AFL scandals pushed aside
IT'S been 173 sleeps since Collingwood held the premiership cup aloft in early October last year, and all I can say is thank God the footy is back.
After an off-season scattered with various scandals (let's not rehash them), it is a welcome relief that the headlines will focus on the on-field action.
Round one is always such an exciting prospect as clubs wheel out their new recruits and the fans anticipate their team's hard training in the pre-season will pay dividends.
2011 will also mark the introduction of the Gold Coast Suns to the competition, and necessitate the need for a bye each round.
The Suns will have the bye in the season opener as they await the completion of their home ground, Metricon Stadium.
So who will be the improvers and the sliders this season?
It's hard not to see Collingwood being there at the business end of the season, the addition of Chris Tarrant and Andrew Krakouer ensuring the Magpies retain a list full of depth.
The Western Bulldogs have added pace in the form of Justin Sherman, Patrick Veszpremi and Nathan Djerrkura to a line-up that lost so much experience. They will be desperate to improve on their three consecutive preliminary final losses.
St Kilda have had another tumultuous off-season and will be glad to get back on the field and break their premiership hoodoo after two years of heartbreak.
Geelong, under new coach Chris Scott, will be ready to prove that their premiership window is well and truly open.
The Hawks have tinkered slightly with their unsociable football game plan and will be eager to replicate their 2008 form.
The Bombers have shown under new coach James Hird that they have a more defensive edge to their game plan, and their NAB Cup form bodes well for the season proper.
The Demons and Kangaroos are expected to improve; can they live up to the expectation?
Can the Blues progress and finally win a final?
Will the Crows, Lions, Power and Eagles return to finals action, or will the Dockers and Swans be left to fly the non-Victorian flag?
And how will the Suns fare in their debut season?
Can they go where no other new team has gone and press for a finals berth?
A tough proposition indeed, but we will have to wait and see.
All these questions, and some of the answers will come after round one.
Bring it on.