Sydney co-captain Jarrad McVeigh has tipped a return to the glory days of West Coast and Swans battles after AFL skippers yesterday declared the Eagles and Hawthorn this season's joint premiership favourites.
Captains from 16 clubs gathered in Melbourne yesterday for the annual group photo, with everyone except Eagle Darren Glass and Fremantle's Matthew Pavlich at Etihad Stadium. Glass and Pavlich will be inserted into the photo after being unable to attend because of derby preparations.
The captains were asked to nominate the opposition team they felt was most likely to make the grand final and West Coast and Hawthorn received seven votes each. Fremantle, Collingwood, Geelong and Sydney were the only other teams nominated.
McVeigh held the cup aloft last year for the Swans and, having played through the remarkable run of enthralling battles between Sydney and West Coast between 2005-2007, said the contests were set to be pivotal in 2013.
"West Coast, when you play them over there it's always a great battle," McVeigh said.
"We've had some great battles against them and I love playing against West Coast and I think they love playing against us.
"There's so many different players so there's only four or five from each team that were playing then. It's funny how both teams played in that period, dropped a little bit but now we're going well and they're going really well.
"They had a lot of injuries last year but I'm sure the battles will be tight again and the crowd certainly love it over there and in Sydney as well."
Sydney haven't lost to West Coast since 2007 and beat the Eagles by 52 points at Patersons Stadium last year.
No captain predicted Sydney would win last year and McVeigh said the Swans had taken the attitude that they were "the hunters" again in 2013.
Collingwood captain Nick Maxwell said the Eagles and Dockers were huge threats because of their home-ground advantage at Patersons Stadium.
"If they win the games at home and can pinch a few over here, they're going to win enough games to be top four," Maxwell said.
"I think the important thing is finishing top four. History says if you don't finish top four you can't win it."
The captains named Richmond midfielder Trent Cotchin as the Brownlow Medal favourite, Lance Franklin the likely Coleman medallist, and listed Gold Coast teenager Jaeger O'Meara as the frontrunner to win the Rising Star.
The West Australian recruit spent 2012 training with the Suns after being chosen as the No.1 pick in the AFL's 2011 mini-draft.
But Gold Coast captain Gary Ablett tried to hose down the hype.
"He's an exciting player and there's no doubt he's going to play some good footy for us this year. But I think there's been some unfair expectations put on him," Ablett said."Like every high draft pick there's always expectations that they're going to come out and they're going to kill it in the first year. It's going to take time with him, just like any other kid."
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