broadview hawks
central blues
Etobicoke Kangaroos 2017
Hamilton Wildcats
High Park Demons
Ottawa Swans
Toronto Dingos
Toronto Eagles

2018 AFL Ontario Division 1 Preview

Finally, the long AFL Ontario off-season is over. And what an off-season it’s been. Following a grand final for the ages, where a last ditch flour-bag goal from Ben Eddy left the Toronto Eagles triumphant, we’ve had eight months of player departures and additions, a winter that wouldn’t quit, mediocre Maple Leaf performance and the latest rendition of Raptors capitulation. But with all that now confined to the rear-view mirror we move onto season 2018, where all sides are eager to stake their claim for a finals berth in a trimmed-down nine team competition which will feature six teams making the playoffs. Who misses out? Who will be the big improvers? And who has a legitimate shot to win it all? Here are some thoughts on how it all might shake out:

Central Blues

An up-and-down 2017 saw the Central boys finish just one spot outside the finals, albeit being two wins plus percentage behind the now defunct fifth-place Broadview. Whilst they’re known to battle for four quarters each weekend, this wasn’t enough against the better sides last year and won’t be again this time around. Unless they’ve had an injection of more than one polished key position player they won’t be setting the world on fire in 2018, likely battling other middle-of-the-road teams for the bottom couple of finals spots. Predicted finish: 5th – 7th

Etobicoke Kangaroos

A lack of numbers cruelled the Roos 2017 campaign, with a talented spine left wanting most weekends as they struggled to remain competitive throughout. The collapse of the Hawks might yield Etobicoke a couple of quality ins, and this might be enough to keep them firing as the season wears on – only time will tell. A favourable draw sees the Roos playing just four games against last year’s finalists so it’s hard to see them not reversing their fortunes in 2018. Predicted finish: 3rd – 5th

Grand River Gargoyles

Strong showings at home will be key for the Gargs this year if they are to stay afloat towards the back end of the season. Whilst they boast some handy Aussies, who are complimented by some up-and-coming Canadians, it will take a pretty remarkable effort for this team to squeak into the finals. Any ins they can source from the University of Guelph’s exchange program would be huge for this side. Predicted finish: 7th – 9th

Hamilton Wildcats

Back-to-back finals berths from the ‘Cats has most pundits wondering whether Hamilton are ready to take the next step and play with the big boys in 2018. Easily accounting for the cannon fodder whenever it presents itself, the boys from the Hammer use a strong home ground advantage to stack up wins, but go down with barely a ‘meow’ away from Mohawk Park. Whilst they’re a great bunch of lads off the field, until they can round out a full 22 each week it’s hard to see them making meaningful progress in 2018. No forfeits and winning a final would be considered a pass for mine. Predicted finish: 4th – 6th

High Park Demons

Vast improvement last year saw the Dees finally notch up a couple of victories and a similar progression in 2018 probably sees them sneak into the finals. This would be quite remarkable for a team that was winless two years ago, so expect them to tread water and hover around the drop zone in the back half of the year. A player partnership with the Barrie Giants could provide some relief for Hayesy and Co, but until that relationship bears fruit judgment remains reserved. Predicted finish: 6th – 8th

Ottawa Swans

Like the other top sides of the competition the Swans will be judged solely on their performance come September. Yet an additional road game, along with the potential emergence of a couple of sides in the chasing pack, could see somewhat of a regression for Ottawa in 2018. With seeding crucial come finals time, the Swannies need ensure they finish top four if they are serious about getting back to the GF. Strom and Harcombe will hold them in good stead at home, but at least a 2-2 record away from the nation’s capital is necessary if they are to go a game further this season. Predicted finish: 2nd – 4th

Toronto Dingos

If effort alone yielded wins the Dingos would not have picked up the spoon in 2017. But alas it does not, and despite having the best moniker available for an overseas Aussie rules league the Dingos have some work to do if they are to make strides this season. Another team likely to be of benefit to the expanded finals format, if they can win the games they should early sheer numbers on match-day could prove pivotal in whether they return to September action. Predicted finish: 6th – 8th

Toronto Eagles

Last year’s Premiers might still be waking up with sore heads following their first flag since 2009, but don’t let that fool you – Azza’s men are ready to take flight again in 2018. With arguably the best Canadian contingent in the competition, the Eagles are primed for another big year with the return of 2017’s League MVP Dean Gavin, a fit Neil Casey plus Falcioni’s usual crop of fast-living Aussies. The only thing standing between the Eagles and a home final in 2018 will likely be the Queen West scenes on a Friday and Saturday night – look for these boys to figure in September. Predicted finish: 1st – 3rd

Toronto Rebels

Perhaps the biggest question surrounding the Rebels to begin 2018 will be how they cover the loss of a couple of high-end departures in Digga and Hegsy. However their continued Hemingway’s presence, coupled with Bodzy’s penchant for hanging out at the Pearson arrivals gate, should see them at least partly paper over the cracks left by the aforementioned players. The opening weekend grand final rematch will tell us a lot about the Rebels, more so than it will the Eagles, so a big showing here will have most pundits pencilling them in around the top again for season 2018. Hard to see them regressing too much. Predicted finish: 1st – 3rd




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