The 2016 AFL season is drawing near and like all seasons, supporters will be setting benchmarks for clubs and players. Each season, new players come under scrutiny and for 2016, I look at the five players who will be under most pressure to perform. Some may be obvious selections, while others may surprise.
Is there a player in the AFL under more pressure to perform in 2016 than Trent Cotchin?
The Richmond captain once again failed to perform in an Elimination final, collecting a lowly nine disposals in the Tigers 17-point loss to North Melbourne, leaving many supporters and critics to question his leadership.
Since becoming captain in 2013,Cotchin has been unable to return to his form in 2012, when he averaged 28 disposals a game, kicked 21 goals and finished equal runner up in the Brownlow medal (Note: Cotchin may claim the 2012 Brownlow medal with Sam Mitchell if Jobe Watson is stripped of the award).
2016 is a massive year for the Tigers, who must end their finals hoodoo and Cotchin must lead from the front if this is to be the year of the Tiger.
2015 was a write-off for Bennell, with off-field indiscretions hampering his on-field performances.
Bennell was booted out of the Gold Coast and has returned to his home state after a failed bid to get a trade to Richmond.
On form, Bennell is one of the most electrifying players in the competition but with off-field issues hampering his career, Bennell could become a waisted talent.
The leadership of Ross Lyon, David Mundy and Matthew Pavlich should set Bennell on a straight path, but with lures of temptation from returning home anything could happen.
2016 has not got off to the best of starts for Cloke, with a nude photo scandal coinciding with his axing from the Collingwood leadership group.
Cloke is a dinosaur in the modern game, as his brute force and immobility is well suited for years past.
Cloke had a disappointing 2015, kicking a mere 39 goals, making it two straight years where he has not past the 50 goal barrier.
For a player earning $900,000 a year, Cloke should be kicking over 50 goals a year, considering Collingwood do not have numerous avenues to goal.
With Darcy Moore waiting in the wings, Cloke must step up or face the axe from the Magpies.
Being touted as the man to take Port Adelaide to the next level, Dixon is expected to have a big season.
Last year was Dixon’s best in the AFL, as he played 16 games and kicked 41 goals.
When at his best, Dixon is unstoppable but the inconsistency to play week in week out is a frustration. Dixon has already had surgery on his knee during the off-season and will see him miss 4-6 weeks of valuable training.
Port Adelaide and Dixon will be hoping this is not a precursor for the rest of the season.
The loss of Patrick Dangerfield to Geelong has seen Adelaide search in club for a replacement.
Brad Crouch missed the entire 2015 season due to injury but will be striving to fill the void in the Adelaide midfield.
With only 25 games to his name, pressure is high on Crouch, due to his reputation as a junior and stellar first season in the AFL.
In-club, there is little pressure on Crouch, with the Crows happy to be patient with the youngster, but for Crows supporters, they will be anticipating a big season for the promising youngster.