Teams Preview 2013


Team Previews 2013

Added 19 March 2013.  Summary at bottom added 26 March 2013.

Mid term reports added in purple on 26 June 2013 after each team has played 12 games

There was a wise man who lived about 2,000 years ago and his words are as true today as they were then.  Some call him a genius; others a prophet.  I cannot remember his name, but what he said was: BEWARE THE IDEAS OF MARCH.  How could he possibly know we would be trying to predict ladder positions in March 2013?  Amazing!

Briefly, here are the ideas of March to beware:
1. Taking NAB Cup matches at face value
SOLUTION:  The seasonally adjusted NAB Cup form needs to be assessed.  See
for more data

2. Totally ignoring NAB Cup form.
SOLUTION:  see above, but the NAB Cup does tell you things such as who has improved, who looks short of a gallop etc

3. Injuries can be ignored because it’s September that counts.
SOLUTION:  take notice of injuries, because those who have significant injuries in September often had big injury worries in March

4. Believe everything that coaches say
SOLUTION: Read between the lines; and remember that no coach is going to tell you that the pre-season was a shocker and they will be lucky to win a game in the first 6 rounds.

There are lots of other ideas of March to beware, but that will be enough for now.  What was that prophet / wise man’s name?

The Analyst does not know a team’s progress as well as the team itself.  That is the negative.  The positive is that the individual teams, while knowing their own rate of progress intimately, have little feel for exactly how they are placed related to other teams.  It is the job of the Analyst to get a feel for this in March.

Adelaide Crows

Big slider
9 wins and 14th

This is the most controversial selection in the analysis.  The Crows are going to miss the eight for sure!  They may also be somewhat suffering from a burden of expectation!  Other teams will have done a lot more homework on them for 2013.

I don’t like the coach talking about premierships at this time of year.  This is reminiscent of when Hawk coach Peter Schwab did it in early 2002 after narrowly missing a spot in the GF in 2001.  The team plummeted to 10th that year and were never going well.

Adelaide has relatively few serious injuries, but is struggling to get sufficient game time onto several players, such as Callinan, Petrenko, Sloane and Shaw. 

The Crows face a Dons team that has been under the pump first up (a definite danger game) and then travel to Brisbane to play the Lions.  Two tricky matches to begin with – and they would want to win at least one.  They will then probably be favourites for R3 & 4 vs Port and a home game vs Dogs.

The Crows outperformed all expectations last year.  Most had them well down (although this website tipped them for 6th!).  They look a little young and inexperienced now with the retirement of Doughty and the loss of Tippett.  They had the draw from heaven last year, but this time it is tougher.  There are no long term injuries at present.  The crucial rounds for them will be 9-12 when they play Roos away, Dockers at home, Swans at home and Tigers away.

Players to watch: Crouch is a real find.  Sanderson wanted to play him last year (a la Hogan at the Dees now), but couldn’t.  Dangerfield looks like a genuine star.

Mid term report: Adelaide

After 12 games they are: 5 & 7 and 11th

They were originally tipped finish: 14th

They are now expected to finish with: 9.8 wins

And their final ladder position should be: 11th

Comments: 14th may have been a bit harsh, but they have been major disappointments; especially as the coach was talking flags this year.  They haven’t even won the battle of best SA team yet.  With few injuries, they still don’t look like challenging for the 8.




Brisbane Lions

On the up
11 wins and 9th

Brisbane is some chance to play finals in 2013.

The Lions had set themselves to win the NAB Cup and duly saluted. 
They finished 2012 well and kept the momentum going right through to the NAB Cup Grand Final.

With that form continuing, they would play finals for sure.  It is likely, however, that they will hit the wall at some stage.  History says that their momentum should last a few games into the season.  It is important for them to win R1 vs Dogs away and R2 at home to the Crows.  R3-5 is fairly easy and they would need to be at least 4-1 then to be well placed to challenge later in the year.  R6-14 is tough and this is the time they will need to pinch a win or 2 and be close enough to the top 8 for an easier run in R15-19.

The club apparently has a new dietician.   This seems to have helped.  They also have a beefed up midfield with Moloney into the team, Karnezis improving markedly on his 2012 year, Beams doing well early and Zorko being there from the start tis year.

Jonathan Brown has had a trouble free pre-season, unlike 2011 and 2012.

A big question is about Leuenberger getting through the year unscathed.  He looked like a star ruckman in the making until serious injury slowed him down.  If he stars, then the Lions would be likely to play finals.

Players to watch: Karnezis has arrived big time, while Beams looks better this season

Mid term report: Brisbane

After 12 games they are: 4 & 8 and 14th

They were originally tipped finish: 9th

They are now expected to finish with: 8.2 wins

And their final ladder position should be: 14th

Comments: Quite disappointing after winning the NAB Cup (until late in the third quarter round 13).  They subsequently collapsed.  What happened to Karnezis?  He was great in the NAB Cup and not sited since.  The lack of forward options other than Brown is a concern.  They are basically fighting for the title of best AFL team in QLD this year.




Just in!
12 wins and 8th

The Blues looked good in the NAB Cup until the final, but their form in NAB1, 2&3 may have been a false lead.  In NAB1, they played the Giants and a half fit Swans team.  R2 was their best game when they belted Freo, but the Dockers had played a practice match in Adelaide the week before, so were on the road for a second week running (and the AFL generally ensures that no team either has to travel to or from Perth in consecutive weeks – bar for the Lions have 2 weeks in Perth in 1995 when coached by Robert Walls).  Next they went to Adelaide and stormed home to just lose to the Crows (who lost Callinan in 1Q and had Petrenko, Sloane, Shaw and Talia all underdone).  The boot was somewhat on the other foot in NAB4 when Judd was clearly underdone and the Lions were red hot.

Another interesting question is: how long will it take to learn the Malthouse style of play (and, maybe, will it work)?

Mick said after the Brisbane loss that it will take about 3 months.  If that is true, then they may well miss the finals.  Looking at his previous coaching stints:

Dogs 1984-89
7th in 1984 and 3rd in 1985

Eagles 1990-1999
3rd in 1990 (Eagles were terrible in 1989) and 1st (but lost GF) in 1991

Pies 2000-2010
15th in 2000 and 9th in 2001

Maybe Mick’s assessment is correct, because every club he coached had significant improvement in his second year.

They cannot afford to be too far off the pace early wins games vs Tigers, Pies (great theatre), Cats and Eagles.   Rounds 6 – 10 looks fairly friendly, before a tough period R11-17 (by which time it is crucial that they have their playing style well practiced).

Another negative is that they caught teams at good times last year, but still finished well back.  But a positive is that there are far fewer injuries now than the Darren Crocker of a year they had in 2012.

Heath Scotland is suspended for R1&2

Players to watch: Mick love Kane Lucas and we all saw why in the NAB Cup GF.  Bryce Gibbs looks to be ready for a big year.

Mid term report: Carlton

After 12 games they are: 6 & 6 and 9th

They were originally tipped finish: 8th

They are now expected to finish with: 12.1 wins

And their final ladder position should be: 8th

Comments: Mick Malthouse teams tend to do better in his 2nd year as a coach.  Right now the Blues are just over 50% to make the finals.  If they get there, they may get lucky and play in Melbourne F1; or go to Perth or Sydney.  Hard to see them getting to a preliminary final.




Flag Hope
16 wins and 2nd; then the flag beckons

The Pies have a flag-winning midfield.  Now all they need to do is to get the forwards and backs to stand up and “It’s a Done Deal” as the thoroughbred fans might say – well, it would be nice for Pie fans to see Luke Ball and Dale Thomas back in that midfield area.  Oh, and getting enough drive from the “nursed through the season” Jolly, the just elevated Hudson and the young, improving Witts will be needed.

Down back, they have lost Tarrant (who, himself, struggled to get onto the park last year) and they begin the season with Reid subject to a test.  Nathan Brown should be better after having a whole year to get over his knee injury in 2011.  And any major contribution from Keefe in the latter part of the season would be a bonus.

A brighter 2013 is forecast for Cloke (with no contract talks to distract).  But they currently have Fasolo and Didak (on his last legs and in his last year) out injured, while Krakouer hasn’t been seen since NAB1.

Expect the Pies to start slowly and build during the season.  They cannot afford, however, to be too slow out of the blocks.
Reid will be needed fit for R1 against the tall Roo forwards; then they play the Blues and then Hawks.  They get a breather R11-14, but the real acid test (should they be in reach of a top 4 berth by then) is R19-23 when they play Dons, Swans away, Hawks, Eagles at home and then the Roos.

Two things could propel them to a flag this year:
1. getting the injured players back and playing well; and
2. having the team gel together (last year was a year of trauma for them)

A reminder that the Pies finished 2011 with a percentage of over 160.  This has happened 3 times in recent history.  All three teams to do so lost the GF and then won it the following year – except Collingwood (who lost the prelim last year).  The other GF winners were Eagles in 1992 and Cats in 2009.  Both these teams were stable during this time; but the Pies had the coach swap-over at the end of 2011.  Two theories spring from this data:
1. The Pies missed their chance and it is gone forever, but would have won it with Mick still as coach (18 million fans cheer and say, “Amen, brother); or, more likely:
2. They will be even more STEELEd (if you’ll pardon the pun) and progress to a 2013 flag.   But it al depends on the “buts”.

Players to watch: Cloke could and should be back to his best this year; and Macaffer (popular with fantast football people) looks to have come back best of all the knee injury crowd

Mid term report: Collingwood

After 12 games they are: 8 & 4 and 7th

They were originally tipped finish: 2nd

They are now expected to finish with: 14.3 wins

And their final ladder position should be: 6th

Comments: The Magpies were tipped to win the flag at the start of the year and the tip still stands – For Montmorency Magpies, that is.  Regrettably, the AFL Magpies have been seriously hit by injuries.  Still no Beams, while Toovey, Thomas and Fasolo are either out for the year or way below their best.  To win the flag, they need to finish in the top 4 (where they would most likely play Hawthorn first up).  But their hopes of top 4 are now slim.




Back in the 8
12 wins and 7th

The rumour mills have been going crazy about the Bombers for some time now.  What the end result will be with all the ASADA stuff is hard to determine.  The job of the footy analyst is to gauge how the Dons will fare, given all the drama.  A small hint is that Cronulla won narrowly (as favourites) in NRL R1.  Maybe all the positives and negatives of these rumours will all work out even for the Dons.

As far as form goes, the Dons are doing well and demolished the Giants in NAB3.  Goddard is flying while Kavanagh, Kommer and Gleeson have shown something.  The coach likes Joe Daniher, but he has been recovering from a knee injury and played VFL in NAB3 for his first game.

The Dons will have an intra-club hit-out a week prior to their R1 match vs Crows in Adelaide

The injury news is better, however, given the Darren Crocker of a year they had last year with soft tissue injuries.

The R1 match vs the Crows in Adelaide is a chance for an upset win.  15 days later, they should be favoured to beat the Dees.  Then follows 3 vital matches against the Dockers (in Perth), then the Saints and then the ANZAC Day match vs the Pies.

A 3-2 or better start with this draw will set them up nicely, but it may not be easy.

If they survive through everything until round 18, they then come home with games against Hawks, Pies, Eagles (at home), Roos, Blues and Tigers.

Their recruiting strategy was to clear some average players off the list (Dyson, Monfries, Reimers, Lonergan, for example) to get Goddard on board.  They really needed the star touch, so it may just work; but they sacrificed a little depth to do it.  Having said that, there is a lot of natural improvement still to come in this list.

The Dons are eager to atone, especially given the off field drama and the 2012 form drop-off.  The variance on any prediction re the Bombers is huge – given what has happened in the past year.

Players to watch: Baguley looks to have cemented a spot in the team.  And watch for Joe Daniher when he eventually gets enough match practice in him to crack it for a game.

Mid term report: Essendon

After 12 games they are: 9 & 3 and 4th

They were originally tipped finish: 7th

They are now expected to finish with: 4th (assuming no premiership points penalties are imposed)

And their final ladder position should be: 4th

Comments: The Dons are flying and, unlike last year, have few injuries.  Assuming they don’t lose premiership points, they are a big chance for a top 4 finish.  Don’t expect them to drop off like last year; but they may possibly drop off a little.  They don’t quite look like a flag chance in 2013, but stranger things have happened.




13 wins and 6th

Fans in Melbourne may remember clearly that the Dockers were shockers in NAB2 vs the Blues at Etihad.  Please don’t read too much into that result.  It came a fortnight after NAB1 in Perth, but the Dockers travelled to Adelaide to play the Crows in “NAB1 ½” the following week.  This led to them being on the road for 2 weeks in a row (harder for Perth based teams than any other) when they played Carlton.  They were flat; and also had a few players seriously underdone, such as Clarke, Crowley and Fyfe. 

Their next match was a demolition Derby at Mandurah (south of Perth) over the Dogs.  The margin was huge, courtesy of the Dogs resting their best talent.  Bradley played down back – perhaps a guide to R1 Derby.

The practice match vs the Crows means that Freo have had 1 more game than the Eagles leading in to the season.  This may come in handy, given the Eagles scratchy form recently.

Broughton and McPhee will be missed and Danyle Pearce (from Port) is an interesting selection.  Silvagni is suspended for R1.

The Dockers are building nicely and there is a feeling that they are really going somewhere.  Their young players are about to really fire (such as Fyfe and Walters).   However, they do have a tougher draw this year; and they have a few injury concerns.  Morabito has done yet another knee and Sandilands is out for several weeks of the regular season.  Ruck back-up does exist, however.

They weeks that will determine their destiny are rounds 16-19 when they play the Eagles, Tigers away, Crows at home and Blues away.  If they survive that, R20-22 looks fairly friendly in the lead-up to finals

Players to watch: Suban looks to have improved and Fyfe, barring injury, is becoming an elite player; Walters is “special”.

Mid term report: Fremantle

After 12 games they are: 9.5 & 2.5 and 3rd

They were originally tipped finish: 6th

They are now expected to finish with: 16.2 wins

And their final ladder position should be: 3rd

Comments: The Dockers are flying at present and on a long non-losing streak of 8.  The very next match at Geelong may decide their fate.  If they win this, they could finish 2nd and get a home final in week 1.  They would probably need this luxury in order to win the flag.  They have already lost Bradley and Griffin for the season, while Morabito, Sandilands and Pavlich could be significantly underdone in the finals.  Still, they have exceeded almost everyone’s expectations.  People talking W.A. flags at the beginning of the year were speaking about the Eagles!



Geelong Cats

Top 4 again
13 wins and 4th

Those old enough will remember the “Indian Summer” of Hawthorn in the early 1990s.  They won the 1991 flag with a team too old and too slow a la Cats in 2011.  Then everyone who doesn’t think brown and gold is a good fashion statement waited for them to drop out of finals contention.  It took forever!!  1995 until they eventually missed the finals.

At the end of 2012, many were talking about the Cats dropping off the radar altogether.  Now a top pre-season (albeit playing the last 3 games at KP) and good form shown by some young-uns, has most experts leaving them in the eight.

The numbers are positive for the Cats – winning flags in the past 3 odd years 2007/09/11.  So why not 2013?  Far too simplistic, of course, but they did have their earliest finals exit since missing in 2006 last year and have put in a big pre-season.  They might have made the NAB Cup GF if not for the week 1 trip to Perth, but were the best performed team in the NAB cup with the possible exception of the Lions.

So they are expecting to start well…. BUT!! They have Kelly and Johnson are suspended for R1 against the Hawks, then have 3 x 6 day breaks facing Roos, Blues (1 week after the Pies / Blues game, which may help) and then Swans in Sydney.

It gets easier after that, but they cannot afford to go down 0-4 to begin with.

The Scott twins have arranged some extra match practice sessions in Feb and this seems to have helped both teams.

By recruiting McIntosh and Rivers, they are seemingly indicating that the flag window is still open (or maybe they were just a good fit for gaps created), while Caddy was snared out of the grips of other Vic clubs who were circling.

The one big issue for the Cats is big blokes.  They have 4 ruckmen all injured at the time of writing:  West, McIntosh, Simpson and Vardy.  West is the only one a chance to play R1, while Vardy (a potential top-liner, according to some) and Simpson are a fair way off playing.

The Cats will need to get quality performances out of at least 2 of this group to be a top 4 contender.  Meanwhile, rookie Blicavs (try to pronounce that one) has come from a skinny Olympic hope last year to be a chance for a R1 game – maybe even more!

If they survive R1-4 well enough, their tough games thereafter come in fits and starts.

Players to watch: Caddy has impressed the locals; while Blicavs and Sheringham are rookies with a chance to play in 2013.  And Vardy if he ever gets healthy.

Mid term report: Geelong

After 12 games they are: 10 & 2 and 2nd

They were originally tipped finish: 4th

They are now expected to finish with: 16.8 wins

And their final ladder position should be: 2nd

Comments: The unexpected loss to the Lions has loosened their stranglehold on 2nd.  See notes on Freo above – if they lose 2nd, it may mean a trip to Perth for F1.  Despite the R13 shock, they are still above the predictions of most.  Whether they are a premiership chance can be debated.  They have some inexperienced players in their best 18, but they have flag-winning form.  Their chances may also depend on having Vardy fit for the finals; and getting Varcoe + Chapman back.  Doubts remain on all 3. Menzel is gone for the year while McIntosh is almost gone after multiple injuries.


Gold Coast Suns

Moving up
8 wins and 15th

The suns were somewhat talked up in 2012 and had a Barry Crocker (even worse than a Darren Crocker in terms of football ability) of a year in 2012.

One thing they did “win” in 2012 was the Injury Award.  Yep, they were hardest hit of all in that regard.  And with little depth to speak of, they were pummelled a few times.  A huge sigh of relief was heard at AFL HQ when they finally won one in R16.

This year they have a lot healthier list.  Add to this the natural development of a young list and you have a team (finally) on the rise.  Not as far as the finals, mind you, but real progress nonetheless.

And they have beefed up coaching support staff a bit with Primus (who should do much better away from the Primus Stove type pressure situation of Port Adelaide – again, he lacked sufficient assistant coaching support then) and Mark Riley from the Blues.

Although they have balanced off their experience levels with the recruitment of Broughton and Murphy, this is balanced off by the loss of Caddy and Hickey.

Their critical time comes early in R4-8; it is crucial for them because there are lots of winnable games in this period.  And they don’t need another row of duck eggs to begin 2013 as happened last year.  In this period, they play Port at home, Giants away, Freo at home, Dees away and finish with the Dogs at home.

3 or 4 wins from that patch will set them up nicely for the season.

Players to watch: Gorringe (rhymes with Orange), May and Thompson

Mid term report: Gold Coast

After 12 games they are: 5 & 7 and 12th

They were originally tipped finish: 15th

They are now expected to finish with: 9 wins

And their final ladder position should be: 13th

Comments: The Suns have really come on in their 3rd season and are off the charts in terms of their expected trend.  If they were an ASX share, you would be making a huge profit on them this year.  Not only that, they have had to deal with a large number of injuries.  The finals are out of reach, however.


GWS Giants

Another year on the bottom
3 wins and spoon

The Giants look to have established a good base for future success, but they are too young to do much damage just yet.

Like the Suns, they have recruited a bit of “age” into the team with Gilham and Thornton.  But they have also lost “Old” McDonald and Power to retirement, while Brogan is on his last legs (as a player – may he live a long life on the earth) and Cornes has a serious knee injury.

The positives are that Patton should have a real crack at footy this year and Cameron is full of promise.  Sheeds said, “give me a goal to goal line” to the recruiters and they seem to have delivered.  While Greene is all the rage and looks to have progressed even further, Treloar is also a great “get”.

The Giants key time in the year is also early.  In rounds 1-5, they play the Swans, then have winnable games vs Port away, Saints at home (okay, not easy but some small chance) and then Suns at home.

The problem with all this is that their home games in R3 & 5 are at Manuka Oval in Canberra.  In effect, they are on the road for 5 weeks in a row from R2 – 6.  They need to snare at least one win in this period.

These “home games” at Manuka are a huge concern and the club will need to be able to manage the young players through this period.

To finish with a positive: they were pretty hard hit by injuries last year and things look a lot brighter to begin 2013.  Patience is a virtue!

Players to watch: Maybe not likely to star in 2013, but the captain loves Corr (how did the Pies miss him?), keep your eye on last year’s #1 Patton and the current top draft pick Whitfield.  And O’Rourke, when he gets over his hammie.

Mid term report: Greater Western Sydney

After 12 games they are: 0 & 12 and 18th

They were originally tipped finish: 18th

They are now expected to finish with: 0.3 wins

And their final ladder position should be: 18th

Comments: While the expectations have not been high, the team would be disappointed with their output.  Losing the experience of McDonald, Power and the mature bodies of Folau and Clifton has hurt them.  Add to this the long absences of Brogan, Cornes, Davis, Patton (gone for the year) and “Frank”
Tyson – and this is what happens.  They will undoubtedly improve next year.  But when one considers the age of Brogan and Cornes, they are still 1 or 2 experienced players short.  Judging by the rumour mill, Sheedy is keen to solve that problem in 2014.  The spoon is a cert unless they can beat the Dees in R19.




Chance to atone
17 wins and 1st

Most of us are still trying to work out how the Hawks didn’t win the flag last year.  The good news is that they have the list to give them a shot at redemption in 2013.

It all looked rosy after 2008 but, like the Baby Bombers who won one early in 1993, the road to the second premiership was far from smooth.  The Dons finally claimed the flag in 2000 after almost losing Kevin Sheedy in the dim, dark years of 1997/98 and then losing the prelim final in 1999 as a hot favourite.

Based on the Bombers trend and the reasonably good records of teams finishing 3rd, 2nd and then flag, (North did it in 1997/98/99), the Hawks must be given a good chance.

One thing they would want to avoid is starting the year badly.  This happened in 2012 and, even though they finished on top, they were chasing tail all year to finally get there.  And a 3rd place last year would have meant an interstate final in week 1.

Their best form, in fact, was in R14 – 18 and dropped off ever so slightly after that.  Compare this to the Pies and Cats in 2011 who had the top 2 spots sewn up with months to go.

The challenge for them now is that they play the other seven finalists of 2012 in R1 – 7.  Things get easier with R8 & 9 against the 2 expansion teams.  But they need to be in the 8 come round 7 to make the top 4 a certainty a few weeks out.  And a 3 or 4 finish could again send a Vic team interstate in F1.

The Buddy trouble is not expected to cause as much trouble as the Cloke saga did for the Pies in 2012, but it is a slight concern.

The NAB Cup form was discussed at length, but their form was actually okay – bringing top players in slowly and losing narrowly – only to finish with a bang against and undermanned Roos outfit.

Of more concern is the injury report leading into the first 7 matches.  They are likely to begin with Ellis, Gibson, Hodge, Lake and Rioli all injured or underdone, while they have lost Suckling, Whitecross and Woodward for long spells with knee injuries.

The good news is that other teams they play early on also have significant injury problems.  If they can survive the early challenge, they end the season with the Pies, Roos and Swans in Sydney.

They lost Leon Cameron from the coaching panel, but recruited Brett Ratten.  A flag beckons, perhaps, if they can overcome these obstacles.

Players to watch: Gunston and Hill look to have improved.  The Lake experiment will work if they win a flag while he in 2013 or 2014.  Watch his form when he gets healthy again.

Mid term report: Hawthorn

After 12 games they are: 11 & 1 and 1st

They were originally tipped finish: 1st

They are now expected to finish with: 18.7 wins

And their final ladder position should be: 1st

Comments: Everything ladder-wise is going beautifully for the Hawks.  The R13 results have almost guaranteed them top spot.  And while they did finish on top in 2012, they were like the man who was told he could have as much land as he could run around in a day.  He set off to gain a huge tract of land, but needed to be back at the start by sunset.  Seeing that he was behind the 8-ball late in the day, he ran as fast as he could to return to his starting point.  He collapsed dead at the appropriate spot.  That was Hawthorn in 2012.  Not that serious, mind you, but they were at their best in July / August and a bit flat in September.  Now they can cruise into the finals and not have to worry about ladder position.  They do have 2 concerns.  One is the buddy saga.  He has played like Cloke 2012 and needs to show the form of Ablett 2010.  Next, we have defenders Schoenmakers and Stratton gone for the year; with Birchall now missing 4 – 6 weeks “and maybe longer”.  Whitecross is just back from injury and will be better in 2014.  They really need Rioli to come back to top form.  Then escape the Kennett curse – and the flag is theirs!



The worst is behind them, but
8 wins and 17th

Surely the Dee fans have suffered enough.  It never seems to end for them.  Without getting too excited about 2013, it can be said that they have now bottomed and it cannot (hopefully) get any worse.

The high turnover at the end of 2012 seemed to reflect the fact that some players didn’t want to be there.  Now that the changes have been made, it will take a while to see happier times.   But the pain will be worth it in due course – so long as the correct decisions have been made (and those on the inside would have a better grasp of this).

Meanwhile, the entrenchment at the bottom of the ladder continues.

This is not helped by yet another hefty injury list.  At least this year, there are few really long term ones.  They may, in fact, have a relatively clean sheet a couple of rounds into the season.  The main “damage” is a lack of game time and pre-season training time into players like Trengove, Clark and Dawes.

Good news is that there is plenty of improvement in the squad and the teams they play early have, if anything, more injuries than them.  Early on is when they need to strike, with Port at home in R1 and GWS at home in R4; then Suns at home in R7.  They would love to bank at least those 3 wins and one other upset win would have them in the 8.

Rounds 9 – 11 will sort them out with games vs Dockers away, Hawks and Pies before their bye.

Some in the coaching panel have indicated that the attitude of the players and the feel around the club is much better than 12 months ago.  Good news, but it won’t translate to many extra wins in 2013.

Players to watch: Keep a watchful eye on Strauss (finally over a broken leg from late 2011) and mature aged recruit Terlich.

Mid term report: Melbourne

After 12 games they are: 1 & 11 and 17th

They were originally tipped finish: 17th

They are now expected to finish with: 17th

And their final ladder position should be: 17th

Comments: You have to feel for the Dees fans.  Just when they saw light at the end of the tunnel, it was a freight train coming the other way!  Judging by the exits of coaching / admin staff, it appears that the disease was more widespread than most realised.  Now they will need to bottom out AGAIN before starting out.  However, they have had severe injuries – especially to big blokes such as Clark, Dawes and Jamar.  They also have lost key players Frawley and Grimes for multiple weeks; and young gun Viney as well.  Give them a good pre-season and they will be competitive without looking dangerous.  The R19 game vs Giants could decide the spoon, but expect Melbourne fans to be spared this agony.



North Melbourne

Just outside
11 wins and 10th

The Roos have “owned” the middle of the ladder recently.  This is less than ideal.  It means you just miss the finals or get bundled out quickly.  The best draft picks go elsewhere and you aren’t doing well enough to demand the blockbuster time slots (even though the Roos invented Friday nights and, if you invent it, you get to keep it!).

The Scott twins have arranged some extra match practice sessions in Feb and this seems to have helped both teams.

So the NAB4 thrashing at the hands of the Hawks shouldn’t be looked down upon too much – the Roos had fewer top players who needed game time compared to the Hawks.  And Swallow pulled out late with illness to exacerbate the situation.

In fact, NAB3 was more of a worry, when they had a fuller list than the Cats and were going for a spot in the final (as undefeated until then) and they just failed.  It all means that they are where they were last year – thereabouts.

They have a list that is developing, but still a year or two away from peaking.  The friendly draw helped them last year, but this time it is nasty.  They have repeat games against the Crows, an improving Lions, Pies, Cats and Hawks.

While they had the best run regarding injuries of any club last year, they also begin 2013 in a healthy state.  And they will need to, because the pressure comes early for them.  They first 5 games are Pies, Cats, Swans at home, Lions at home (looked easy until recently) and Hawks.  Quite a few of these early opponents have significantly worse injury problems than the Roos, so it is a chance for them to set themselves up for the season.  Winning 4 or 5 of them would have them playing finals, in all likelihood.

However, Scott McMahon is suspended for R1, while Brent Harvey misses R1-6 through suspension.

Players to watch: Daw (a human highlights real looking for consistency) and Currie (mature aged ruck recruit) should both get a chance in 2013.

Mid term report: The North Melbounre Football club

After 12 games they are: 4 & 8 and 13th

They were originally tipped finish: 10th

They are now expected to finish with: 9.5 wins

And their final ladder position should be: 12th

Comments: This may be the lull before the form.  2013 is totally gone and they have as much chance of playing finals as Mr Puniverse has of being the heavyweight boxing champ.  The quantity of and manner of the narrow losses have brought them undone.  The slightly bigger negative is that they have such a tiny injury list.  How will they cope when several stars go down (a la Magpies)?  Still, the list is getting games into them and are still on the up.


Port Adelaide

Looking better
9 wins and 13th

While Port never threatened to win the NAB Cup in 2013, their form was quite encouraging.  After struggling somewhat against their R1 opponent Melbourne in Renmark (Port rarely plays well in Renmark anyway), they knocked off the Eagles in Alice and then the slow to get going Swans at home.

While both the Eagles and the Swans had excuses of sorts, and the wins probably meant more to Port, it is an indication that real progress is being made at Alberton.

The sad departure of Primus last season, from an under-resourced team, has led to a better setup overall and a new high profile president in David Koch.  And a new sponsor in Renault.  The place has a better feel to it now.

Don’t expect immediate miracles, but look for a definite improvement on 2012.  they had a big clear-out in getting rid of Chaplin, Jabocs, Pearce and Rodan.  And, of course, lost John McCarthy in October.  Their “ins” are mostly fringe players in Monfries, Hombsch, Stevenson and Heath (Campbell Heath, not Heath Campbell!).

The improvement in 2013 will come from a friendlier draw (with 2 games against each of the Suns and Giants) and a young list with untapped potential.

A whole host of Saturday and Sunday games means that they will have their games well spaced.

They were fairly hard hit with injuries last year (with insufficient depth) and are better placed now.  Robbie Gray is almost ready now and Hamish Hartlett is raring to go.

This all sounds extremely positive and this website will have Port higer placed than most.  But coach Hinkley says, “we are coming from a long way back”

Players to watch: Pittard (finally healthy and bulked up); Lobbe may be set for a good season, while Wines has them raving.

Mid term report: Port Adelaide

After 12 games they are: 6 & 6 and 8th

They were originally tipped finish: 13th

They are now expected to finish with: 10.7 wins

And their final ladder position should be: 10th

Comments: Well, they are in the eight at the time of writing.  But the latter 2013 draw is tougher than the former.  They need some major scalps to have any chance of playing finals.  In reality, they need to beat the Pies in R14 (given their habit of going on long winning and losing runs).  They are likely to be favourites in only 2 remaining games for the year (R18 Brisbane and R21 Gold Coast – both at home).  Port is another team over-achieving this year.  The changes in coaching and administration seemed to have worked.  Ken Hinkley almost got forgotten when he went to the Gold Coast and the team wasn’t winning in 2011/12.  Now their battle is to be the best team in S.A., and they are a nose in front.




Not quite!
11 wins and 11th

The Tigers recruitment policy was “finals now” and it may work.  But they may also fall agonisingly short.  “Charlie” Chaplin was the key defensive post they needed and got.  He hasn’t done much yet, but is just recovering from injury.  Rookie recruits Petterd and “Big O” Stephenson have just been upgraded, while Knights and Lonergan are a bit off the pace.  Then there is Vlaustin, who is creating some excitement.

Stephenson will help the overworked mulleted Maric this year.  Another key recruit was Mark Williams.  The players speak highly of him and the club was probably one experienced coach short in recent times.

While the “name” recruits have been handy, a finals berth may depend on the level of improvement in those who have been around for a while, such as Arnot (what happened to the other “T”?), Astbury, Ellis and Martin.  Apparently, Martin and “Choco” Williams have hit it off.

The difficulty for the Tigers is that the draw this year is tougher, with only the Dogs as a friendly looking double-up encounter.

And they also caught teams “at the right time” last year a few times.  And although 11th is a long way from the finals, they are virtually in a 5 way dead heat for 7 – 11 spots, with only a game separating the whole group.  So a good run of injuries and some natural improvement will have them in the picture.

But they need to get off to a better start.  Their first 6 games are Blues (as usual and overdue for a win), Saints, Dogs, Pies, Dockers away and Cats.  While they will be favourites to beat the Dogs, they need to be way better than 1 & 5 after 6 rounds – so they need to win at least 3 of these to be genuine finals hopes.  The middle part of the year then opens up a bit.  The last few games also include some tough assignments

Players to watch: They seem to like Petterd down there; Vlaustin has impressed and Ellis is getting good wraps.  The coach wants you to put Martin in your Supercoach team!

Mid term report: Richmond

After 12 games they are: 8 & 4 and 6th

They were originally tipped finish: 11th

They are now expected to finish with: 13.8 wins

And their final ladder position should be: 7th

Comments: The Tigers had a few players in rehab during the pre-season.  As such, they were marked down a bit.  But most of them have come good and the team has taken a giant leap forward.  The huge scalp was the Eagles in Perth in R11 and they are almost safe in the finals now.  They final “cert” tag will be applied if they beat the Gold Coast in Cairns in R16.  what a feel-good story it will be to see the Tigers in the finals.  Incidentally, the Tigers have played finals twice since the final 8 was in place.  In BOTH CASES they finished in the top 4 and lost the prelim (3rd in 1995 and 4th in 2001).  They have never finished 5 – 8 in all that time.


St Kilda

Dropping back slightly
10 wins and 12th

The Saints are the Michael Slater of the AFL – absolutely demolishing second rate opposition but struggling against the quality teams.

The efforts against top teams will need to be lifted if they are to be a finals’ threat.

The Saints were ordinary in NAB4, but they played all 4 games in 30+ degree heat and ran out of puff vs GWS in NAB4; and eventually finished NAB4 with 16 men on the ground.

The obvious “out” for the Saints is Goddard.  Many have dismissed them on that basis alone.  But the problems go deeper than that.  They had an easier draw last year and also happened to catch opponents when they were struggling.

Not only that, their early opponents in 2013 have a generally low injury tally.

To put a case FOR the Saints, one could say that they have a dangerous mosquito fleet of forwards and help for McEvoy in the ruck in the form of Hickey.  And the coaching squad have now had a year to settle in to their job.

But there are too many concerns and too many other teams improving to pick them to jump into the eight.  The are just on the fringe of “some hope” and would need a lot to go right to challenge.

Players to watch: Steven look ready to join the elite, while Gwilt looks to have improved

Mid term report: St Kilda

After 12 games they are: 3 & 9 and 15th

They were originally tipped finish: 12th

They are now expected to finish with: 7 wins

And their final ladder position should be: 15th

Comments: The Saints have officially moved from “still a tiny chance” to big revamp of the list.  Given the age of their stars, there is no hope to trade out of this situation.  They are likely to stay down for a while and rebuild.  Missing Gilbert, Fisher, Hayes and Maister for long periods hasn’t helped.  On a positive note, Riewoldt has been great.


Sydney Swans

Going down, but not too far
13 wins and 5th

The way the Swans NAB Cup form was reported, it’s surprising that some old farmer hasn’t offered to put them down.  Yes, it wasn’t great, but needs to be put into context.  The obvious thing is that they won the flag last year and needed a break.  So they intended to come back slowly and haven’t really eyed off the NAB Cup.

But there is one vital fact that has barely been mentioned outside the Swans walls:  they play Giants first up and then the Suns – and both in Sydney.

With all due respect (as people say when they are about to insult), the Swans can be at 80% and win these two games.  So their season begins in round 3.  So there pre-season began later to allow for this.  It is a luxury the Swans would be thankful for, even if it means copping a tough block of games later on.  In fact, weeks 3 – 11 brings 6 finalists plus 2012 fringe dwellers Dons and Saints and then the improving Lions.

Things fell into place nicely for the Swans last year.  They were not good enough to get a home final (finishing 1 or 2 on the ladder), but struck an inexperienced Crows in week one and then had a week off before a home prelim.  And the Pies were a bit worn down by then.

Finally, the Hawks almost has them in the GF, but kicked poorly (I know what you’re thinking and, yes, it is bad football).  Life will probably be tougher in 2013.

Their draw is tougher (barring weeks 1 & 2) and their early opponents are relatively injury free.

But then there is Tippett.  He was struggling late 2012, but was in good form early.  Bloods’ fans will probably get more value from him in 2014 (he is suspended until after the R12 bye this season).

Players to watch: Hannebery is moving into elite class, while Armstrong and Parker look better in 2013.

Mid term report: Sydney Swans

After 12 games they are: 8.5 & 3.5 and 5th

They were originally tipped finish: 5th

They are now expected to finish with: 15.4 wins

And their final ladder position should be: 5th

Comments: A huge upset loss last weekend puts them exactly on target for a 5th placed finish as predicted pre-season.  They have been patchy, and are yet another team to have some long term injuries concerns.  For the Swans, Johnson, Rohan and Walsh appear gone for the year, while Mattner has retired.  Rhyce Shaw and LRT have missed big chunks of the season.  To win the flag, they will probably have to win “away” in F1 like they did last year.  But they don’t have a vulnerable Adelaide up there this year.


West Coast Eagles 4          2.2       3          BYE

A flag hope
14 wins and 3rd

The Eagles have really struggled in NAB 2 & 3.  They lost at home to a Pies team missing several stars.  Then they went to the Alice and lost to Port.  Note that the other 3 teams that play in week 1A of the regular season all won (okay, the Dockers and Dons played lowly teams and the Crows just fell over the line, but the Eagles’ performance was the worst of the four by a distance).  The coach referred to a heavy training schedule, but there are a few worrying signs.

They begin with the Derby (pronounced “durrbee” for those in the east) without Kerr, Naitanui, Rosa, Wellingham with those underdone including Embley, McGinnity & Waters; while Newman is too unfit to play AFL footy (but who am I to throw stones?).

On a positive note, further improvement should come from Scott Selwood, Masten, Gaff and Shuey in the midfield.  Recruits Wellingham, Cripps and Morton will add to their depth.

Round 2 occurs 15 days after the Derby and this may help them get players back and fitter.  The R2 opponent is Hawthorn, then the Dees at the MCG and Blues at home.   They would want to win at least 3 of these (given that only one game is outside WA in that time) to give them a chance to get their playing list back together and still be well placed.

To finish top 4 (and hopefully, top 2 for a home final first up), they would need to win their fair share of their 10 away games.  They would expect to cash in vs Dees, Port, Giants and Dogs.  This would give them 13 /14 wins if they can win 9 / 10 out of 12 at home.  They would then need to win another 1 – 2 away games against the Lions, Saints, Hawks, Crows, Dons and Pies.

That looks a distinct possibility; but they begin the year as badly off for injuries as anyone.  Herein lies the challenge for the Eagles – keeping in touch while they get their stars back.

Their crucial rounds are 1-2 and 13-17 (when they play Hawks away, Dons at home, Crows away, Dockers and Swans at home).

They need to take full advantage of their easy part of the fixture in R5-10.

Players to watch: rookie Callum Sinclair began 4th in line for rucking duties, but has starred in the WAFL PS.  Cripps has played all the NAB Cup (1,2,3); Kennedy looks to have found form again.  Look for Wellingham to “bounce back” from injury and note also the quality young midfielders listed above who are still on the rise.

Mid term report: West Coast Eagles

After 12 games they are: 6 & 6 and 10th

They were originally tipped finish: 3rd

They are now expected to finish with: 11.9 wins

And their final ladder position should be: 9th

Comments: The Eagles have been hard hit with injury early on in the year and may also lose their coach at year end.  And they may miss the finals altogether.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that could possibly arrive at the finals with a full list to pick from.  And, if incredibly lucky, play a Derby in F1.  But from there, it would mean travelling 3 weeks running to win the flag.  You need Blighty as coach to achieve that, and they were only 1 hour flights.


Western Bulldogs

In a big rebuild
8 wins and 16th

A Kris Kristofferson song talks about “throwing away tomorrow for today”.  The Dogs have done the opposite in trading Brian Lake (who won’t be playing next time the Dogs are challenging for the flag) and developing a new squad.

Some other old timers will be gone by then, too – such as Murphy, Boyd, Cross, Gia and Morris.

You may remember that their NAB2 one point win over the Hawks was their first win of any sort since a R12, 2012 win over Port.  That tends to suggest that a spoon is imminent.  But they were shot with injuries late last year, as well as suspending young Libba.  They ended the year with 7 regulars out – and with a thin list anyway.

There is also the aspect that the new coach is teaching them the “contested ball” way to play.  When they get this sorted, they also need to deliver the ball with more precision.  Hopefully, yhis is stage 2.

The place has a “Geelong” feel about it with Mooney and Scarlett joining the coaching ranks.  This appears to be about creating a culture of excellence at the kennel.  That would be beneficial, but it is no quick fix.

Cheer up, ye Dogs of the western suburbs.  Because Cooney hasn’t looked better in years.   And there are some young players on the improve.

Rounds 4 -7 are the critical ones for the Dogs.  They play the Crows away, Cats, Eagles away and then the Roos.  They need to hang in during this tough period; and then easier games will appear in R8 (Suns away) and R10 (Port at home).

They looked okay in NAB 4, but were fresher than the Tigers – having rested most of their stars in NAB3 in the west.

Players to watch: Cooney – to see how long he can keep going; Bret Goodes has been elevated from rookie status; and Libba looks improved

Mid term report: Western Bulldogs

After 12 games they are: 3 & 9 and 16th

They were originally tipped finish: 16th

They are now expected to finish with: 6.3 wins

And their final ladder position should be: 16th


Comments: The Dogs are tracking along as expected.  They have lost Higgins and Williams for the year (sadly, no great surprise there), but building for the future is more important to them than a healthy list come September.  It will take some years to develop all the young talent.





Final List

1 Hawks        17 wins, with medium variance

2 Pies             16 wins, but high variance

3 Eagles        14 wins, but high variance

But all three teams above begin the year with injury concerns


4 Cats            13 wins, with medium variance

5 Swans        13 wins, with medium variance

6 Dockers     13 wins, with medium variance

Who are close enough if anything goes wrong with the top 3 teams.


7 Bombers   12 wins, but high variance

8 Blues          12 wins, but high variance

Rounding out the 8, but both are vulnerable to the teams in the next group:

9 Lions          11 wins, with medium variance

10 Roos        11 wins, with medium variance

11 Tigers      11 wins, with medium variance

Then a tiny chance for finals to

12 Saints       10 wins, but high variance

Then follows

13 Port           9 wins, with medium variance

14 Crows      9 wins, with medium variance

And, holding up the ladder

15 Suns         8 wins, with medium variance

16 Dogs        8 wins, with medium variance

17 Dees         8 wins, with medium variance

Followed by the spoon favourites:

18 Giants      3 wins, with low variance