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)
ANDY’S LADDER PREDICTION
5. West Coast
7. St Kilda
11. North Melbourne
13. Western Bulldogs
16. Port Adelaide
17. Gold Coast
Club by Club Preview (Part 2)
Last season: Preliminary Final
Key players in: Jack Gunston (Adelaide)
Key players out: Brent Renouf (Port Adelaide)
Summary: The disappointing final quarter fade out in last season’s preliminary final against Collingwood will have been burning away in the minds of every Hawthorn player, coach and fan all summer. The Hawks let slip a golden grand final opportunity and will be fuelled this year by a mental desire to earn another shot deep in this year’s finals.
For all Geelong and Collingwood’s talent, it is arguably the Hawks who possess the greater match-winners, with Lance Franklin, Luke Hodge, Cyril Rioli and Sam Mitchell an unstoppable quartet when in the right mood. Franklin, in particular, is the man capable of taking the Hawks to another Premiership. The tall, athletic and powerful forward is almost impossible to defend against and decides matches with his dominance, or alternatively, his inaccurate kicking for goal. David Hale has had an impressive pre-season and will be an important foil for Franklin until Jarryd Roughead overcomes his injury problems.
The main concern for the Hawks heading into season 2012 is a dearth of rucking options. It seems to be a recurring theme for the brown and golds, but Max Bailey has injured his wrist and leaves Hale and perhaps a Broc McCauley type to carry the rucking hopes for the first part of the season. Ben Stratton missed much of 2011 with a knee injury and the very promising defender will improve the Hawks in that part of the ground.
If the Hawks can sort their rucks out by finals time, I sense they are getting back to their arrogant and unsociable ways, which is bad news for everyone else, especially Geelong.
Andy’s Prediction: Premiers
Premiership Odds: 4.50 (TAB Sportsbet)
Finals Odds: 1.15 (TAB Sportsbet)
Last season: 13th
Key players in: Mitch Clark (Brisbane), James Magner (National Draft)
Key players out: Tom Scully (GWS), Matthew Warnock (Gold Coast), Addam Maric (Richmond)
Summary: As I write this preview I fear I might have been a touch pessimistic with my prediction of a 14th place finish for the Demons this season. Melbourne’s major concern at the end of last season was the lack of a tall marking forward, and that vacancy has been filled with the recruitment of Mitch Clark from Brisbane. Clark is not noted for kicking bags of goals, but he is certainly capable of kicking 3-4 in a game and if he can do that, he’ll have done his job.
Liam Jurrah’s off-field problems will mean he is set for a lengthy stint on the sidelines and the mercurial forward’s creativity will be missed and necessitates that former number 1 draft pick Jack Watts has to step up and play a crucial role across half forward. Watts has been much maligned during his short Demons career and needs to start proving the doubters wrong. The next 2 years will make or break his career.
New coach Mark Neeld has instilled a hard edge to the young team and Melbourne were ranked 3rd for their contested possession differential during the pre-season. If the hard-nuts like Brent Moloney, Nathan Jones and Col Sylvia can keep that standard, while bringing the lesser known players along with them, it is not beyond the realm of possibility to see Melbourne hovering around the top 8 during the second part of the season. For me, the Demons stagnated last season and their development has been put back another year or two.
Andy’s Prediction: 14th
Premiership Odds: 81.00 (Centrebet)
Finals Odds: 3.30 (Centrebet)
Last season: 9th
Key players in: None
Key players out: Brady Rawlings (Retired)
Summary: North Melbourne fans might be sensing a bit of déjà vu as we head into season 2012. All the words used to describe them this time last year are still appropriate 12 months on. The Kangas have finished 9th two seasons in a row and the disciplined and well drilled side just seem to lack that bit of class needed when competing against the top teams. They need to find some game-breakers!
North have certainly got enough tall timber in and forward of the centre. Todd Goldstein became an elite ruckman last season, while Drew ‘The Dish’ Petrie returned from injury to become a reliable goal kicker. Former number one ruckman Hamish McIntosh is fit again after missing almost all of last season with knee and Achilles injuries.
With Brent Harvey in the twilight of his career, Daniel Wells is now starting to fulfill the promise he showed early in his career, although Wells’ pre-season was interrupted because of a life-threating blood clot after complications following post-season shoulder surgery. My favourite Kangaroos player is midfielder Jack Ziebell. The big-bodied beast only turned 21 in February, yet I expect him to join captain Andrew Swallow as a leader in the midfield. The only problem is Ziebell is unavailable due to suspension until Round 3. Look for him to make an impact when he returns.
It is in defence where North will struggle this season. There are no players who are regularly able to shut down the opposition’s key forwards. The two men most likely to fill the key position spots down back are Nathan Grima and Lachie Hansen, however both are injured and will miss the start of the season. I don’t think North’s improvement this season will be greater than the clubs around them, thus I expect another finish just outside the finals.
Andy’s Prediction: 11th
Premiership Odds: 67.00 (TAB Sportsbet)
Finals Odds: 2.25 (TAB Sportsbet)
Last season: 16th
Key players in: Brad Ebert (West Coast), Brent Renouf (Port Adelaide), John McCarthy (Collingwood), Chad Wingard (National Draft)
Key players out: Dean Brogan (GWS), Chad Cornes (GWS), Daniel Motlop (Delisted), Michael Pettigrew (Retired)
Summary: It is the start of a new era at Port Adelaide with club stalwarts Dean Brogan, Chad Cornes and Daniel Motlop all leaving the club after many years of service. The Power have gone on an interesting recruiting drive, following the Sydney model of picking up a trio of mature age players from other clubs. Brad Ebert is definitely the best of the lot, playing a tagging role in West Coast’s impressive 2011 season. Renouf was out of favour at the Hawks and has been recruited to provide some experience in the ruck while youngsters Matthew Lobbe and Jack Redden develop. McCarthy struggled to break into Collingwood’s senior team during a four year spell at the Magpies and I think he’ll be effective at Port as a goal kicking midfielder.
The pre-season talk at Port is all about the goal kicking ability of young key position prospect John Butcher. The youngster burst onto the scene booting 11 goals in 4 late season games last year. However, you can’t expect too much from a side pinning its hopes on such an inexperienced key forward. He might dominate the completion one day, but that time is still a few years off.
The Power lack star players and don’t have a lot of depth. They’ll still win about 5 games, but I can’t see them getting close to finals.
Andy’s Prediction: 16th
Premiership Odds: 251.00 (TAB Sportsbet)
Finals Odds: 9.00 (Sportingbet, TAB Sportsbet)
Last season: 12th
Key players in: Ivan Maric (Adelaide), Addam Maric (Melbourne), Brandon Ellis (National Draft)
Key players out: Mitch Morton (Sydney), Will Thursfield (Retired)
Summary: Buckle up Richmond fans, you’re about to be taken on a wild ride. Since 1980 the Tigers have only featured in three finals series and none since 2001, but the season has the potential to be different and finals football is back on the Punt Road menu! Finally Richmond have a core group of young talented players coming through and have a coach who is both a leader and has the respect of the players. Damien Hardwick is turning the club around and has cultivated a playing list capable of playing exciting and fearless football.
Young midfield tyros Trent Cotchin and Dustin Martin are both the present and the future. They will join forward talisman Jack Riewoldt and dashing defenders Brett Deledio and Chris Newman as the core group of a good team. To make the finals though, Richmond will need a core group of players to step up and play important roles. New recruit Ivan Maric needs to be a dominant force in the ruck, midfielders Nathan Foley and Robin Nahas need to become more consistent, while, perhaps most importantly, a couple of Dylan Grimes, Alex Rance, Jayden Post and Jake Batchelor need to become reliable defenders.
Richmond have the team to kick a winning score each week, but they might not have the backline to defend it. Yep, it’s going to a wild ride alright and I can’t wait to watch it!
Andy’s Prediction: Elimination Final
Premiership Odds: 81.00 (Sportingbet)
Finals Odds: 4.00 (Sportingbet)
Last season: Elimination Final
Key players in: None
Key players out: Steven Baker (Retired), Michael Gardiner (Retired), Tommy Walsh (Sydney), Tom Lynch (St Kilda), Andrew McQualter (Gold Coast), Michael Gardiner (Retired)
Summary: Season 2012 represents year 1 of the Scott Watters rebuilding project. For all those who care about St Kilda, last year couldn’t finish quick enough as the club spiralled from one crisis to the next, starting with the teenage schoolgirl scandal, then to a Lenny Hayes knee injury and dismal early season form, and finishing with the head coach walking out of the club. 2012 will most definitely be a new dawn for the red, white and blacks. Patchy pre-season form hasn’t provided much cause for optimism, however Watters coaching pedigree is fantastic and I expect the former Collingwood assistant to bring the best bits of the Magpie game plan with him.
St Kilda still possess the nucleus of the team which played off in the 2009 and 2010 grand finals. Modern day stars Nick Riewoldt, Brendon Goddard and Nick Dal Santo are still in their mid-late 20’s and should be in the prime of their careers. Throw in Leigh Montagna, a fit again Hayes, Ben McEvoy growing in stature as a ruckman and Sam Fisher floating across half back and there are plenty of reasons for Saints fans to be optimistic.
The output from the young players blooded in the senior team will be critical to determining how for the Saints can go this year. Few teams can hold a position in the finals while rebuilding their list, but the Saints are starting at the right time and should be able to maintain a top 8 spot.
Andy’s Prediction: Elimination Final
Finals Odds: 1.90 (Centrebet)
Last season: Semi Final
Key players in: Mitch Morton (Richmond), Tony Armstrong (Adelaide), Tommy Walsh (St Kilda)
Key players out: Tadhg Kennelly (Retired), Daniel Bradshaw (Retired), Craig Bolton (Retired), Lewis Johnston (Adelaide)
Summary: Sydney are like a slightly better version of North Melbourne. While the Kangaroos consistently finish between 9th to 12th, the Swans have made a habit of occupying the 5th to 8th rungs on the AFL ladder at the conclusion of recent seasons. This year, however, I expect Sydney to stagnate as other teams surpass them.
The retirements of Tadgh Kennelly, Daniel Bradshaw and Craig Bolton remove valuable experience from the playing group and leave difficult positions that need to be filled. Sam Reid has come along nicely and should replace Bradshaw as the team’s key marking forward, but there are no obvious candidates to fill a key defensive post. Sydney’s defensive ability has been the club’s trademark over the last decade, however without a suitable option to lock down a key power forward, the Swans will struggle to fight with the big boys.
With a decent crop of young midfielders coming through – players like Dan Hannebery, Gary Rohan and Luke Parker – Sydney are certainly not in decline, but they won’t improve as much as other teams in 2012.
Andy’s Prediction: 10th
Premiership Odds: 34.00 (TAB Sportsbet)
Finals Odds: 1.85 (Sportingbet, TAB Sportsbet)
Last season: Preliminary Final
Key players in: Josh Hill (Western Bulldogs), Brad Dick (Collingwood)
Key players out: Brad Ebert (Port Adelaide)
Summary: Perhaps West Coast should steal the nickname of the new GWS franchise. The club from Perth are blessed with a never-ending array of 200cm beasts and could easily be referred to as the Giants. Dean Cox, Nic Naitanui, Josh Kennedy, Quinten Lynch and Jack Darling stand like sky scrapers in the ruck and forward line. At times West Coast’s attacking 50m zone resembles a city skyline!
Last season the Eagles made the amazing progression from 2010 wooden spooners to 2011 preliminary finalists. The transition was made possible due to the return to full fitness of premiership stars Cox, Andrew Embley, Daniel Kerr and Darren Glass. West Coast became a feared opponent as one that could match you at ground level, then beat you in the air.
The Eagles had a good run with injuries last campaign and will need that luck again to make the top 4 this year. The tall timber will be hard to cut down.
Andy’s Prediction: Semi Final
Premiership Odds: 15.00 (TAB Sportsbet)
Finals Odds: 1.45 (TAB Sportsbet)
Last season: 10th
Key players in: Clay Smith (National Draft)
Key players out: Callan Ward (GWS), Barry Hall (Retired), Ben Hudson (Brisbane), Josh Hill (West Coast)
Summary: I’m a bit worried about the Bulldogs this year. The team slid dramatically down the ladder in 2011 as injuries cruelled their season. They are also one of the few clubs to lose two top players to the new teams as Callan Ward left in the off-season to GWS, following Jarrod Harbrow’s defection to Gold Coast a year earlier.
In further bad news, Barry Hall’s retirement has left an amazing void in the Doggies forward line. Hall’s presence made his teammates walk taller and now, without him, the unheralded Liam Jones is left to carry the forward line, while Daniel Giansiracusa, Jarrad Grant and Luke Dahlhous will hope to feed on any scraps.
Things are looking more promising in the engine room as Matthew Boyd, Ryan Griffen, Daniel Cross and Adam Cooney can hold their own with any midfield. The defence is also pretty solid, especially with the return from injury of experienced duo Brian Lake and Ryan Hargrave.
The problem for the Bulldogs is a lack of firepower. Until new coach Brendan McCartney works out a consistent way for his team to score goals, they’re going to lose more than they win.
Andy’s Prediction: 13th
Premiership Odds: 67.00 (TAB Sportsbet)
Finals Odds: 3.50 (TAB Sportsbet)