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

Crows 2017.jpg

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

GWS 17.jpg

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

Carts 2017.jpg

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

POrt 2017.jpg

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

demons.jpg

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

Tigers 17.jpg

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

Eagles Mitch.jpg

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

Macca.jpg

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

Advertisements

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – AFL Round 9

It may be a topsy turvy kind of a season but some things never change, Richmond find new, more heart breaking ways to lose, Buddy Franklin kicks monstrous goals off one step and West Coast lose in Melbourne.  Let’s look at The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of round nine of the 2017 AFL season.

The Good

Geelong

The first game at the new look Kardinia Park brought a lot of fan fare and a well deserved win for a Geelong side that has been under a lot of pressure after three very disappointing defeats on the bounce.

The focus following last week’s defeat at the hands of Essendon was on the lack of fight from the Cats’ as they registered a lowly 40 tackles for the game and only 15 to half time.  This was a very different performance from the Cats though as they attacked the Bulldogs with relentless pressure and fierce tackling, ending the game with a phenomenal 134 tackles and 162 contested possessions.  Led by Mitch Duncan with 18 tackles and Scott Selwood with 17 in his first game of the season, Geelong looked like they had taken every single bit of criticism as a personal affront and were determined to prove the World wrong.

Whilst they were good value for their win against an equally desperate Bulldogs side, the challenge now for the Cats is to bring that intensity on a consistent basis.  There is undoubtedly talent in the Cats’ squad, but all too often they look like a team that expects to win games without trying and this year more than ever is proving that that simply cannot be done in the AFL.

Next Up: Port Adelaide (H)

Sydney

Finally the Swans that we all expected to see this year look like they have shown up to play, all be it six weeks too late.

In a normal season any team that starts a season with zero wins from six games would find it nigh on impossible to make the finals.  However, this is not a normal season and with three strong wins now under their belts the Swans are already starting to knock on the door of the top eight sitting just two wins outside.

Whilst big wins over Brisbane and North Melbourne can be partly dismissed due to their low positions on the ladder, a 50 point thumping of the previously impressive Saints cannot be ignored.

What is most promising for the Swans is that their good recent form is being built off strong performances from their star players.  This week Josh Kennedy, Dan Hannebury and Luke Parker registered 35, 30 and 28 disposals respectively whilst Buddy kicked four goals.

It is also no coincidence that Sydney have improved with the return of young gun Isaac Heeney from illness, already considered one of, if not, the best young players in the competition, Heeney has carried last season’s form into the last three games and added a new dimension to the Swan’s game.  With Callum Mills also recovering from some shaky early season performances the future continues to look bright for Sydney.

A big win over Hawthorn this week will confirm the suspicion that the Swans are going to make a huge impact this season.

Next Up: Hawthorn (H)

North Melbourne

Whilst the bulk of the attention at the bottom end of the ladder has been on Sydney’s revival, North Melbourne are putting together an impressive run of their own.

Winners now of three of their last four games including their unbelievable win over table toppers Adelaide, the Roos continued their recent strangle hold over the Demons with a convincing 14 point victory.

North Melbourne showed last year that when games get feisty it brings out the best in them and so it proved again this weekend with a particularly feisty encounter seeing them come out on top.

Where a lot of the league is adopting a fast moving, ball carrying kind of the game, North Melbourne have remained true to a more traditional kick and mark style of game.  It might not be too pretty but it can be effective, especially with Ben Brown in good form and Todd Goldstein approaching something like All Australian form.

Unlike Sydney, North Melbourne almost certainly will not be playing finals, they are at least beginning to bring some respectability to what promised to be a very disappointing season though.

Next Up: Carlton (A)

The Bad

Richmond

It would be unbelievable that a team could lose to a last minute goal twice in two weeks if that team weren’t Richmond.  The joke’s are beginning to write themselves but it really is no laughing matter for Richmond and their supporters.

The three point defeat to GWS this week came in a game in which, for three quarters, the Tigers were the better team, played the better football and looked like the potential flag winner of the two teams.

However, the fourth quarter was a story of inaccuracy and sloppiness for Richmond as the Giants kicked 33 points to the Tigers five in the final stanza that culminated in a long punt up the corridor being punched on to a horrible mismatch and a cool finish by Giants star Jeremy Cameron.

The questions are being asked of the Tigers as to how this can keep happening and the answers are not forthcoming but the fact of the matter is that three defeats by less than a goal in three weeks, two of those in games that the Tigers were winning comfortably, are threatening to derail a season that could have been so very good.  Where the Tigers are still in contention with five wins, eight wins would have them comfortably top of the ladder.

The silver lining for the Tigers is that they are still playing (for three quarters of games at least) good football and don’t look to be intimidated by any team in the competition.  This week they face a rejuvenated Essendon team in what looms as the game of the round.

Next Up: Essendon (H)

Hawthorn

An awful season just continues to get worse for the Hawks with a deeply disappointing defeat to the ever unpredictable Collingwood at the MCG.

The Hawks came out like a bull at a gate, limiting the Pies to just one behind in the first quarter and racing out to a game high 43 point lead in the second.  Whilst Collingwood clawed the margin back to 34 points at half time, no one could have predicted what would occur in the second half as the Magpies blew the Hawks away to eventually win by a comfortable 18 points.

No team expects to lose a game that they are winning by 43 points but to see Hawthorn throw a game away from that position is unfathomable.  That Tom Mitchell is in potential Brownlow winning form in the midst of this horror show is even more remarkable as Mitchell racked up a lazy 50 disposals in defeat.

Whilst the temptation at Hawthorn might be to write this season off as a failure and rebuild, their task has been made even harder by the fact that they traded their first and second round draft picks to land the talented but injury prone Jaeger O’Meara meaning that they won’t enter the 2017 draft until pick number 33.

The future is looking bleak for the Hawks

Next Up: Sydney (A)

St Kilda

Under normal circumstances a heavy defeat at home to Sydney would be disappointing but understandable.  However, given the Saints excellent form and performance in beating GWS recently coupled with the Swans lowly ladder position, this is a result that could have a huge demoralising effect on St Kilda.

Though both teams traded goals early on, the Saints were ultimately smashed at the contest and eventually blown away by a clinical Swans side.

St Kilda have impressed a lot of people this season and still have plenty of time to turn this into a very good season but face another tough game this week in the Bulldogs.

Next Up: Western Bulldogs (A)

The Ugly

West Coast Eagles

They may hate the tag ‘flat track bullies’ but the Eagles are never going to shake it if they continue to put in such insipid performances away from home.

Poor skills or misguided effort can be excused but a total lack of effort or application cannot and once again people like Mike Sheahan are justified in labeling this Eagles group ‘mummy’s boys‘ and other such insults.

Just as they were against Richmond in round three and Hawthorn in round five, the Eagles were embarrassed by a hungry side that quite simply wanted to win the game more than they did.  Essendon tackled, harassed and bullied the Eagles to the point that by half time most of the West Coast players looked like they would rather be anywhere else but the Etihad.

What is perhaps most frustrating about this Eagles side is that, even though they were so poor at the weekend, they are just as likely to beat GWS at Domain this week and for that reason you cannot write off their flag chances just yet.

Next Up: GWS (H)

Ian O’Brien

@VFTCS_Blog

@PPAstonVilla

 

 

 

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – AFL Round 6

Round six of this fascinating AFL season is in the rear view mirror and the ladder still looks like someone tipped it on its head with Sydney Swans rock bottom with a 0-6 record, followed closely by Hawthorn on 1-5.

At the other end of the ladder Adelaide Crows’ march to September continues to pick up pace as they now sit alone on top of the pile as the only remaining undefeated team.

The Good

Collingwood

Just as the pressure mounting on coach Nathan Buckley was starting to look insurmountable, Collingwood go and do what only Collingwood seem able to and win a game that no one fancied them to win.

Uninspiring in last week’s ANZAC day defeat to Essendon, the Pies were a very different team this week against Geelong.  Following on from a standout ANZAC day performance, Daniel Well’s second game for Collingwood helped inspire a midfield display that out ran, out worked and outmaneuvered their more fancied opposition.  Joel Selwood, just one week removed from a 43 disposal performance, was held in check by a masterful tag by Levi Greenwood whilst reigning Brownlow medalist Patrick Dangerfield could only muster 21 disposals and a goal for his own efforts, well down on his normal output.

It is no surprise to see a midfield that contains Scott Pendlebury, Adam Treloar, Steele Sidebottom and Daniel Wells dominate a game and it is not the first time this year they have done so.  The difference this week was that the Pies found some much needed fire power, The Pies had 13 different goal scorers for their 15 goals.  In the absence of a genuinely dominant key forward, Collingwood need more goals from around the ground and they need this week to be a sign of things to come if they are to feature this September.

Next Up: Carlton (H)

St Kilda

Previous to this week, Hawthorn had won 19 straight games at their Tasmanian fortress, spanning back to a 2012 defeat to Sydney.  The challenge of playing the Hawks in Launceston is intimidating for even the best of teams, but these are not the Hawks of old and although they only have a 3-3 record, these Saints aren’t scared of anyone.

Leading at every break, St Kilda buried the sorry Hawks with an eight goal to one third quarter and eventually ran over them in the fourth to register a 75 point win.  They even managed to accommodate possibly the most embarrassing miss in AFL history into their Saturday afternoon stroll.

It is hardly a unique view to suggest that this St Kilda team has the makings of a very strong side but they are really starting to show it now.  Speedy midfielder Jack Steven registered 36 disposals in his second game back from a punctured lung and showed why he is regarded as one of the best midfielders in the competition whilst evergreen Nick Riewoldt scored four goals including his 700th career goal.

With a young spine that includes emergint talent in the likes of Jake Carlisle, Tim Membrey, Josh Bruce and Jade Gresham, this Saints team has all the tools to make finals this year and for many years to come.

Next Up: GWS Giants (A)

Melbourne

It has been a strong week for the Melbourne teams on the cusp of finals contention and that includes a welcome return to form for the so far underwhelming Demons.

Whilst the Demons have been disappointing based on pre-season predictions, they do have some valid excuses.  Key ruckman Max Gawn is out for a large chunk of the season with a serious hamstring injury, forward Jesse Hogan has missed three games through a combination of suspension and personal leave and star recruit Jordan Lewis has also sat out three games through suspension.

That Lewis’ return to the team this week coincided with a comprehensive victory over Essendon comes as no surprise.  However, the strength of their performance is not why the Demons find themselves in the ‘good’ column.  In fact, their win over the Bombers came in a terrible game riddled with personal errors and poor skills.  Essendon looked tired on the back of their five day break and Melbourne were just sloppy, pulling it together just enough to come out on top in the end, thanks in no small part to Joe Danniher’s wastefulness in front of goal for Essendon.

At this stage of the season there are not too many must win games, but for Melbourne this one was and they managed to do enough to register the four points.

Next Up: Hawthorn (H)

The Bad

Fremantle (and West Coast)

With three tight and ultimately deserved wins under their belt in the weeks leading up to the Western Derby the Dockers went into this week’s game against arch rivals West Coast with all the momentum and no lack of belief.  On the other side of the coin, the Eagles entered the game on the back of a 51 point thumping from the previously winless Hawthorn.

Whilst the Eagles were still favourites, the conditions seemed ripe for an upset and most people expected a barn buster of a Derby.  Instead, the fans were treated to a damp squib of a game that was over by quarter time with the Eagles having piled on seven goals to Fremantle’s one in the first quarter.  What threatened in the early stages to become a one sided blowout instead tapered out to an uninspiring plod of a game that, at times, resembled a training match such was the lack of passion from either team.

The Dockers, for their part, once again showed an inability to score goals.  Each of their recent victories have come in low scoring affairs where the Dockers ability to limit their opposition’s scoring threat proving the difference.  Against the Eagles they had no answer to Coleman medalist Josh Kennedy and in response had nothing to offer beyond new man Cam McCarthy’s respectable three goals effort.

Nat Fyfe continued his indifferent form with just 19 disposals and a fortunate escape from suspension after a frustrated swing at the impressive Elliot Yeo.  Whilst Michael Walters was anonymous in his 100th game and Lachie Neale is yet to recapture his Doig medalist form of 2016.

On the evidence of this game, neither the Dockers or the Eagles are likely to make too much of an impression on the competition unless both teams can rediscover some passion and intensity.

Next Up: Essendon (H)

Western Bulldogs

Whilst a two point defeat to GWS Giants in Canberra is not a result to be ashamed of, this was a game that the Bulldogs would have wanted to win, not just for the points but for the symbolism of beating the team that many have tipped as flag favourites.

In a disappointing display in front of goal the Bulldogs kicked 9.19 to the Giants’ 11.9 to eventually lose by two points.  Josh Dunkley was the worst culprit kicking four behinds without scoring a goal.

There was still plenty to like from the Bulldogs, Bontempelli was a stand out as he often is, Jake Stringer worked hard for his 3 goals and Caleb Daniel impressed on his return after a one week VFL demotion.

Although it is still early in the season and the Dogs have registered four wins so far, there seems to be something missing from the side that lifted the flag last year.  The speed is still there and they are scintillating to watch when they attack through the middle, but they don’t seem quite as damaging and their defence looks vulnerable at times.

A big win over Richmond next week will go some way to restoring confidence

Next Up: Richmond (H)

Richmond

It is hard to be too critical of the Tigers considering the excellent start they have made to a season where little was expected of them.  However, Sunday’s shellacking at the hands of Adelaide will have brought the buoyant Tigers fans back to Earth with a bump.

For a quarter of football the Tigers competed hard and looked every inch the Crows’ equals, going in at quarter time with a slim lead.  That was as good as it got though for Richmond as the Crows blew them away from quarter time onwards to eventually win by 76 points.

Richmond’s success this year has been built on the pressure and speed of their rookie small forwards Daniel Rioli, Jason Castagna and Dan Butler.  Against the Crows they had little impact beyond Rioli’s two goals and were no match for the experience and cool heads of the Adelaide back line.

Star midfielders Trent Cotchin and Dustin Martin carried the fight to the Crows with 26 and 25 disposals each but all to often they were burrowing a lone furrow as their teammates went missing.

Anonymous displays have been a hallmark of a large number of Richmond’s players in recent seasons and something that had not occurred this season up until this week.  The Tigers face another tough test next week against the Bulldogs and their fans will be keen for a good showing so that their darkest fears of a return to middle of the pack obscurity can be kept at bay.

Next Up: Western Bulldogs (A)

The Ugly

Brisbane

Brisbane entered round six with just one win under their belt against neighbours Gold Coast and on the back of a very spirited performance in defeat to the Western Bulldogs.

Though still expected to be down the bottom end of the ladder, there were hopes of improvement for the Lions this year with highly rated draftee Hugh McCluggage joining the team along with second year players Eric Hipwood and Josh Schache and the return from serious injury of former Magpie Dane Beams.

For the most part this year, Brisbane has definitely improved.  Under Craig Fagan, they don’t look as intimidated as they did under Justin Leppitsch, their youngsters are contributing and former skipper Tom Rockliff has been a ball magnet in their midfield.

However, for all of the improvements that the side has shown, Saturday’s humiliation at the hands of Port Adelaide was as bad as anything they have produced since their three-peat glory days.  The Lions’ ball use was atrocious in the first half as they continually coughed up hard won possession either through frustration trying to force plays or through sheer lack of skill and as the game wore on the Lions’ players visibly sagged in confidence.

The Lions are now on a five game losing skid and are going to have to battle hard to avoid the wooden spoon, starting next week against bottom placed Sydney.  If the Lions are serious about their improvements, they will take the game to Sydney and knock another nail in the Swans’ coffin.

Next Up: Sydney (A)

Ian O’Brien

vftcsblog.wordpress.com

@vftcsblog