It’s only the beginning – Opening Round Preview and Ladder Pontifications

Welcome all to the 2015 season,


It might only be the beginning – but Gil might have already lost his mind.  The Essendon case done but another 3 players on provisional suspensions for drug cheating.  Saturday arvo footy, cheap food, pre-game entertainment, LED lighting, kick-to-kick might be all about bringing the fans back but will all mean diddly squat if the game to watch remains as turgid as what we saw in the pre-season.  But I have hopes that coaches might loosen the screws and umpires will have the courage to pay more frees and let the game open up.


2015 Ladder Predictions

There are genuine concerns about the competitive balance of the competition.  At the top teams just keep getting stronger and are attracting prize recruits, many of them coming from lower clubs whose best players get the easy way out via free agency.  However if we consider them as outliers the middle of the competition is incredibly even where by my reckoning only 3 games separates clubs ranked from 6 through 14, the commonly regarded big three in Hawthorn, Sydney and Port also appear pretty evenly matched.  Of note is that the top 5 teams all have significant home ground advantages.  So for what is worth here it is calculated by rating every game with 4 points and allocated by my consideration each teams of chance of winning.  Eg Haw vs StK would be 4-0, but against a challenger like North it might be 3-1 and contender like Port 2-2.

 1 – Hawthorn 38 (Home) + 36 (Away) = 74

The machine rolls on, lopped a couple of extraneous ones from the totem pole but added Frawley and O’Rourke that will further add to their depth.  They got through 2014 despite injury disruption, although very healthy at the business.  Their only threat would appear to be complacency and that will be minimised under Clarkson and Hodge.  They are clearly to top pick aided by four home games at their Northern Tasmanian fortress.

2 – Sydney 38+28=66

Will be smarting from the Grand Final and should improve up forward with Buddy and Tippett both fit.  At the other end they appear vulnerable, but that has been the knock on them for years so until that defence is consistently breached Sydney remains a top team.  They rank above Port purely through vagaries of the draw.

3 – Port Adelaide 35+29=64

Were they a quality ruckman short of the Grand Final?  Paddy Ryder could make a big difference here and at their best could challenge even higher.  They hit a flat spot mid-season mainly due to injuries so depth might be an issue, but while fit they will difficult to tear apart.

3 – Fremantle 38+26=64

A common prediction is that they will drop away, but the Subiaco factor is strong.  Confronting Sydney and Port in their first two home encounters, those results will be important.  In Fyfe they have a star, but at the older end of the spectrum they have Pavlich, McPharlin and Sandilands that will all need to perform.  Will Get Stuffed Lyon be able to find someone to play Crowley’s role?  Might not be the fourth best team but will need to fall away significantly not to be close to the top.

5 – Geelong 34+26=60

Appear to have two standout recruits although it astounds me that Mitch Clark was allowed to pick and choose where he would go.  Concerns about being top heavy seem to have dissipated and the Kardinia Park draw elevates them above the pack.  Still need more from the bottom end of their list in big games to challenge higher.

6 – North Melbourne 27+25=49

I don’t share the optimism of many for the Roos – a great finals campaign and in Brown and Turner a couple of long term beauties, but they still have not addressed their core weakness with an undersized defence.  Waite might stretch opposition defences but not the good ones!  Should win enough games to make it.

7 – West Coast 29+17=46

The Eagles @ Subi was not impregnable last year, but if they are healthy they should once again be difficult to beat at home.  They appeared to be Flat Track Bully Boys last season, will need to something against the top sides to show they are really back on track.

8 – Collingwood 28+17=45

Many doubters on the Pies and I doubt their absolute quality, but if they are fit they are always competitive against most outfits.  As a result they have plenty of 50-50 (2-2) games if they split them or better, they have a chance of making the eight.  If they don’t then 14th is not out of the question.

8 – Essendon 25+20=45

Assuming no immediate issues with the tribunal decision, the Bombers are somewhat unsighted but they are competitive and will be looking to challenge for a place in the eight.  Losing Ryder takes away a bit of X-Factor in close games, but their best line up will be tough to beat.

8- Richmond 25+16=45

All fit and firing the Tiges are tough proposition as witnessed at the back end of last season, but are they dependent on too few players.   Rance is very important and will the contract chatter be a distraction?  Overall injuries will determine whether they can scrape into the eight again.

11 – Carlton 26+18=44

The Blues hopes (and mine) rest on the foot of one man.  If Matthew Kruezer can play they have a chance to be competitive, however if they are dependent on Warnock and Wood life will be tough.  A season of C Judd would be handy.  Like the Pies can be competitive in most games and the eight is not inconceivable, but then again neither is 14th.

12 – Adelaide 26+17=43

Plenty of spruiking that Adelaide will be better, but I am not sure what makes them better.  Tex on the ground will help, but just not sure how much.  I have them in the middle group of teams and if they do establish dominance at home could jump out of the pack.

13 – Brisbane 26+13=39

A very exciting prospect this season, my ratings on them might be lower than many but I would prefer to wait on the evidence rather than the potential.  They have virtually doubled the strength of an already impressive midfield with the addition of Beames, Rich, Robinson and Leuenberger; however the questions remain at each end of the ground.  If they get one of those sorted they will climb!

14 – Gold Coast 24+13=37

Still not on this bandwagon either – especially after the drop away without Gazza last year.  Best recruit will be Eade who will build sustainable success, but it will take at least another year in my opinion.

15 – Footscray 19+6=25

Complete new leadership at the kennel, but loss of Libba will hurt.  The Bont looks exciting but not enough to get them out of the bottom four.

16 – Melbourne 16+5=21

I had hopes for Dees until I saw their skill level in pre-season competition, unless they are foxing there is much work to do!

17 – GWS 10+5=15

The addition of Griffin will help and they will be better, but not sure which teams above them they will be better than.

18 – St Kilda 6+4=10

Not sure where the wins will come from, will try their darndest but they know the path they are on.


Now to get started on this week!  Without selections a tough gig but a number of these games appear lop-sided, noting that opening round tends to throw up a couple of unexpected results – can I find the right ones?


Taking the Mickey ($2.66) vs Heart Testa ($1.59)

Back to the traditional season opener with both teams pretty healthy, even Chris Newman available after heart surgery two weeks ago.  The Blues midfield is best they have put on the field since 2013 and I am hoping that will give them the edge, although the Tigers isn’t shabby.  Based on last year’s form the Tigers are justified favourites, however the Blues offer great value and I reckon should be about $2.30.  Being the first game, optimism is up and I reckon the Blues can salute in a close encounter between a couple of middle of the road teams.


Hogan’s Heroes ($3.00) vs Rocket Men ($1.48)

The Demons will finally roll out Jesse Hogan and a few other new faces up against Rodney Eade’s Suns.  Rocket will be keen to make an immediate impact in his return to coaching and I suspect his charges will have too much skill for the Demons who remain a work in progress.  Nevertheless their odds are attractive on their beloved MCG, a true believer should be happy with $2.80 – alas I am not one of those.


Parramatta ($1.32) vs Not Guilty-ish  ($3.90)

Surely with so many players not having match practice it is a bridge too far for the Bombers!  On the other hand Sydney are renowned for their tardy beginnings to the season.  A key factor in selecting Sydney is their dominance over the Bombers at this venue. Still rate Essendon fair value at anything over $3.50


Drink Time ($2.68) vs Coxless ($1.57)

The Dogs have new coach in Beveridge, new captain in Murphy and new spearhead in Boyd – they gambled big but lost Libba.  Up against West Coast who are looking for improvement without Big Cox but generally have challenges in the loungeroom.  Would prefer to wait for selections, but this could be one of the upsets and happy to go for the Dogs in this one.


Beaming Bright ($1.68) vs What’s in the Pies? ( 2.46)

The Lions get to unveil their prize recruit against his former club who could barely have had a worse week to lead into Round 1.  If nothing else Collingwood are resilient and their record on the road formidable so a win would not shock, but I suspect the Lions will begin an impressive run at the Gabbatoir for 2015 on Saturday Night.


Seaford ($3.30) vs Gryffindor ($1.41)

Fantastic scheduling pitting the two lowest ranked against each other early, again keen to see the Saints and Giants team selections.  Ryan Griffin will add to the Giants capability and experience.  Selecting GWS but without much confidence, St Kilda won’t be as short as $3 often but it is fair value this week.


Texas ($1.75) vs Guess what’s back? ($2.32)

Incredibly North have rolled out the Shinboner Spirit headline – what is going to turn up in Adelaide.  A real test for both sides, a win for the Crows will be a great start – but for North a win might be the sign that they could break out of the peleton and chase the leading pack.  Selecting Adelaide at this stage but eagerly awaiting team selections.


Fyfe-dom ($1.87) vs Ryding High ($2.12)

The Essendon decision had a bigger effect on this market than the Essendon game – that is the difference Paddy Ryder could make to Port Adelaide.  In the meantime Get Stuffed Lyon has to come up with a game style that does more than shore up home wins.  Nevertheless they do have a fortress at Subiaco and I tip them to squeeze past Port.


The Champs ($1.46) vs Hoopla ($3.10)

The tide has turned on this rivalry with Hawthorn assuming dominance over the Cats in their last two encounters.  Geelong will win many games this year, but I have doubts on their defence against the very best opposition.  There is no better attack than Hawthorn’s which loaded with goalkickers and once Harry Taylor is neutralised multiple paths to goal will appear.  I concede the Geelong attack is formidable with the convenient inclusion of Clark and the exciting Cockatoo, but Hawthorn to win.


Friar Time

A week off before an opening round triple header with Senior confronting Ormond.  But this weekend – I’m going to Bonnie Doon, I’m going to Bonnie Doon……you know the song


Go Blues, Go Jason Day,


Cheers, Sal



  1. Good to have you back Sal. I think you have our Eagles and Blues in the right slots. I think we will be enjoying Whitefriars and Swan Districts more.

  2. Sal (and any other Almanackers wanting to join in the ladder fun), feel free to put $10 on those pontifications via this link:


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