The real stuff begins
After months of drugs, tanking, salary cap breaching scandals and enduring Cricket Australia’s intolerable spin, it’s almost here.
The AFL Premiership Season!
Disheartening as it is to see “drugs in sport” embroil our game and test the fans’ trust in professional sport, round one will remind us why this indigenous game is so ingrained in the Australian DNA and why we love its theatrics, heroics and stories.
The rankings are based on current form, fixture, injuries and long-term outlook.
By the numbers:
1819: The number of days since Richmond defeated their old rival Carlton by the time March 28 comes around.
10: The number of preseason premiership teams that went on to make the finals that same year (since 2000).
21: Brendan Goddard’s career disposal average against his new team Essendon.
2013 Power Rankings (preseason)
2013 Power Rankings (preseason)
1. Sydney: We just witnessed the finest 1-4 preseason record from any team, with power forward Kurt Tippet jumping on board and new leaders, Kieren Jack and Jarrad McVeigh taking the captaincy reins from Adam Goodes (what a luxury!). Somehow the Premiers are once again flying under the radar as the Big Four Victorian clubs dominate the hysteria.
2. Geelong: Who was ready to write off Geelong after their finals defeat to Fremantle (be honest, I’m sure you were tempted to!)? How deep will Geelong go in September will depend on how quickly the Cats move on without Matthew Scarlett and if Jared Rivers can adjust to the pressure cooker of finals footy. The Cats were soundly beaten in the ruck last year (hit-out differential of 5) but the acquisition of Hamish McIntosh will bolster their stocks.
3. Collingwood: Depth. That’s the key word for the Pies this season. Open to suggestions on who else you think has a deeper list than Collingwood? A fit Luke Ball, inclusions of Clinton Young, a functional marking forward in Quinten Lynch and three draft picks in the top 20 makes the Pies serious contenders.
4. West Coast: The 2010 number four draft pick Andrew Gaff is ready for a statement year. Last year, the team out west was in the top five for points for and fewest points against, which is the premiership formula. With a bit more luck with injuries, the Eagles could top this list pretty soon.
5. Brisbane: Premiers… well at least of the preseason. Read into it that what you will but Jonathan Brown looks lean and importantly showed he can still monster an opponent. Who has the more talented list in Queensland? Before last season, most critics would say Gold Coast but now I’ll go with Vossy’s Lions.
6. Carlton: When healthy, Carlton is a lock for the top eight but questions remain about the Blues’ backline and Jarrad Waite’s durability, which means that using “contender” and “Carlton” in the same sentence is still premature. At least under Mick Malthouse, the Blues won’t be cast as “downhill skiers”.
7. Fremantle: They might play boring footy but Ross Lyon has his men believing in his defensive system. The purple haze must be in a “win now” mode as Aaron Sandilands, Matthew Pavlich and Luke McPharlin are closer to the end than the start of their careers.
8. Hawthorn: Brendan Whitecross’ knee and Matthew Suckling’s ACL, Buddy’s contract and old man Luke Hodge are all worries coming into this season. Ex-Bulldog Brian Lake will give Hawthorn added size and versatility down back but he is now one of seven players over 30 years old at Hawthorn. Can they all last the marathon season without breaking down?
9. North Melbourne: Safe assumption: North’s controversy-free summer and coaching stability gives the Kangaroos’ finals hopes an early lift over rivals Carlton and Essendon – shame about the tough draw and the empty coffers.
10. Adelaide: Unlike last year, no one will underestimate the Crows in 2013. Whether or not a Dangerfield-led team will make the top four, there appears to be some cautious optimism bubbling in the city of churches after the Crows pushed Hawthorn all the way in last year’s preliminary final. Although, who will fill the Tippett role?
11. Richmond: Hopes are as high as they have been for years at Tigerland, and with good reason. Troy Chaplin’s arrival takes pressure off Alex Rance down back and Dustin Martin has had a strong summer on the track. However, if Sydney is the epitome of a team that thrives by not beating itself, Richmond is the opposite and it will take another solid season to cast off the lingering doubters.
12. Greater Western Sydney: Jon Patton and Jeremy Cameron will make the most deadly one-two punch in the competition in no time. GWS’ young guns might be beaten well throughout the year but they are smug, chirpy, tough and a lot of fun to watch. For now, lets see them slash their seven 90-plus point drubbings from last year in half this season.
13. St Kilda: With a fit Sam Fisher and Ben McEvoy for the year, finals are in the realm of possibility. The Saints unearthed some handy talent last season but it will be the old guard who will drive the Saints fortunes for season 2013. Don’t think for a minute that Lenny Hayes, Nick Riewoldt and Nick Dal Santo don’t have one more September in them.
14. Port Adelaide: Re-signing Travis Boak was a massive win for the Power. Despite the critics, Koch’s arrival has been positive for Port, especially with Renault jumping on board. Toughness has to be Port’s motto as they were ranked 17th in the league last year for tackle differential. On the improve, but how far and how fast, we’ll have to wait and see.
15. Gold Coast Suns: Watching Gary Ablett Jr. burn his opponent and make the impossible seem easy is again the only reason to watch the Suns this year. Yes, they have talent but I’m still not convinced they have the right mix and balance on their list to reach their projected success.
16. Melbourne: Where do we start? Culture, current playing list, recruiting… tanking? To everyone’s delight, we have to wait another year to see one of the rare watchable Demons, Jesse Hogan. Jack Viney paired with Nathan Jones in the middle will at least give us some kind of reprieve.
17. Western Bulldogs: The Doggies ranked only higher than the Suns and the Giants in goals per game last year (9.9). Forward Liam Jones needs a breakout year and the Bulldogs need some polished ball users around Matthew Boyd. The Bullies have added some nice pieces in Jake Stringer, Jackson Macrae, Nathan Hrovat and even Brett Goodes, but winning is going to be difficult.
18. Essendon: The Australian cricket team has had a better summer than Essendon. Brendan Goddard has arrived but serious questions linger over leadership at the club in light of the ongoing drug investigation. Make or break year for coach James Hird on the field, but one that could still yet explode off it courtesy of ASADA.