Who better to start this years AFL preview with than the premiers of last year and the NAB cup, Collingwood. After a stellar season in 2010 the pies have now become the hunted team in the competition and their cause has not been helped with the fact that no team has won back to back AFL premierships since Brisbane won three between 2001 and 2003.
Main New Additions
Andrew Krakouer (Gold Coast)
John Ceglar (Gold Coast)
Chris Tarrant (Fremantle)
Alex Fasolo (National draft selection #45)
Daniel Farmer (National draft selection #46)
Jack Anthony (Fremantle)
Josh Fraser (Gold Coast)
Tarkyn Lockyer (Retired)
Paul Medhurst (Retired)
Shane O’bree (Retired)
Simon Prestigiacomo (Retired)
Sean Rusling (Retired)
Although Collingwood have had a lot of experienced departures, especially Prestigiacomo, they have recruited well. Tarrant comes in to fill the void left by Prestigiacomo at fullback while Krakouer will take control of the small forward/midfielder role frequented by either Lockyer, Medhurst or O’Bree. With this being said the man who I think could have a huge impact this year is Chris Dawes. Dawes has the strength and agility to become one of the best full forwards in the competition and if he can kick 60 odd goals this year Collingwood would be near shoe-ins for the flag.
Predicted ladder finish is 1st
After all the news during last preseason of how the blues were ‘coming’ it was revealed to be more words than actions. They played some exciting football at stages with a free flowing game but their defence left a gaping hole that even Chris Judd couldn’t fill.
Andrew Collins (Richmond)
Jeremy Laidler (Geelong)
Matthew Watson (National draft selection #18)
Patrick McCarthy (National draft selection #34)
Edward Curnow (Rookie draft)
Sam Jacobs (Adelaide)
Shaun Grigg (Richmond)
Richard Hadley (Retired)
Simon Wiggins (Retired)
The inclusions vs departures at Carlton don’t really add up. They have lost one of the most promising ruckmen in the competition in Jacobs, solid forwards in Fisher and Wiggins while also losing some grunt from the midfield in Grigg. The only recruit that I think has been impressive is Laidler a running halfback formerly at Geelong. His acquisition will add some well needed rebound from defence and allow Bryce Gibbs the freedom to play midfield. Other than that it has not been a good recruiting year for the blues and they have a chance for finals but I am doubtful.
Predicted finish 11th – 7th
The blistering preseason form of the Bombers seems to have awoken the sleeping dons supporter but can we get them back to sleep? The NAB cup has hailed Hird as a mastermind coach who has reshaped the club for the better, but has anything really changed other than a higher coaches wage and the under 10’s style swamping of the ball, its doubtful. Think it will be another mediocre year for the dons with some big scalps while also failing to lower teams like recent years.
Mark “Bomber”Thomson (Geelong)
Dyson Heppell (National draft selection #8)
Ariel Steinberg (National draft selection #31)
Michael Hibberd (Pre-season draft)
Bachar Houli (Richmond)
Not much has occurred in the off season for Essendon, no big name inclusions or departures just an emphasis on youth. The key forward is the biggest issue at Essendon. Hurley has played a lot up their in the pre season but has not looked overly amazing and this could become a problem during the season. Angus Monfries looks ready to explode this year, his pre-season form this year has been fantastic and with more game time through the middle he should start racking up the possessions. The lack of key forward and a still very young list I can see the Bombers making a push for finals but they are no certainty. Hopefully Hird knows he is coaching adults and not his son’s under 10’s team and throws in some proper tactics.
Predicted finish 9th – 7th
What a big year it has been for the cats, first of all they lose Gary Ablett the previous years’ Brownlow Medallist to the Gold Coast and then they lose their two time premiership winning coach to Essendon. It could have gotten off to a worse start or was it even that bad? The cats got rid of a player who in my opinion is easily replaced with any one of their talented midfield and a coach who obviously didn’t want to be there anymore.
Billie Smedts (National draft selection #15)
Cameron Guthrie (National draft selection #23)
Gary Ablett (Gold Coast)
Mark “Bomber” Thompson (Essendon)
Nathan Djerrkura (Western Bulldogs)
Ryan Gamble (St Kilda)
Jeremy Laidler (Carlton)
Max Rooke (Retired)
With only youngsters being introduced into the cats’ team and a few fringe players at best being let go, there is not too much for the cats to worry about. They still have an extremely strong squad for this season even if it is an ageing one. The loss of Gary Ablett will not be as big as predicted and the so called ‘fall from grace’ expected wont happen. Fair enough they won’t be as dominant as past years but they should still be feared by other clubs. The main man who needs to step up this year is Joel Corey. The last couple of seasons have seen him overshadowed by the all star midfield and he was able to lurk around without the spotlight. Now that he has been thrust into it I expect him to once again up his game to become one of the premier midfielders in the competition and keep Geelong at the top.
Predicted finish 5th – 2nd
After their blinding success in 2008 it seems that Hawthorn have not lived up the promise that they had shown. Crippling injuries to key players in 2009 was the excuse for that year, 2010 saw injuries used once again with the failure to sign a key ruckman. The recruiters have been busy at the Hawks and it remains to be seen if it will be the right choice.
David Hale (North Melbourne)
Kyle Cheney (Melbourne)
Cameron Bruce (Melbourne)
Isaac Smith (National draft selection #19)
Mitchell Hallahan National draft selection #38)
Campbell Brown (Gold Coast)
Trent Croad (Retired)
The Hawks have done a huge clean out of their list with some of the players needing to leave while others came as a shock. They delisted Simon Taylor and recruited David Hale which has been a good move since Taylor was a good tap ruckman but not nearly versatile enough around the grounds and Hale is. They also got rid of a lot of small forward options who were fringe players or decided to leave the club. The introduction of Cheney and Bruce has strengthened a backline/midfield in need of greater depth. This year the Hawks need to have Chance Bateman and Clinton Young firing to get anything from the season, these two were much missed dash through various stages last year and were instrumental in the 2008 premiership. If injuries don’t hit the Hawks can push for a grand final place, hell they need to push for a grand final place.
Predicted finish 6th – 3rd
Melbourne are a strong up and coming team in the AFL with a young and talented list who have been fantastically coached by Dean Bailey. Bailey has copped a lot of unfair criticism from supporters but he has reshaped the club together with Jim Stynes and the future looks promising.
Lucas Cook (National draft selection #12)
Jeremy Howe (National draft selection #33)
Cameron Bruce (Hawthorn)
Kyle Cheney (Hawthorn)
James McDonald (Retired)
Brad Miller (Richmond)
Once again with only young new additions it is clear that Melbourne have faith in Bailey and the playing list to start producing more impressive results after what has to be considered a very impressive 2010 season by the Dees. It may sound harsh but Jack Watts, in his third season, will need to fire for the Dees to significantly improve and push for finals. The main Demon to watch though is Addam Maric, this youngster is just about ready to explode after blistering preseason form where he was the stand out demons player. Maric has a lot to prove after never really being given an opportunity and he needs to continue his preseason form into the season proper, and I think he can.
Predicted finish 10th – 6th
North Melbourne once again failed to really impress last season even with the arrival of Brad Scott but you can see what he is trying to do with the players. He has gone back to the development faze and has a coaching strategy that honestly most players would love. They can improve on last year but they need to learn how to dispose of the ball correctly first.
Ben McKinley (West Coast)
Cam Richardson (Gold Coast)
Shaun Atley (National draft selection #17)
Kieran Harper (National draft selection #27)
Cameron Pederson (Rookie Draft)
David Hale (Hawthorn)
Leigh Harding (Retired)
Corey Jones (Retired)
North Melbourne have recruited well with youth as well as stand out mature aged players from the VFL and this will only help their cause to improve on last year. The player who really needs to step up this season is big Robbie Tarrant at fullback. After horror runs with injuries during his career he looks fit and ready to play a key role for the Roos. He impressed in the NAB Cup and one would think that if he can continue that form he may be able to prove indispensable for North.
Predicted Finish 17th – 12th
Richmond were slight improvers last season with a lot of their players getting some valuable games under their belts as well as being coached by Damien Hardwick, a two time premiership player as well as a premiership assistant coach. Can he do enough to teach the tigers how to hit a target? I hope so.
Bachar Houli (Essendon)
Brad Miller (Melbourne)
Shaun Grigg (Carlton)
Reece Conca (National draft selection #6)
Jake Batchelor (National draft selection #30)
Andrew Collins (Carlton)
Ben Cousins (Retired)
Graham Polak (Retired)
Dean Polo (St.Kilda)
Troy Simmonds (Retired)
Richard Tambling (Adelaide
A nice little clear out at Richmond occurred over the preseason, a good move by Hardwick getting rid of the dead wood that had previously been there while also gathering some useful acquisitions from other clubs. If Nathan Foley can have an injury free year he may just make the move into the elite midfielder category and help his tigers improve on last season. If he gets support from fellow midfielders Grigg, Deledio, Cotchin and Martin they may be able to just turn around a poor preseason. Like North Melbourne though, the question remains have they learnt to hit a target?
Predicted finish 17th – 12th
After a highly impressive season last year where they made the grand final, twice, it seems like everything that could go wrong in the off season has. The club has been embroiled in much controversy mainly centring around the St.Kilda schoolgirl who posted nude photos of Nick Dal Santo and Nick Riewoldt. No matter how hard the Saints tried they could not shut her up and this must have definitely affected their run into the season.
Dean Polo (Richmond)
Ryan Gamble (Geelong)
Jamie Cripps (National draft selection #24)
Sam Crocker (National draft selection #43)
Steven King (Retired)
Jesse Smith ( Retired)
Once again the Saints have gone for recycled players and this is only going to hurt them this year and the future. Without really developing any promising youngsters the Saints are in danger of having to go through a rebuilding period soon enough instead of planning for the future now. Justin Koschitzke is still on the list showing how desperate they are for a key forward to partner Nick Riewoldt, they have gotten that in Ryan Gamble who could be a good arrival but Dean Polo, What is Ross Lyon thinking?
A big year needs to be had once again by Nick Riewoldt but he can’t do it on his own and needs Gamble and Koschitzke (Shudders) to help him out. Expect them to be there abouts this season but I can’t see them winning the flag.
Predicted finish 5th – 2nd
Finally we have the dogs who are coming off of a blistering preseason campaign and showing off some useful new recruits. Every year they promise so much yet never get to the big stage, can they do it this year? I think they will.
Patrick Veszpremi (Sydney)
Nathan Djerkurra (Geelong)
Justin Sherman (Brisbane)
Mitch Wallis (National draft selection #22)
Tom Liberatore (National draft selction #41)
Ed Barlow (Sydney)
Tim Callan (Retired)
Nathan Eagleton (Retired)
Andrejs Everitt (Sydney)
Jarrod Harbrow (Gold Coast)
Brad Johnson (Retired)
The dogs have had some big name departures over the off season but they have recruited very well. Each player on their departures list has been replaced by one on their arrivals and in the majority of cases a better replacement. Removing Akermanis has stabilised the club and lets them concentrate on playing, while the inclusions will cover for the run and carry lost in Eagleton and Johnson. Expect a big year from Jarrod Grant, he is ready to fire playing in a key forward role alongside Barry Hall. His preseason form has been fantastic and will surely kick a fair few goals this season.
Predicted finish 4th– 2nd
For interstate previews look here – http://penandpaperblog.org/2011/03/22/afl-interstate-team-previews/