AFL: Mid-Season Reviews – Part One

Now that the bye weeks are done with and all teams are sitting on 12 games played, it is time to take a look at the season so far for each of the AFL teams in part one of our mid-season review.

1. Adelaide Crows

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Positives

Any team that is sitting on top of the ladder heading into the second half of the season can consider this a good season so far and the Crows are no different.  With 9 wins under their belt and a league leading percentage of 141.8 the Crows are leading the way in attacking football.  Their potent forward line has led the team to a number of big wins and they look well placed to finish in the top two come the end of the season

Negatives

As impressive as the Crows have been in the majority of games this year, their performances in their three defeats to North Melbourne, Melbourne and Geelong have been poor.  Perhaps most concerning for the Crows is that those defeats have all come in games where star midfielder Rory Sloane was tagged out of the game, the message seeming to be, stop Sloane and you stop the Crows.  Fortunately for Adelaide, stopping Rory Sloane is easier said than done.

2. Greater Western Sydney Giants

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Positives

The early season flag favourites have largely lived up to expectations and along with the Crows have 9 wins going into the second half of the season.  Star midfielder Josh Kelly is in potentially Brownlow winning form in a year where he looms as the most in demand upcoming free agent.  The form of Kelly and Dylan Shiel in midfield has gone a long way to covering for a shocking injury list whilst Jeremy Cameron and Jon Patton are now two of the best key forwards in the game.  The long anticipated GWS dominance looks to have arrived.

Negatives

Those injuries.  GWS have lost more man hours than any other team this year and have lost some very important players along the way.  Star recruit Brett Deledio is yet to play for the Giants whilst star midfielders Stephen Coniglio, Tom Scully and Ryan Griffen have missed a significant chunk of the season so far.  With more injuries this week to Josh Kelly and Jacob Hopper, the Giants need to keep finding ways to win without their first choice 22 available.

3. Geelong Cats

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Positives

Any teams that contains two of the best, hard bodied midfielders in the competition is going to give themselves a chance to win.  In Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield the Cats have probably the best midfield pairing in the league and both players have shown their best form at different times of the year.  The retirements of club champions Jimmy Bartell and Cory Enright along with some other aging stalwarts could have signalled the start of a slow demise for the Cats but with young talents such as Jordan Parfitt showing promise and Irish recruit Zach Tuohy in career best form, the Cats are once again in the Premiership hunt.

Negatives

Rounds 6-8 were frankly terrible for Geelong.  They followed up a 5-0 start to the season with defeats to Collingwood, Gold Coast and Essendon, managing just 167 tackles combined across the three games and an embarrassing 40 against Essendon with just 15 to half time.  The intensity that sparked their unbeaten start to the season disappeared and the Cats suffered for it.  Thankfully for Geelong they re-discovered it in round 9 where they won a battle against the Bulldogs and have again built from there.  A hard-nosed West Coast side put the Cats to the sword the week after the bye and Geelong will need to ensure that they do not suffer a hangover from that loss going forward.

4. Port Adelaide Power

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Positives

On the back of a year in which the Power missed the finals completely, they entered 2017 looking like a side re-born, starting the year with an impressive win away at losing Grand Finalists Sydney and not looking back since.  Built upon excellent home form, Port lead a pack of four teams on 28 points courtesy of their strong percentage gained from huge wins over Fremantle, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Carlton.  Ollie Wines at 22 is becoming one of the best on-ballers in the competition and is in Brownlow contention.  If Port can maintain strong home form then they should play finals at the very least.

Negatives

Though Port have been impressive in patches this year, they have come up short when tested against quality opposition.  Their five defeats have all come to fellow challengers in Adelaide, GWS, West Coast, Geelong and Essendon, two of which have come in home games.  Until Port can win a game that they are not favourites for, it is hard to see them as genuine challengers, regardless of how good they look against the also-rans.

5. Melbourne Demons

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Positives

A season that looked to be going off the rails after round six when the Demons sat on 3-3 has been recovered in an impressive manner, especially in the past two weeks where the Demons emerged victorious in a tight Queen’s Birthday match up with Collingwood and then went on to demolish the Bulldogs this past weekend.  What makes Melbourne look a genuine threat is the spread of ages throughout their team, for every veteran star in Jordan Lewis and Nathan Jones there is a young gun like Clayton Oliver or Christian Petracca.  Baring in mind that the Demons have been without Jesse Hogan and talismanic ruck Max Gawn for the majority of the season so far (though he looks ready to return this week) there is a real chance that this Demons team could go deep into September.

Negatives

Inconsistency has been the story of the year for the Demons.  A huge win over ladder leading Adelaide was followed up with a poor defeat to North Melbourne.  Throw in a poor home defeat to Fremantle where the Demons were leading only to concede nine third quarter goals and it is fair to say that the Demons could be even further up the ladder.

6. Richmond Tigers

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Positives

Much like Port Adelaide, the Tigers have been one of the surprise packages of the season.  Few people who watched the terrible Richmond team of last season could have predicted that they would be in a position for a flag tilt this year, yet that is exactly where they find themselves at the half way point.  Though the Tigers have a strong spine in Alex Rance, Trent Cotchin, Dustin Martin and Jack Riewoldt, it has been the small forward brigade that have made the biggest impression so far this season.  The speed and tenacity of Daniel Rioli, Shai Bolton, Jason Castagna and Dan Butler has made the difference for the Tigers and made all teams sit up and take note.

Negatives

No other team in the competition is as good at throwing away a lead as the Tigers are.  Rounds 7-9 saw the Tigers lose games to the Bulldogs, Dockers and Giants all by less than a kick and all in games that they were winning in the final quarter.  Round 13 also saw defeat to the Swans in a game that the Tigers led for the majority.  Unless the Tigers can find the resolve to get over the line in these tight games, another ninth placed finish could beckon.

7. West Coast Eagles

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Positives

Expectations are high at the Eagles and although they find themselves in the finals hunt, it is hard to find too many clear positives in what has been a disappointing season so far.  There have been strong wins away at Port Adelaide and at home to Geelong and Sydney but results have been inconsistent and unpredictable.  Despite that the Eagles key position players have been strong.  Jeremy McGovern has become one of the best defenders in the game, ably supported by young Tom Barrass whilst prior to injury Josh Kennedy was once again leading the Coleman count and ruck recruit Nathan Vardy has done as well as any one could have expected in the absence of Nic Naitanui.  Elliot Yeo’s permanent move to half back has also proven to be a master stroke as he has played himself into Brownlow contention and currently leads the coaches votes after round 13.

Negatives

At this point it could be said that the Sam Mitchell experiment has failed, not because Mitchell himself has been poor but because of the effect that his presence has had on an already slow Eagles midfield.  The early rounds saw Priddis and Mitchell in a midfield that also contained on other one-paced players such as Jack Redden and Chris Masten and they always looked likely to over ran, culminating in a demolishing at the hands of Essendon.  The addition of Lewis Jetta has added some zip and class and the Eagles need to inject some leg speed to be effective this year.

8. Essendon Bombers

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Positives

It could be claimed that almost everything has been a positive this year for the Bombers given the turmoil that they have been through in recent years.  John Worsfold has re-integrated the banned players to good effect and the year in the spot light has been the making of Zach Merrett who continues to rack up the disposals and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti is probably the most exciting player in the game.  The Bombers are playing, fast, attacking football and will be happy with their efforts so far in a year where they have won the Anzac day game and recorded strong wins over West Coast, Geelong and Port Adelaide.  Keep this sort of form up and the Bombers will be playing in September.

Negatives

As with Melbourne, there has been a lack of consistency at times to the Bombers and poor defeats to Fremantle and Carlton will sting a lot if they are the difference between playing finals and not at the end of the season.  Early in the season after a big defeat to Adelaide John Worsfold claimed that the returning players had ‘hit the wall’ and it remains a chance that, given their year out of the game, the returning players struggle for stamina towards the end of the year.

That concludes part one of our mid-season review.

Stay tuned for positions 9-18 later in the week

Ian O’Brien

@VFTCS_Blog

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – AFL Week 3

Week three of this so far, so crazy AFL season is in the bag and it was another week with shocks a plenty.  Without further ado we present, the good, the bad and the oh so very ugly.

The Good

Fremantle

Credit where credit is due, after two horrific performances that had many questioning the strength of Ross Lyon’s position, the Dockers responded in style this week with a comprehensive and well deserving victory over the reigning Premiers, Western Bulldogs.

It took six unforced changes, a monumental effort from new captain Nat Fyfe and the overdue demotion of the uninspiring Zac Dawson, but, after a full season and two games of dross, the Dockers put in a performance reminiscent of their Grand Final losing team of 2013.  They were fierce in the tackle, fearless in the contest and moved the ball as well as any of the elite teams in the competition with the Hill brothers and the underrated Lachie Neale supporting Fyfe in an excellent midfield display.

One swallow does not a summer make and it remains to be seen whether the Dockers can continue to play in such a manner but for one week at least they can be very proud of their efforts.

Gold Coast

The Dockers weren’t the only team this week to react to recent criticism in the best way possible, the much maligned Gold Coast Suns produced the best result of their short tenure with an 86 point walloping of Hawthorn at Metricon Stadium.

The Suns are one of the AFL’s biggest conundrums, they have a more than capable defense underpinned by the giant Steven May, one of the quickest midfields in the league supported by the wiliest veteran in Gary Ablett Jr (though his own situation is far from simple) and perhaps the best young full forward in the game in Tom Lynch.  Yet, year after year they continue to under perform, which, like the aforementioned Ross Lyon, has had many in the media questioning whether Rodney Eade is the man to take the Suns forward.

Though the Hawthorn of 2017 is no where near the Hawthorn of years gone by (I’m looking at you Ty Vickery) this is still a stunning result.  Yet, rather than put to bed the questions surrounding the club, it just creates more new ones.  Why, if this team is capable of playing this well, can they not do it more often.  I suspect we won’t know the answer to that question any time soon.

Adelaide

Ever so slightly lost in the confusion of so many upsets this year has been the qutie terrifying and formidable form of Adelaide.  Though they were challenged by their neighbours Port Adelaide in a highly enjoyable Showdown this weekend, the Crows ran out comfortable winners, their superiority perhaps personified by Tex Walker’s decision to smash a goal from fully 70m rather than look for other options when on paper the game still looked close.

So far the Crows have beaten the Champions select GWS, recent titans Hawthorn and a much improved Port Adelaide, all at a canter.  Though it is still early, the Crows have shown that they are more than just challengers this year, they may just be flag favourites.

The Bad

Melbourne

Not so much for the results as a 29 point defeat to Geelong is, in itself, nothing to be ashamed of, but the manner of the defeat will rankle with the Demons.

Deprived of star players Jordan Lewis and Jesse Hogan due to AFL imposed suspensions, the Demons were still able to take the game to the Cats for three quarters of a tight game.  At 3QT the Dees held a narrow three point lead that should have been a lot higher. As has been the case with a lot of games so far this season, the Demons inaccuracy cost them as the kicked just 12.17 to Geelong’s remarkable 14.2 over the first three quarters.

The Cats found another gear in the fourth quarter inspired, as always, by Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood to eventually run over a Demons team depleted of talismanic ruckman Max Gawn who left the field just before half time.

Scans this week have shown that the hamstring injury Gawn sustained is worse than first thought and he is likely to miss 10 weeks of the season.  In addition the Dees will be without Hogan for another week and Lewis for another two weeks, all of which add up to make this game a missed opportunity amid some tough games to come.

Sydney

Not many would have predicted that the Swans that lost last years Grand Final would find themselves with three defeats from three games to start the season but that is where they find themselves.

The 1 point defeat to the previously winless Collingwood this week was perhaps the worst of the lot as the Swans once again left it too late to mount a challenge just as they had the previous week against the Bulldogs.

There is no doubt that this Swans team is a good side, they are probably the best contested team in the league and have the biggest star in the AFL in Buddy Franklin.  Theyhave also been unfortunate with injuries this year, having been forced to blood a number of young players in trying circumstances.

However, the ladder does not lie and the task of even making finals for this year’s Swans has been made much tougher by their horrific start to the season.

North Melbourne

Another team without a win so far this year, you have to wonder whether the Kangaroos are regretting their decision to release much loved veterans Boomer Harvey, Drew Petrie and Nick Dal Santo last year given that they look to be missing a bit of nous around the ground.

Whilst last week’s one point defeat to Geelong was a kick in the teeth for the Roos having held a 30 point lead at one point in the game, this week’s defeat to GWS may be more demoralizing.

In recent years the Roos have been dominant at their second home in Hobart losing only one of their past nine at Blundstone Arena and went into this game confident of an upset on the back of this.  However, they were no match for the Giants and wound up on the end of a 42 point thumping.

North have been largely uninspiring in their three defeats so far this year and next week play the reigning Premiers.  After going 10-0 to start the year last season, it is not inconceivable that they could go 0-10 this year.

The Ugly

Hawthorn

It is far too easy to pin the Hawk’s failings this year on the decision to trade out star veterans Jordan Lewis and Sam Mitchell for the equivalent of a bag of magic beans but there is the overwhelming sense that the towel was thrown in before a ball was even kicked this year.

Against a vibrant Gold Coast side, the Hawks looked one paced and unimaginative.  The same players that carried the Hawks to the third part of a threepeat just two years ago were made to look like statues as Gary Ablett played around them and Adam Saad ran past them.

Perhaps most concerning for the Hawks were the 19 intercept possessions that the Suns registered.  Whilst they have never been a particularly quick team whilst dominating the league, the Hawks set themselves apart with their elite ball use.  Without it they are just another plodding group of tryers, we knew the end was in site, we just didn’t know it would come so soon.

View From The Cheap Seats

Ian O’Brien

Twitter: @vftcs_blog

Photo courtest of aflphotos.com.au