Pre-season Blowtorch

Pre-season Blowtorch: The AFL player most under the pump at your club. looks at the player under the pump in 2020 at your club. looks at the player under the pump in 2020 at your club.Source: FOX SPORTS

With a new season comes new expectations.

But some players have more to prove than others. has run its eye over the men who need to lift in 2020.


With a new coach comes a fresh start. But that doesn’t mean a plethora of Crows will be feeling the pressure to perform, none more so than veteran midfielder Bryce Gibbs, who found himself on the outer under Don Pyke. The 30-year-old only played 12 games in 2019, demoted to the second on four occasions because of form slumps. Pyke’s successor Matthew Nicks has already forecast a positional change for Gibbs at halfback – and it could be just what’s required for the former Blue to arrest his footy blues. Small forward Tyson Stengle may also be feeling the pinch to fill the massive hole vacated by Eddie Betts.

A new year and a fresh start for Bryce Gibbs.
A new year and a fresh start for Bryce Gibbs.Source: Getty Images


The scrutiny never ceases for a player selected with Pick 1. Fairly or unfairly, the spotlight on young gun Cam Rayner shines brighter than most of his peers. While this young Lion has the backing of his coach and teammates, Rayner has only shown glimpses of his capability. His one goal from eight disposals in the club’s heartbreaking three-point Semi Final loss to the Giants was far from his best – and perhaps the right ammunition to develop a hunger in Rayner over the summer.


Cam Rayner is stalked by the No. 1 pick tag.
Cam Rayner is stalked by the No. 1 pick tag.Source: News Corp Australia


When you come to a club and immediately become one of its highest paid players there’s certainly an added sense of pressure to the occasion. Enter, Jack Martin. The former Sun will be paid roughly $2 million over his first two years at Carlton, ostensibly making him one of the club’s highest paid players, if not the highest paid player. Given the Blues all but blew the competition out of the water to secure Martin, the 24-year-old will be expected to shine on the field in 2020.

Jack Martin is cashed up at Carlton.
Jack Martin is cashed up at Carlton.Source: Getty Images


While Nathan Buckley insisted Mason Cox would’ve been playing were it not for an unlikely eye injury, there was a sentiment among some footy experts, including Terry Wallace, that Collingwood’s forward line functioned better without the American Pie because it added a sense of unpredictability to its make up. We all know what Cox is capable of, with his three-goal and 11 mark heroics in the 2018 Preliminary Final his benchmark. The Magpie army will be hoping to see more of that from the 211cm giant this season, as the club searches for its first premiership since 2010.

Mason Cox finished 2019 with an eye injury.
Mason Cox finished 2019 with an eye injury.Source: Getty Images


It’s bleeding obvious that Joe Daniher will find 2020 a difficult season to navigate. The big forward has barely featured over the past two seasons and, combined with his desire to move to the Swans during the trade period, the pressure on the 25-year-old has never been greater. With Daniher a restricted free agent at the end of this season, questions will continue to be asked about his future intentions. And with a new deal – either at the Bombers or a rival club – in the balance, he’ll want to put his best foot forward to secure a deal worthy of his talent.

Joe Daniher becomes a restricted free agent at the end of 2020.
Joe Daniher becomes a restricted free agent at the end of 2020.Source: AAP


A host of Dockers could be feeling the pinch ahead of the 2020 season, but Justin Longmuir could provide the breath of fresh air required to get the best out of the squad. Under Ross Lyon, Cam McCarthy struggled to string decent games together last year, with the 24-year-old featuring on just 12 occasions across the season. While McCarthy has played the majority of his career in the forward line, he could be shifted on to a wing this year – a reset that may not just be telling, but necessary.

Will a change in position help Cam McCarthy?
Will a change in position help Cam McCarthy?Source: Getty Images


There’s certain players who always seem like they’re under pressure at the Cats. Rhys Stanley, for example, fits that bill. But if there’s a player who may feel like he has plenty to prove in 2020 it very well could be Tom Hawkins. Clearly, it’s not because of his form. The veteran forward won All-Australian honours after booting 56 majors in 2019. But when it comes to discipline, it’s still something the 31-year-old is trying to master. Without a suspended Hawkins in the Preliminary Final, Geelong fell to Richmond by 19 points, blowing a 21-point halftime lead.

Tom Hawkins missed the Preliminary Final.
Tom Hawkins missed the Preliminary Final.Source: News Corp Australia


The Suns have a stack of top ten picks at Metricon Stadium, including the first two players in last year’s National Draft. But one player who is yet to fire at senior level is Will Brodie. The 2016 No. 9 pick only played eight games under Stuart Dew last year and has only managed 19 to date. This is a crucial season for the Victorian.

Will Brodie faces a crucial 2020.
Will Brodie faces a crucial 2020.Source: Getty Images


Toby Greene appeared on the back page of more papers in September than any other person in the country – although it was all for the wrong reasons. Despite producing two standout performances in the first two weeks of the finals, most will remember how the month finished. Expect the All-Australian to fire on all cylinders in 2020.

Toby Greene was heartbroken after the Grand Final loss.
Toby Greene was heartbroken after the Grand Final loss.Source: Supplied


Hawthorn did what Hawthorn does best when they landed Chad Wingard at the end of 2018. But the dual All-Australian didn’t deliver in his first season at Waverley Park. He managed only 14 appearances and finished with 12 goals – his lowest haul since his debut season in 2012.

Chad Wingard has so much more to give.
Chad Wingard has so much more to give.Source: AAP


At his best, Steven May is one of the premier key defenders in the game. But we haven’t seen him at his best for some time. The former Gold Coast co-captain only played eight times in his first season at the Demons, due to a raft of soft tissue issues. He hasn’t put a foot wrong so far this pre-season and is well placed for redemption in 2020.

Steven May has plenty to prove.
Steven May has plenty to prove.Source: Getty Images


Mason Wood became a regular senior player in 2019, but that didn’t prevent North Melbourne from dangling him as trade bait in October. The medium-sized forward remained at Arden Street and has made a strong start to the pre-season, but knows he needs a massive season to put the doubters to bed.

Mason Wood, the perennial tease.
Mason Wood, the perennial tease.Source: Getty Images


This time last year, Ollie Wines was poised to become one of the best inside midfielders in the AFL. Fast forward 12 months, Port Adelaide has decided to take the co-captaincy off him following one year in the role – and a year where he managed only 12 games due to a shoulder injury he suffered while water skiing on the Murray River. His name was linked to a move in October, but he stayed put at Alberton. Now he needs to bounce back in 2020.

Ollie Wines no longer has the weight of the co-captaincy.
Ollie Wines no longer has the weight of the co-captaincy.Source: News Corp Australia


Standing just 10 games short of his 100 game milestone, Kamdyn McIntosh must have some serious internal doubts as to whether he will ever reach the 100 club. The aerobic back flanker hailing from Pinjarra in Western Australia played all games for the premiers until round 17, before being dropped to the reserves for the remainder of the season. There’s no doubt he’ll be under the pump in 2020 to regain his place in the seniors with the likes of Liam Baker coming through the ranks. Another player approaching the Last Chance Saloon is Oleg Markov, who managed two games in 2019 and was lucky to remain on the list at the conclusion of the year.

Kamdyn McIntosh missed out on the 2019 premiership.
Kamdyn McIntosh missed out on the 2019 premiership.Source: AAP


Nothing screams pressure more than a player coming out of contract – and that’s just the position Jake Carlisle finds himself in coming into this season. The 28-year-old defender had no luck in 2019, with a debilitating back injury limiting him to just 10 matches. Bit with St Kilda enlisting the likes of Dougal Howard (Port Adelaide) there’s no certainty Carlisle will automatically gain a new contract unless he performs.

Jake Carlisle comes out of contract at the end of this year.
Jake Carlisle comes out of contract at the end of this year.Source: AAP


With Lance Franklin seriously in doubt for Round One, the likes of Sam Reid will certainly be required to stand up and play the role of key forward. But a key ingredient that has been missing in the Swans’ line up for some time has been a dominant ruckman. Sam Naismith hasn’t been sighted since 2017, after multiple complications from a knee reconstruction. The 27-year-old was expected to return midway through last year, but never even got close to consideration for selection. It’s imperative Naismith gets back into John Longmire’s side to help give his midfield first use of the ball.

Sam Naismith hasn’t featured since 2017.
Sam Naismith hasn’t featured since 2017.Source: News Corp Australia


As far as the saying goes, you’re only as good as your last game. If that rings true, Tom Barrass has some ground to recover. The Eagles defender had an absolute shocker in the club’s Semi Final loss to Geelong in September, recording just four disposals and one mark. After the match, could only muster 1/10 for Barrass in the player ratings. Ouch.

Tom Barrass had a Semi Final to forget.
Tom Barrass had a Semi Final to forget.Source: AAP


By the end of last season Billy Gowers had found himself out of the club’s best 22. Despite being the club’s leading goal kicker in 2018, the 23-year-old was selected to play on just 10 occasions in 2019. With Gowers set to come out of contract at the end of this season he’ll be keen to not just get back into Luke Beveridge’s best 22, but return to the form that saw him burst on to the scene two years ago.

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