Malthouse took West Coast to historic first premierships for AFL organisations outside of Victoria back in 1992 and ’94 and then triumphed with power club Collingwood in 2010 in a famous replay against St Kilda after their initial draw for the title a week earlier.
But with success now a burning ambition at one of the nation’s most famous and impatient sporting businesses, the veteran coaching guru is armed with requirements for instant revival and back into finals immediately.
Malthouse and his Blues, with new captain Marc Murphy, hit a potentially horror first month.
Carlton start with highly likely blockbusters for five successive weeks through April against Tigers on Easter Thursday night, Malthouse's old club Collingwood in a potentially brutal grudge match, then Geelong, West Coast in Perth and Adelaide at the MCG.
The Blues, Brisbane and Richmond loom as the biggest potential climbers from last season and more genuine contenders to make it into September’s premiership play-off series.
Raging early premiership favourites Hawthorn, Collingwood, West Coast and reigning premiers Sydney all look capable of remaining around the top end of the new premiership ladder in 2013.
West Coast has a highly favourable early draw and probably should win seven or eight of their first 11 appointments before a bye in Round 12.
Hawthorn, despite on-going uncertainty around the new contract for superstar Lance Franklin, should still win in the region of 16 or 17 engagements to finish in the top echelons of the table.
The Pies, with a more distinctive defensive and strategic brand about their confident corridor style of play as champion player Nathan Buckley takes firmer hold of his coaching reins into a second season, should also win around 15 games to finish with a crucial double chance.
West Coast has endured debilitating off-season injury woes with star ruck force Nic Naitanui, champion in-and-under play-maker Daniel Kerr and influential winger Matt Rosa all now to miss large chunks of the season, just as the Eagles lost Mark LeCras for all of last year.
A depth of talent at West Coast, the perennial finalists Sydney Swans, as well as Geelong, Adelaide, Essendon, Fremantle and North Melbourne will all genuinely shootout for spots in the bottom portions of the final top eight.
North, after sneaking into finals last September for the first time since 2008 only to cop a 16-goal shellacking from West Coast in the opening week, appear most vulnerable to the surge expected from the Blues and Tigers as well as Adelaide and Freo to hold into the top eight.
Malthouse’s redesigned Carlton, with an appreciably more defensive intent about their match-day operations which was evident through the NAB series and Hardwick’s emerging Tigers confront probably the biggest expectations from AFL faithful.
The Tigers have not tasted or smelled liniment deep into September since 2001 and indded have only made it into finals three seasons since losing the 1982 grand final to the Blues.
Hardwick and his advisors have recruited astutely to bolster crucial defensive experience with the inclusion of hard-core key backman Troy Chaplin from Port Adelaide, aggressive midfielder Chris Knights from Adelaide and Ricky Petterd from the struggling Melbourne Demons.
Add in further experience and attack on the ball from former North Melbourne forward Aaron Edwards and the Tigers are poised for a finals surge.
The Tigers finished 12th last season on the back of six losing games by less than two goals, including three in succession from Rounds 16-18 in a combined tally of 10 points as well as a last week draw with Port Adelaide on the hallowed MCG.
A Tigers finals drive confronts a tough season launch with defining clashes against the Blues in opening week at the MCG on Easter Thursday and St Kilda on Friday April 5.
It’s then the Western Bulldogs at Etihad before an MCG showdown with powerhouse Collingwood in Round 4 and a trip west to hit finals contender Fremantle in Perth for another Friday night footy exposure to finish April engagements.
The Tigers have double appointments spread through their qualifying campaign against the Blues, Saints, Bulldogs, Dockers and Essendon.
Apart from the Dogs, wins over their rostered “second up” opponents will have a significant bearing overall on the Tigers finals hopes.
Richmond look highly capable of rattling up well into the region of a dozen or wins to snatch a spot in the bottom rungs of the final eight.
Recent history is firmly on Carlton and the Lions to also press strongly into finals calculations.
Their summer on-field performances can continue from pre-season NAB Cup title play-off and into the finals by the end of the home-and-away qualifying period.
For the past five years the NAB grand finalists have gone on to make the final eight.
Indeed, Brisbane’s hopes of leaping from a fast-finishing 13th last year with 10 wins, are further strengthened on the back of recent NAB Cup winning history.
The last five NAB summer series premiers have gone on to finish in the top four with the vital double chance and at least two weeks into the premiership showdown series.
Brisbane could make a flying start to their determined bid to play finals for only the second time under Voss in his fifth year in charge and out of contract at the end of this season.
The Lions start back at the scene of their first ever pre-season title in Melbourne at Etihad Stadium against the rebuilding Western Bulldogs.
They then host Adelaide at the Gabba a week later before tackling Gold Coast, North Melbourne back at Etihad and Melbourne at the Gabba to wrap up April commitments.
It shapes as genuine prospects of three or four wins to kick start the Lions campaign before it gets dirty with a Round 6 engagement with reigning champions Sydney at the SCG, premiership hopes West Coast at the Gabba before Essendon back in Melbourne and then hosting Carlton and the Magpies before the Lions take their bye over Round 11.
Brisbane re-start after the bye with a trip to Perth to confront Fremantle, then Geelong at the Gabba and premiership favourites Hawthorn in Launceston.
Brisbane’s undeniable improvement and great promise with last season’s finish and a successful summer campaign almost ensure the Lions a strong tilt towards finals in 2013 which saves Voss his beloved coaching job.
But the fixture schedule just might not offer enough success for the Lions to sneak into the final eight.
Projections and predictions for finalists and who just misses, naturally leaves scope for the outfits out of the running.
Port Adelaide under highly enthusiastic new coach Ken Hinkley and with some highly promising NAB Cup form with wins over West Coast by six points and Sydney by five goals, look capable of finishing ahead of other likely cellar dwellers Greater Western Sydney, Gold Coast, Bulldogs and Melbourne.
League officials have strategically structured the fixture roster for last season’s bottom five to play amongst each other more often in 2013 guaranteeing more wins for the strugglers.
Coaching legend Kevin Sheedy and his Giants plays Gold Coast, Melbourne and Port twice in a roster that is likely to generate several more winning prospects than the two successes GWS had in their debut season last year.
Gold Coast is also rostered for double up outings against the Giants again, as well as Port and the Demons which wasn’t on the Suns schedule last season.
It is highly unlikely that any of last year’s bottom five units will seriously press for a climb anywhere near finals calculations.
Kim HAGDORN’S AFL ladder prediction ahead of the 2013 premiership season:
1) Hawthorn 16 wins
2) Collingwood 16 wins
3) Carlton 14/15 wins
4) Geelong 14 wins
5) West Coast 14 wins
6) Sydney 14 wins
7) Fremantle 13/14 wins
8) Richmond 12/13 wins
9) Adelaide 11/12 wins
10) Brisbane 10/11 wins
11) North Melbourne 10 wins
12) Essendon 10 wins
13) St Kilda 10 wins
14) Port Adelaide 7/8 wins
15) Gold Coast 6/7 wins
16) GWS 6/7 wins
17) Bulldogs 5/6 wins
18) Melbourne 5/6 wins