Can a young Canberra Demons outfit be a finals contender in 2018? We take a look at how the club is shaping ahead of the season.
Last year showed strong potential for what the Demons are capable of in the future. While unable to make finals, the Demons improved on the ladder finishing seventh, pushing them two places ahead of their 2016 results. With Kade Klemke as their new playing-coach, the 2017 season labelled the Demons as an unexpected underdog filled with young faces full of talent. Jordan Harper was again a highlight for the team, finishing in the NEAFL MVP Top 10 while also taking out their club’s best-and-fairest award. With Harper moving on the VFL, it leaves huge shoes to fill for the Canberra side.
WHAT’S NEW IN 2018?
Although Canberra will have a young squad again in 2018, it is packed with some of the best young talent in the NEAFL. A host of former GIANTS and Swans Academy members have joined the club, who also welcomed new assistant coach, Adelaide AFLW coach Bec Goddard. Alex Paech, Connor Owen-Auburn, Jack Powell, Jarrod Osborne, Angus Baker, and Luke Robertson are just some of the fresh faces representing Canberra’s future in 2018.
Demons will want to replicate how they started the 2017 season, with a hearty win against Redland. Only this year, their season opener is against Southport Sharks on their home turf. With a rejuvenated side, Southport will leave nothing on the field as the teams fight to secure the first win of the season.
Round 2 will bring on a huge challenge as they face Sydney University, who only just missed out on the 2017 Grand Final finishing third on the ladder. After bringing the game against Southport forward as the season opener, the Demons will have a bye before facing Redland at Scottsdale Park. Redland have always put up an intense match for the Demons so expect to be on the edge of your seat for this game of footy.
2018 WILL BE A HIT IF…
The Demons are young, fit, and eager to push for a maiden finals appearance this year. But, NEAFL representatives Andrew Swan and Sam Martyn will need to produce similar seasons to last year, and some of the young brigade including Powell, Tom Highmore, Mitch Maguire and Owen-Auburn need to take further steps forward if the Demons want to be a contender. Playing-coach Kade Klemke – who missed a sizeable chunk of last season with a broken wrist – is key to bringing the side together on and off the field. If he develop the young players’ contested footy and midfield strength, it will put the club in good stead.
2018 WILL BE A MISS IF…
Inconsistency often plagues young teams and this will be an area of conern for the femons. While last season they ranked first for most tackles per game, Canberra also ranked poorly with goals kicked against them and contested possessions. If this continues as a weakness for Canberra, final hopes will be slim.
Recently named sole captain of the Demons, Aaron Bruce will continue to lead the boys with his impressive forward strength. Taking out leading goal kicker for the second year running, Bruce will be a key player to impact their game as well as Swan, Martyn, Isaac Taylor, Nick Collins and Alex Smout. Although still only 19 years of age, midfielder Mitch Maguire is also key to the Demons success.
You could throw a blanket over the number of young guns ready to make their mark on the season. But a couple stand out in Maguire, Powell and Highmore, who have all been nominated for the NEAFL Rising Star Award in the past. Maguire and Powell are still eligible for the award in 2018, and will be strong contenders to be nominated again.
TO KICK THINGS OFF…
Season Opener, March 30 Canberra v Southport at Allinsure Park, 2pm