Following on from Part 1, we continue our climb up the ladder with the teams predicted to finish in spots 9-13 in 2012. There were many hard calls that had to be made and more than a few eyebrows will be raised so feel free to let us know if you think we’ve made a wrong turn and put down your thoughts and predictions in the comments section below…
Coach and Coaching style: First-time coach Brenton Sanderson is hard to analyse at this early stage but having completed a Geelong apprenticeship as defensive assistant, it is likely to be intense and highly-contested around the ball with an emphasis on keeping teams to a low score. The Crows have undergone combat training in the offseason, amongst some other interesting drills so Sando is clearly looking for a harder edge in his team.
Star player and reasons why: Scott Thompson is the Crows most consistent player, and while at times he may not the best user of the ball he certainly knows how to find it – 51 disposals against the Gold Coast last season will attest to that.
Up-and-comer: Rory Sloane is tough and hard at the ball and certainly stands out with great disposal skills and his surfer-style long blonde locks. With 33 games now under his belt he has the potential to explode this season. Keep a close eye on many more young Crows this season, especially down back as they try to plug the holes left by Phil Davis and Nathan Bock.
Team Summary: Crows supporters must be frustrated from their teams efforts last season. They have great potential, especially in the midfield, but are way too inconsistent up front (*nudge nudge* Kurt Tippett and Taylor Walker) and deficient down back with the poaching of key backmen by expansion teams in the last two seasons. They have surprised me this preseason by making it to the final but I put it down to a young group trying desperately hard to impress their new coach. They will struggle to string wins together this year, especially near the back end and as such I anticipate another year of frustration for “the pride of South Australia.”
Predicted Finish: 13th
Coach and Coaching style: Mark Neeld was one of the highly rated assistants to make the jump to senior coach this offseason. Neeld served his apprenticeship under Mick Malthouse as defensive and midfield coach from 2008-11 and, seemingly like every new coach wants to install a tough, hard approach to his new team. Melbourne were renowned for their often bruise-free performances in recent times so this would be the one feature that is well atop Demons supporters’ wish lists for 2012.
Star player and reasons why: The Demons are a quality team and have a lot of exciting players sprinkling their list. However, when it comes to selecting a ‘star player’ it is sad to say that their most recent acquisition Mitch Clark may just take the cake ahead of stalwarts such as Colin Sylvia, Brent Moloney and Brad Green. While Melbourne have refuted the suggestion, it is been well reported that Clark is on big dollars – a risky move for the Dees as the big man (who has shown great promise) is hardly a bona fide forward of the competition. However, if there was one thing the Demons were desperately missing it was a target in their forward line to ease the pressure off the likes of Watts, Howe and Jurruh (should he feature this season). He will bring strength and structure to their front half, with a great ability to bring down contested marks and kick crucial goals.
Up-and-comer: Jack Trengove has only played 37 games but has shown why he was worth the Demon’s tanking efforts in 2009. The Demon’s official website states he has “a bit of Jimmy Bartel about him” and if that proves to be the case, he will be an absolute superstar of the AFL. The Demons are not short in the up-and-coming department, though, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for impressive forward Jeremy Howe, midfielder Sam Blease and giant 208cm ruckman Max Gawn to keep make big strides in 2012. Mature-age rookies Tom Couch and James Magner have also impressed in the pre-season and should feature prominently for the Dees as well.
Team Summary: The Demons have one of the more well-rounded and impressive young lists in the competition. Dean Bailey did well in bringing and developing young players across the board and Mark Neeld now has a great mix of players that are destined for great things. They could very well give the finals a shake this season but I expect another year of inconsistent performances that are generally reminiscent of youthful teams still learning under new coaches. I anticipate Melbourne looking back on years like 2012 as crucial when they make a genuine charge as flag contenders in 2014-15 and beyond.
Predicted Finish: 12th
Coach and Coaching style: James Hird starts his second season in charge of the Bombers, having guided his charges to 8th spot in 2011 before they were bundled out by the Blues in Week 1 of the finals. He has a high emphasis on stoppages and defense and likes his players to compress space in contested situations and play counter-attacking football.
Star player and reasons why: Jobe Watson is the heart and soul of the Bombers midfield. Is well-known for his handballing skills (derived from his less-than-quality kicking skills, although they have improved in recent times) and regularly completing the bulk of the in-and-under contested work. Also a mention must go to Dustin Fletcher. I can’t help but admire ‘Inspector Gadget,’ a guy who will be remembered as one of the all-time greats when he retires, whenever that may be.
Up-and-comer: Michael Hurley caused many Bomber supporters heart to flutter with recent speculation he was packing his bags after this season to head to GWS, and for good reason too: he is one of the few extremely talented key position forwards on the Bombers list and one of the best prospects in the AFL. With the speculation put to bed, expect him to continue to impress for Essendon in 2012. Also, look out for Jake Melksham – one of a few of the Bomber midfield brigade that has great potential to have that all-important ‘break-out season.’ Has added muscle in the offseason and with 37 games now played, could very well be a star in the making.
Team Summary: Slowly getting there, but not quite yet. 8th place finish last year was a bit flattering, even though they comprehensively (never mind the final score) did a number on the eventual premiers last season. They have the potential to play great football but are still short another genuine midfield star or two to help Watson out.
Predicted Finish: 11th
Coach and Coaching style: Damien Hardwick has instilled a tough, nuggety approach to the Tigers since he arrived in 2010. This aggressive game style saw the Tigers have a genuine shot at making the finals last season but ultimately fall short. Hardwick has most notably given lots of games to younger players and installed the modern day trend of having multiple goalkickers in the forward line, rather than having reliance on one or two players. This may have hurt Jack Riewoldt’s goal tally but has strengthened the Tigers overall.
Star player and reasons why: Dustin Martin and Trent Cotchin are two genuine A-grade midfielders for the Tigers and will occupy that tag for at least the next decade. Martin has wonderful strength and great foot skills – both around goal and when delivering deep into the forward line. Cotchin has that Gary Ablett-like ability to stay on his feet while being tackled which allows him to dispose to teammates effectively even when in traffic. In short, they are two great players worth watching when Richmond is in action.
Up-and-comer: The Tigers have a large young brigade coming through the ranks and players like Reece Conca, Jake Batchelor, Tyrone Vickery and Alex Rance have showed a lot of promise as up-and-comers in the sub-50 games played category. However, if I had to pick one Tiger that has genuine potential is big man Angus Graham – a truly solid ruckman/forward at 105kg and 201cm, he has the Shane Mumford type attributes of being a massive frame for the relative smaller Tiger midfield to be based around. Hasn’t been super impressive in his 47 games played but has now been around in the system for 6 years and has all the makings of producing match winning performances for Richmond.
Team Summary: The Tigers have been slowly improving under Damien Hardwick, especially last year where they shined in the earlier part of the season before fading away. A lot will be expected of them this year with solid forward and midfield – especially with the acquisition of Ivan Maric in the offseason. I think their main problem will be holding teams to low scores as their defense works quite well on the rebound, but not so much in simply keeping opposition forwards quiet and out of the game. Further improvement is on the cards but a Top 8 finish may be just out of reach.
Predicted Finish: 10th
Coach and Coaching style: John Longmire’s Sydney Swans are very tough and hard around the contest and like to keep possession of the ball with patience when going forward rather than bomb long into the forward line. They are not the team to blow opposition sides away, rather they grind and wear teams down slowly and agonizingly over four quarters. They are also extremely consistent – making the finals every year bar one (2009) since 2003 with two Grand Final appearances (2005 and 2006) for one win in that period.
Star player and reasons why: Not many teams can boast about having a two-time Brownlow medallist but Adam Goodes’ past successes means Sydney are one of the lucky few. He has played 300 games and kicked 352 goals to date as a forward and midfielder and possesses great strength and balance, as well as an ability to read the play, find the ball and create many goal scoring chances. The only blight on his talents is a weakness in goal kicking accuracy but when on song is one of the more electrifying and exciting players to watch.
Up-and-comer: Gary Rohan had an injury-ravaged 2011 but the third-year player is now fit and firing and set for a big year in 2012. Rohan is very quick and capable by hand and foot so expect him to feature right across the ground, but especially out of defense and on the wing where the Swans will look to exploit his speed and elusiveness.
Team Summary: The Swans have done very well at being there or thereabouts for a long time now – they consistently have made the finals but basically end up just making up the numbers. With a few more promising teams on the rise I expect them to lose a few more games this season and slip out of the Top 8. In any case, I don’t expect them to scare any of the better teams as they don’t have the depth and quality across the ground that will match come the pointy end of the season.
Predicted Finish: 9th