Ablett Needs a Saint

After both suffering defeats, one expected but disappointing and one surprising, the Gold Coast Suns and St Kilda will both be out for their first win of the season at Etihad.

The Suns took a heavy beating from the Crows at Metricon Stadium, continuing their losing streak at their home patch.

They once again failed to quell the influence of Scott Thompson, who has 124 disposals in three games against the club. St Kilda suffered a hard-fought but very disappointing loss to Port Adelaide, who had an awful 2011 season.

St Kilda started poorly, but Port Adelaide started strongly and it could have gone either way. The Suns on the other hand, did little to show they had really improved on 2011 and it’s hard to see them challenge a finalist with such a strong group of veterans like St Kilda has at hand.

Gold Coast captain Gary Ablett ran rampant against the Crows collecting 42 disposals and booting 2 goals. Ablett desperately needs mature assistance from Michael Rischitelli this weekend, and the young brigade of David Swallow, Dion Prestia and Josh Caddy need to stand up.

They welcome back Trent McKenzie who was good in his first year, but lose important forward and ruckman Daniel Gorringe who is out with an Achilles injury.

The Saints have lost Dean Polo to suspension and have dropped Farren Ray and Brett Peake, bringing in youngsters Tom Simpkin, Tom Ledger and Jack Newnes (who will make his debut). They’ll be hoping they can assist the likes of Terry Milera, who made a promising start with the Saints.

Key Match-ups

Clint Jones vs Gary Ablett – Jones is the most able, hardened tagger the Saints have and will most likely run with Gary Ablett. Ablett will no doubt still influence the game heavily, but if Jones can slow him then it instantly gives the Saints the upper hand.

Nick Riewoldt vs Steven May – Riewoldt doesn’t look to have yet regained his vintage form but still kicked two goals last weekend. A day alongside the inexperienced May could let him have the freedom he needs for a game to break the shackles. If Matthew Warnock is put on him then he might have a more hardened body to contend with.

Ben McEvoy vs Zac Smith – Smith had a fantastic first season as a young ruckman, moving with great athleticism and booting goals for his side. Can he take that form to another level this year?

He faces a great test against another strong young ruckman in McEvoy. Without the support of Gorringe and with Josh Fraser named as an emergency, he faces a tough task.

Hickey may provide limited backup, but if Smith can relish the role as essentially his side’s solo ruckman, then he could be a key to the Suns bridging the gap.

The Lowdown

Where will the goals come from for the Suns? They still lack a forward target, even moreso with Gorringe out of the side. Campbell Brown has proved a decent small forward, but the Suns simply cannot rely on a resting ruckman and their midfield brigade to kick a winning score.

A key position forward must stand up but Tom Lynch does not look ready and Charlie Dixon is not playing.

If Riewoldt gets going, with assistance coming from Milne and Koschitzke, the Suns’ defence will be stretched too thin to counteract the scoreboard pressure.

Stanley, Milera, Brendon Goddard, Nick Dal Santo, Leigh Montagna, Jack Steven and Ledger are all chances to hit the goalkicking sheets if the floodgates open.

Obviously this is another development season for the Suns and St Kilda look to be going a somewhat similar way with their selections. The problem is that St Kilda still have a core group of very strong players who are proven winners, while the Suns are too reliant on one man.

Saints by 36.
Teams:

St Kilda:

B: Jarryn Geary, Sam Gilbert, Jason Blake
HB: Jamie Cripps, Sam Fisher, Sean Dempster
C: Nick Dal Santo, Lenny Hayes, Brendan Goddard
HF: Jack Steven, Nick Riewoldt, Terry Milera
FF: Stephen Milne, Justin Koschitzke, Rhys Stanley
Followers: Ben McEvoy, Clinton Jones, Leigh Montagna
Interchange: David Armitage, Tom Simpkin, Tom Ledger, Jack Newnes
Milestones: Jack Newnes (Debut)

Gold Coast Suns:

B: Jarrod Harbrow, Matthew Warnock, Jeremy Taylor
HB: Maverick Weller, Steven May, Jared Brennan
C: Matt Shaw, David Swallow, Dion Prestia
HF: Harley Bennell, Tom Lynch, Luke Russell
FF: Campbell Brown, Tom Hickey, Brandon Matera
Followers: Zac Smith, Michael Rischitelli, Gary Ablett
Interchange: Karmichael Hunt, Trent McKenzie, Josh Caddy, Aaron Hall

BigFooty Team Board Previews:

St Kilda

Gold Coast

Follow it live in BigFooty’s Game Day Thread.

Swans to Handle Dockers

The Dockers travel to the SCG today in what looks to be one of the matches of the round.

Sydney and Fremantle are not foreign to close encounters, with the last match-up between these teams resulting in an 11-point victory to Fremantle.

Fremantle, under new coach Ross Lyon, started their 2012 campaign perfectly, beating reigning premiers Geelong in a tough fought contest.

Sydney faced AFL newcomers GWS and walked away with an expected easy victory, leaving round two as Sydney’s first real test for the year.

Fremantle certainly look to have a tougher edge in the contests under their new coach, and with Josh Kennedy, Kieran Jack, Jude Bolton, Daniel Hannebery and Ryan O’Keefe rotating through the Swans’ midfield, the Dockers will have to be at their best.

Of course, it helps when your ruckman is the giant Aaron Sandilands, who will look to give Fremantle first use of the ball wherever possible.

Key Match-ups

Aaron Sandilands vs Shane Mumford

These two will face each other at the stoppages, and it becomes not so much a question of who will win their personal battle, but rather, how much can Mumford limit Sandilands’ influence?

Competing with Sandilands in the ruck contests is difficult enough, so expect Mumford to throw himself into the congested ball in order to maintain some control on the clearance count.

Adam Goodes vs Nat Fyfe

Adam Goodes - http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevebaty/

Goodes and Fyfe appear to be very similar players: quick, lethal with the ball, accurate on goal and with an innate ability to carve a side up if given half a chance.

Obviously Fyfe is only just coming into his prime whilst Goodes has dominated for the best part of a decade, but he is equally as damaging around the stoppages.

Both are not afraid to put their head over the hard ball, but watch for their spread and carry to be vitally important on deciding who wins the game.

Lewis Jetta vs Stephen Hill

They may be lining up on opposite sides of each other, but the two livewire speedsters know they have the potential to strongly determine the result.

In the smaller confines of the SCG, their pace will become critically important, as the ability to burst out of a pack will be the difference between a shot on goal or another stoppage.

Final Say:

Fremantle’s victory at the SCG late last year shows they certainly have the ability to take the contested game style to the Swans and beat them with it, but this may be too tough a task.

Coming off a gruelling game against the Cats, and with Sydney having an extra week’s preparation, you would expect the Swans to have the fresher legs in the closing stages of the game, and with a match that promises to be a tight, close affair, that could be all that’s needed for the Swans to take the four points.

Sydney by 15 points.

Sydney Swans
B: Martin Mattner, Heath Grundy, Nicholas Smith
HB: Alex Johnson, Ted Richards, Nick Malceski
C: Daniel Hannebery, Kieren Jack, Rhyce Shaw
HF: Jarrad McVeigh, Sam Reid, Adam Goodes
F: Craig Bird, Lewis Roberts-Thomson, Ben McGlynn
Foll: Shane Mumford, Jude Bolton, Josh P. Kennedy
I/C: Ryan O’Keefe, Gary Rohan, Lewis Jetta, Luke Parker
Emg: Jesse White, Mark Seaby, Andrejs Everitt
In: Ryan O’Keefe, Rhyce Shaw
Out: Andrejs Everitt, Harry Cunningham
Milestones: Lewis Roberts-Thomson – 150 games

Fremantle
B: Nick Suban, Zac Dawson, Adam McPhee
HB: Michael Johnson, Luke McPharlin, Stephen Hill
C: Josh Mellington, Ryan Crowley, Tendai Mzungu
HF: Paul Duffield, Matthew Pavlich, Jack Anthony
F: Christopher Mayne, Kepler Bradley, Zachary Clarke
Foll: Aaron Sandilands, Nathan Fyfe, Greg Broughton
I/C: Garrick Ibbotson, Matthew de Boer, Clancee Pearce, Michael Barlow
Emg: David Mundy, Jay Van Berlo, Alex Silvagni
In: Jack Anthony
Out: Hayden Ballantyne (Suspension)
Milestones: Nick Suban – 50 games

BigFooty Team Board Previews:

Sydney

Fremantle

Follow it live on BigFooty’s Game Day Thread.

Eagles to add to Dees’ Misery

Who: West Coast Eagles v Melbourne Demons

Where: Patterson’s Stadium, Perth, WA.
Tune In: 4:30pm – Fox Footy – Channel 504.

Whoever is dealing the cards of life at the Great Poker Game in the Sky, really hates Melbourne.

Off-field, their week resembles a dramatic novel which screams to be turned into a movie.

On-field, they were insipid, directionless, leaderless, soft and lacked a hunger professional footballers should have. After the hellfire they sat through, another test arises; they must go west to face an Eagles outfit looking to climb to new heights.

Worsfold’s men, after three-quarters of fighting off a gallant and hard-working Western Bulldogs, became ruthless and proved that even with injury concerns, it is not a force to be taken lightly.

WHY SHOULD YOU TUNE IN?

Melbourne: Well, I think in all honesty, there are two reasons to tune in solely on the basis of watching Melbourne.

Will we get a coherent, noble performance which will push the Eagles all the way after a long week in the pressure cooker, or will they succumb to a doomsday scenario which could sink their entire season?

flickr.com/photos/jamesdphotography/

Aaron Davey was rightfully dropped after playing a pathetic brand of soft and uninspired football. Brad Green, James Frawley, Mitch Clark and others are on notice, and need to make a big statement.

Clark was virtually non-existent last week, except for two junk-time goals. He was beaten and out-numbered at nearly every contest he made it to, with the Melbourne gameplan going forward far too predictable for the Lions.

Mark Neeld will surely not continue to have his troops go long around the boundary, which last week highlighted his sides lack in footskills and ball movement which ultimately proved the Dees’ undoing.

Brisbane were allowed to get numbers on the fat side of the ground, allowing them to switch from any contest and score with relative ease. On the wide spaces of Subiaco, Melbourne will be slaughtered if such a game plan is re-created. Melbourne do not have the class or talent yet to play Collingwood’s tried and tested game plan.

Naturally the alternative is through the middle, which is more risky. However, Melbourne only looked dangerous when Jack Grimes, Jack Trengrove, James Magner and Jack Watts were streaming through the middle last week.

This also should be compounded with minimising stoppages. Melbourne lack a good inside midfield, and with Nic Natanui and Dean Cox destined to win a large amount of ball, keeping the ball in motion and as far away from the boundary is in the Dees’ best interests.

West Coast: Josh Kennedy could really win the Coleman. Although we are yet to see  him string together 2 or 3 blinding games, Melbourne must prepare themselves to drop back in numbers or he will be well on his way.

He must be beaten not only on the ground, but in the air, something the Dees struggled to do with mid-sized midfielder Tom Rockliff last week, who ended up at full forward and had 8 scoring shots.

Andrew Gaff and Luke Shuey will have it too easy over a Melbourne midfield and Daniel Kerr was deceptively quiet last week. With a lack of opposition insiders, he could also wind back the clock. The Cox/Nic Nat duo could also be in for a big day if Melbourne go around the boundary.

Not only at stoppages will they will win hit-outs and clearances – but will prefer the long bombs to targets on the flanks to take easy contested marks. With the wide and long ground, the Eagles could really exploit the Dees for space and score heavily.

Who Will Win?

Melbourne have far greater issues for them to focus on this game. If senior players don’t stand up and a new game plan is enacted, there could be a real flogging on the cards here. This will test Neeld’s resolve and mettle as a coach: Will he stick to his guns, or is he planning something greater for the Eagles? Whatever it is, it won’t be enough.

Eagles by 51.

West Coast Eagles
B: Beau Waters, Darren Glass, Will Schofield
HB: Adam Selwood, Eric Mackenzie, Shannon Hurn
C: Andrew Gaff, Matthew Priddis, Matthew Rosa
HF: Ashton Hams, Quinten Lynch, Jack Darling
F: Josh Hill, Josh Kennedy, Chris Masten
Foll: Dean Cox, Luke Shuey, Daniel Kerr
I/C: Andrew Embley, Scott Selwood, Nic Naitanui, Ashley Smith
Emg: Sam Butler, Patrick McGinnity, Gerrick Weedon
Milestones: Shannon Hurn – 100 games

Melbourne
B: Joel Macdonald, James Frawley, Clint Bartram
HB: Jamie Bennell, Jared Rivers, Colin Garland
C: Jack Watts, Jack Grimes, Nathan Jones
HF: Ricky Petterd, James Sellar, Jeremy Howe
F: Lynden Dunn, Mitchell Clark, Brad Green
Foll: Mark Jamar, James Magner, Jack Trengove
I/C: Matthew Bate, Stefan Martin, Rohan Bail, Jordie McKenzie
Emg: Aaron Davey, Tom McDonald, Josh Tynan
In: Lynden Dunn, Ricky Petterd, Jamie Bennell, James Sellar
Out: Aaron Davey, Brent Moloney (Groin), Sam Blease, Josh Tynan
New: James Sellar (Adelaide)

BigFooty Team Board Previews:

West Coast

Melbourne

Follow it live on BigFooty’s Game Day Threads.

 

Carlton Look to End NAB Blues

WHERE: Visy Park,

WHEN: Sunday March 18, 1pm AEST

The final game of the pre-season competition sees Carlton face North Melbourne in a contest which will see two sides desperate to take the next step in 2012.

For North Melbourne, anything but a finals appearance will be viewed as a disappointment. The form of Daniel Wells, Brent Harvey and Drew Petrie in 2011 gives the Kangaroos the building blocks for a successful September stint, and with their young stars gaining another year of experience, they appear primed for the top eight.

Carlton, on the other hand, will be looking to cement a spot in the top four and have a serious attempt at the flag in 2012.

No longer does this side rely solely upon Chris Judd – Marc Murphy, Heath Scotland, Bryce Gibbs and Kade Simpson have proved themselves as legitimate game-winning midfield options, and with several goal kicking targets, Carlton should be contending for the premiership.

Although the Kangaroos have shown promising signs throughout the NAB Cup, Carlton would be concerned having lost every contest thus far. Being the last match of the pre-season, Carlton would love to get a win to kick-start their 2012 campaign.

KEY PLAYERS:

Daniel Wells, North Melbourne: Last week saw the return of 2011’s Best and Fairest Daniel Wells after a lengthy lay-off due to a life threatening illness.

Wells was subbed on in the second-half against the Bulldogs and had an immediate impact, finding 11 possessions – including a supergoal – in a strong display. North Melbourne needs Wells to be fit and firing, and so his minutes in the last match will be closely monitored.

Chris Judd, Carlton: The two-time Brownlow medallist also returned last week, but found proceedings a little more difficult as the Blues were thumped by Brisbane by 64 points.

The Blues failed to score in the second-half and as captain, Judd will be looking to lift his side this week. He did look rusty against the Lions, so expect Judd to look better this week as he returns to the weekly routine of AFL footy.

Hamish Macintosh, North Melbourne: Macintosh’s injury-plagued 2011 came as a blessing in disguise for the Kangaroos, as it allowed Dean Goldstein to flourish as the side’s number one ruckman.

A fit Macintosh gives the Kangaroos flexibility through the middle of the ground, a huge asset for the clearances and a resting ruckman up forward can only help Petrie handle defenders.

Matthew Kreuzer, Carlton: Another big man who had injury problems in 2011 and is looking to get back to his best. Possessing a rare combination of height and speed, Kreuzer is undeniably vital to the structure of the Blues. If Carlton is struggling, it is likely Kreuzer will be moved around the ground in order to solve the problems, as he has proven himself comfortable in several positions.

What Carlton Want to See:

Although there is much debate over the meaning of the NAB Cup results, Carlton will be looking to see a much more committed effort from all players. It is always a concern when you’re held scoreless for a half, so there are definite issues coach Brett Ratten needs to address.

Carlton will publicly state that the losses are irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, and whilst that may be the case, they would love a win here just to ease the pressure coming into the season.

The stars get another chance to prepare for round one, and after Judd’s shaky start last week you would expect him to be champing at the bit to get the first strong performance of 2012 out of the way.

With this the last chance for an inconsequential match, you would expect Ratten to select a line-up close to their expected 22 for round one and any fringe players selected will be using this as a chance to consolidate their spots.

What North Melbourne Want to See:

North Melbourne’s pre-season has been relatively successful, so one expects that they will just be hoping to get through the contest without any injuries to any of their key players.

Wells will likely see more game time than last week as he gets himself closer to full fitness, and like Carlton, North Melbourne will be playing a strong side in order to fully prepare their list for the premiership season.

The Kangaroos will specifically be looking for the younger players like Shaun Atley, Ryan Bastinac and Ben Cunnington to continually improve and provide further support to their captain Andrew Swallow and the ageless Harvey as they head into season 2012.

Prediction:

On paper, Carlton seems like the stronger side, but that is largely irrelevant in the pre-season competition as history indicates.

Expect the Kangaroos to be competitive right until the end, but Carlton appears to have the edge.

Carlton by 9 points.

TEAMS:

CARLTON
2. Jordan Russell, 3. Marc Murphy, 4. Bryce Gibbs, 5. Chris Judd, 6. Kade Simpson, 8. Matthew Kreuzer, 9. Kane Lucas, 10. Matthew Watson, 12. Mitch Robinson, 13. Chris Yarran, 14. Brock McLean, 18. Paul Bower, 19. Eddie Betts, 22. Shaun Hampson, 23. Lachie Henderson, 27. Dennis Armfield, 29. Heath Scotland, 30. Jarrad Waite, 31. Marcus Davies, 32. Bret Thornton, 35. Ed Curnow, 38. Jeffrey Garlett, 42. Zach Tuohy, 44. Andrew Carrazzo, 45. Aaron Joseph

NORTH MELBOURNE
1. Hamish McIntosh, 3. Ryan Bastinac, 4. Liam Anthony, 6. Lachie Hansen, 8. Daniel Wells, 9. Andrew Swallow, 10. Ben Cunnington, 11. Michael Firrito, 12. Lindsay Thomas, 13. Leigh Adams, 16. Scott Thompson, 18. Shaun Atley, 19. Sam Wright, 20. Drew Petrie, 22. Todd Goldstein, 23. Kieran Harper, 25. Robbie Tarrant, 27. Aaron Edwards, 29. Brent Harvey, 31. Cameron Delaney, 33. Matt Campbell, 34. Jamie Macmillan, 41. Aaron Mullett, 42. Scott McMahon, 43. Sam Gibson

BIGFOOTY BOARD TEAM PREVIEWS

Carlton

North Melbourne

Follow the game live on BigFooty’s Game Day Threads. 

Malthouse Protégés Battle in Second Round of NAB Cup

NAB Cup LogoCOVERAGE GUIDE

Etihad Stadium, Saturday March 3, 7.40pm AEDT

Television: FoxFooty 7.30pm

Radio: SEN, 3AW, Triple M.

ANALYSIS

One gets the feeling that both Melbourne and Collingwood will be welcoming the roof of Etihad Stadium with open arms tomorrow night in their Round 2 clash of the NAB Cup.

Both sides struggled in the first round under trying conditions and will be looking to impress in what is sure to be the perfect environment.

Although the Magpies managed to win both their contests, neither victory was convincing with the Pies needing a freakish late goal from Jackson Paine to beat newcomers Greater Western Sydney by three points.

Slippery conditions saw most players struggle with clean possession which caused basic handling errors, something Melbourne’s first round contest was also rife with.

Torrential rain before the game left Metricon Stadium a pool, leaving Melbourne in a dour struggle which saw them splitting victories with Brisbane and Gold Coast.

With both sides ravaged by injuries throughout the pre-season, one senses that both will be content to leave Etihad Stadium without further injury concerns, no matter what the result may be.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Scott Pendlebury, Collingwood: In his first hit-out for the year, the 2010 Norm Smith Medallist will be looking to start his year in the same fashion he finished his last – at the complete peak of his skills. When he is in form he can mesmerise with deft ball use around stoppages and can be a nightmare to contain. If Melbourne want to win they need to limit his output.

James Magnar, Melbourne: The only experience Magnar has at the AFL level is from last week, yet expectations are quickly rising due to his impressive performance in wet conditions. With Melbourne’s injury list allowing a few potential rookie elevations, another quality game from Magnar could see him quickly in the running for a Round 1 spot in the Demons side.

Marty Clarke, Collingwood: A lot of eyes will be on the Irishman and whether he will slot straight back into a strong Magpies lineup to fill the position left vacant by Leon Davis’ departure. Clarke needs to show he can still adapt to the Australian game after spending the last two years playing Gaelic Football in his home country.

MELBOURNE:

After several years languishing at the bottom of the ladder, new coach Mark Neeld will be looking for a consistent four-quarter effort to showcase that Melbourne is finally ready to contend for finals once again.

Collingwood is expected to finish in the top four this season so they provide the perfect opportunity for Melbourne to evaluate their players on the cusp of their best 22.

With several new recruits impressing last week, players such as Jamie Bennell and Lynden Dunn need to play well in order to remain in contention for a Round 1 spot.

COLLINGWOOD:

Having lost Brent Macaffer and Andrew Krakeour to serious ACL injuries last week, several spots have now opened up in what was a settled Collingwood side.

Although the Pies will bring back premiership stars Scott Pendlebury, Travis Cloke, Sharrod Wellingham and Ben Reid, the major focal point for the match will be whether Collingwood’s emerging stars can continue to develop.

Tom Young, Peter Yagmoor, Shae McNamara and Jarrod Witts all showed signs of being capable AFL players, and with Collingwood’s injury woes continuing, there are spots available if they perform to the standard set last round.

PREDICTION

With Collingwood regaining several stars into the line up for their first competitive match of 2012, it is hard to see a developing Melbourne side winning.

The Magpies ooze class all over the field, and with Melbourne missing co-captains Jack Trengove and Jack Grimes, Collingwood should overwhelm the Demons.

Against an experienced side that will likely play deep into September; Neeld should be quite happy with his side remaining competitive. However, Collingwood appear too strong for Melbourne to stay with them for four quarters.

Collingwood by 46 points.

TEAMS

COLLINGWOOD
1. Alex Fasolo, 5. Nick Maxwell, 9. Martin Clarke, 10. Scott Pendlebury, 12. Luke Ball, 13. Dale Thomas, 14. Luke Rounds, 18. Darren Jolly, 20. Ben Reid, 21. Sharrod Wellingham, 22. Steele Sidebottom, 23. Lachlan Keeffe, 25. Tom Young, 27. Simon Buckley, 28. Ben Sinclair, 29. Jonathan Ceglar, 31. Chris Dawes, 32. Travis Cloke, 33. Jackson Paine, 34. Alan Toovey, 36. Dane Swan, 37. Kirk Ugle, 38. Peter Yagmoor. 39. Heath Shaw, 46. Marley Williams, 47. Michael Hartley, 48. Caolan Mooney, 49. Paul Cribbin, 50. Shae McNamara

MELBOURNE
2. Nathan Jones, 4. Jack Watts, 5. Jordan Gysberts, 6. Matthew Bate, 7. Jamie Bennell, 8. James Frawley, 12. Colin Sylvia, 14. Lynden Dunn, 15. Ricky Petterd, 17. Sam Blease, 18. Brad Green, 20. Colin Garland, 21. Lucas Cook, 25.Tom McDonald, 26. Daniel Nicholson, 28. Joel MacDonald, 30. James Sellar, 34. Stefan Martin, 36. Aaron Davey, 38. Jeremy Howe, 40. Mark Jamar, 41. Troy Davis, 44. Rohan Bail, 45. Kelvin Lawrence, 46. Josh Tynan, 47. Tom Couch, 48. Jack Fitzpatrick, 49. James Magner, 50. Jai Sheahan

Hawthorn Hawks 2012 Season Preview

Hawthorn Hawks
2011 Stats
Ladder Position:
3rd
Win/Loss: 18/4
Percentage: 144.12%

Hawthorn’s 2012 was bordering on elite, but in a competition with such cream at the top it becomes difficult to work out a winner. In the end, it took a battling, scrappy preliminary final and for Hawthorn to get run over in the final quarter to knock them out of the premiership chase.

Thus, 2012 shall be a flag push for the Hawks. This is where the list was planned to be entering its flag window, with the 2008 season being almost a bonus for the club. Premierships are not easy things to win, but Hawthorn certainly stand a great chance.

Of course, it won’t be easy. Winning a flag never is. Hawthorn play West Coast, Geelong and Collingwood twice, as well as Sydney and Port Adelaide. Furthermore, they only have to make three interstate trips, excluding their Tasmanian games. Finally, after their Rnd 13 bye they will only play twice outside of Melbourne, giving them a comfortable run in.

Key Players
Lance Franklin – Buddy’s stellar 2011 can only be topped by adding both a Coleman and another premiership medallion to his collection. Hopefully a few magic moments for our highlight reel too.

Luke Hodge – The captain will have been hurt, as will the whole side, by the 2011 loss, and

Sam Mitchell – Mitchell’s near-Brownlow season in 2011 was very, very good. Makes you wonder whether he’d prefer that or a flag.

Young Guns
Matt Suckling – Following up his breakout 2011 will be the goal for Suckling this time around.

Jack Gunston – Gunston will be looking to break into the Hawthorn forward line as a medium-forward option, and his form at Adelaide certainly suggested he could.

Luke Breust – Breust’s quality 2011 along with that familiar sound from the stands will hopefully become even more entrenched in the vernacular.

Final Words
The Hawks were barely beaten in their 2011 challenge. 2012 sees them favourites for a reason. Flags do take a little bit of luck, but assuming that arrives then it will be no surprise to see Hawthorn on the last Saturday in September.

Prediction
1st-3rd

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GZ9AuXWsio

Carlton Blues 2012 Season Preview

Carlton Blues

2011
Ladder Position: 5th
Win/Loss: 14/7 (1 Draw)
Percentage: 130.88

After two consecutive Elimination Final exits in close encounters, Carlton finally managed to snare that elusive finals win in prolific fashion against rival Essendon. The win was the club’s first finals victory since 2001.

Carlton emphatically responded to claims that their forward line was too small to be consistently damaging. For the first time since Brendan Fevola departed the club in the 2009 trade period, a player posted over 50 goals in the one season; Andrew Walker converted 56 goals in his breakout season as a lead-up forward, Eddie Betts kicked a career-best 50 goals and Jeff Garlett just missed out on the half ton with 48 goals to his name.

With the focal point of Carlton’s line-up, the midfield, continuing to provide consistently effective performances, the Blues were able to focus on developing both the defence and forward lines. Forward prospect Lachlan Henderson made the transition to defence after key defender Michael Jamison was struck down by injury and found his feet against some of the best in the business, and Chris Yarran cemented himself as a gut-busting rebound defender. Up the other end of the field, Andrew Walker claimed the club’s leading goalkicker award while Bret Thornton claimed vital goals late in the season.

The combination of a solid core group of players and strategic drafting has put Carlton in a prime position for a top four finish. After making finals for three years in a row, a club with a history as rich as Carlton will be aching to improve its lowly record of one win from four finals appearances.

Key Players:
Chris Judd – No points for originality, but it’s hard to look past one of the greats of the modern game. There’s no point reeling off his personal achievements – we already know how good the man is – but with age slowly becoming a factor, Judd now faces a new challenge as he looks to lead the Blues in a successful campaign.
Marc Murphy – With Chris Judd claiming the opposition’s number one tagger, Murphy has a golden opportunity to win the lion’s share of the football. With precise delivery and incredible ball skills, Murphy could solidify himself as one of the best midfielders in the competition.
Michael Jamison – In what is expected to be a huge season for the club, Jamison will be required to continue his defensive efforts against the opposition’s best key forwards, as he has done in previous years. With pace to burn and a big body, Jamison won’t make it easy for the best forwards in the business to get a clean grab.

Young Guns:
Mitch Robinson – Just the presence of Robinson is enough to put off the opposition, but Mitch is much more than just a menacing face. His inspirational tackling skills are enough to turn games around, but with great disposal and an eye for goal, Carlton has a real treat in its possession.
Chris Yarran – Having made the transition from crumbing forward to rebound defender, Yarran wasted no time implementing himself on the competition with his trademark runs out of defence. Possessing that goal-poaching ability as well as sensational speed means Yarran can be used in a number of roles.
Kane Lucas – Although Lucas had a season ravaged by injury in 2011, the up-and-coming midfielder has all the traits to slot into the senior side as a gut-busting winger. His ability to claim the football and run with it is not to be underestimated.

Final Words:
On paper, Carlton has all the qualities of a premiership team. However, converting potential to success has been the Blues’ biggest challenge in recent years and will again stare them in the face in 2012. If all gels together on the field, there’s no saying what Carlton could achieve.

Prediction:
2nd-5th

St Kilda Saints 2012 Season Preview

St Kilda Saints

2011 Stats
Ladder Position: 6th
Wins/Losses: 12/9 (1 Draw)
Percentage:
112.76%

2011 was more a hangover for the Saints than anything else. After two seasons of coming so close to premierships, they started extremely slowly and were embroiled in questions of whether they were capable of challenging again. Their finals appearance saw them lose to Sydney, then the off-season controversy with the surprise departure of Ross Lyon to Fremantle.

2012, however, poses problems. The Saints were in salary cap trouble at the end of 2011, and the same problem will surely hit come the end of 2012. Star midfielder Brendan Goddard is out of contract at the end of the season and believed to be a target for GWS. They have a new coach and a resulting new gameplan. And there is the question of whether their ageing talent is good enough to make one more finals tilt.

Their draw is not necessarily too easy either. They play both Carlton and Sydney twice, as well as the Bulldogs, Melbourne and Gold Coast. Six interstate trips do not help the load either.

Key Players
Nick Riewoldt – Can he lead the Saints to one more Grand Final? Riewoldt has been a great for St Kilda, but many greats have no premierships.

Brendan Goddard – Cue the ‘Is he going to GWS?’ speculation. Goddard will have all the lights of Ablett 2010 and Scully 2011 on him – even moreso, perhaps, with GWS playing in the competition and their weaknesses being discovered.

Lenny Hayes – Hayes suffered a season-ending knee in 2011, and the veteran will need to be back at his best if the Saints are going to challenge in 2012.

Young Guns
Arryn Siposs –
Siposs debuted in 2011 but didn’t have a great time, playing only five games before being dropped and then injured. Look for him to break in and have a run of games.

Rhys Stanley – The young key position prospect played well in 2011 when Riewoldt was injured, and will look to break into the side on merit rather than on replacement in 2012.

Beau Wilkes – While not young in relative terms, Wilkes will be looking to restart his stalled AFL career and break into the team as quickly as possible.

Final Words
The Saints really are running out of time before they are genuinely out of contention, but simply just don’t look to be good enough now to give it one more shot. However, don’t rule them out in giving September a crack.

Prediction
5th-9th

Essendon Bombers 2012 Season Preview

Essendon Bombers

 

2011 Stats
Ladder Position:
8th
Win/Loss: 11/10 (1 Draw)
Percentage: 100.00%

Essendon’s 2011 marked a return to the rise that had seemingly stalled in 2010. Under new coach James Hird, the side was harder, more defensive and far fitter, leading to an Elimination Final defeat against Carlton. This philosophy has continued into the off-season, with reports of them training just as hard despite off-field struggles to find a new training base.

2012 sees Essendon look to push onward and continue to challenge in September. However, there will also be drama, with Michael Hurley a potential GWS target as well as questions over the ‘three talls’ of Bellchambers, Hille and Ryder.

Their draw is not easy though. They face, as always, two games against Collingwood, with the ANZAC Day clash always a contest. Essendon also will face two games against Carlton, as well as Richmond, North Melbourne and Port Adelaide. However, what is more notable is the four-day break that they face between their Round 4 clash against Carlton and the ANZAC Day game, as well as their final month, which will see them face all of North Melbourne, Carlton, Richmond and Collingwood to make or break their finals chances.

Key Players
Jobe Watson – Watson was in Brownlow form until injury struck him down in 2011. Similar form and an injury-free year will do wonders for the Bombers.

Heath Hocking – Revealed to be almost as valuable when he was suspended in 2011, Hocking’s role as an inside mid and tagger will be crucial to Essendon stopping the big sides.

Brent Stanton – The oft-maligned midfielder is a key link in the Essendon midfield with his endurance and disposal, and will be looked upon to continue his good form of 2011.

Young Guns
Dyson Heppell
– The 2011 Rising Star went from strength to strength, and will continue to be invaluable with his disposal and time on the ball.

Michael Hurley – The GWS cloud will float over Hurley in 2012 as he continues to build himself into a powerful key forward.

Stewart Cramieri – The former rookie was a sensation in 2011, and will continue to be a dangerous part of Essendon’s forward line.

Final Thoughts
Although the class is starting to show in Essendon’s line-up, questions of depth beyond the first-choice players as well as areas of missing quality could certainly see them struggle.

Prediction
6th-10th

 

 

Ethan also did a preview, but fell asleep at his keyboard and missed the deadline. Here it is:

2011:
Ladder Position: 8th
Win/Loss: 11-10 (1 draw)
Percentage: 100.00

New coach James Hird had some work to do with Essendon in 2011, after the team slipped from eighth in 2009 to fourteenth in 2010, leading to the sacking of Matthew Knights. It seemed from Hird’s first year on the job that the team simply lacked inspiration as a man with Hird’s calibre delivered in spades.

The team rose back up to eighth in 2011, and despite going down fairly easily in the elimination final to Carlton, Hird’s men showed they had what it takes to become a serious AFL side, with the victory over eventual premiers Geelong a scalp to remember.

David Zaharakis won the best and fairest in his third season ahead of players such as stalwart Dustin Fletcher, rising star Dyson Heppell and captain Jobe Watson, showing that he has what it takes to become a prominent figure in Essendon’s midfield and forward line in years to come.

Fletcher proved he still has it (the Jeff Garlett tackle comes to mind) and his new role as assistant coach and selection panelist alongside his playing duties should only benefit the team with his now-even-more-valuable insight. Heppell showed the AFL he’s a star in the making with his assurance out of the back half culminating in winning the Rising Star award while Watson’s leadership and pure overall skill as a midfielder was invaluable despite his time on the sidelines during the season.

Looking at Essendon’s list, it seems that they’ve got the talls and the smalls down pat at both ends of the ground and in the ruck. If there was to be one weakness, it was the midfield – the losses of Watson and Hocking at various stages uncovering holes in the side. However, with players such as Elliot Kavanagh, a highly-skilled draftee, and Jake Melksham, a hard-nosed young  midfielder with a full season just completed, it seems that this is the transition year.

It’s the year in which Essendon should transfer from developing the side to being the side. Their likely best 22 (or best 30, for that matter) for the next few years should come from the players they have now, and those players are young and talented. Provided there’s no catastrohpes or unlikely events Essendon won’t go lower than the eighth spot they claimed last year (nor should they for the next four or five, presuming things go to plan) and they should look to aim for a home final.

Key Players:

Michael Hurley: He could very comfortably slot into the Young Guns category, but Michael is a class above that. It’s actually hard to believe he’s only 21, such is his quality – capable to playing as a key forward and a key defender, presenting himself as a highly competitive and capable player at either end, and deservedly placing in the top three in Essendon’s best and fairest. To top it off, he hasn’t even reached 50 AFL games yet. He screams ‘superstar’.

Heath Hocking: Essendon’s contested king proved how valuable he was to Essendon in 2011 from the games he missed as well as the games he didn’t – Essendon did not win one game without him in the side. A former rookie, Hocking works in and under, winning clearances and preventing them, with high stats in either category, and is vital to Essendon’s future premiership endeavours.

Jobe Watson: It’s hard to ignore and exclude Essendon’s best player and captain from this list. Watson’s class through the centre and ability to win the footy and use it effectively is vital to the Bombers, as he seems to know exactly what to do with it in his hands. No doubt he’ll play a pivotal role as an inside and outside midfielder and in captaining the side, but also in mentoring the young midfielders coming through the system at Windy Hill, as the leader of what could potentially be a midfield line-up a class above most.

Young Guns:

Dyson Heppell: There’s no doubt that Happell well and truly slots straight under this category after winning the 2011 Rising Star award. The one with the cool head in a crisis averaged 21 disposals a game, topping the club in marks and handballs, and his quality ball use out of the backline made sure the ball could keep going forward in the hands of a Bomber. Hopefully he’s not one to suffer from second-year blues and he has another prosperous year.

Elliot Kavanagh: Essendon’s first draft pick (pick 19) in the 2011 AFL draft could have gone top 10 if it weren’t for hamstring issues, and from all reportsthey haven’t affected him this pre-season. He should slot straight into Essendon’s midfield on the wing, providing pace and skill to the Dons’ outfit. Provided his hamstrings don’t trouble him, he has the tools to make an early impact on the league.

Jake Melksham: The rock-headed midfielder played every game for the Bombers in 2011 and while he didn’t soar as high as some drafted around him, expect that to change this year with a full season and pre-season under his belt. His best-on-ground performance against Geelong should start to occur more often in what is sure to be a pleasing sight for the Essendon faithful.

Final Words: It seems like the only way is up for the Bombers. They shouldn’t descend on the ladder with their list yet.

Prediction: 5th-9th