Welcome to Season 2016: Sal’s predictions

Greetings All and welcome to the 2016 Season!

A pretty uninspiring summer of sport will make way for what looks to be a promising AFL season unless of course you are an Essendon or Carlton fan.  Being one of the latter should make these predictions and pontifications somewhat more objective – but there are still a few clubs where there might be some schadenfreudian perspective.

Suspect clubs will sort themselves out similarly to the last few years.  We will see a few clubs being a cut above the rest playing in A Grade, a growing mass of clubs with finals aspirations that make up B and C grade, then the bottom end of “rebuilders, resetters and very naughty boys” in D Grade.  The A Graders seem pretty obvious being by simply looking at the top 4 from last year – but there is usually one that drops out and one that pushes in.  Sydney for mine are vulnerable although their home ground advantage should allow them to hang around and remain in the top echelon, but Geelong have arguably a stronger home ground advantage and have really set themselves with their recruiting.  I see no obvious reason why Hawthorn, West Coast and Fremantle would drop out of the leading pack.  Gives us five A graders and I reckon a couple more believe they have claims – prepared to wait and see before any declarations.

Have lumped the B and C Graders in together because can’t really be sure who will drop into each category – it is more likely to come down luck of the draw and health of the list that will differentiate them.  There are some more likely to be B Graders such and North, Richmond and Adelaide whilst the improving Demons will probably be in the C category.  The draw does them no favours and I have one of my D Graders finishing above them, but Melbourne does have much greater scope.  Others in the peloton for mine are Collingwood, GWS, Port Adelaide and Footscray.

Which leaves us with the contest for pole position in the draft.  Just can’t see much upside on the Gold Coast, expect the Saints to tread water and similar for Brisbane (no help with Beams out indefinitely).  The Blues will battle but be better for it and Essendon are making up the numbers for TV this season – their results could shape the finals.  Would they have been better to have a season out of the competition?

Trends in the way the game is played will be interesting with the removal of the substitute and reduction of interchange rotations to 90 we can expect some opening up of the play.  Hoping that coaches are brave and see this as an opportunity for the best to shine rather than clog it up.  Ruck strategy will also be of interest – will clubs try and get by with a single ruckman and pinch hitter or go with a pair of big men and develop them as threats forward when resting.  Looking forward how the game develops with these changes and can’t wait till they drop it down to 60 rotations.

As in previous years I have forensically scrutinised the fixture to also account for extraneous factors such as home ground advantage, who plays whom twice and other vagaries.  Allocating 4 points per game.  

4 – for a gimme
3 – where the team should win
2 – for a flip of the coin game
1 – where there is a slight chance of success
0 – where the word of Darryl John Kerrigan comes to mind – dreamin’

So here is the ladder for 2016 – dreamin’.

Club, Predictions and Pontifications, Points, Rank   

Not sure the Hawks have improved their list from a  draft and trade perspective but they would be seem to have covered the loss of Hale not quite as sure about Lake.  The big question will be the impact of the injury to Jarryd Roughead, they have always been able to cover key players but there are not many that can fill all the roles he plays.  Suspect that might have some effect on them early, but if he comes back fresh and firing they become an even harder nut to crack.  Whilst there will always be a question on the age and pace of their stars I am prepared to actually see them drop off rather than predicting it.  Could be looking at a four-peat – suspect it might a bridge too far, nevertheless still rated to finish the season on top.

Reasons to be cheerful
·       Already three on the trot
·       Still look hungry

Reasons to be tearful
·       The end is closer than the beginning for Hodge, Lewis, Mitchell…
·       Darren Goldspink and umpires in general 

Points: 72
Rank: 1


Have made the ultimate “All In” bet with the inclusion of Dangerfield, Henderson and Smith.  The bet has a few years to run, but can only realistically expect two years with the assistance of Bartel, Mackie, Lonergan and Enright so a couple of others need to step up.  All the hoo-haa on Dangerfield is warranted, however Zac Smith could provide the big difference potentially providing the rucking force they have not has since Brad Ottens.  They are a real threat in 2016 and with the gimme draw at Kardinia Park they are beautifully placed to climb into the upper echelon of the competition.

Reasons to be cheerful
·       Patrick Dangerfield
·       Kardinia Park fixture

Reasons to be tearful
·       If the veterans fall away
·       Vale Paul Couch (along with the rest of the AFL community)      

Points: 68
Rank: 2


Will “Get Stuffed Lyon” release the hounds? – well he has let Crowley go.  He has one of the purest players to ever grace the park in Nat Fyfe who as we have learnt is a pretty driven individual.  As much pain as it would cause to see GSL with a McHale Medal – the premiership medal and Norm Smith around Fyfe would fit beautifully.  McPharlin’s retirement will hurt with respect to quality out of the backline, however if there one thing GSL can do it is build another defender.  The quest for The Great McCarthy looks like it will take 12 months longer than they wanted but if Harley Bennell can fulfill his talent they should be more offensive despite the coach.  Huge home ground advantage, best player and best ruck combination – wins them plenty of footy and should be very competitive. 

Reasons to be cheerful
·       Nat Fyfe and the rest of a very handy midfield with Harley Bennell included
·       Pavlich and Sandilands still going

Reasons to be tearful
·       Zac Dawson leading the defence
·       Not getting The Great McCarthy  

Points: 64
Rank: 3


West Coast
Lewis Jetta and Jack Redden will improve their lot but how far short were they on Grand Final day is the question.  Not sure it was quite that bad if we take out a couple of Barry Crockers from Kennedy and Darling – surely they can’t get stage fright two years in a row.  They also get a couple of key defenders back in particular Eric McKenzie – how he will entwine himself into the web will be interesting – it also might release McGovern to be the new Adam Hunter.  Not the ones to drop off for mine and have the personnel to go one better – have they got the desire?

Reasons to be cheerful
·       Nic Natanui is in the team!
·       Added flexibility with the return of Eric McKenzie

Reasons to be tearful
·       The Grand Final was all over at ¼ time
·       Will the web be untangled?      

Points: 60
Rank: 4


The Swans are still on their “All In” bet despite a road bump last September with the biggest ace in the deck.  The loss of Goodes will not really affect them structurally but someone needs to step up and play that spare parts role he did so well.  With the Big Canuck gone the Great Sage from the South will enjoy watching ruck contests again, however Callum Sinclair will need to deliver and provide the ruck depth required.  Has always been a question mark on the class of the defence and that remains so, but it has stood up pretty well for many years.  All homes games at the SCG is a plus and it should give them enough wins to challenge hard for the top four, but injuries to key players will really test their depth as we saw at the end of last year and could be the ones to fall away.

Reasons to be cheerful
·       SCG Fortress
·       Buddy and Parker are back, Hannebery looks primed

Reasons to be tearful
·       Reg Grundy and Dane Rampe
·       Will the rucks be good enough?  

Points: 59

Rank: 5


Bucks has been steadily building the list into the team he wants and by all reports the 2016 renewal is pretty close to his desires.  Getting Aish and Treloar adds to the midfield depth and importantly will release the likes of Pendlebury and Swan to use their creativity up forward which has been one of the Pies weaknesses of late.  The Moore colt looks like he could add another target inside 50.  Probably didn’t rate them that highly but a handy draw should see the Pies also push well into finals calculation.

Reasons to be cheerful
·       Sweet fixture
·       Treloar, Aish, Moore

Reasons to be tearful
·       Have to play some games away from the MCG
·       Travis Cloke kicking from less than 25m out     

Points 55
Rank: 6


There is no bigger out than Dangerfield and collectively I doubt the replacements measure up, but they do have a solid midfield group and the forward line consisting of Walker, Betts, Lynch and Jenkins will stretch any backline.  The Adelaide Oval experience is great for them and should be enough to get them into the eight over those teams without as strong a home ground advantage.

Reasons to be cheerful
·       Footy fun at Adelaide Oval with Tex, Eddie, Rory and the gang
·       Good age profile for the team

Reasons to be tearful
·       New coach on the block
·       Where’s Paddy?  

Points: 54
Rank: 7


Port Adelaide
12 games at Adelaide Oval and a handy draw has them pretty well positioned to climb back into the top eight, but they do have to deal with the loss of Paddy Ryder for the season.  Matthew Lobbe seems to enjoy the workload but whether that is good for the team overall is the bigger question.  The inclusion of Charlie Dixon should straighten them up provided he can stay on the park which was a challenge at Gold Coast. 

Reasons to be cheerful
·       The Portress
·       Another big forward in Charlie Dixon

Reasons to be tearful
·       Can Lobbe shoulder the load without Paddy?
·       Was 2015 an aberration? 

Points: 54
Rank: 7


North Melbourne
Made key changes to their list last year so looking for organic improvement also in 2016 – assuming the reports are correct they should get some with Daniel Wells up and running.  Through strategic planning and good fortune they again got themselves through to the penultimate week of the season and are unashamedly bullish of their prospects this year.  This pontificator can’t share their enthusiasm – they can expect improvement from a few in their ranks however the likes of Petrie, Waite, Firitto and Thompson are more likely to go in the other direction.  Their draw though is favourable (but not as favourable as the Adelaide teams) so they can look to fight it out for a lower place in the eight once again.

Reasons to be cheerful
·       Daniel Wells fit and firing
·       Interchange limits could make Goldstein even more effective

Reasons to be tearful
·       Aging key players
·       Will the mythical Shinboner spirit be exactly that again?       

Points: 52
Rank: 9


Tigerland is a buzz but I am not sure why.  (It has mellowed with a couple of injuries)  They have not lost anyone of note, Foley and Newman were great servants but their time was up – of the entries the only one of note is Chris Yarran – who has walked into the culture shock of an AFL club.  Apart from his “potential” they are pretty much relying on organic improvement of their existing list – they are already an experienced line up, not sure how much better they can get.  They should almost be at the point of we’ve climbed but are just falling short – they needed to either go “All In” a la Geelong or take the ugly but sometimes necessary dip to reload.  Will be pushing for finals, but again advantage Adelaide.

Reasons to be cheerful
·       The Army is on board and Jack is worth the ticket
·       Experienced list at its peak

Reasons to be tearful
·       Has this group reached its nadir?
·       Can they make the decision to “reset” if they need to?  

Points: 51
Rank: 10


The Dogs are also relying on list improvement, being a younger group that is probably reasonable but not sure that they addressed some their weaknesses from last year.  Matt Suckling will only add to their skill level, but this will be a tougher team to play in than the Hawthorn machine.  Would hope Josh Dunkley might just slot in like his dad down back, but they will really miss the creativity of Crameri up forward which might leave a lot do for Jake Stringer.  They will do well to hold their ground with the rush of teams who should improve from 2015 and they won’t be the surprise packet this year.

Reasons to be cheerful
·       Bob Murphy and The Bont play for the Dogs
·       Great style of footy to watch

Reasons to be tearful
·       Essendon Drugs!
·       How do the rucks measure up?    

Points: 49
Rank: 11


Greater Western Sydney
Have not caught fever yet for the Giants, but certainly rate their potential.  It makes them difficult to assess – upside is huge but it all has to come together.  Until it does the glass remains half empty on them at the moment.  Stevie J has chosen the Giants for his superannuation scheme, he will deliver value in both experience and teaching – but gaining him has come at a greater cost with the loss of Treloar and reticence of McCarthy.  Could push into the finals but not in my list at this stage.

Reasons to be cheerful
·       Mummy’s ready to go and Stevie J is on the way
·       Patton and Cameron together on the park

Reasons to be tearful
·       The not so great McCarthy
·       Continuing raids on young talent        

Points: 31
Rank: 12


Gold Coast
A fit Gary Ablett makes them better – but overall have taken a step back to go forward with the disposal of Bennell, Dixon and Smith.  The fruits of those decisions will take time to ripen.  Another year of being an also ran for mine.

Reasons to be cheerful
·       A good home ground advantage rates them above probably better teams
·       Having a 2 metre Peter

Reasons to be tearful
·       Injuries to key young players that are already on the radar of other clubs
·       Not sure Rodney Eade hasn’t gone past the use by date   

Points: 28
Rank: 13


Relying on improvement from their list with their inclusions really adding depth rather than class, however the expectations are reasonable given the age profile of their list.  Any improvement in Hogan puts him just about in the elite class, Petracca returns from a knee reconstruction, add improvement to the likes of Viney, Brayshaw and VandenBerg plus Clayton Oliver looks like a walk up start.  Puts them in a similar position to GWS from my perspective, could be big improvers but will need to keep the list healthy.  Whilst ranked pretty low there is plenty of upside.

Reasons to be cheerful
·       Jesse Hogan
·       Would appear to be playing a more positive and attractive style of footy

Reasons to be tearful
·       Will Chris Dawes ever be fit?
·       Depth could be tested with a few injuries       

Points: 25
Rank: 14


St Kilda
Went all in on the potential of Jake Carlisle who will be a key structural component of the team for years to come but not this year.  This makes 2016 a challenging one for the Saints – they will get improvement from their young list but will struggle with lack of strength in key posts apart from the indefatigable Nick Riewoldt.  Hard to see them climbing much further this year.

Reasons to be cheerful
·       Another year into a developing list – McCartin, Goddard and all the Jacks in the pack
·       Going back to Moorabbin

Reasons to be tearful
·       Nick Riewoldt will be closer to the end
·       Essendon Drugs  

Points: 23
Rank: 15


Aish and Redden for Bastinac and Bell – sort of one for one in the midfield but more upside in the ones they have lost.  The key for Brisbane is getting a list that wants to play for them.  The number two pick in Josh Schache should have an impact but his benefits will be in the years that follow.  The loss of Leuenberger puts plenty on the shoulders of Stefan Martin but he loves the work.  Another year of consolidation.

Reasons to be cheerful
·       Building a list that wants to be there
·       Josh Schache could be a player to build a forward line around

Reasons to be tearful
·       Dayne Beams out for an unspecified period
·       Need to engage Brisbane again   

Points: 18
Rank: 16


Huge turnover of a really ordinary list and few more to go.  Some honesty from the club will hurt in the short-term but will hopefully bear fruit in the years to come.  Might not win more games than 2015 but will have a better idea of where they are at the end of 2016.  Will give some cheek early but expect young players to tire through latter part of the season and will be hunting for the Number 1 draft pick when the whips are cracking.

Reasons to be cheerful
·       Jacob Weitering
·       Has to be a couple of nuggets amongst all the new players they have brought in

Reasons to be tearful
·       The Mick Malthouse legacy – Liam Jones has a year to go, Dale Thomas’ ankle appears shot.
·       This “Reset” might take a couple of them        

Points: 17
Rank: 17


Very much a watch and learn year for the Bombers – results against them may skew the season for other clubs.  They will create some energy early – but expect them to taper off and challenge strongly for prime position in the draft.

Reasons to be cheerful
·       It will all be over in 2017
·       Will get a good look at some young talent

Reasons to be tearful
·       Costly errors of judgement
·       Civil litigation?  Is it really all over?       

Points: 12
Rank: 18     


Much will ultimately be determined by the teams that can keep their best 22 on the park, but the season is relatively open save for a couple of basket cases. Whilst that is the ladder, I suspect the premiership will head across the Nullabor to Fremantle – they seem to have a team which has the capacity to play more aggressively and they have the best in the land who I predict will wear Charlie again.  The proviso being that GSL does produce a more free-flowing style.  Whilst number one pick is nice would prefer if the Blues escaped that ignominy again which I believe they will and the Bombers will claim the kitchenware.


In Ammo land the Friars are up and running and looking to some keen competition in D1.  Then the pick of my summer has actually been the English winter with West Ham occupying the lofty reaches of fifth place, although being surpassed with the extraordinary feats of Leicester who can almost touch the championship!


Looking forward to a great season,

Go Blues, Go Friars, Go Hammers

Cheers, Sal


Ed note: How much more help could you ask for, ahead of joining the “Tip the Top 8” competition?

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  1. Neil Anderson says

    Great to see someone kick-off with predictions first while most of us just worry about our own team.
    I noticed you mentioned quite often about the home-ground advantage being a big factor for some teams as the season rolls on. Normally I would say the Bulldogs are always disadvantaged in this respect. But ironically last year, Etihad was seen as advantage with the way they played that fast hectic football.
    I always make my own predictions at the start of the season and look at them again at Grand Final time.
    Like most people I end up with about five or six correct in the final eight.
    Here is my top eight for what it’s worth, just guessing based on what I know of how healthy the Club’s lists are, the recruiting and that home-ground advantage.
    West Coast
    Port Adelaide

  2. Similar Neil.

    West Coast

    Unlucky – Dogs.

  3. Paul Buxton says

    A “handy draw” for the Pies. My goodness, who would have thought…

  4. Malcolm Ashwooc says

    1 West Coast
    2 Geelng
    3 Hawthorn
    4 Fremantle
    5 Port
    6 Collingwood
    7 Sydney
    8 Dogs
    ( Crows draw from hell plus losing a freak means they will miss out ) Enjoyable read Sal

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