Mid-Season AFL Review

AFL 2012 Mid-Season ReviewAfter round 12, all 18 clubs in the competition will have played at least 11 games of footy, marking the midway point of the year. This is the perfect opportunity to review how well the clubs are travelling.

Note: Only the first 11 games for a club will be taken into account for this review, so for example Friday night’s game between Adelaide and St Kilda will be taken into account for Adelaide who had a bye the week before, but not for the Saints.

West Coast

The Positive: Josh Hill has been massive for the Eagles, scoring goals in all but one game — the last against Carlton where he squandered several chances. The find of Hill and the continued development of Jack Darling and other forwards has allowed the Eagles to still look threatening up forward despite the injuries suffered.

The Negative: Maybe travel could be a concern, with both the Eagles’ losses from interstate matches, but with the Eagles responding to both losses with positive performances in the following weeks, it seems as those defeats were more aberrations than anything. It may seem obvious, but when you’re on top of the ladder, there hasn’t been much wrong with the Eagles’ camp.

Score: 9/10. The Eagles would be happy with their year to date, with their recent losses the only thing stopping them from attaining a perfect score.

Adelaide

The Positive: New coach Brenton Sanderson has brought a harder edge to his side, with players across the field attacking the ball with kamikaze like endeavour. Scott Thompson has been as brilliant as ever, and Taylor Walker and Kurt Tippett have combined for 54 goals.

The Negative: Considering where this team was a year ago, any real deficiency is overwhelmed by the positives coming from the Crows. If anything, possibly MCG form, where they were belted by the Hawks in their only match at the ground for the year — which is hardly cause for concern. Their only other game at the ‘G this year will be against Melbourne, a poor performance then would certainly raise some questions however.

Score: 10/10.  2012 has been a resounding success to date with all factors considered. Sanderson has completely turned this side around.

Collingwood

The Positive: Like West Coast, it comes from depth. They have been hit severely by injuries, yet they keep finding players to cover key losses. You know a team’s marked hard when losing two of the first three sees them under heavy criticism, but Nathan Buckley has got his side to quietly respond whilst flying under the radar – by peeling off eight wins in a row.

The Negative: If there is anything, it could be that they haven’t looked as dominant as what they were in previous years. Some of this can be attributed to the loss of key players, but with the sides Collingwood had to contend with in previous years (Geelong, St Kilda, Hawthorn et al) all looking a step slower, it may not cause too many concerns.

Score: 9/10. Collingwood are building towards their peak performance, and will be firmly setting their sights on the premiership cup. The start of the year will allow them to train towards peak September performance.

Sydney

The Positive: Sydney have retained their hard, in and under play they were renowned for under Paul Roos yet developing a fast, break neck style which can cause havoc on the rebound, and it’s thanks largely to two players: Josh Kennedy and Lewis Jetta. Both have produced the best years of their careers to date, and Kennedy’s opening rounds are sure to have him in contention for the Brownlow early.

The Negative: Sydney, who have looked so impressive against Essendon, Hawthorn and Fremantle, have let themselves down against St Kilda and Richmond, both sides Sydney should be beating comfortably in order to truly be a top four side. In both games their key ball winners were locked down and they allowed their opponents to score far too easily, suggesting there is still a lot to work on in this Sydney side. From other perspective, the sickening injury to Gary Rohan is probably one of the negatives of the entire year.

Score: 8/10. They’ve mostly been good, but they’ve also looked poor on occasions, and it’s those inconsistencies that’s stopping them from a higher rating.

Essendon

The Positive: Improved form from David Zaharakis and Brent Stanton in particular saw the Bombers race to an 8-1 start to the season. Essendon never had concerns with the inside clearance work, with skipper Jobe Watson always controlling proceedings, but the rise to the top definitely coincided with strong outside run and carry from those two. Their only loss for the first nine weeks was by a point, to Collingwood, and so it seemed Essendon were set for a top four berth.

The Negative: The last two matches have highlighted some weaknesses in the Essendon lineup, and both Sydney and Melbourne have beaten the Bombers. Weather may be a factor for the loss against the previously winless Demons, but at Etihad Stadium, the Bombers were smashed for three quarters before almost pulling off an amazing comeback. Goalkicking is a concern, as it is with most clubs, but under extreme pressure the Bombers skills have been found wanting, something they will need to address in the break.

Score: 9/10. Another side that has come a long way in the last few seasons. If you presented James Hird with the option of being 8-3 at the break, he’d be more than delighted to take it.

Hawthorn

The Positive: Despite some early hiccups, the Hawks are travelling nicely, having only lost four times. Their forward line looks potent as ever, and their midfield is slowly starting to play at a level that saw them nearly beat Collingwood in the Preliminary Final last year. With Lance Franklin and Jarryd Roughead up forward they have the fire power to beat anyone, the question just becomes whether their younger players are up to maintaining the high level standard finals demands.

The Negative: Aside from the lack of Luke Hodge, the big query over the Hawks is clearly over their defenders. There is not an issue with Josh Gibson, but Ryan Schoenmakers has looked shaky at times and the Hawks would dearly wish for another strong back man to help out Gibson.

Score: 7/10. Their play really needs to lift on a consistent basis if they are to become a threat this season. They have done enough to put themselves in a position to challenge,now they just need to take it on.

Geelong

The Positive: The reigning premiers have been bubbling away nicely when all things are considered. Their form may not be as strong as it has been in the past, but they have been doing more than enough to remain in contention, and if things click come September, we all know the damage they can do. Steven Motlop has slotted in nicely on the half forward flank, and has provided a fresh outlet for the Cats’ attacking play.

The Negative: Nine months since the flag, and they are still struggling to recover from the loss of Brad Ottens. The Cats’ midfield is first class, but they have had to work harder for first use as Orren Stephenson and Trent West have struggled at AFL level and possible need more time to adapt, but for a side who is clearly capable of winning it all they need strong ruck play now.

Score: 7/10. They’re just doing enough to remain a threat, and once September rolls around it may be enough. They aren’t playing like the Cats of recent times, but they still have enough talent to beat most.

St Kilda

The Positive: New coach Scott Watters has the Saints playing a fresh style of footy which has seemingly rejuvenated the senior playing group with several young players also making an impact. The improved consistency of Jack Steven and David Armitage would the biggest highlight of the year, as it has also allowed for Lenny Hayes to make a seamless transition back into the side after a knee reconstruction.

The Negative: They may have a new attractive style, but they are also leaking more points. The Saints are susceptible to being torn apart by the big forwards in the league, with a smallish back half struggling against Jack Riewoldt, Lance Franklin and Dean Cox amongst others.

Score: 7/10. In the eight, but they could be higher if not for losses to Port Adelaide, Fremantle and Richmond where they were presented with several golden opportunties to control the game.

Carlton

The Positive: There isn’t much. Their season started well, with strong wins over Richmond, Brisbane and Collingwood impressing fans and pundits alike. They then lost to Essendon and fell  into a hole, only managing to beat Fremantle, GWS and Melbourne since round three.

The Negative: Injuries have hurt, but when you compliment the top sides for adjusting, it only serves as a criticism of the Blues’ depth. Chris Judd is probably just coming down off his peak – to be expected for someone who has been dominating the competition for over 10 years – but the problem is Carlton still continue to leave far too much on his shoulders.

Score: 5/10. Low, but they have failed to deliver since round three and it has become a concern. Something is clearly amiss right now at Carlton. They can fix it, but it has to happen in a hurry.

Richmond

The Positive:  Finally the Tigers have broken through and delivered wins in situations that could have easily lead to another close loss. Last year Richmond threw away wins against sides and struggled against the premiership favourites, but after wins against Hawthorn, St Kilda. It may not seem like much, but these victories were massive indicators that the Tigers were on the right track.

The Negative: Ideally, Richmond would love another big forward to roam the ground from Centre Half Forward, taking pressure off Jack Riewoldt and giving the Tigers’ defenders a target as they come from defence. Tyrone Vickery needs more time, and Brad Miller just isn’t the answer going forward.

Score: 6/10. The loss to Fremantle undid a lot of good work, but the Tigers should be happy with the progress they’ve shown for the first time in years.

Fremantle

The Positive: Wins interstate were a rarity for Dockers’ fans, until Ross Lyon came to town. Fremantle have three this year, at three different venues, a sure sign that Lyon’s regimented structure is beginning to pay off.  It will take some time to be fully implemented, but these wins on the road should prove that Lyon knows what he’s doing.

The Negative: One thing holding Lyon back is the play of the midfield. Too often they have been beaten in contested ball, which has forced him to play captain Matthew Pavlich in the centre, away from where he is most dangerous. To win, Pavlich must play forward, and for him to do so Fremantle need a lift from their midfield.

Score: 6/10. The coaching change was always going to take some time, but you can see that Fremantle have really taken to the new gameplan, which is a good sign for its continued success in the future.

North Melbourne

The Positive: Another side that expected to make a jump in 2012 that hasn’t quite come along. They’re still young, and wins like the one against Geelong are a reminder of what they are capable of.

The Negative: Struggling against Gold Coast twice and losing to Port Adelaide after leading by 30 plus points deep into the final quarter; it seems as though this North side are falling into the trap of playing at an opponents level. They seem to rely on Brent Harvey far too often, but it’s a credit to the Kangaroo champion that he’s still managed to play at the standard he has despite copping a weekly tag.

Score: 5/10. Too inconsistent to really assess one way or another. They were lucky against Gold Coast, and flat out embarrassed against Hawthorn the week before. Adelaide is next; can they claim a big scalp? The club, which has been in turmoil at times on and off the field, needs it.

Western Bulldogs

The Positive: On one hand, it’s hard to understand how a team that was only two years ago a few kicks away from a Grand Final berth has fallen so quickly. The changes to the line-up, however, have been quietly made but have really been quite drastic. 2012 was always going to be a development year, and the form of Mitch Wallis, Tom Liberatore, Liam Jones, Luke Dahlhaus et al has been mostly brilliant.

The Negative: They continue to fall down with forward half efficiency. Where once the Doggies were once known for accurate displays of kicking skills, they have struggled at times so far. They have two young forwards who they’re relying upon to deliver weekly, so it is natural that they may have their off weeks. The problem is, when that happens, the Dogs have no answer for the forward line woes.

Score: 6/10. They didn’t look great early in the piece, but some winning form has quickly shown off what the young Doggies can do, and it appears as though their stint in the bottom reaches of the ladder will not be a long one.

Port Adelaide

The Positive: The Power hadn’t won successive games in years, then suddenly, after a few weeks of heavy criticism levied at coach Matthew Primus, they came up with three, and started playing really fluent football. Hamish Hartlett, who was unfortunately injured this week, started blossoming off the half back flank, and Jay Schulz has simply continued kicking goals.

The Negative: Against the more experienced opponents, the Power have looked lost coming out of their defensive 50. They often blaze away, placing their forwards under extreme pressure and allowing their opponent’s zone to damage their scoring output.

Score: 6/10. They barely managed to avoid the wooden spoon last year, yet this year they have already won four games. It’s clear improvement from a side that has a long way to go.

Brisbane

The Positive: The young midfield continues to amaze, Jack Redden, Tom Rockliff and Daniel Rich all improving seemingly on a weekly basis. For all the criticism Michael Voss received, recruits Andrew Raines and Matthew Maguire have played vital roles in the Lions’ victories this season.

The Negative: They need someone other than Jon Brown to prove themselves as a goalkicker in a key forward role. Daniel Merrett has been used there with mixed success, but ideally he’d be down back whilst someone like Aaron Cornelius took the leading forward position. It hasn’t happened yet, and the Lions are still stuck with the makeshift forward line.

Score: 4/10. They’re still developing, but they have looked really out of their depth against the stronger sides in the competition. When they lose they have a tendency to lose by large margins, which is a worrying sign.

Melbourne

The Postive: The win against Essendon was enjoyable for 17 clubs of the competition. It was the classic underdog victory, and one Melbourne won’t be forgetting for a while.

The Negative: Well, everything else really. Melbourne have looked awful at stages, and although Mark Neeld deserves some compassion as he has the hardest job in footy, his side just didn’t seem to care about the results. The loss against Sydney was undoubtedly the low point, Melbourne resembled a side completely devoid of confidence, passion, character and determination as they meekly submitted to a superior opponent.

Score: 1/10. It has to be, they may have turned a corner after a respectable performance against Collingwood followed their shock victory, but for several weeks it seemed as though the Demons were a side who were relying on Nathan Jones and a late rookie recruit (James Magner) to show some pride in the jumper.

Greater Western Sydney

The Positive: I’d love to list every player that has impressed this year for the Giants, but it’d be just too long. For a side consisting of mainly 18 year olds, they have a scary willingness to recklessly throw themselves into the contested ball situation. They have forwards who have shown an ability to take contested marks and kick straight and Kevin Sheedy would be thrilled with their performance so far.

The Negative: If anything, they’re still 1-10, but for a debut season, everything has gone better than expected.

Score: 8/10. Considering where they’ve come from, and how no-one expected them to win a game this year, to have win number one in Giants’ history down by the halfway point is an exceptional job.

Gold Coast

The Positive: It’s basically Gary Ablett, Harley Bennell and not much else at the moment for Gold Coast. However, those two are so electrifying by themselves it’s still worth watching on a weekly basis.

The Negative: They haven’t won a game and the majority of the side seems to be struck by ‘second year blues’, causing an extreme drop off in their play. The loss of Nathan Bock really hurt the club as they struggle to find forwards who can consistently find the ball.

Score: 4/10. They’d want a win of course, but it’s still the second year ever for the Suns, and things are always going to take time. Though sometimes Ablett must ask himself, ‘What do I have to do to earn this club four points?’

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