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 One

It might have been a terrible start for the tipsters but week one of the 2017 AFL season was a thriller with record attendances, standout performances and some brilliant football on show.

Here is the first edition of our new weekly feature on the good, the bad and ugly from the past week in footy.

The Good

Essendon

The great unknown heading into the season has been what to expect from Essendon in 2017. Will the experienced stars returning from a 12 month ban such as Jobe Watson and Dyson Heppell be able to return to their previous level after such a long time out? Will the young Bombers that performed admirably at times under tough conditions last year be given the chance to shine? Is finals footy unthinkable at this stage?

Most of these questions remain but the Bombers performance in comfortably beating recent powerhouses Hawthorn was one that exceeded even the most die hard of Essendon supporters’ expectations.  

With the weight of expectation and no small amount of doubt on their shoulders, the six returning stars, Watson, Heppel, Cale Hooker, Brent Stanton, Travis Colyer and Michael Hurley all did their part to power the Bombers to victory, but it was last year’s break out star, Zach Merrett that really led the way with a very impressive 37 disposals.

The Bombers certainly won’t have everything their way this year, and this isn’t quite the Hawthorn of recent years that they beat but it was still a very impressive way to start the season and gives them hope for the rest of the year.

Erin Phillips and the AFLW Crows

Despite going into the AFLW Grand Final as slight outsiders, the Adelaide Crows dominated the Brisbane Lions on the back of a sensational display from midfielder Erin Phillips who finished the game with 28 disposals and two goals, remarkable figures for a game of only 15 minute quarters.

Where Phillips controlled the midfield, Chelsea Randall did the same at the back, keeping marquee Lions Tayla Harris and Sabrina Frederick-Traub to just two goals between them for the game.

Though they may not have been quite the best team over the course of the season, the Crows were certainly the best team on Grand Final day and more than deserve to be the history making inaugural AFLW winners.

On Monday afternoon, Erin Phillips backed up her best on ground display by being named the players player of the year to cap off a wonderful season.

The Underdogs

Whilst the pre-season competition can teach us a certain amount about a team, this weekend’s results have shown more than ever that it is not a reliable judge of form.

Going into round one all of Essendon, Port Adelaide, Brisbane Lions and even to a certain extent the Adelaide Crows were considered the underdogs yet all were able to win to varying levels of impressiveness.

Going forwards each of these teams have differing expectations for the rest of the season but all will be very happy to have played one, won one going into round two.

The Bad

Sydney Swans

For the second time in three years the Swans spent the summer months lamenting the missed opportunity of defeat in a Grand Final.  Based on their performance over the weekend, it seems that some of the players haven’t quite put it behind them.

Expected to win comfortably at home against a Port Adelaide side that hasn’t made the finals in the past two seasons, the Swans were listless and had no answer for Port’s vigour after half time, eventually falling to a 28 point loss.

Especially disappointing for the Swans was the performance of their engine room.  Star midfielders Josh P. Kennedy, Dan Hannebury and Luke Parker were a major factor in the Swans making the Grand Final in 2015.  On Saturday they were outplayed by Port teenage debutant Sam Powell-Pepper and hard nut Ollie Wines.

It wasn’t all bad for the Swans with spearhead Buddy Franklin kicking four goals and ruckman Sam Naismith recording 34 hitouts against Paddy Ryder but they will be expecting much better in the coming weeks.

St Kilda

Not only did the Saints throw away a 24 point second quarter lead to allow Melbourne a first victory over the Saints since 2006, they also saw their inspirational former skipper Nick Riewoldt carried from the field with what appeared to be a potentially serious knee injury.

Whilst both the Saints and the Demons have been talked up as potential finals teams this year, the Saints are perhaps better placed to make a push based on their good blend of youth and experience and a strong end to last season.

Whilst this defeat is far from terminal, it is a definite blow to the Saints confidence to be so comfortably beaten by the team that many consider to be their closest rivals for a finals spot.

With a trip west to play West Coast next on the Saints fixture, things could be about to get worse before they get better.

Hawthorn

Given all of the attention that has been diverted towards Alastair Clarkson and the Hawks following their decision to trade veterans Jordan Lewis and Sam Mitchell for little to no return this summer, the last thing they wanted was an opening day defeat to a team many expected them to beat easily.

What would have been particularly  difficult for Hawks fans to stomach would have been watching Lewis and Mitchell have excellent debuts for their new clubs.

To be fair to Clarkson and the Hawks, there is long term thinking in their approach and the direct replacements in Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O’Meara were two of the Hawks better players at the weekend.  However, if they want to prevent the dissenting voices from getting any louder, they need a big win soon.

The Ugly

Jarrad Waite

The North Melbourne v West Coast game ultimately became a tale of accuracy in that one team was accurate and the other was not.  Though West Coast had only three more scoring shots than the Kangaroos, their winning margin was 43.

At one end of the ground Josh Kennedy kicked seven goals straight and Mark LeCras 4.1.  Whilst at the other end of the ground Jarrad Waite could only kick 1.7 whilst Lindsay Thomas managed just two behinds where both opportunities looked easier to score.

Having let Drew Petrie leave at the end of last season, there is added pressure on Jarrad Waite’s shoulders to take on more of the goal scoring burden for North Melbourne, on this week’s evidence he needs to practice his goal kicking.

Ian O’Brien

Featured Image Courtesy of aflphotos.com.au