Port Adelaide Power 2012 Season Preview

Ladder Position: 16th
Win/Loss: 3/19
Percentage: 64.51%

Port Adelaide will be glad to see the back of season 2011 which was a horror initiation season for coach Matthew Primus. The club elected youth over the likes of the Cornes’ and Dean Brogan, while injuries to Jay Schulz, David Rodan, Domenic Cassisi and Hamish Hartlett meant they were men down for most of the season.

Unfortunately for the Power, they were the first to lose to the Suns, despite being 41 points up a couple of minutes from three quarter time. They managed to narrowly escape the spoon after a last round win against Melbourne put their percentage above Gold Coast.

Right now they are beginning to rebuild after moving on some club champions and bringing in a host of new faces, both recycled and through the draft. Brent Renouf crosses over from Hawthorn and will be used in tandem with Matthew Lobbe in the ruck, while John McCarthy showed promise at the Pies and should get a regular gig in their best 22. Chad Wingard is a highly touted junior and will no doubt play more games than not in Season 2012.

Port have a tough draw in 2012, not playing Gold Coast or GWS twice, while playing four finalists up first before the showdown against Adelaide. Port will be hoping to gain a bit more consistency and avoid blowouts. If they can manage to be competitive and really show promise, their fans will be pleased with the future of the club.

Key Players:

Domenic Cassisi – The Port Adelaide captain is one of keys to helping Port rise up the ladder. Injured for a great portion of the season, he is hoping to get a full season under his belt as his team is in great need of his inside ball winning ability and leadership.
David Rodan – Another injury prone star, whom if he can get on the park, can cause some real damage in the midfield. After crossing from Richmond, Rodan has really lifted and become a key part of the Port Adelaide team.
Robbie Gray – Gray won the highest goal kicking award at Port despite having stints through the midfield. He began to show the potential that he was given when drafted by the Power, and no doubt Robbie will be hoping to continue his rise to fame.

Young Guns:

Hamish Hartlett – Hamish was taken at #4 in the 2008 Draft so he comes with a fair bit of potential and hype. Unfortunately for Hamish, he has been inside the medical room more than on the field, playing 31 games in three seasons. However he managed 16 games last season and with his silky skills, expect him to be a key member of the Port Adelaide midfield.
Jackson Trengove – Originally drafted as a ruck prodigy, Trengove became an instant starter in Port’s defence, taking on some of the best key forwards in the league. With still a lot to learn, he re-signed with Port Adelaide, showing his intent to be a one club player.
John Butcher – Out of all of Port’s young guns, Butcher has impressed the most, booting six goals in just his second AFL game. Butcher has vice-grips and a dead-eye kick which saw him achieve the feat from just six kicks. He will no doubt be one to watch in season 2012.

Final Words:
Port have a strong foundation for a team in a few years’ time, but as of this stage, six to eight wins, would be an improvement on what was a horror season for the boys at Alberton.


Gold Coast Suns 2012 Season Preview

2011 Statistics
Ladder Position: 17th
Win/Loss: 3/19
Percentage: 56.27%

Any other team, such a record would have been called a disaster. But for Gold Coast, season 2011 was a massive success. After early beltings, that dramatic 4th quarter against Port Adelaide, followed by victory in the inaugural Q Clash as well as a windy win over the Tigers showed their ability, as well as strong late-season showings against St Kilda, and Hawthorn.

Thus 2012 will be a season of onwards and upwards for the Gold Coast. They will continue to sort their juniors into those who will make it and those who won’t, and continue to add wins and games into young bodies. They won’t be setting the world on fire yet, but they will start to show further dominance and will certainly start to win a few more games and be competitive in even more. We’ll get to see a little more out of those kids that haven’t got a chance so far, even more out of those who’ve performed and more of Gary Ablett’s genius as he continues to show us why he’s one of the best footballers around.

Their draw has the potential for them to grab wins too. Their double opponents are the other new boys in GWS, their Q-Clash opposition in Brisbane, as well as North Melbourne, Adelaide and St Kilda. Furthermore, they have ten games at Metricon Stadium, including home draws against GWS and Port Adelaide, for their chance to get their first home win on the board.

Key Players
Gary Ablett – He nearly deserved a Brownlow just for the effort. Without a pre-season, in a new side, without the support around him at Geelong to put together such a marvellous season was nothing short of incredible. And with a pre-season and support, well, who knows for 2012?

Michael Rischitelli – Rischitelli, too, had a good 2011 despite a tough season in a new side. He will continue to be expected to push the club onwards

Zac Smith – While he can arguably be included in the next section as well, Smith’s stellar 2011 simply showed what should be a great career ahead. The young ruckman will be expected to continue his fine work, and many will be looking for his endurance to be better so that he can run out games and the season.

Young Guns
David Swallow – Swallow was probably the most targeted first-year player of 2011, and will continue to be, but his talents should continue to shine.

Brandon Matera – Matera tore Port Adelaide apart during the Gold Coast victory with four goals, winning the Rising Star nomination for that round. Producing further goalscoring performances will be key to him pushing on in 2012.

Josh Caddy – Much was made over the off-season of Essendon’s late swoop for Caddy. After only managing two games in 2011 due to injury, this year is Caddy’s chance to show why Essendon were so interested.

Final Words
The Suns will look to push on with a strong 2012. While in the zone capable of achieving the priority pick, the huge number of young players they have already (as well as Jaeger O’Meara to come) means that they should aim to win rather than aim for another top draft pick. I’d suggest six wins as a minimum target, including the two games against GWS.


GWS Giants Season Preview 2012

GWS Giants2011


Ladder Position: 3rd (Eastern Conference)

Win/Loss: 12/5
Percentage: 117.68


Never has a team had such low expectations on what they would do on the field, yet have such high importance placed on what they are doing off it.

No one really expects the Giants to win anything except the clanger count in 2012. The AFL will be more concerned that the side win a place in the hearts of the four million residents of Greater Western Sydney than games of football this season.

The raft of concessions has seen the Giants amass a list full of the most-promising footballing talent in the country. These exciting teenagers are supplemented with more experienced players to lead (James McDonald), guide (Luke Power, Chad Cornes) and protect (Dean Brogan, Setanta O’hAilpin) them.

The Giants have the makings of a formidable midfield, with Tom Scully, Callan Ward, Rhys Palmer, Sam Reid and Stephen Clifton able to bridge the gap between the veterans – and on-field assistant coaches – McDonald and Power and the potential future, yet still teenaged, stars Stephen Coniglio, Dom Tyson, Devon Smith, Dylan Shiel and Adam Treloar. Brogan can capably serve a season as a master to rucking apprentices Tom Downie, Jon Giles and Andrew Phillips.

The backline is moderate with Chad Cornes supported by a capable fullback in Tim Mohr, with Matthew Buntine – who comes with big raps – and former top ten pick Phil Davis from Adelaide. The pre-season surgery for #1 pick Jonathon Patton leaves a gaping hole in the forward line, one you can’t see being filled by O’hAilpin or league convert Israel Folau. Hard-at-the-ball Adam Tomlinson, and Stingrays best and fairest Nick Hayes – who takes a good overhead mark – may prove to be more dangerous in front of the sticks.

Administratively though, the club until recently appeared in disarray, with no consistent training venue, funding issues and board room dramas making a fraught count-down to the teams debut AFL appearance.  One can’t doubt Kevin Sheedy or Mark William’s experience and knowledge, with five flags from nearly forty seasons of coaching between them. However question marks do appear over their ability to adapt with, and relevance to, modern football.

The supporting line coaches are all inexperienced, and the player/coaching role of McDonald and Power hasn’t been seen in the AFL/VFL since Malcolm Blight in 1981. As a new side, the majority of the list has only been available to the club since December, so there hasn’t been much time to shape the young talent. It will very much be a case of boys against men for the 2012 Giants.


 Tom Scully: The 2009 #1 draft pick will be desperate to put a contentious and injury-interrupted 2011 behind him. A potential long-term leader of the club, Scully has put the off-field distractions behind him and can realize some of his enormous potential with a hard and full pre-season under his belt.

James McDonald: While his own playing output may be moderate, McDonald’s role in leading and coaching a potential-filled midfield, as well as his player development endeavours, will be crucial to the future success of the Giants. Will also be doggedly digging in when things are down, as they will be, often.

Isreal Folau: As far as generating interest and support for the team, Folau will be vital. He will be under immense scrutiny from the outset, from well-meaning league fans, and death-riding footy purists alike. His influence on the future of recruiting will last much longer than his playing career.


Stephen Coniglio: With senior footy experience at the WAFL aged 16 and the stand-out player, as captain, at the National U18 Championships, the heavily credentialed youngster deserved his high draft pick and should be good to go from the outset.

Dom Tyson: Shown himself to be an astute, high-possession, hard-working midfielder averaging 22 possessions per game in the U18 Championships and 26 at TAC Cup level.

Jonathon Patton: A trip to Sweden for surgery to repair patellar tendinopathy, which will sideline him until at least May, has taken the gloss off Patton being top of the pops at the 2011 draft. But an imposing power-forward and potential figurehead ala Jonathan Brown/Barry Hall will be exactly what this team needs to fire public imagination.


 “Thinking long term” will be the most heard phrase heard for GWS this year. They have raw talent in abundance, yet may not have the set up to turn this potential into playing performance for a few years yet. Will be a very medi-ochre season indeed with heavy losses the norm.



All Bark, No Bite

Western Bulldogs LogoThere was a story last week in the papers featuring Dogs player Shaun Higgins where the undeniably talented ball player acknowledges it is time for him to “step up”.

Hot on the heels of Higgins’ vow to come good was an edict from veteran Dog Daniel Giansiracusa declaring that the Dogs younger players would also need to “step up” in season 2012.

These sentiments are in theory correct, but they do stick in the craw somewhat, especially Giansiracusa’s effort.  We’ve been hearing this kind of thing for quite a while from the Dogs and frankly, it is a few years too late.

It was players like Higgins and Giansiracusa who needed to stand up in 2008/09/10 when the Dogs made repeated prelim finals, only to be beaten on every occasion. It is a bit rich to be putting the heat on the likes of Dalhaus and Tutt and Jones when the senior players proved incapable, three times, of stepping up when it was really needed.

Obviously some of this is standard footy pre-season fare. Yet the Dogs would do well, especially senior players like Gia, to recognise that their premiership window has closed and the way the club approaches the next few years must change accordingly.

I’ve been impressed with how the Dogs have handled the transition from a side that was a premiership favourite barely three years ago to one that never even looked like playing finals last year. Crucially, the Dogs resisted the urge to go a club legend when appointing Eade’s replacement.

Brendon McCartney is a great choice and he’s begun to surround himself with people like Shannon Grant who have an intimate understanding of what it takes to succeed at the highest level.

The question is where they go next, especially having lost Callan Ward, the kind of player you can build a 10 year midfield around, to GWS. I don’t think the Dogs will make the finals this year and I don’t think McCartney will be too disappointed by that.

The general consensus is that 2012’s crop constitutes that most elusive but sought after footy phenomena: the super draft. A low finish in the season proper guarantees a high pick in the return to an uncompromised draft. Similarly, the lower the Dogs finish the better the return on their Ward compo pick which I expect they’ll activate. Finish bottom fourth behind GWS, Port and GC and the Dogs could be looking at picks 4 and 5 in a strong draft.

I also expect McCartney will take season 2012 to decide whether he wants to persist with the likes of Higgins. Yes, Higgins has struggled with injuries but he’s also never really delivered on his undoubted talent. He can certainly plan and would be a very attractive proposition for a team that sees itself as being in, or soon to be in, premiership contention. He’d also garner a first rounder in a trade.

It is accepted now that the key to building a team that can give a flag a shake is to hit two or three drafts hard – and obviously, draft well. The Dogs did very nicely out of the 2010 draft, largely on the back of some father/son selections. And while they are get to play a game, Clay Smith and Michael Talia were highly rated and will add to a burgeoning group of youngsters in the same age cohort. Trade astutely, activate the Ward compo pick and the Dogs could end up with three picks inside the top 15 of a superdraft. That’s a very solid foundation to build upon.

But as Jake Niall observed in an article  last week, it is difficult for smaller clubs like North and the Dogs to truly “bottom out”.  This is where it gets interesting for the Dogs. Having promised their fans so much – a Grand Final is the pass mark kind of thing – in recent times and having failed to deliver, they now must face the fact that they’ve lost off-field momentum along with the three prelims.

Their membership is well down on last year and if this year’s trends continue, they will end up with the lowest tally of any Victorian club. They’ve also seen a drop off in corporate revenue and a close examination of their figures shows some interesting massaging of the money they raised in their debt reduction program.

They are also still in the precarious position of having all their eggs in the pokies basket. Number one ticket holder Julia Gillard may have kicked the Wikie proposal into the long grass for now but the reality is that as long as the Greens have control of the Senate, pokies reform will remain high on the political agenda. A major reform will happen and sooner rather than later.

The Dogs really don’t have much room to manoeuvre either. They borrowed heavily to invest in the pokies venues and are entirely reliant on those funds to operate. They also get the equal highest amount of AFL “disequal” funding along with North. You have to ask yourself why, despite a sustained period of finals appearances, and having “ownership” of the western suburbs of Melbourne, the fastest growing area in the country, the Dogs still find themselves in last place on the membership ladder.

But it isn’t all doom gloom. Just because the Dogs haven’t seen an immediate mass membership boost on the back of western suburbs population growth doesn’t mean they’ll never reap any rewards from the boom over the Westgate.

There’s no denying the Dogs have worked assiduously to try and build their presence in their booming catchment area. They face increased competition from Essendon and North in areas like Melton and Wyndhamvale but the Dogs should yet see plenty of new fans coming through in the medium term. In the immortal words of Rachel Hunter, it won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.

Then there’s the timing of it all. The AFL is a cyclical competition in nearly every way. The draft and salary cap means teams inevitably rise ands fall. Financial matters are increasingly dictated by the five year terms of the TV rights deal.

That’s where the Dogs have an advantage. They’re already one year into their rebuild. If, as I suggested above, they hit the 2012 draft hard, by the time the next TV rights deal rolls around, they should be getting back up and about it onfield. The AFL has been very specific about how it has allocated the unequal funding so it cannot simply disappear into the maw of footy department spending. That money will help the Dogs address some structural problems.

By the time of the next TV rights, I expect the chorus of Taswegians demanding their own team will rise in volume once more. I also expect either GWS or GC to be in financial difficulty, most likely GWS. The AFL is never going to cut the number of clubs, but merging (co-locating, forming a partnership, whatever they dress it up as) a smaller Melbourne club with GWS and then ending North and Hawthorn’s deals in Tassie to make way for a stand alone side would solve a number of issues for the AFL.

I doubt that will happen for a number of reasons but the calls will come. The reality is there’s four Melbourne teams who are vulnerable in a financial sense and always will be – the Dogs, North, Melbourne and St Kilda. The key is to ensure you have a chair when the music stops.

The Dogs have a grim period ahead of them on-field but they are positioned well to make sure that in four years time, they have a nice steady seat to plonk themselves down on, even if it isn’t a luxurious leather Chesterfield, if and when eyes start to be cast around for clubs in trouble.

The problem is the Dogs have had such opportunities before. A premiership in the 90s would have done them wonders. Even a single Grand Final appearance in the most recent run of success would have made a difference.

The time for Dogs to talk about stepping up has ended. They need to do it, on and off field, once and for all.

Welcome to The BigFooty News

Photo by Christian Haugen

Since 1999 BigFooty.com has been the place for footy discussion.

Now BigFootyNews.com is the place for footy news.

As well as in-depth AFL match previews and reviews we’ll have articles on footy injuries and sports medicine from Chris, your man Colm will cover the Irish players, there will be features and interviews with players, coaches and other people in the footy world.

Andy is on the Swans and Giants beat so the Sydney crowd won’t be disappointed.

Love fantasy footy? There are regular Dream Team and Supercoach articles. Amongst our writers is Impromptu, winner of Supercoach 2011.

Missing the Contested Footy blog? You’ll find some of the CF guys, including James Rose, right here in the BigFooty News.

For the punters we’ve got Brent and Josh who’ll be giving you the footy betting mail every round.

Plus of course we have our intrepid reporters on the case with every club covered, and Zain will be delving into the goings on at AFL House.

2012 is looking like a good year for footy news, if we do say so ourselves.