Every year people like to say it is the closest season on record.But this could genuinely be the case in 2022 with the majority of the teams in the running for The McClelland Trophy.

Who will be the surprise packages of 2022? Can the Demons go back to back? Can St Kilda snap the longest premiership drought in the AFL?How will the Western Australian clubs deal with Covid after Mark McGowan turned the state into a fortress? When will Buddy Franklin kick his 1000th goal? Will Carlton return to finals under the leadership of new coach Michael Voss? 

There is plenty to unpack ahead of the season and plenty of genuine contenders to hoist the trophy in September. 

There are also plenty of teams that are looking to claw their way out of the bottom portion of the ladder and make their return to finals football.Who will be the surprise packages of 2022? 

MIKE COLMAN has run the rule over all 18 teams and separated the contenders from the pretenders.

Gold Coast

This season should be the last round-up for off-contract Gold Coast coach Stuart Dew who, like all his predecessors, has failed to take the Suns to the finals in his five years in charge.

Gold Coast coach Stuart Dew will be under enormous pressure in the 2022 AFL season

With talk that former four-time premiership-winning Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson is in the frame to take over, Dew will need a miracle season if he is to keep his job.With the list at his disposal the chances of that happening are somewhere between impossible and Buckley’s.

The club has a strong midfield spearheaded by Touk Miller and the back-from-injury Matt Rowell, while the Suns did well to fend off interest from Melbourne to re-sign versatile forward Ben King,

The return of midfielder Matt Crouch, who missed all of the 2021 season with a groin injury, will also heavily sway the Suns’ fortunes in 2022. 

Big things are expected from Egyptian-born, South Sudanese draft pick Mac Andrew who stands at 201cm and has all the athletic gifts to succeed, but he is likely going to need time to come along.

What probably sums the Suns ‘situation up best is the fact that rising talent Noah Anderson, 21, has been voted into the leadership group after just 37 AFL games.

There is a smattering of raw talent there but not enough to seriously make a tilt at the AFL top eight and any injuries would spell certain doom for the Gold Coast.

With a lack of depth, a coach seemingly walking the green mile and a premiership-winning mentor waiting in the wings, it looks like more misery for Suns fans in 2022.But there is hope for a better future.