page, the Demons will be a very tough side to score against throughout the year.

Essendon

After Essendon handed Carlton its first win for the season back in round eight last year, coach John Worsfold was supposedly in serious trouble. However, they managed to win 10 of their final 14 games and finished just one win away from the eight.

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The highlight for many Bombers fans this year will be the pace and dash provided by Adam Saad, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti and Irishmen Connor McKenna.

In their first seasons at the club, Jake Stringer and Devon Smith proved handy pick-ups. Smith broke many records surrounding tackling and pressure, but it was the class of Orazio Fantasia that has Essendon fans in full belief heading into the 2019 season.

The Dons gambled by giving up a lot to add inside talent Dylan Shiel, but coupling him with an already strong engine room gives surrounding players room to run and grow all season long. If you want to bet on teams or players, use the website https://gamblerino.com/en/. Choose sites where you can bet safely.

Adelaide

Adelaide was simply too inconsistent in 2018, a bunch of off-field dramas didn’t aid their cause – but there’s plenty of time to redeem themselves.

The Crows didn’t target any big-name players in the off-season, instead, they will enjoy the return of elite ball-winners Rory Sloane and Brad Crouch and running defender Brodie Smith.

All-Australian Rory Laird is about to enter his prime, and general defender Tom Doedee looks to be a future star of the competition. The Crows still have one of the strongest, experienced lists in the game to go along with rising stars Matt Crouch, Darcy Fogarty, Wayne Milera, and Jordan Galluci.

Don Pyke’s men have every right to be in the flag conversation, they have a much simpler draw in comparison to the previous year and will be looking to come out of the gates firing.