AFL 2017 – The Long Range View

Greetings All and Welcome to Season 2017,

 

We have had a plethora of fake news hitting us over the off season – now it is time to generate the real stuff!

The season beckons and it is time again to seal the time capsule as to the where the hopes and aspirations of our clubs are. Every season has its challenges in prognosticating on each clubs hopes and aspirations, however 2017 has a few extra quirks that make it even tougher.

 

Boom Recruits

Well not so much recruits but returning stars. None more so that the return of Jarryd Roughead to the Hawks line up – he was so sorely missed last year. From a pure footy fan’s point of view it is great to have him healthy and fit again.  Others to return from injury that could impact are Sam Reid (Sydney), Bob Murphy (Footscray), Gary Ablett (Cold Coast), Dayne Beams (Brisbane), Nat Fyffe and Aaron Sandilands (Fremantle), Jamie Elliott (Collingwood), I reckon I may have missed a few.

Then there is the whole Essendon throng to return – how good will the Bombers be?  Impossible to predict with so many players returning. Then what about the other impacted clubs Carlisle (StK), Ryder and Monfries (PA), Melksham and Hibberd (Melb), Crameri (Foots) and others.

How well these players come back could have a huge bearing on their clubs fortunes in 2017.

 

Rule Changes

Not really one to think these make much differences apart from the aesthetics, however the “No 3rd Man Up Rule” will have an impact on a number of clubs. Those with a strong and pure ruck line up will benefit – Gawn, Sandilands, Goldstein, Jacobs and the like will enjoy their work much more. I suspect we might see a few other genuine ruckmen shine through. On the other hand clubs like Geelong, Hawthorn, Carlton, Footscray who countered their ruck deficiencies by using a third man up will need to adjust.

 

The Predictions

For the reasons above and the continuing levelling of the competition that middle group of teams are very difficult to differentiate, while those at the extremities do stand out.  Actual success or failure being more likely to be dependent on injuries and availability rather than pure capability, but luck has always had its place in footy and despite what the statisticians and sports scientists say I suspect it will continue. So there are my excuses up front.

In the usual fashion every game has been graded with four points.  4-0 being an obvious win, 3-1 where there is an obvious favourite and 2-2 where a coin toss would be in order.  Again the draw threw up a few vagaries with Hawthorn and Geelong rating higher than I expected, however they both enjoy strong home ground advantages at Launceston and Kardinia Park respectively. They are symptomatic though of the evenness of the competition as any fall away in that advantage would see them plummet.

No real surprises at the other end although the upside for Fremantle is significant despite their lowly ranking according to this analyst. Recapturing their advantage at Subiaco could see the Purple Haze significantly exceed expectations.

Is there another Bulldogs?  The reality is that they did not really jump out of the pack, they finished seventh and had an incredible and historic run through the finals. It should be noted that 7th in 2016 was still only two games from 1st – it was a season with many anomalies. Melbourne and St Kilda are top of the pops and appear the teams most likely, just whose place do they take?

At the other end there appears little joy for the cellar dwellers from last year, although I reckon the Blues and Lions will both be better in the long run despite what looks like a very tough year for them both.

2017 Ladder Predictions

Ranking Team The Alternative Facts
1 GWS The jungle drums say the rest are playing for second – hard to disagree. Haven’t lost any of their best and get Delidio who will just be the cream if he can stay fit. Will be looking to start September from the prime barrier position.
2 Hawthorn Undoubtedly the greatest conundrum – Mitchell and Lewis for Mitchell and O’Meara is close to like for like apart from all the flags and experience. They will need to find some pace to replace Bradley Hill, however they have the most important recruit in the competition with the return of Roughead. His presence probably gets them into the preliminary final last year and suspect they can get there this year also. Plenty of risk in the Hawks but until I see them fall they rate highly and I have them challenging GWS for top spot.
3 Footscray Trying to keep a lid on the Dogs who we must remember did finish 7th before that brilliant finals campaign. It does tend to get blown off when we add Bob Murphy, Crameri and Cloke to the line up though. They are full of talent, superbly led and with a pretty handy draw. Premiership hangover might be a concern but the coach has done three on the trot including promotions in the VAFA  Top four is almost a lock.
4 Sydney Sydney in Sydney will always be a test while their list remains above average, they have not brought anyone else in but were not that far away in the big one. How much of a loss will Tom Mitchell be? They will be thinking the likes of Hewitt, Mills, Jones will cover it plus the return of Sam Reid! If they are right, Sydney will again be right in the thick of it come finals time.
5 Geelong The Cats have lost a couple of beauties in Bartel and Enright and are probably the team that will be most affected by the “No Third Man Up” – what will Blicavs do? However the draw is pretty kind and it is up to the other teams to prove themselves before I can knock them right out. However to get better they will need a more even effort across the board. Have them slotted in for fifth but they do play some tough games at the Cattery, if they lose a couple of those it will be a struggle to play in September.
6 Adelaide No big list changes has them almost happy with their lot – Bryce Gibbs was the big fish for them but not 100% sure what we would bring. Crows reckon they are pretty close and have a forward line the envy of many, but a couple of them need to fire in the big games for Adelaide to get to the very top. Home ground advantage is massive for the Crows plus they have a pretty soft away fixture.  Provided they maintain their home record they should be able to make up the numbers in September but doubt they will do much damage.
7 St Kilda The bandwagon is loaded and it is time to shine. Expecting organic improvement from a talented young list plus the inclusion of Carlisle and Brown in defence, the Saints are moving in the right direction. Add an aesthetically pleasing style of play they are the action attraction. Will it be enough for a September date? I suspect they will squeeze in there.
8 West Coast Will it be the Flat Track Bully Boys again or something a bit more substantial? No doubt the inclusion of Sam Mitchell will complement the work of Matt Priddis, but they will be working off the opposition ruckman most of the time in the absence of Nic Nat and now Lycett for an extended period. More of the same for mine but can squeeze into the final spot.
9 Melbourne A couple of handy recruits including Jordan Lewis will not improve the Demons by as much as they expect to improve organically as the young tyros move into the 50-100 game bracket and put their stamp on the competition. Look like one of the more exciting teams to watch which is incredible after some of the turgid rubbish dealt up at the beginning of the Roos reign. Will be a challenger for September, but I have them just falling short.
10 Essendon The greatest unknown! Have been given one of the greatest freekicks with the fixture playing 3 of the bottom clubs from last year and only one finalist twice (Adelaide) twice. They get a plethora of players back and will present as a formidable unit with something to prove. Tom Bellchambers is the only real injury concern and that will only be early. Will be competitive if they gel straight away and have a number of toss of the coin games. I have them just finishing outside the eight, but could get in if things go right.
11 Fremantle A few effectively new recruits in Sandilands, Fyfe and even Bennell could have them bouncing back after last year’s shocker.  Pick ups of Hamling will be handy in defences and hopefully the combination of Kersten and the “Great” McCarthy might plug the hole left by Pav. Should be improved on last year, but will those new attacking options really see a change in style from Get Stuffed Lyon?  Fyffe is important but Sandilands is the key – is getting on but if he stays fit they will be better. How much better though – I can only get them up to 11th.
12 Collingwood Always keen to have the Pie fans excited early and awaiting the let down, but this year looks a bit different. They effectively have eight recruits who should be in their best 22 to improve the 2016 edition. Back from injury and purgatory are Elliott, Keefe, Ramsay and Smith; while joining the club are Dunne, Wells, Mayne and Hoskin-Elliott. Matt Scharenberg is also discussed in hushed tones at Olympic Park that we Victorians have donated to Collingwood. The fixture is OK with Geelong and Hawthorn twice who are tough, but somewhat unknown for this year. On the travel they leave Melbourne for a preposterous five occasions!  Injuries will be a factor as will winning more than their share of 50-50 games, if they do they could challenge for finals but I have them a bit further down the pecking order.
13 Gold Coast What a difference a Day makes? What was looking to be a more than formidable spine took a big hit with Sam Day’s injury.  However there is still some quality timber lurking with May, Lynch and two-metre Peter for the Suns. Add a fit Gary Ablett, David Swallow, a bit more midfield depth and they are on their way. Cannot afford to get injuries though, expect some positive signs but not enough to jump up the ladder.
14 Richmond Caddy and Prestia will certainly bring something to the midfield and the loss of Tyrone means that Griffith, Lennon or someone has to stand up and give Jack a hand. Maybe more Dusty up forward might work. Overall though I have reservations on their depth. Suspect the influx of talent will sustain the Tigers for another year in purgatory.
15 North Melbourne Have taken a good hard look at themselves and moved on a number of older players to ensure they get games into the younger talent. Might be costly in 2017 but it is the right decision once you know a group has reached its zenith. Have enough talent to be competitive in most games but still on the wrong side of the ledger. I reckon they would be quietly pleased to be competitive and finish 13th with better prospects for 2018.
16 Port Adelaide Really battled in 2017 and a complete non-entity come trade time.  Will the return of Ryder and Monfries be enough? I severely doubt it. Jackson Trengrove will at least help shore up the defence but the bottom six players are not at the required standard. Have them rated at 16th, although they could do better if they reinforce the Portress.
17 Brisbane Another club without too many list changes apart from the departing no-namers and an influx of youth. Jack Frost will attempt to make up for Daniel Merrett’s retirement. They do have another big in with Dayne Beams putting in a solid pre-season and the return of their best player should make some difference.  Suspect the new coach will get some on field improvement but the list is very young and suspect the back end of the season could be telling. Suspect they will be in a battle for the top draft selection in 2018.
18 Carlton Only playing one finalist from 2016 twice looks like a good thing for the Blues, however most teams will be more experienced and more talented. The challenge of “The Reset”. They have moved on plenty of experience and will probably go backwards this year as a result but should put them in a better place with experience into some the younger players. The Blues would like to be seen as a destination club, but at the moment look like more of a journeyman’s stopover on the way through to the metro leagues.  The challenge to score effectively remains and will be difficult not to capture the kitchenware.

 

 

Away from footy the test cricket from India has been terrific despite the pitches that have been presented. Good hard contests between teams that do not seem to like each other very much – makes for compelling viewing. Steve Smith is growing into one of the best players and captains we have seen and the coaching team have maintained the big picture in mind and stuck to their plans. Melbourne hosts the GP next week – will Daniel Riccardo consume from the shoe at his home GP?

On the track we have the Sydney carnival in full swing tomorrow with the Golden Slipper plus another four group one races. Always found the Sydney carnival tough to follow mainly because it clashes with the footy, but also due to the usual wet weather that can throw up more than a few vagaries. Rosehill is currently rated as a heavy 9 – yuk!

The Ranvet Stakes (2000m, WFA) kicks off the Group 1s with Hartnell (1) a short priced favourite and at his best should win. If you don’t like the red ink then the rest of the field is high quality and with Stratum Star (3), The United States (5) and Antonio Guiseppe (7) the next picks. If Stratum Star salutes it will be DK Weir’s first winner in Sydney!

Race 4 – Selections – 1-3-7-5

The George Ryder Stakes (1500m, WFA) sees another shorty in Winx (8) step out and will extend her record.  Expecting Hauraki (3) to be the best of the rest with Le Romain (2) and Tosen Stardom (4) filling the holes.  Chautauqua (1) stepping out to 1500m will be of great interest also.

Race 5 – Selections – 8-3-2-4

The Rosehill Guineas (2000m, 3YO SW) is an even affair. Inference (4) looks pretty good but the New Zealanders are pretty good at picking off some good races in Sydney and Gingernuts (2) has won three on the trot and can feature here. Also like Comin’ Through (5) and So Si Bon (7) at odds. Plenty of other hopes

Race 6 – Selections – 2-4-5-7

The ra ra of the Golden Slipper (1200m, 2YO SW) follows and I reckon form can hold up here. The Hayes-Dabernig machine rolls on and I reckon Catchy (9) can capture the Diamond-Slipper double. No doubt Houtzen (15) will be in the mix and She Will Reign (12) might just do so. Next best for me Tulip (11).

Race 7 – Selections – 9-15-12-11

The big ones close with the Galaxy (1100m HCP) a tough race to pick not helped by the conditions. Going with Fell Swoop (2) to finally claim a major, but likes of English (3), Russian Revolution (12) and Redzel (6) will be tough to beat. That is provided they can catch Heatherly (7) who will be in front for a long way if she can handle the going.

Race 8 – Selections – 2-12-3-7

 

Looking forward to a character building year for the Blues.

Cheers, Sal

 

 

Comments

  1. John Butler says:

    G’day Sal. I’m hoping Blues fans in general remain as realistic as you about this season.

    Young list. No established goal-kickers. Will probably be a year with few wins.

    But if we can fins a way to scrounge some goals, we might surprise a few.

    Cheers

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