The 2023 AFL season kicks off on Thursday night with the traditional round one blockbuster between Richmond and Carlton at the MCG.
The Standard profiles each of the 14 south-west representatives who will be in the thick of the action throughout the season:
Jeremy Cameron (Geelong)
The 2022 premiership hero from Dartmoor enters the 2023 AFL season as arguably the most destructive and marketable player in the game and there is no suggestion the star left-footer can't replicate his brilliant 65-goal season.
There is some lingering doubts over 'Jezza' and his round one availability on Friday night against Collingwood, with his partner Indi expecting their first child anytime now and has indicated to the club he won't play if there is any risk of missing the birth.
In what is going to be a long season, expect the superstar forward to once again thrill crowds as the Cats seek back-to-back premierships. At the peak of his powers as a footballer.
Josh Corbett (Fremantle)
A fresh starts beckons for the North Warrnambool Eagles product, who departed Gold Coast via the trade period to move west to the Dockers.
The 26-year-old tall forward played 33 AFL games in the Sunshine State and faces a battle to find a spot, at least initially in the Dockers' best forward line mix but strong early WAFL form could have him right in the frame.
When called upon, the crafty goal kicker could provide plenty of spark and versatility in the Dockers' forward line.
Ben Cunnington (North Melbourne)
There are few AFL players who are as universally admired than the quietly-spoken Cobden export, who has overcome a battle with testicular cancer to return to the AFL ranks at the age of 31.
He is still, however, one of North Melbourne's best and most important players and will be vital as the young Kangaroos adjust to life under master coach Alastair Clarkson. His role as a shield for the emerging midfield group was sorely missed in 2022.
The 31-year-old dual best and fairest winner is a chance of playing his 250th game later this season and is a lock to line-up right in the centre square for the round one clash against West Coast on Saturday.
Sean Darcy (Fremantle)
It can be hard to believe at times that the Cobden export is still only 24, having taking command of Fremantle's ruck stocks and already with a best and fairest next to his name.
The next evolution for the bollocking ruckman, who enjoyed another outstanding season in 2022, will be how he goes alongside star recruit Luke Jackson, who has crossed over from Melbourne and with plenty of expectation.
The competition will undoubtedly be nervous as the duo shift between centre square and forward line duties, making for a scary combination which could propel the Dockers into premiership calculations.
Willem Drew (Port Adelaide)
The Koroit export enters the season in an interesting phase of his career as he looks to build on the promise of a solid first three full seasons in the system.
Durability has been a feature of the 24-year-old midfielder's time in the game so far having played 46 games across the past two seasons, but faces more selection pressure with the Power having bolstered their list significantly.
The inside midfielder has acknowledged he has worked on his attacking and outside game to compliment a strong contested game.
Ken Hinkley (Port Adelaide coach)
Ken from Camperdown will undoubtedly be the talk of the town at times this season, entering the final season of his contract at Port Adelaide.
After the club missed out on finals in 2022, finishing in 11th spot, expectation is with the club's new recruits, a return to the top-eight is the pass mark.
It will be Hinkley's 11th season in charge at Alberton so it's make-or-break. He has the talent at his disposal, particularly through the acquisition of former number one draft pick Jason Horne-Francis, so finals is right on the radar. From there, who knows.
Jamaine Jones (West Coast)
Fleet-footed and with plenty of upside, the Portland/Heywood export and former Cat delivered in 2022 with a breakout season, finishing ninth in the club's best and fairest after a move from the forward line to half-back.
There is a log-jam of players the Eagles are looking to fit into the defensive mix, so the skilful utility may be deployed down forward at times, or even through the midfield, but is likely to stay off a half-back where he is most damaging.
The 24-year-old makes things happen with ball in hand, is as tough as nails and will only get better with more added responsibility.
Rowan Marshall (St Kilda)
There is no doubt the ruckman is one of the first names returning coach Ross Lyon would have on his whiteboard each week.
The Portland export is primed for a massive 2023 and holds high hopes for Saints fans, who will be hoping the athletic big man can advance from a very good player into the top echelon of ruckman in the competition.
With 100 games in his sights this season, the 27-year-old is coming into the peak of his career as a big man and will only get better. In the modern-day competition, ruckman who can play as an extra midfielder are worth gold, and the big man provides just that.
Hugh McCluggage (Brisbane)
The new Brisbane Lions' vice-captain is one of the star wingman of the competition having enjoyed yet another excellent campaign in 2022.
With 130 games of AFL experience under the belt for the South Warrnambool export and his game continuing to go to another level as a line-breaking, gut-running winger, it was only natural the 25-year-old would be one of the club's main leaders heading into the season.
The Lions have bolstered their list and are right in the frame to go on with their preliminary final appearance and you'd suspect the former GWV Rebel will need to be at his consistent best for the club to improve.
Most importantly, he hits the scoreboard and if he can kick 20-plus goals again, the Lions will be hard to stop.
Toby McMullin (GWS Giants)
The Port Fairy product is likely to begin his AFL journey this season biding his time and developing at VFL level but could be one who could debut if he can string together a few strong performances.
It is likely the small forward, who was plucked with pick 34 in the national draft, will play down forward but a future in the midfield is possible such is his upside.
One thing McMullin has is natural football smarts, so if Adam Kingsley is after a player who can read the game quickly the youngster could bob up for a game or two in his debut year.
Zach Merrett (Essendon)
The newly-appointed Bombers skipper replaces long-time leader Dyson Heppell in the role and faces huge responsibility as his side rebuilds under incoming senior coach Brad Scott.
The Cobden-raised midfielder has an impressive football resume - three best and fairest's and two All-Australian jackets - but team success has eluded the 27-year-old in his 184-game career so far.
It may be a tough season for the Bombers, who have a swag of impressive young players but are quite raw at AFL level so will be relying on the cool and calm presence of the skilful left-footer to lead the next generation.
Gary Rohan (Geelong)
The Cobden boy entered the history books as an AFL premiership player in 2022 and despite a quiet grand final performance had some significant moments throughout the finals series for the Cats, including a three-goal display against Collingwood in the qualifying final.
But with new arrivals in Ollie Henry, Tanner Bruhn and Jack Bowes, competition for spots with the reigning premiers will be intense, even with Tom Hawkins expected to return to the ranks slowly as he makes his way back from a foot injury.
The dynamic forward should get an early start but has to maintain the rage in what is going to be an even more powerful Geelong side.
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (Western Bulldogs)
Dynamic, prodigiously talented and with so much growth in his game, there is plenty of excitement ahead of this season for the East Warrnambool and South Warrnambool export.
The 20-year-old former number one draft pick showed glimpses of his undeniable talent in 2022, including a five-goal-haul against Melbourne and is widely tipped to be one of the most improved players in the competition.
How he fits into the Bulldogs' rich forward line stocks will be interesting, with his size and agility making him a daunting match-up for opposition defenders.
Sam Walsh (Carlton)
The Carlton superstar is still on the mend from back issues which required surgery and is unlikely to be seen for the first month of the season, a big blow to the Blues as they look to break through for finals.
The prolific on-baller, originally from Cobden, racked up almost 700 disposals again last season and the club will be desperate to get him back into the fold quickly, while also being wary of his importance to the team, particularly at the back-end of the home-and-away season.
When the 22-year-old does return to the field, expect much of the same from the ball magnet - class, leadership and consistency.
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