AFL coaching legend David Parkin has tipped revamped Geelong as dark horses to crack the top four this season, and perhaps even push for the premiership.
The Cats were well off the pace last campaign, finishing 10th and missing the finals for the first time since 2006.
But the signing of superstar Patrick Dangerfield has heightened expectations of a Geelong resurgence, with four-time premiership coach Parkin also buoyant about the prospects of their other three seasoned recruits – Lachie Henderson, Zac Smith and Scott Selwood.
“I believe Geelong are the ones,” Parkin told AAP.
“They have recruited really intelligently – good-quality people for particular roles they need.
“I’ll be very surprised if Geelong don’t finish top four, and if they finish top four they’re going to give it one hell of a try.
“Geelong are the ones I’d be most worried about if I was in a Hawthorn jersey.”
Parkin believed the Hawks to be in a “terrific position” mentally to create four-peat history.
But he said the absence of retired fullback Brian Lake will pose a problem.
Injuries were also a legitimate concern in an ageing squad, especially with key forward Jarryd Roughead already ruled out for half a season with a knee complaint.
“Every week they’re the measuring stick so every week they get belted up,” Parkin said on Monday at a Fox Sports season launch.
“And at the finish if you’re old and you get belted up every week, the mental and physical elements start to take their toll.
“Are they able to sustain it? I think yes, but injury luck is going to play the biggest part.
“It’s an exciting time for Hawthorn and the competition, because there’s a few who are a bit sick of the fact the Hawks have been doing it for a long while.”
Parkin did not think Sydney’s loss of five premiership players would cause the perennial finalists to slide down the ladder.
Even without Adam Goodes, Rhyce Shaw, Lewis Jetta, Mike Pyke and Craig Bird, he believed the Swans would probably finish in the top four.
He wasn’t so sure about Fremantle.
“They just can’t kick enough goals, and haven’t recruited in that area to suggest they’re going to be any better at it,” he said.