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
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.