AFL 2012 Season Preview – Part 1

Andy’s Time Capsule

Premiers: Hawthorn @ 4.50 (TAB Sportsbet)
Wooden Spoon: GWS @ 1.15 (Sportingbet, TAB Sportsbet)
Brownlow Medal: Joel Selwood @ 13.00 to win and 4.00 to place (TAB Sportsbet)
Coleman Medal: Lance Franklin @ 3.00 (Centrebet, Sportingbet)
Rising Star: Jared Polec @ 12.00 (Centrebet)


Brownlow Medal: Bernie Vince @ 501.00 to win and 126.00 to place (TAB Sportsbet)
Coleman Medal: Michael Hurley @ 101.00 (TAB Sportsbet)
Rising Star: Clay Smith @ 31.00 (Centrebet)


1. Hawthorn
2. Geelong
3. Collingwood
4. Carlton
5. West Coast
6. Fremantle
7. St Kilda
8. Richmond
9. Adelaide
10. Sydney
11. North Melbourne
12. Essendon
13. Western Bulldogs
14. Melbourne
15. Brisbane
16. Port Adelaide
17. Gold Coast
18. GWS


Club by Club Preview (Part 1)

For Part 2 click here


Last Season: 14th

Key players in: Lewis Johnston (Sydney), Tom Lynch (St Kilda)

Key players out: Phil Davis (GWS), Jack Gunston (Hawthorn), Ivan Maric (Richmond), Scott Stevens (Retired)

Summary: I nearly slotted the pre-season champions in for a finals position this season, but held off for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the club lack experience in the backline. Ben ‘The Truck’ Rutten is one of the best full backs in the league, but he will be surrounded by developing players after Nathan Bock went to Gold Coast last season and Phil Davis was poached by GWS for this one, while Scott Stevens’ retirement is not to be underestimated and the dependable defender will be missed. So I have a query on the Crows defence, and I am also concerned at the way Adelaide fell away last season after significant pre-season hype and a defeat of Hawthorn in Round 1.

Alright, on to the positive stuff! Bernie Vince is finally showing signs of turning into the player I thought he would become after a really impressive finals series in 2009. Vince has all the tools to be a superstar of the competition with his ball winning ability and running capacity, and hopefully 2012 will be the year he puts it together. Scott Thompson will certainly be hoping so as the Crows ball magnet carried the team throughout 2011 and needs to get some help from his mates. Adelaide’s attacking potency has also got me excited as Kurt Tippett and Taylor Walker have the potential to be the league’s best goalkicking double act. Tippett is the tall marking option, while Walker prefers to use his pace on the lead and the two styles should complement nicely. This could also be Patrick Dangerfield’s break-out season. Dangerfield doubles as both an explosive midfielder and dangerous small forward, and is gifted with being able to influence a match with limited disposals. If he can get his hands on the footy a bit more, the finals are a real possibility.

Ultimately, there is too much of the p word for Adelaide. P being potential. If everything goes right (including the performance of new coach Brenton Sanderson) Adelaide will make the finals, but seasons where everything goes right are very rare and I can see the Crows just missing out. The list is promising though, and I think they are only a couple of years from being a league powerhouse again.

Andy’s Prediction: 9th

Premiership Odds: 34.00 (TAB Sportsbet)

Finals Odds: 1.85 (TAB Sportsbet)



Last season: 15th

Key players in: Jordan Lisle (Hawthorn), Ben Hudson (Western Bulldogs)

Key players out: Mitch Clark (Melbourne), Luke Power (GWS), Jamie Charman (Retired)

Summary: Brisbane have been treading water for a couple of seasons under Michael Voss and the coach is now embarking on his fourth season at the helm of the Lions. Things were rosy in at beginning, a finals victory in 2009 was an impressive start, however a strong recruiting push before season 2010 backfired and Brisbane were left with too many experienced players nearing retirement and not enough young talent coming through. The lessons have been learnt and the last two off-seasons have been spent recruiting as many young kids as possible. Mitch Clark’s defection to Melbourne is a big loss, although Matthew Leueberger’s continued development as a ruckman should soften Clark’s departure.

Tom Rockliff and Jack Redden are fast establishing themselves as two of the competition’s best possession winners and will be hoping to be more damaging with their disposals this year. Daniel Rich is one such sublime ball user, although the blonde-haired midfielder hasn’t risen to the heights expected of him since taking out the Rising Star award for his 2009 debut season. If Rich progresses in 2012, the Lions midfield will be more than adequate, especially with the continued form of veteran Simon Black.

It is within the 50m arcs where Brisbane will struggle this season. Jonathan Brown is one of the game’s best forwards, however the big man doesn’t score any goals when he is injured on the sidelines, which is all too often these days. With Clark’s exit, there are no other standout marking options in attack, while I’m not sold on the Daniel Merrett and Matt Maguire combination down back.

2012 will be another year of pain for the Lions, although their investment in youth will pay dividends in the long run.

Andy’s Prediction: 15th

Premiership Odds: 151.00 (TAB Sportsbet)

Finals Odds: 8.00 (Centrebet)



Last season: Semi Final

Key players in:

Key players out: Setanta O’hAilpin (GWS), Ryan Houlihan (Retired)

Summary: In 2009 the Carlton membership slogan brashly declared, “They know we’re coming!” Three consecutive finals appearances later and it would appear the proud club is on the right track, however the trip is more like a stopping all stations service rather than an express, with the Blues finally winning a final last season after unlucky elimination final defeats in 2009 and 2010.

How far the Blues progress in 2012 will be down to how much improvement can be made in the defensive and attacking key position posts. Since the departure of Brendan Fevola after the 2009 season, coach Brett Ratten has been able to patch up the forward line and increase the spread of goalkickers, but Carlton still lack a big presence who can consistently take a pack mark, the type which are so important in the contested finals football environment. Matthew Kreuzer is the man most capable of doing this and hopefully he will be given the opportunity to spend more time forward as Robbie Warnock rucks around the ground. Jarrod Waite’s return from injury gives the Blues another marking option, but Waite is better on the lead and I expect him to play the role of lead up forward, pushing out to the half forward flank and linking the defence to attack.

In the backline, Michael Jamison is the most important man and he was sorely missed last year as he spent a large chunk of time on the treatment table. If Jamison can get fit and keep fit, and Lachie Henderson continues to flourish as a re-invented defender, Carlton’s backline starts to look a lot more frugal. Chris Yarran’s amazing run and rebound from defence is also crucial to the side and is often the first sequence in a move that ends with a goal.

Carlton’s midfield is supremely talented, containing dual Brownlow medallist Chris Judd, elite midfielder Marc Murphy, skillful ball user Bryce Gibbs and plenty of others. Kade Simpson is the perfect wingman, zipping up and down the field all game, while Mitch Robinson is the ideal physical presence to compliment the ball players.

When their game plan is up and running, Carlton are good enough to beat anyone, however the best teams have generally been able to restrict them as proven by a 0-6 record against top 4 teams last season. Carlton are good enough to break into that top 4, but I can’t see them being able to beat all of them in September.

Andy’s Prediction: Preliminary Final

Premiership Odds: 9.00 (TAB Sportsbet)

Finals Odds: 1.25 (TAB Sportsbet)



Last season: Grand Final

Key players in: Marty Clarke (Ireland)

Key players out: Leon Davis (Retired), Leigh Brown (Retired), John McCarthy (Port Adelaide), Brad Dick (West Coast)

Summary: It is a season of transition for Collingwood, and it needs to be. Despite dominating most of the competition last year, Geelong were able to beat the Magpies three times during 2011, and Hawthorn should have taken them down in the Preliminary Final. The very best teams found a way to break through Collingwood’s manic forward press and new coach Nathan Buckley will need to tweak the game plan. The Pies are in a similar sort of position to where the cats were a season ago. A dominant team with a strategy superseded by other clubs and a new rookie coach brought in. Whereas Chris Scott was a new voice in Geelong’s dressing room, Buckley is an ex-Collingwood player and has been on the coaching staff for the plast two season. Scott also came in at a time the players seemed to be growing apart from Mark Thompson, while the rapport between outgoing Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse and his players appeared to be very strong and Buckley will need good early results to earn the players’ faith and trust.

Collingwood’s off-season could hardly have been worse, losing Leon Davis to a contract dispute, both Brent Macaffer and Andrew Krakouer to season ending knee injuries, while many other senior players have niggling injuries and will start the season late.

Collingwood still have all the tools of a premiership contender, a power forward (Travis Cloke), a spread of goalkickers, a big-bodied ruckman (Darren Jolly), elite midfielders (Dane Swan, Scott Pendlebury, Dale Thomas), a top-line clearance player (Luke Ball), midfield depth, capable tall defenders (Chris Tarrant, Ben Reid, Nathan Brown) and rebounding defenders (Harry O’Brien and Heath Shaw), so they are good enough to win the flag, however there are more ifs going into this season than there were for last year – and the Magpies didn’t win it last year.

Andy’s Prediction: Preliminary Final

Premiership Odds: 3.75 (Sportingbet)

Finals Odds: 1.10 (TAB Sportsbet)



Last season: Elimination Final

Key players in: None

Key players out: Andrew Welsh (Retired), Mark Williams (Retired)

Summary: Essendon come into season 2012 in a similar shape to 2010. The Bombers exceeded most people’s expectations in 2009 by making the finals. However, the unexpected climb into the finals only resulted in an elimination final thumping. That 2009 season raised expectations for 2010, which were not met and coach Matthew Knights was sacked late in the season. James Hird took over for the 2011 campaign and the results were eerily similar to that 2009 season, with a surprising run to the finals only rewarded with another elimination final hiding.

The Bombers will be hoping to build on their 2011 season and press for more finals action this year, although I am concerned about a lack of depth in the Essendon playing squad. Jobe Watson holds the midfield together and last year’s mid-season slump coincided with a Watson hamstring injury. The skipper will need more support from the younger generation coming through, notably David Zaharakis and Jake Melksham.

Michael Hurley looms as a potential key-forward saviour for the Bombers. The youngster recently signed a new deal, committing to the club when many expected him to follow the big money and sign with GWS. Hurley is a great mark and kick for goal and has been playing as a permanent forward this pre-season after spending his first three years switching between defence and attack. Playing as a key forward, I expect Hurley to bag at least 50 goals this year and win the Bombers a couple of games off his own boot.

Essendon’s bottom 5-10 players are my query, and although I’m looking forward to some exciting red and black victories, 2012 might just be a reality check for coach Hird and the club will be best served developing some more midfielders for the future.

Andy’s Prediction: 12th

Premiership Odds: 41.00 (Centrebet, Sportingbet)

Finals Odds: 2.00 (TAB Sportsbet)



Last season: 11th

Key players in: Zac Dawson (St Kilda)

Key players out: Rhys Palmer (GWS), Byron Schammer (Retired), Roger Hayden (Retired)

Summary: Many pundits expect Fremantle, under new coach Ross Lyon, to be this season’s big improvers. I think they will be too, but mostly because their playing list couldn’t possibly be decimated by injuries like it was last year. Lyon’s defensive ethos will definitely help, although I firmly believe sacked coach Mark Harvey had the team heading in the right direction and was a victim of his, and the club’s, success from 2010.

Big Aaron Sandilands is believed to be over his toe injury and is all set to dominate the ruck like he used to do. Nat Fyfe’s development from promising half-forward to gun midfielder looks set to continue after an impressive pre-season, while everywhere man Matthew Pavlich is likely to be used closer to goal. The fitness of Sandilands will be crucial as the Dockers could even threaten the top 4 if the big man can stay on the park.

Lyon’s focus on defending was both lauded and criticised while he was at the Saints. It may not make for a good spectacle, but I’m all for it as the best defensive team usually wins the grand final. I think it will be very successful at the Dockers as they have enough creativity in the midfield and attack to post a decent score while still sticking to their defensive duties.

There is a massive question mark on the ability of Sandilands to see out a whole season and the ability of key midfielder David Mundy to slot straight back in after a long injury layoff. I am also unsure how Lyon’s game plan of squeezing the opposition, so effective with St Kilda on the tight Etihad Stadium, will work on the wide open spaces at Pattersons Stadium. Nevertheless, Freo are a great bet to make the top 8.

Andy’s Prediction: Semi Final

Premiership Odds: 21.00 (Multiple Sites)

Finals Odds: 1.90 (TAB Sportsbet)



Last season: Premiers

Key players in: None

Key players out: Cameron Ling (Retired), Brad Ottens (Retired), Cameron Mooney (Retired), Darren Milburn (Retired), Mark Blake (Retired)

Summary: Dad’s army, too slow, over the hill and past it were just some the phrases used to describe Geelong in the lead up to last season. By the end of 2011, the words Premiers and too good replaced them! The Cats were reinvigorated by the magnificent leadership of rookie coach Brad Scott and managed their list superbly to ensure their veteran key players were fit and fresh come finals time.

Their backline, led by Matthew Scarlett, is the best in the business, with Harry Taylor and Tom Lonergan often taking the two most dangerous opposition talls, while Scarlett does as he pleases and Corey Enright still flies under the radar accumulating possessions and restricting his opponents. The midfield is also packed with stars, including Joel Selwood, Jimmy Bartel and James Kelly, with many other players capable of being rotated through the center.

Up forward, James ‘J-Pod’ Podsiadly and Tom Hawkins are a couple of big units capable of turning a match, while Steve Johnson and Paul Chapman have freakish ability and longevity as forward flankers. The Cats blooded a few youngsters last season as they managed their senior players through the campaign and this had the added benefit of unearthing some tidy little footballers, like Allen Christensen and Daniel Menzel, which will help soften the blow as the big names continue to retire over the coming years.

After the retirement of Brad Ottens, Geelong’s main weakness is in the ruck and mature age recruit Orren Stephenson has been picked up to assist young Trent West. The good news for the Cats is that main rivals Hawthorn and Collingwood aren’t particularly strong in the ruck either. I reckon Geelong will again make the showpiece decider this season, however their grand final nemesis, Hawthorn, might reappear to deny them back to back flags.

Andy’s Prediction: Grand Final

Premiership Odds: 4.75 (Centrebet, Sportingbet)

Finals Odds: 1.15 (Multiple Sites)


Gold Coast

Last season: 17th

Key players in: Matthew Warnock (Melbourne)

Key players out: Daniel Harris (Retired), Nathan Krakouer (Retired)

Summary: Hopefully people don’t expect too much from the Suns too soon and get impatient as victories again prove elusive this season. Growing a team around a core group of draft picks is a bit like watching grass grow. If you don’t take your eyes off it nothing seems to change, however if you step back and remember what it used to be like, you’ll see the difference. That’s what it will be like for the Suns this year. I don’t think they’ll get many more wins than they did last year, however I’m very confident the margin of their defeats will reduce – don’t forget that last season the Suns lost 14 out of 22 games by 50 points or more.

Not much will change from the senior players, Gary Ablett will still be a superstar and Nathan Bock’s late season move up forward will become permanent. The main gains will be from the continued development of young and talented players such as David Swallow, Zac Smith and even rugby convert Karmichael Hunt has been impressive during pre-season.

If the Suns remain patient and stick to developing their young guns, they will be challenging for the finals in 2-3 seasons. Don’t expect it to happen any sooner though!

Andy’s Prediction: 17th

Premiership Odds: 251.00 (TAB Sportsbet)

Finals Odds: 21.00 (TAB Sportsbet)



Last season: N/A

Key players in: Callan Ward (Western Bulldogs), Tom Scully (Melbourne), Phil Davis (Adelaide), Luke Power (Brisbane), Chad Cornes (Port Adelaide), Rhys Palmer (Fremantle), Dean Brogan (Port Adelaide), Setanta O’hAilpin (Carlton), Sam Reid (Western Bulldogs), James McDonald (out of retirement)

Key players out: None

Summary: I have cheated a little bit with this preview as I am writing it after the Giants have already played their first game of the 2012 regular season. This has given me the chance to properly assess the competition’s newest club in a meaningful match, and I was pleasantly surprised with the spirit and endeavor of the young players who were throwing themselves into tackles and putting lots of pressure on their battle-hardened Sydney opponents.

The idea of recruiting young stars-in-the-making like Callan Ward, Tom Scully and Phil Davis is, I think, better than the Gold Coast recruiting Gary Ablett, a player in his prime now, but one who will be a reduced force by the time the Suns challenge for a premiership.

A long season will take its toll on the young GWS bodies and the veterans who have come out of retirement to earn a few nice dollars. Unless they catch the Gold Coast on a bad day, I can’t see the Giants beating anyone all season.

Andy’s Prediction: 18th

Premiership Odds: 1001.00 (Sportingbet)

Finals Odds: 51.00 (Multiple Sites)

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