Inside Sport - - Contents - BY FOX FOOT Y’ S SARAH JONES

It’s the most won­der­ful time of the year! No, I’m not talk­ing about Christ­mas ... I mean the start of a brand new AFL sea­son. Ho! Ho! Hope! There is hope ev­ery­where. No one has lost a match, ev­ery­one is “fit and fly­ing” and “train­ing the house down”. There’s 405 glo­ri­ous matches – a shiny, new gift to un­wrap. Septem­ber is great, but for over half of the com­pe­ti­tion their cam­paign is over. This time of year is a footy fan's true present. For­get Ru­dolph and Don­ner and Bl­itzen, I’m ex­cited about Buddy, Dusty and Nic Nat. We aren’t con­cerned with tur­key and pud­ding, but rather carb-load­ing and hy­drolyte drinks.

So with ex­cite­ment and an­tic­i­pa­tion shared among the 18 clubs, I’ve taken a look at what ev­ery­one is wish­ing for this footy fes­tive sea­son ...

Adelaide: The great­est gift the Crows can re­ceive is the first bounce in round one. They can fi­nally move on from their hor­ror grand fi­nal day.

Bris­bane: On the Lions’ wish list is an early de­but of Cameron Rayner. Noth­ing ex­cites sup­port­ers more than a no.1 draft pick play­ing their first game.

Carl­ton: There’s been a lot of hope sold at Carl­ton in the past few years. Blues fans now just want wins on the board.

Colling­wood: Nathan Buck­ley may have al­ready got his Christ­mas gift when he was spared the axe last year. Pies fans will be hop­ing the bold move from the club pays off with a move up the lad­der.

Essendon: Hol­ly­wood scriptwrit­ers couldn’t have come up with two big­ger sto­ries than the Bull­dogs and Rich­mond win­ning pre­mier­ships. An Essendon flag, af­ter be­ing em­broiled in the big­gest sports scan­dal in AFL his­tory, would be re­ward for fans’ re­silience.

Fre­man­tle: Ross Lyon says Nat Fyfe will get back to his Brown­low best. The Dock­ers’ fans are dream­ing of ex­actly that.

GWS: Af­ter be­ing dec­i­mated by in­jury in 2017 – and still mak­ing a pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal – the Giants' fans will be ask­ing for a cleaner bill of health this year.

Gold Coast: Suns fans will think all their Christ­mases have come at once if Tom

Lynch re-signs.

Gee­long: With Gary Ablett re­turn­ing home, Cats fans have ev­ery­thing they want.

Hawthorn: The Hawks’ faith­ful has been spoilt for a long time. Top item on their wish list for 2018 – that Jaeger O’Meara fi­nally gets a de­cent run with his body.

Mel­bourne: Demons sup­port­ers have good rea­son to be op­ti­mistic. Will Jake Lever’s ar­rival her­ald a re­turn to Septem­ber?

North Mel­bourne: With a war chest the envy of ev­ery club, Kan­ga­roos fans are ask­ing Santa to help them land a big fish or two at sea­son's end.

Port Adelaide: Noth­ing gets fans dream­ing of Septem­ber more than an ap­par­ent list top-up in the trade pe­riod. The Power has re­cruited for the now. Can they de­liver?

Rich­mond: Even the most op­ti­mistic Tigers' fan wouldn’t have been ex­pect­ing a premier­ship cup in their stock­ing last year ... now they want more!

St Kilda: St Nick has re­tired and headed to Fox Footy, so Saints fans hope Santa de­liv­ers Paddy McCartin some se­nior footy.

Syd­ney: Af­ter a 0-6 start to the year cru­elled their flag hopes, Swans fans want early wins on the board.

West Coast: It’s not just Ea­gles fans hop­ing Nic Nai­tanui can be at his high-fly­ing best. He’s the kind of player ev­ery­one loves see­ing at his best.

West­ern Bull­dogs: A lit­tle more Bull­dogs circa 2017 will have fans con­tent this year.

As a born-and-bred Essendon fan, I am ask­ing Santa for some Septem­ber suc­cess. But I can’t look any fur­ther than Syd­ney as the favourites. Af­ter their dis­as­trous start to last sea­son, the Swans will be red hot in the open­ing rounds, and led by Lance Franklin, I see them as the 2018 pre­miers.

Septem­ber is great, but for over half of the com­pe­ti­tion their cam­paign is over. This time of year is a footy fan's true present.

Marc Mur­phy and Carl­ton could use a gift ... or de­liver one to Blues fans.

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