MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 19: Tom Lynch hand passes the ball during a Richmond Tigers AFL training session at Punt Road Oval on November 19, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

On Thursday March 21 a new AFL season gets underway as Carlton take on the Tigers as senior coach Damien Hardwick shrugs off a disappointing end to what was a dominant campaign.

Unsurprisingly, Richmond are already heavy favourites with the Blues priced at 1/7 with Betway as of the 26th November and although March may seem a long way away, the time will quickly disperse.

Early it may be, but with the 2018 NAB AFL Draft Order now complete, the work begins once again as all eighteen teams aim to replicate the West Coast Eagles Grand Final success in late September.

So, what do the early signs say? And are the Richmond the right to be such heavy favourites to stuff Carlton on the season opener?

What’s Hot

West Coast Eagles

We may as well start at the top.

Dom Sheed was the hero for the Eagles over Collingwood during September’s decider after kicking a late goal to knock the stuffing out of the Magpies.

Collingwood will feel disappointed and feel like they lost a major opportunity to capture their 16th flag.

However, for the Eagles, it is a case of build on momentum after a season that saw them lose only six games.

Picking up talented youngsters Xavier O’Neill, Luke Foley, and Bailey Williams in the draft shores them up long term, but as we know, it’s tough to go back-to-back.

Richmond

You don’t win the minor premiership by eight points and not make a case to be one of the big boys heading into 2019.

In fact, Richmond have arguably the best case of all to go on and win a second flag in three years, especially if they can put the psychological blow of defeat to Collingwood behind them.

The signing of Tom Lynch from the Gold coast Suns is viewed as the final piece in Damien Hardwick’s puzzle and it is impossible not to make the Tigers favourites once again.

Last season’s preliminary final is a blip and it is hard to too see them declining, one fears the Tigers are just getting started again.

Essendon 

SEE ALSO:  Doedee suffers suspected ACL injury

The Bombers will be reeling after narrowly missing out on the finals in 2018 and will expect to gone much deeper in 2019. 

Finally free of off-field distractions, Essendon CEO Xavier Campbell has expressed his side are ready to reach the finals and win a September contest there for the first time since 2004.

Boom recruit Dylan Shiel is viewed as the man to take the Bombers back to the big time and after a solid 2018, Essendon are ones to watch with an ever improving side. 

What’s Not

Gold Coast

It was only a matter of time before the Suns lost Tom Lynch, and they look that much worse without him. 

Another season battling with the Blues looks set to ensue but even Carlton may fancy overhauling Stuart Dew’s men.

However, the draft picks of Izak Rankine, Jack Lukosius, Jez McLennan, and Caleb Graham may be just what the Suns need for a change of direction as they go through the rebuilding process once again.

Carlton

Two obvious picks here in Gold Coast and Carlton, but you simply cannot see much of a shock revival from either side.

Carlton’s situation was worse than the Suns last season but at least they have not lost key players and may seem something of an improvement. Although, thy have lost recently appointed co-captain Sam Docherty for a second-straight season in a major blow for the club.

Winning over games might be a stretch, but expect the Blues to leapfrog the Suns and hand over the wooden spoon at the end of 2019.

North Melbourne

SEE ALSO:  Max King extends contract with Saints

Brad Scott’s pursuit of short-term success may have fallen a little shy of the finals in 2018 and that may be a detriment in 2019.

That means a rebuilding process may be on the cards for next year thus seeing them fall down the table somewhat.

The Kangaroos are a huge enigma, they have the ability to make the finals or bomb out completely.

Three months may sound like a long time but the excitement for 2019 is building with every hour as the AFL is set for yet another momentous season.

Roll on 2019.