Morgie's Preview Series 2020

Discussion in 'Aussie Rules Football Discussion' started by morgieb, Feb 26, 2020.

  1. morgieb MC Burridge

    Right I'm not sure how many people will read this, but there are a few lurkers around that I know regularly read/posted in this subforum when the forum was actually alive, and getting some talk around the sport.

    This is probably going to be more in-depth than my last years one, given that I'm starting it earlier so have the mood for long and lengthy write-ups.

    In alphabetical order again. I'll try and get the first two done today.....
    Youngman, Storer and jimmy_c8 like this.
  2. morgieb MC Burridge


    Best 22:

    B: Kyle Hartigan - Daniel Talia - Luke Brown
    HB: Brodie Smith - Tom Doedee - Rory Laird
    C: Rory Atkins - Matt Crouch - Paul Seedsman
    HF: Tom Lynch - Taylor Walker - Lachlan Murphy
    F: Tyson Stengle - Darcy Fogarty - Elliot Himmelberg
    R: Reilly O'Brien - Rory Sloane - Brad Crouch

    Int: Wayne Milera - Bryce Gibbs - Jake Kelly - Chayce Jones

    Emg: Jordan Butts - David Mackay - Riley Knight - Ned McHenry - Ben Crocker - Billy Frampton


    Quite simply, it was a miserable year for them given how hyped they were coming into 2019. Immediately I though 2018 was a bit of an anomaly, affected by a nasty injury toll and the side effects of their 2017 grand final performance. It turns out the problems that came up in 2018 were exposed even more significantly in 2019, and unlike 2018 they didn't even had the excuse of a tough injury run. Nor was it a case of failing to recover from a tough start, they looked pretty OK before the bye; it was only afterwards that things started to really go to shit. It looked like the start of a lengthy rebuild, and the wounds of 2017 look like they're going to be nasty to fix.


    Has long been an area of quality for the Crows and even with the rest of the list falling to pieces you should still expect this to be decent. There is still quite a lot to like here - Talia is probably the best "pure" key defender in the competition (that is the best at shutting down a man; he's behind others when you take their attacking games into account) and Hartigan is a good shutdown player too. These two guys have allowed a number of players to thrive in a third tall role (Lever, Doedee, Keath) as they didn't need to defend as much and could just take intercept marks and set up attacking plays. However the third tall role might be a problem as Lever and Keath are now gone (long gone in the former's case), whereas Doedee is coming off an ACL and has apparently suffered some complications so might miss early games. That leaves Jordan Butts and Fischer McAsey as the most likely to play that role short-term, and while they both seem to have some talent (especially McAsey, though given his age it's better for him to be developing in the SANFL) they're yet to play AFL and having them in a fairly crucial role for Adelaide's structure could be dangerous.

    Their smalls remain good too. Laird, Smith, Milera and Seedsman all provide some skill and dash down back to give what is sometimes a stale midfield some spruik - Laird in particularly at his best is the best small defender in the competition and Milera looks like he's ready to become elite. Whether they need to spend some time on a wing or even the half-forward flank is another question, but the point is that there's some good depth and quality here. You can also possibly add Gibbs to this role, though he's not as quick as a Milera. Unfortunately for Adelaide the 6-6-6 rule has hurt their potency in this area; with their main point of attack when Pyke was coach being nullified and their half-backs no longer looking as imperious.

    Overall though this is Adelaide's main strength and probably the thing that is going to carry them through this season.


    It's a strange one. On paper it still looks fairly good - the Crouch boys and Sloane are class, Gibbs was class, Atkins at his best can be a weapon, Jones looks very promising and the Seedsman and Milera types can play decent roles on the wing. Yet it doesn't seem to work all that well. Some of the issues include:

    * The Crouch bros tend to be very good at finding the footy, but often don't use it all that well, and even how they win it isn't always ideal. Matt in particular tends to accumulate a lot of cheap outside ball without using it all that great or providing much dash. Sloane is better at actually providing value for his possessions, but even he is not a Pendlebury or a Martin at using it.
    * Gibbs isn't quick enough anymore and his entire 2019 was terrible. It sounds like he won't be in the midfield rotations anyway, but a firing Gibbs would make their midfield look stronger.
    * Atkins is just plain soft. Like he sleeps with the nightlight on soft. He has had some great games and should be a quality winger, but he just plain isn't.

    In general, their midfield struggles for speed and to a lesser extend good use. And while their ball-winning was a strength historically - and in some ways still is - losing both Greenwood and Ellis-Yolmen hurts them in this regard. It wouldn't be as much of a problem if they had replacements ready to cover them....but they kind of don't. Poholke doesn't look to be progressing that smoothly, whereas Gallucci's cards may be already marked. Jones looks very promising but he is only one man; McHenry could be good but might need more development on the wing and up forward as his body builds to be AFL standard.

    Overall it's definitely in the bottom third of midfields across the AFL and it's hard to see too much upside in it unless Jones pulls an Oliver 2017.


    It's crazy to think that just 30 months ago this was the best forward line in the competition by a fair margin. Yet when you look at the names - Walker, Jenkins, McGovern, Lynch, Betts and Cameron; it was. Unfortunately for them though things have gone completely pear-shaped since then, having lost all of them but Walker and Lynch to other clubs. And even amongst those two Walker hasn't really been able to rekindle the form he showed before the 2017 Grand Final, and while Lynch is still a decent option he doesn't kick as many goals as he did (going from averaging about 1.5 to 2 goals a game to just 1), and he's also been somewhat more breakable in recent times (going from playing 23 games in all of 2015-17 to just 17 and 16 in the last two seasons).

    Even their depth options have taken a hit in recent times, with Otten and Douglas now retired. Only Knight still stands out of their depth forwards from a couple of years ago, and he is a fringe option - certainly I don't think I'd use him much this season. They haven't really signed anyone to replace these guys either, so apart from Walker and Lynch their forward line is dominated by kids (Murphy, Fogarty, Stengle, Himmelberg, Frampton, McAdam, Davis, Crocker, Keays) - all of whom you should expect to be inconsistent at best. Some of them - particularly the first four - do seem to have some upside; Fogarty in particular looked good in limited appearances and Murphy has developed a nice niche as a pressure small, but for the most part this forward line looks rather weak - one of the worst in the comp.


    I mean, Reilly O'Brien looked very good after an extremely long apprenticeship in the SANFL. The big problem is that he's only had the one season, and the depth is not good. Their second choice ruck Kieran Strachan hasn't played a game of AFL yet nor has looked particularly imposing in the VFL or SANFL, and beyond that you're looking at ruck relief players such as Frampton and Himmelberg. I'm very surprised they didn't target an experienced state league ruck or a Zac Smith type in the off-season. God help them if injury strikes O'Brien.


    Too hard to pass judgement on Matthew Nicks at this point as he's been the head coach for a grand total of zero AFL games. His assistant record doesn't look that inspiring, and the fact that it seems like a few other hyped options said no suggests that he wasn't their first-choice. It also suggests that Adelaide seems like a tough job. Who knows though, he may turn out to be the next supercoach.


    Looks pretty alarming. They've traditionally drafted pretty well but in more recent times their picks have looked a bit meh, and their better youngsters (Cameron, Lever) all quit early doors. Even the Crouches aren't that young anymore. The only real youngsters that have established themselves in the side are Wayne Milera, Tom Doedee and Lachlan Murphy. And neither of them seem to play really significant roles or are really out and out stars (though Milera might get there). I expect Fogarty and Jones at least to establish themselves this season and they do play significant positions, however. McHenry, McAsey, Butts and Schoenberg look promising, but Gallucci seems to have fallen away and Poholke doesn't seem to be developing quickly enough. It's close to the weakest youth crop in the competition, though I guess the rebuild's only starting this season.


    Pretty middle of the road-ish. Like their leadership doesn't seem especially great but it doesn't seem a liability like a few clubs we'll discuss. Sloane is definitely a leader, as is Walker (though the glimmer has declined in this regard in recent years). Talia also seems a true leader. Beyond that though, not terribly much and I suspect it's a big reason as to why they declined so quickly.


    KEY PLAYER (player who is most key towards them having a good year)

    Taylor Walker. Although he probably was never quite at the Franklin/Cameron/Riewoldt level, in 2012 and from 2015-17 he wasn't far off. While his badness in the last two years has been overstated, he has definitely declined in value. Given that the rest of the forward line is extremely inexperienced he has to step up. Perhaps him not being the captain anymore should relieve a bit of the pressure and see him enjoying footy again.

    ONE TO WATCH (youngster who isn't a significant player yet but can become one and make the side look exponentially better)

    Darcy Fogarty. High draft pick, spent a lot of 2019 in the 2's but managed some good glimpses in his few AFL games. With a lot of forward line departures a spot is his for the taking and he should look at taking it with both hands. If he can kick 30-35 goals Adelaide will be happy.

    ON NOTICE (player who has been slumping lately and career might be under threat)

    Bryce Gibbs. Was giving up two first round draft picks for him in 2017 the worst deal ever? It has to be close. His 2018 was fine but last year.....let's forget about it. It was so bad that they couldn't even palm him off Betts/Jenkins style. He has to improve this year, or else it's the end of the line. Is it a sign about his lack of midfield upside long-term that he's being moved to half-back?


    One of the most likely clubs to drop, Adelaide seem likely to finish Bottom 4 alas. Having a few unknows will make them interesting to watch but I struggle to see much by the way of promise for 2020, it's hard to find where they could improve (might Walker gain a new lease on life without the captaincy? O'Brien's a year older as is Milera and Jones...) and easy to see where the decline could come from (lots of losses, general aging of the side).
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2020
  3. Alex AJ O'Driscoll

    Is Bryce Gibbs still on the punt?
  4. morgieb MC Burridge

    I'm assuming so, though at least his problems aren't as dire as Beams's is.
  5. Alex AJ O'Driscoll

    Both fucked.

    I tend to agree with most of your stuff re: Crows. I think they’ll end up 12th - 15th, still good enough to beat sides at home but won’t win more than 10 games.
  6. morgieb MC Burridge


    Best 22:

    B: Grant Birchall - Harris Andrews - Darcy Gardiner
    HB: Daniel Rich - Marcus Adams - Alex Witherden
    C: Hugh McCluggage - Lachie Neale - Mitch Robinson
    HF: Cameron Rayner - Dan McStay - Allen Christensen
    F: Lincoln McCarthy - Eric Hipwood - Charlie Cameron
    R: Stefan Martin - Jarryd Lyons - Dayne Zorko

    Int: Noah Answerth - Zac Bailey - Jarrod Berry - Oscar McInerney

    Emg: Callum Ah Chee - Cam Ellis-Yolmen - Rhys Mathieson - Cedric Cox - Archie Smith - Brandon Starcevich

    HOW 2019 WENT

    No questions asked, this was their best year in a long time. Things were look promising for a nice ride up the ladder over 2017 and 2018, but in 2019 they significantly exceeded expectations to finish Top 2 after the Home & Away season. Going out in straight sets wasn't ideal, but at least both sides they lost to made the grand final and in both games I think they were decent. We'll wait and see whether it was an anomaly or the norm but I think that it was just the beginning and they're going to be a powerhouse soonish.


    Let's start off with the obvious one. Harris Andrews is one of the biggest finds in recent years. His 2018 was already impressive enough, having looked a possible All-Australian before the Cameron snipe and in 2019 he was even better, rightfully earning his first AA guernsey. With him they have a true defence leader that can attack and defend with aplomb, with Rance now retired he's easily in the top two tall defenders in the AFL, and it's getting very close between him and McGovern.

    He would look decent enough for a defence alone, but obviously there are more positives. Darcy Gardiner is the ideal third tall defender; while he's not that incredible at setting up attacking plays, he is an ideal shutdown player who can comfortably play on tall, medium and small forwards with little gap between performance. Meanwhile Grant Birchall, Daniel Rich and Alex Witherden are all terrific kicks off the half-back flank and will ensure that their ball use remains rock solid.

    There are a couple of issues that stop this from being a truly elite backline, though. Firstly the second key defender slot remains a bit of a pickle for the Lions. Both Josh Walker and Marcus Adams were decent but Walker has mobility issues and Adams has fitness issues. Now Walker's gone so they kind of lack an obvious Plan B if Adams goes down....which judging by past history is quite likely. Lions fans seem to rate some by the name of Jack Payne, but he is yet to play an AFL game so who knows what will happen there.

    The other problem is that too many of their small defenders seem to lack speed. Usually that's not a significant concern, but there were a few times where sides with a bevy of quick small forwards (Essendon, Collingwood, Richmond) did manage to hurt them. This was solved somewhat by Noah Answerth coming in (Zac Bailey also has speed and can play down back), but the lack of pace in their first choice half-backs is a bit of a concern.

    Nevertheless, it is a quality defence.


    With one off-season, this went from being a fairly average midfield (and quite weak in comparision to the rest of the league) to being a genuinely top-class one. This was through a variety of different reasons:

    * Lachie Neale. What a coup that was. While players changing clubs has become somewhat more common in recent times, mostly it's been to clubs in their home state or to a big club. Neale is not a Queenslander - he's from rural South Australia - and the Lions finished 15th in the season they got him. The fact they could get him to buy into the system shows the faith that people had with the club and he was exactly what they needed - someone who was genuinely top-class, and inside leaning to take the pressure off Zorko and their kids somewhat.
    * Neale was a big signing, but he cost them like a big signing should. Lyons OTOH....the Lions got him from free. I'm not sure whether there were off-field issues with him at the Suns or whether Dew just didn't plain rate him but seriously? And he's been perfect for the Lions too, going to a new level and adding to an otherwise weak engine room somewhat.
    * Mitch Robinson developing from a solid inside mid/half-forward to a top-class wingman. He was always a bit unfairly maligned but it wasn't until this season you could genuinely call him a high-level AFL player. Yet that what he was, his toughness, endurance and goal nous making him the perfect winger for Fagan's structure.

    Then you add on the development that McCluggage showed (who was arguably the best pure winger in the comp last season) and Zorko remaining awesome and bam! You have yourself a world-class starting midfield. Berry was very useful too and Ellis-Yolmen should add some onball depth. They've also got a heap of promising young kids that haven't had the chances yet but could be handy additions to the side. So yeah, this is class.


    Were the highest scoring side in the league last season, so in theory this should mean their forward line is excellent. I probably wouldn't go that far as the Lions do play a rather attacking brand of footy and they have a number of goalkicking midfielders that boost their numbers, but it is a decent one. At least in terms of the ground ball.

    In terms of goalkicking, Charlie Cameron has taken Betts's mantle as being the leading small forward in terms of what their in theory role is - kicking goals. In practice small forwards are expected to do far more and Cameron's midfield game hasn't developed having once looked promising and he doesn't deliver as much pressure as he should, but if he's kicking double the amount of goals the rest of the field, who cares? Chris Fagan definitely doesn't.

    Lincoln McCarthy was probably seen as steak knives in order to convince his best mate to join the club, but deep down when you take out the injuries there was definitely a player there, and 2019 proved it. He provided an extremely valuable niche in that forward line and proved to be extremely valuable after an injury-plagued time at Geelong.

    Then there's Cameron Rayner. The #1 pick in 2017, he looked promising in 2018 but he was one of the few Brisbane players to disapoint in 2019. Simply put, there were far too many games where he barely touch the ball and even his good games were ones where he got 15 disposals and a goal - not terrible - but those good games need to be 30 & 2, with 15 & 1 being the average or even quiet games. Still, all reports suggest he is fit and firing for this season and the penny might have dropped.

    Oddly their tall targets are pretty weak. Like there's worse but if you lined up all 18 FF/CHF combos, the Lions would probably be closer to the bottom than the top. McStay provides a decent mark at CHF but I'd like to see him kick more goals - and at his age time is running out to improve. Realistically he's probably is a "what you see is what you get" type and I don't think that's quite good enough for an AFL side who is a premiership contender. Hipwood OTOH has had games where's he ripped it apart but the gap between that and his worst is too stark. He is still young enough to improve but right now I'm not seeing Lynch or Brown-esque ability from him. McInerney is a converted ruckman.....


    What a story Stefan Martin is. Up until his 28th birthday he was largely a weak tall utility who showed some glimpses but was otherwise largely shit. Then in 2014 he got a run in the ruck full-time more or less because Brisbane had exhausted their other ruck options...and since then he's barely skipped a beat. Sure he's not Brodie Grundy or Max Gawn, but is he really that far off? He's a star and never seems to break down. Which is good, as their backup isn't super impressive, but then again you can say the same about teams......


    I can't compliment Fagan highly enough. When he took over they were a complete basket case - players wanting to leave every season, were incompetent in defence and in general seemed prone to underperforming. Now he has a list that looks potentially imposing. To think that the hiring was seen as a Roos-esque "stop the rot" kind of move rather than him being an excellent coach in his own right....


    It's good, but probably not as good as what people might think. Sure Andrews, McCluggage, Hipwood, Berry, Witherden and Rayner seems a good core to build around and there's a few other promising players in there too but they rely more on their senior players than what is otherwise assumed. The good news is that while they aren't kids Neale, Lyons, Cameron, McCarthy and Gardiner will be around for a while to come and even some of their veterans like Rich and Zorko seem the "age gracefully" types so as long as they avoid serious injury. In addition, they have some interesting kids who haven't really gotten a chance yet but have looked promising at the NEAFL level or in limited chances (Starcevich, Smith, T. Berry, Payne, Ballenden, Fullarton)


    Losing Hodge hurts here a bit - I don't think there's been a better "leader" in my time of watching footy - but they do have some good other options. Certainly you could never accuse Neale or Zorko of being bad leaders, and Robinson's a great leader too in his own way. You also have good leadership out of Andrews, whereas Birchall should be able to play the Hodge role with aplomb.



    Eric Hipwood. With Harris Andrews and Lachie Neale, you know what you're gonna get from them. With Hipwood though? A much bigger question. His talent is undeniable, but does he have the smarts to be the next Lance Franklin like the media thinks he is? The onus is on him to perform this season.


    Callum Ah Chee. He was a highly rated junior and did show signs of talent at the Suns but they couldn't really find his best role, and his time there was generally disrupted by injury. I do worry that he might not have a best position for him to play at his best, but Fagan is someone who has generally been able to get the best out of his players and if Ah Chee can excel he could just be what the Lions were after.


    Cameron Rayner. Read what I said in the forwards section. While it's not quite over if he flops in 2020, if he does he starts to look more Jack Watts than Luke Hodge in terms of pick #1 quality.


    There is a lot to like about the Lions, but I do wonder whether there's a chance of regression this season. Keep in mind the list isn't that different from the one that won 5 games the season before. They also had an extremely kind run with injury last season....which surely should change somewhat. I don't see them doing a Melbourne per se but a regression towards 6-10th wouldn't surprise me at all, and it's crucial they don't get ahead of themselves.
  7. morgieb MC Burridge


    Best 22:

    B: Kade Simpson - Liam Jones - Caleb Marchbank
    HB: Nic Newman - Jacob Weitering - Sam Docherty
    C: Sam Petrevski-Seton - Patrick Cripps - Marc Murphy
    HF: Jack Martin - Mitch McGovern - Zac Fisher
    F: Eddie Betts - Harry McKay - Levi Casboult
    R: Matthew Kreuzer - Ed Curnow - Sam Walsh

    Int: Lachie Plowman - Will Setterfield - Paddy Dow - Michael Gibbons

    Emg: Lochie O'Brien - Jack Newnes - David Cuningham - Jack Silvagni - Matthew Kennedy - Marc Pittonet

    Inj: Charlie Curnow

    HOW 2019 WENT

    A year of two halves, coincidentially lining up with when Brendan Bolton was sacked. In the first half of 2019 they were as bad as they were the year before, playing absolute turgid football and being unable to win with it either. When Teague came on board though he freed the side up and they played fairly OK (though apart from the Lions they failed to beat a Top 8 side for the rest of the season, and none of their wins were by particularly overwhelming margins). In particular, we saw some of their veterans turn back the clock somewhat with Teague giving them far more freedom than


    Under Bolton this was probably their strength, though one wonders whether that was because of Bolton's coaching being so conservative rather than a particular strength down back. However there are some big names down here. When everyone was sucking Bolton's dick in 2016/17 a lot of that was down to Kade Simpson and Sam Docherty getting leather poisoning down back. However Docherty has missed the last two years with back-to-back ACL's and Simpson is turning 36. While Simpson did look better when Teague took over, can he keep it up with the rise of Newman and the return of Docherty? If there is a bit of good news about Simpson and Docherty's problems it's that I think playing off half-back is more forgiving than other positions in that regard, especially they were never noted for having extreme pace. Newman looks a good fit as a half-back/winger whereas a fit Williamson could be a wildcard.

    Their talls are OK without being anything special. Although I guess Weitering could still be, 2019 was his best season yet and he's still only 22. While Carlton did something I thought was impossible - turn Liam Jones into an AFL standard footballer - he's merely AFL standard rather than anything more. Whereas Marchbank and Plowman don't really excite but can play roles down back.

    Overall it's not a terrible defence, but I definitely think it's closer to the worst than the best.


    Under Teague this now looks the best part of their side but by the standards of the rest of the league it still isn't remarkable. The main man here is of course Patrick Cripps. I do wonder if he is a little overhyped in parts of the media because he's easily Carlton's best player but there's little doubt he's a Top 10 player in the league. His ball-winning capabilities with Kennedy declining are unparalled in the sport and then you see games like against Brisbane where he basically beat the side that finished second last season single-handedly where he can hit the scoreboard and set it up on the outside too rather than just letting the runners take control from the balls he wins (which is still an extremely valuable skill!)

    He does of course have other men around him. Ed Curnow has long been a pretty underappreciated player as a quality tagger who can win plenty of the footy when freed up. No-one has him in the top-tier of midfielders but he is a solid B-grader. Similarly Marc Murphy remains a solid option, if one that is nowhere near as good as he once was and is prone to durability and hardness question marks. Then there's Sam Walsh. What a debut season he had! OK he did come into the system fairly well developed, but lots of players still take time to adapt to AFL requirements. Instead Walsh was a quality second-tier midfielder despite being 18 for much of the season. Heaven knows how good he'll be in time.....

    The next step I think is for their other young mids (i.e. those who aren't Walsh) to step up. Cripps and Walsh is clearly an excellent 1-2 punch to build around, but all of Dow, Setterfield, Petrevski-Seton, Fisher, Stocker and O'Brien have shown glimpses or were highly-rated when coming into the system but have yet to develop into genuinely class footballers yet. There's still obviously time but with Curnow and Murphy getting on, they wouldn't want to wait too long to progress.


    Carlton's strength up front is obvious - they've got two pretty good tall forwards who can easily be the man at other clubs and/or in time and a few OK third options. Weighted against that is that McKay and Curnow are still developing and McGovern seems to struggle with fitness issues and seems to have plateaued since showing very promising signs at Adelaide. At this point he seems more hype than production and I'm not convinced he's the right option to take them forward. Still his best footy was as the third tall at Adelaide so maybe if McKay and Curnow come class he might get off the chain more and prove a solid option.

    Curnow's knee problems are frustrating as there's signs he might be ready to explode. In 2017 I was thinking he was the next Pavlich, but then he didn't develop as quickly as I'd hoped in 2018. In his last full game in 2019 he kicked 7 goals, but then got injured early in the next game and hasn't been seen since. And he won't be seen this season until mid-year, which is a problem. I hope he isn't going to be that injury affected player.

    McKay on the other hand has proved to be an excellent contested mark but hasn't had those big 6-7 goal games. That isn't a massive issue yet but you'd want it to happen soon. If Carlton have two 50+ goal a season key forwards that puts them at a big advantage over other teams.

    Jack Silvagni has been hit with a lot of nepotism calls as his production before last season wasn't good. It still isn't incredible, but there were signs he might yet prove an AFL standard player. Meanwhile Casboult proves a handy utility with his contested marking being a nice point of difference. Shame about his kicking. Kennedy isn't quite a tall but mostly played a third tall role up forward and did OK, perhaps saving his career.

    Their small options have always been a bit patchy, with them mostly being recycled midfielders. Unsurprisingly, they generally failed in this position, Gibbons maybe faring the best. Fisher and Cuningham are OK in the high half-forward role but aren't anything to really write home about. It was little wonder that Carlton targetted quite a few options. Alas, they missed out on the best of them (Papley) so their problems here hasn't been truly fixed. Still, Betts is probably still good enough to be an OK fix in the short-term whereas Martin has plenty of untapped potential that might be utilised if he can get a clean run at just one role and in a better team (but will Carlton be noticably better than the Suns?)


    Matthew Kreuzer isn't the most durable player, but when he's on the park he's usually rather good. That ACL in 2010 meant he could never quite become the player people thought he'd become, but he's still probably in the top half of rucks leaguewide. Naturally he needs some cover given his injury (and heart) problems and in Marc Pittonet and Tom De Koning Carlton seem to have some. Pittonet was going very well in the VFL for Hawthorn and seems to be on the slow burn path that rucks that aren't Grundy/Naitanui-esque freaks take whereas De Koning has a lot of hype and has looked promising at AFL level thus far. Their stocks here are pretty good.


    David Teague is an interesting one. When he was named as the caretaker I automatically assumed (as did most people in the footballing world) that he was there to keep the seat warm for a big name. Yet he did so well (relatively) that he basically demanded that the job should go to him. What I liked about him was that he was willing to let his players just play, rather than stifle them which is what I suspect Bolton was doing. The next step for Teague is to show that he's willing to keep his nerve with the full-time job rather than just try as hard as possible to impress the Carlton selection panel, and to make sure that their young talent is consistently getting a crack as many of them were pushed to the side


    It's tricky to determine but if things go right they have close to the best collection of youth in the AFL. They have three very promising KPP's who are 23 or under (Curnow, McKay, Weitering) and two potential Brownlow medalists in their midfield who will be around for years to come (Cripps, Walsh). Some of their second-tier mids are also very promising (Dow, Setterfield, Petrevski-Seton, Fisher, Stocker and O'Brien) but probably need to show a bit more for them to be the ideal options...though Walsh's rise eases the pressure somewhat. The next step is finding the small forwards and small defenders that can put the finishing touches on the side - I generally found that Silvagni was good at recruiting a core (by gorging himself with high picks) but struggled to find the kind of players that play lower value positions to a high-level positions so that might be easier in the current climate.


    Not too much to write home about here. Though Cripps is definitely looking like a true leader and Simpson provides excellent leadership down back. I think Docherty's solid in this regard too. But yeah, this is definitely more of a work in progress.



    Jack Martin. He has always been an extreme talent. The problem was that he was never really able to find a best position, and matters were made worse by how poor the Suns have been during his time at the club. He's the sort of player that is more icing rather than cake, yet it's the sort of icing that could make an otherwise mediocre cake delicious. He could be the gun winger/half-forward they're after.


    Tom De Koning. A few guys that look potentially interesting, but with De Koning it's more crucial for him as he's seen as the heir apparent for Kreuzer. Given Kreuzer might miss early games with heart surgery the chances are there to stake his claim as the next big ruckman for Carlton. If he succeeds then they've ticked off another big box in their rebuild.


    Paddy Dow. The #3 pick in the 2017 draft, his dash out of the midfield looks good but his disposal struggles. Then when Teague took over they moved him up forward where he faltered and he struggled up there. Given the outlay he cost Carlton would love him to be the third part of their onball triumvriate, but he has competition and might go down as a failed pick if he doesn't improve his ball use this season.


    I'm pretty cold on Carlton's hopes for this season. Most of their surge in the back half of 2019 was based on older guys being given key roles for Teague to impress and a few players playing for their career - the former probably has to change if they're to successfully manage their rebuild and players in the latter category often drop off after career seasons. The reality is that I think the first half of 2019 was closer to the truth, though there'll be improvement as Teague is an upgrade on Bolton as a coach and their youngsters should improve. They'll probably be a Bottom 6 side this season although if their youngsters dramatically improve they could surprise. What they don't want is another 2018 happening given how much they've staked on this rebuild working out....
  8. jimmy_c8 MC James

    Carlton and Brisbane are very interesting cases this season. Brisbane will be expected to be back into the top 4 after their super effort last year but will they be able to back it up? As you mentioned, injuries will play a key part in this as they were very healthy for the majority of the year. I can't see them finishing above Richmond, West Coast and GWS so I think they will be fighting for that last spot in the top 4.

    Carlton fans will be hoping to see more improvement this season because they can't afford another lackluster season. They should be optimistic given how young their side is and how promising those young players are. Charlie Curnow possibly missing the first half of the season really hurts though. I can see them being in the race for the 8 for a good part of the year but dropping off towards the end of the season when their youngsters start to feel the pinch of the year.
  9. morgieb MC Burridge


    Best 22:

    B: Jeremy Howe - Jordan Roughead - John Noble
    HB: Jack Crisp - Darcy Moore - Brayden Maynard
    C: Tom Phillips - Adam Treloar - Steele Sidebottom
    HF: Jaidyn Stephenson - Brody Mihocek - Will Hoskin-Elliott
    F: Jordan De Goey - Mason Cox - Jamie Elliott
    R: Brodie Grundy - Scott Pendlebury - Taylor Adams

    Int: Chris Mayne - Rupert Wills - Callum Brown - Josh Thomas

    Emg: Travis Varcoe - Matt Scharenberg - Darcy Cameron - Josh Daicos - Ben Reid - Isaac Quaynor

    Inj: Tom Langdon - Levi Greenwood - Dayne Beams

    HOW 2019 WENT

    In terms of the Home & Away season it felt pretty comparable to 2018, though this time they lost in the prelim rather than the grand final. And this time instead of setting a huge lead which was whittled away at this time they nearly pulled off a heist in a game they had no right winning. The Pies don't often seem to be extremely outstanding but they generally remain a fairly solid side and their best can be absolutely spellbounding. The key is to take their best 2-3 games and make that their best 8-9 games, and then they may claim the flag.


    Although it seems to lack the really big flyers that their midfield and forward line have as things stand this is probably their most solid and reliable line right now. There is overall plenty to like about their starting 6 that makes for a quality defence.

    The one big name superstar is Darcy Moore. While he did miss a fair chunk of footy last season as always, the standard he did show when fit was borderline All-Australian level. Having previously been a patchy forward, he was reinvented as a top-class CHB who can easily stop his man and set up key intercept plays. His reputation at times does seem higher than his actual play but there's little doubt he's a quality player. Furthermore the other half-backs Maynard and Crisp are pretty solid and under-rated too. They don't have the elite skill of a Hurn or the pace of a Johannison but they're both very reliable and win plenty of the footy and look good doing so. Crisp in particular is probably a little unlucky to not be closer to AA selection.

    The other key factor and one who allows Moore to play the way he does is Roughead. Before 2019 he was generally a ruck/forward - he had played down back and done pretty OK under McCartney but Beveridge generally played him up the ground. While his best footy in this role was good enough to help the Dogs win a flag he otherwise was pretty middling in this role and on his way out of the AFL. Injures in the Pies back half saw him reinvented as a full-back and he did an excellent job last year. Jeremy Howe was fantastic in his first couple of years at Collingwood. While still good last year, he did not quite stand out as much as he did at his best. With that said, he still remains a quality option for that 3rd tall intercepter.

    The main area of concern with Collingwood's defence is its depth. Tom Langdon was on his way to becoming a top-class mid-sized defender but knee problems have probably ruined his career. Levi Greenwood is out for the season with an ACL injury. James Aish is gone. Chris Mayne remains solid off half-back but is often needed on the wing. To fill that sixth spot they need to look at rookies Noble and Quaynor - both of whom look promising but remain unproven. Their tall depth is a bit better with Magden showing some signs of improvement and Lynden Dunn back from injury (but given his age and him having two ACL's it is impossible to know if he'll be anything useful).


    This is an interesting one to assess. In theory it should be one of the best midfields in the entire competition - Pendlebury, Sidebottom, Treloar and Beams are all huge names, Adams is excellent for a side's 5th best mid and Phillips and Mayne can provide excellent support as role players. And that's not even mentioning Grundy's tap work! But it just doesn't seem all that effective in practice. The problem is a lot of them have dropped off quite a bit in recent times. Pendlebury at his best was in the Top 5 players in the game, he's now more like Top 20/30 (though that's still very good for a 32 year old!) Sidebottom was rather poor last year; Adams has dropped off somewhat from his peak (though granted injuries were a factor last year). Beams's career is effectively over, whereas Treloar will miss the start of the season with a hamstring problem. Phillips is a good winger but probably doesn't have the skill to take him to Whitfield/Hill levels, and doesn't play on the ball. Mayne offers good defence but probably isn't good enough offensively to be a reliable option on the wing, and he too is not an onballer. That makes what otherwise should be an outstanding midfield merely OK.

    The other problem is that they lack a fair bit of depth here. Outside of their best 5/6 names there doesn't seem to be much going for them here. Wills is an outstanding tackler but doesn't win enough of his own ball to be a good starting midfield option. Sier looked like the one to watch this time last year but this year he looks like wasted potential with his numbers not improving and off-field issues putting him in the doghouse. Brown and Daicos look decent players but are they McCluggage, Taranto or Walsh levels of promising? I don't think so. Covering injuries in their midfield is a big problem.

    Overall while their names are big, it's probably the weakest bit of their side.


    A tale of two areas here. In terms of talls their stocks does not look great. Despite being a late starter and mostly spending his state league career in defence Mihocek has evolved to be a pretty decent CHF. He's not going to be the next Buddy or anything but he is a valuable role player and a key figure in Collingwood's forward line. The problem is his tall forward partner though. Cox has had some big games (QB 2018, that prelim) but remains inconsistent and questions remain about his football nous. Athletically he can get away with it to some degree, but not significantly. The back-up looks OK - Ben Reid has definitely declined with constant injury problems robbing him of key athleticism but is still an OK depth option, whereas Darcy Cameron remains a wildcard - but neither look stars in the waiting.

    Where Collingwood's forward line shines is with the smalls. De Goey when fit is close to the most dangerous mid-sized forward (who is mostly a forward rather than a resting midfielder or a Dustin Martin) in the competition, whereas Elliott at his best and when he can actually get on the park is a weapon too. Stephenson will only get better, and Hoskin-Elliott and Thomas at their best are quality options too (though both were quiet in 2019, which hurt some of their front half effectiveness). It's probably the best small forward line in the competition, and one that masks their weak key forward stocks.


    It's all about Brodie Grundy here, and why wouldn't it be? In terms of tap work it's only really Gawn and Naitanui that match him, and in terms of being an overall package he's clearly the best in the game as things stand. Really he makes a weakish midfield look good and he's certainly one of the Top 10 players in the game.

    The depth is good too. As I said Roughead was a good enough ruckman to win a Premiership, whereas Cox has the height and athleticism to be an effective ruck relief option (and has looked OK in the few times he's played as the first ruck). Cameron has also looked good at state level. So even if Grundy was to go down, their stocks remain viable (though of course it would hurt them significantly)


    Buckley's evolution as a coach is only really matched by Hardwick, really. A few years ago he seemed ineffective, unable to get his message across and unable to get a pretty talented list on paper performing consistently. I still don't think he shimmers as a coach in the same way that a Hardwick, a Clarkson or even a Fagan does, but he's definitely pushed himself into being a good coach and has gotten the results out of Collingwood that the side desires. Now we wait and see whether he can take them to the next step.


    An area of concern, I would think. There are still some good names to build around - De Goey, Moore and Maynard is a hell of a draft crop and Stephenson looks outstanding but the effects of signing as many big names as they have is biting somewhat. The good news is that they have quite a few players who aren't really young but still should be around for a while (Grundy, Treloar, Adams, Crisp) but someone like Sier, Quaynor, Daicos, Noble or Brown really needs to step up sooner rather than later. Another problem is that a lot of their younger players don't seem to play significant positions - their KPP stocks other than Moore look weak and their onball stocks are severely aging. It's a side that's built for the now, but could be in deep medium-term trouble if they fall this year and lose De Goey and Moore.


    Plenty of good leaders here - Pendlebury, Grundy, Treloar, De Goey, Sidebottom and Adams definitely strike me as "lead by example" types that mean they know how to win the big matches and remain fairly consistent.



    Brodie Grundy. An easy call, but he's the best package as a ruckman in the competition. While I think you can mark down a great season from him, Collingwood look a lot worse if he goes down.


    John Noble. A mid-season pickup last year, but looked quite promising as a speedy half-back/winger. Collingwood's backline doesn't seem especially quick to me, so if he (or Quaynor) breaks through that could be a big box ticked for them.


    Phill Inn (aka Brayden Sier). Looked really promising as an inside mid in 2018, but last year was a disaster with injuries, lack of development and off-field issues. He hasn't been named in the Marsh Series matches either. If he can come back he could be a key player in that midfield and help the incoming midfield rebuild look smoother.

    [Dayne Beams would've been my answer here had Collingwood not stated he was being retired off]


    I feel kind of pessimistic about them given their list is aging somewhat and they didn't look that great last season despite a pretty high finish, but their list looks to have enough class that they shouldn't miss the 8 at least. What happens there is another question though, and I don't feel like they'll be real contenders this year.
  10. morgieb MC Burridge


    Best 22:

    B: Patrick Ambrose - Cale Hooker - Adam Saad
    HB: Mason Redman - Michael Hurley - Conor McKenna
    C: Andrew McGrath - Dyson Heppell - David Zaharakis
    HF: Jayden Laverde - Jake Stringer - Devon Smith
    F: Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti - Shaun McKernan - Orazio Fantasia
    R: Tom Bellchambers - Dylan Shiel - Zach Merrett

    Int: Aaron Francis - Darcy Parish - Dylan Clarke - Kyle Langford

    Emg: Martin Gleeson - Josh Begley - Andrew Phillips - Tom Cutler - Will Snelling - Matt Guelfi

    Inj: Joe Daniher

    HOW 2019 WENT

    A bit of an odd one to judge. On paper moving from outside the 8 to making the 8 is a win. And they did it despite a fairly bad run with injuries. Yet despite that you have to feel a bit unsatisfied if you were a Essendon fan. Their Top 8 finish was off the back of a 5 game winning streak where they seemed to find a way of pulling close wins out of their arse, and their form in the back half of the season was extremely worrying. In contrast what killed them in 2018 was their terrible start, from Rd 9 onwards they generally played like a Top 6 team. 2019 in contrast they were Bottom 8 standard but got lucky.


    On paper it looks very strong. Hurley and Hooker have been a reliable key defensive combination for a very long time, Ambrose and Francis could be ideal 3rd talls for different reasons (Ambrose as a strong shutdown tall, Francis for his intercept work + skills), Saad and McKenna are dazzling and nippy half-backs, with Saad also proving an excellent two-way defender too and their half-back depth remains solid with Redman coming off a very nice season and some good depth options in Guelfi, Gleeson and Ridley. Yet their overall defensive numbers remain a bit of an issue. There are a few reasons for this but I think it is one of balance and their gameplan. Essendon have typically played a style of all-out attack utilising the speed of their half-backs to set up their attacking plays but the way it happens can leave their defence vulnerable if they turn the ball over up the field. That has meant that the ball can come back hard and with precision. And that is hard to defend given that Essendon tend to leave their backline open.

    I also think that too many of their players are a bit similar. Most of their half-backs are attack first players, and their non-Ambrose key defenders are more intercepters than shutdowners. Yes some of them (especially Hurley, Hooker and Saad) can work both ways fairly comfortably. But problems remain and their defence isn't as well balanced as the best sides seem to be. In general while their defence should be great, it doesn't seem as effective as it should.


    Again it looks an interesting one on paper. And at its best it can be excellent. But for the most part it is fairly weak, and has generally held Essendon back. While names such as Merrett, Shiel and Heppell on paper are great, it's hard to really argue that any of them are in the top echelon of midfielders in the comp. The 2014 Heppell was, as was the 2017 Merrett but both haven't really kicked on since then - Heppell's body has been getting more of a bashing since Jobe Watson stopped being Essendon's go to midfielder whereas I feel like Merrett's been prone to accumulating a lot of junk touches that don't really help the side, and his disposal has regressed. Shiel has excellent burst at his best but it doesn't seem to be as much of a feature now as it was at his best, and his disposal is a little too sloppy.

    A big problem is that too many of their better onballers are a bit too small. Both Shiel and Merrett are under 6 foot tall, same goes for Parish who is probably the 4th onballer and McGrath who has been talked about as a future onballer. Devon Smith will probably play on the ball more this year, but again he too is short. This leaves too much work for Heppell and has meant that he isn't as effective as he should be. Essendon have long talked about this area being one for development yet they never did. Dylan Clarke and Mitch Hibberd could be options here but Clarke has yet to show he's more than a tagger, and while Hibberd looked great at VFL level he flopped in his first stint at AFL level and his VFL dominance could easily just be from being a bigger body than most in the comp.

    On the wings McGrath and Zaharakis are decent options but McGrath still seems a fairly vanilla midfielder and Zaharakis is another that never seemed to become the player he might have become. Neither of them seem to be particularly quick or hard runners, which is a problem as those are big bonuses as a winger. Cutler seems to have more in common with the modern winger but he's been largely in and out of Brisbane's Best 22 and his defensive weaknesses I can't see helping their transition all that comfortably.

    Their depth is also a bit worrying. Darcy Parish is not a bad player but seems fairly generic at this point; his skills are good but not exceptional, he's not a great athlete and he's not a big ball winner. Clarke and Hibberd are somewhat unproven, Langford has never really clicked as a midfielder and Begley has decent size but doesn't seem to have a whole lot else. The rest are basically untested and don't seem standouts in lower grades. So yeah, this is one of the weaker ones in the AFL despite having some excellent players in it.


    An excellent forward line on paper, but again in practice it's a bit volatile. Unlike their other lines this is actually easy to explain - their forwards are naturally inconsistent players. At their best all of Joe Daniher, Jake Stringer, Orazio Fantasia and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti are outstanding players - Daniher and Stringer especially. But due to injuries, off-field commitment and the general nature of small forwards they can never seem to click as easily as they should.

    Joe Daniher should be the leader of the pack, but instead he is the problem. In 2017 he was outstanding and Essendon played some excellent footy and had a very strong forward line. The last two years though he's barely been sighted due to constant groin problems and when he did play he wasn't much to write home about. Unfortunately for Essendon he's injured again and given that he publically wanted out at the end of last season and is out of contract this season he might never be seen again in Essendon colours. This wouldn't be as much of a problem if they had a second good key forward...but they really don't. Mitch Brown is gone, Stewart is even less fit than Daniher and Hooker's been moved permanently down back. That pretty much leaves McKernan, and while he's serviceable he's hardly going to be a match-winner.

    Stringer in 2015 was looking like the next Gary Ablett Snr, but since then it's mostly been downhill. While his form at Essendon has been fine it hasn't been quite as dominant as he threatened to be at the Dogs and it mostly feels that while he plays his role fine enough he could be so much more. Fantasia is a bit like Daniher - in 2017 he was excellent, but he has had fitness problems since then and his overall impact has gone down. He still is AFL standard...but he's hardly an All-Australian contender which he was at his best. Meanwhile McDonald-Tipungwuti has so many bad games, and the problem is that tends to be the ones that Essendon lose. I'd more call him a barometer player rather than a downhill skiier, but the problem remains he's not as consistent as he could be. Still a good player, mind you and he provides excellent pressure up front.

    Devon Smith is the exception to the inconsistency problem. While he's not a huge goalkicker, his forward pressure remains elite and he's a pretty fair inside ball winner, allowing an extra rotation to their onball combo. He was badly missed last year, and looks fit and firing to get somewhere near his best.

    Their depth is pretty good up forward - Langford always looked a better half-forward than midfielder, Laverde is a patchy yet talented forward, Begley isn't the worst, Mosquito looks quite promising and could complement AMT well and Snelling can provide some good pressure up forward. But it's a forward line that I think is middling sans Daniher.


    Bellchambers is fine, but has never been a truly elite ruckman and is probably getting worse. So this won't make their dodgy inside stocks any better. The depth is solid though with Phillips being a decent back-up, McKernan being a decent tap-out option and Draper showing a lot of potential.


    Worsford is a definite coaching legend, but while he's a very safe pair of hands his actual coaching has never truly impressed me. It seems like his gameplans aren't rock-solid and he seems to lack great strategy when things aren't going his way (which probably explains why Essendon seem so likely to implode at any point). He was a good developer of talent at West Coast but at Essendon there hasn't really been too many improvements from what is generally a talented list. He's handing the job over at the end of the year though - it'll be interesting to see what increased roles for Rutten and Caracella bring.


    The good news here is that their "mid-age" group remains rather solid so at least they're not solely relying on their veterans to excel. But their actual youth - like their under 23's - seems fairly uninspiring for the most part. All of Parish, Francis and McGrath were very high picks and while they'll likely play heaps of footy (Francis maybe less certain than the other two) I'm more skeptical of their ability to become top-tier players, which you kind of have to be if you're a Top 5 pick. Most of the others are at best bit-part options. Their KPP stocks are aging and need replacing and they still haven't found the answer to their Jobe Watson replacement. The wings also need speed. That is not a great sign for them going forward.


    Their leadership has always seemed pretty ordinary to me. Heppell does seem like he carries his heart on the sleeve, but he's not the hardest player and not one that lifts when the games on the line. In defence they actually have a few good leaders despite it probably being an underperforming one (Hurley, Hooker, Saad) but with the rest of the side it's lacking.


    Zach Merrett. In 2016/17 he was a Top 10 midfielder in the comp and well on par with the Bontempelli/Cripps/Kelly triumvriate. The last two seasons have not been anywhere near as smooth and his once elite kick has lost its edge. Essendon need him at his best for them to do anything this year.

    [would've been Daniher but for his groin issues keeping him out of half the season]


    Mitch Hibberd. Drafted as a classy outside mid by North Melbourne with a fair bit of hype around him, he floundered and was delisted. But last year playing as an inside mid he was outstanding at VFL level. Essendon sorely need big bodies in their midfield and if he works out he could be exactly what they need.


    Aaron Francis. Looked a superstar at U18 level and has even shown some excellent signs at AFL level, but due to fitness levels and the precence of Hurley and Hooker he hasn't quite stood out as much as he'd like. Given their defensive injuries he'll finally have an extended crack in his best position and he pretty much has to excel for him to not go do as wasted potential.


    Given they don't look to have changed any of their areas of concern and have a brutal injury list that will see Daniher, Hooker, Heppell, Ambrose and a bunch of other miss early games, I can see this season going extremely pear-shaped for them. Maybe I'm wrong and they'll do quite well, there's certainly still a heap of talent in the side and it's the sort of team I could see a Clarkson for example working wonders with. As it is, expect them to finish Bottom 6 and Worsford to hand over the coaching role before the end of the season.
  11. morgieb MC Burridge


    Best 22:

    B: Luke Ryan - Alex Pearce - Reece Conca
    HB: Connor Blakely - Griffin Logue - Nathan Wilson
    C: Darcy Tucker - Nat Fyfe - Stephen Hill
    HF: Michael Walters - Matt Tabener - Cam McCarthy
    F: Brandon Matera - Rory Lobb - Sam Switkowski
    R: Sean Darcy - David Mundy - Andrew Brayshaw

    Int: Ethan Hughes - James Aish - Adam Cerra - Blake Acres

    Emg: Taylin Duman - Travis Colyer - Bailey Banfield - Caleb Serong - Brennan Cox - Hayden Young

    Inj: Jesse Hogan - Joel Hamling

    HOW 2019 WENT

    On paper it looks another wasted season....and in many ways it was. They were a fair way off the 8 and their percentage remained mediocre. Yet dig deeper and they were some surprisingly decent signs. They managed to beat five Top 8 teams, including the grand finalists away from home and the two preliminary finalists. Indeed if Hogan and Pearce don't go down they would've had a very good chance of playing finals. As it was, Lyon's career finished and for the fourth time in a row they didn't come to making the 8.


    There are things to like here, but there's not a lot of depth which kind of hurts. Hamling and Pearce when fit and firing is a good key defensive combination. It's not quite McGovern/Barrass, Lever/May or even a Hurley/Hooker but they're both good key defenders who can stop their opponents quite comfortably. Pearce in particularly was in borderline All-Australian form before going down with injury. Unfortunately Hamling is out for the first half of the season and Pearce remains Pearce when it comes to injury history, so that kind of nullifies their key defensive strength. Logue has looked solid so far but has a fair way to go to become the next Michael Johnson and is also kind of injury prone. They're hinting at moving Brennan Cox down back despite spending most of his career as a forward.

    Their smalls are a bit hit and miss. Ryan is a very good mid-sized defender who will only get better and can influence games two ways, whereas Wilson's speed off half-back gives their defence a point of difference. But the rest don't seem to stand out too much. Hughes is AFL standard but doesn't seem any more than "solid", Duman has pace but is yet to show signs of ripping potential. Young could be great but is only in his first season so will take time. Blakely's best in defence is good but I can't help but think he'll be a better midfielder, and Aish is kind of similar. Fremantle are planning on moving Conca down there and I think he'll be OK but again not a standout. So while there's options down back, the quality of depth isn't ideal. It's even worse when you consider that Wilson will miss early games too. So their defence looks fairly weak especially for the start of the season, though who knows whether Longmuir could change things up here.


    From a midfield which contained Fyfe, Mundy, Stephen Hill, Neale, Brad Hill and Langdon to a midfield which just contains the first three. And even Mundy is getting on and is now out for the first part of the season with a broken leg - which means his effectiveness will probably be well down when he comes back. Ouch. Fyfe is going to have to do a lot of work here. Walters is a quality midfielder which we saw last year, but all reports suggest he'll spend most of his time up forward. Which I guess makes sense - he's arguably the best half-forward in the competition and can easily score 50+ goals playing as a specialist small forward. Stephen Hill at his best was an even better winger than his brother and Langdon but due to injuries we haven't seen it much in recent years and I'm skeptical he'll remain fit for long enough to cove the Hill/Langdon losses.

    At least the midfield has a genuine superstar to lean on. Nat Fyfe's second Brownlow was a bit of a surprise, but with 33 votes it's hard to argue that he didn't earn it. He is a freak - OK his kicking isn't always ideal but I don't think I've ever seen a better mark from a midfielder and his ball winning capabilities are amazing. At his best he can win games off his own boot. Heaven help Freo if he was to go down.

    If there is a positive here, it's that their midfield has some gun younger players. Andrew Brayshaw and Adam Cerra were both Top 5 picks in the 2017 draft and now they are in their third year. They have shown glimpses of outstanding talent and in general have looked better than the other Top 5 picks so far, but are yet to really kick on. In general the third year is when the kids do, and given they'll have a clean run at joining Fyfe in the onball department (most likely) there's every chance they could become elite this year. Serong is also a high draft pick that should get some chances this year, though I feel like he'll play more up forward this year than in the guts. Tucker has shown signs of being a quality winger but has been unable to get a solid crack ahead of Langdon and Hill - with them gone he'll be their first choice winger and it wouldn't surprise me if he flourishes in that role. Banfield looks a decent tagger who might prove a solid inside midfielder in time.

    The most interesting names though are Blake Acres and James Aish (though more so the former than the latter). Acres always looked like he was a talent but couldn't quite hold down one position at St Kilda. When he was played in the one position for a few rounds he was actually pretty good but Richardson just didn't rate him for whatever reason. It wouldn't surprise me if he clicks if given a proper run at it. Aish just looks like "just a player" but Longmuir clearly saw something in him at Collingwood and he might yet have some development left in him. Blakely could be added to these two - he has plenty to like but injuries have been an issue and he's suffering from a bit of Callum Mills syndrome - the sort of player that should be playing midfield but was moved down back because of midfield depth and has probably been a bit too good to move up the field as he got older. Still, I can see him moving onball given their midfield losses and a new coach.

    So while I don't rate their midfield as things stand, I can see it surprising and I think it'll look good in the not too distant future.


    Again like their defence they have some very nice names up here but they don't see to have a lot of depth. And like their defence one of their key pieces is out for an extended period. Jesse Hogan was hyped up as the magic bullet to their forward line and the answer to their key forward problems that have existed for so long but his first season was fairly quiet and then he got injured during the season. And now he's out for an indefinite period with mental health problems. It sadly looks like his career might be done, though he's young enough and good enough that he can't be written off completely. Happily there are other tall forward options. Tabener has had fitness problems but when fit he can play some solid footy. Before breaking down last season he looked like the answer at CHF, so if he can play 22 games the loss of Hogan might not be so significant. Lobb will likely play more up forward this season and could be a decent option at FF with his size and marking ability, whereas McCarthy seems likely to be freed up to play more of a third tall/wing role where his aerobic capacity could be a weapon. It kind of has to be or otherwise his career might be over.

    Their smalls don't bat very deep unfortunately. Of course Walters is a star and is arguably the best half-forward in the game. Matera is a good goalkicker but you'd love to see him win more ball or improve his forward pressure to become a top-tier forward pocket. He is a valuable roleplayer but could be so much more. The likes of Switkowski and Schulz are the opposite - their pressure is good but they don't kick enough goals. There's probably a bit of room for improvement but I don't see them being ideal options long-term. Overall I don't really rate their forward line unless Hogan was to somehow get back to his best, but there are worse.


    No Sandilands here for the first time in a long time. I do think Sean Darcy and Rory Lobb has potential as a ruck combination though, and in practice they were the main ruckmen last year anyway. Darcy's aerobic capacity still has a way to go but his tap work and aggression looks impressive, and Lobb's marking and athleticism makes him a solid second option here. Not much depth if one of them were to go down though.


    The most interesting part of the side. Ross Lyon is an excellent coach but he was increasingly stale and I don't think he develops sides all that well. Longmuir is definitely a risk - all new coaches are - but his assistant record is a good one and I like what he seems to offer; he seems a lot more positive than most coaches and should be able to unlock a lot of potential that their kids have.


    I think there's a lot to like here. Cerra and Brayshaw are the two big guns as far as their youth go, Logue, Darcy and Cox seem to have some potential, Tucker's decent and they have a big draft crop coming through in Serong, Young and Henry. Apart from Mundy and Hill no-one seems near retirement either and most of them probably have some untapped talent. It's not quite the finished product yet, but I do rate their youth, especially if Longmuir is as good of a coach as advertised.


    Obviously Fyfe and Walters are the big guns here. Mundy is similar too. Hogan can be, but his mental health problems means he generally isn't. For the most part the side is a bit too inexperienced to have great leadership but their leaders are good ones.


    Nat Fyfe. Again a very easy call and you know what you'll get from him, but Freo's onball bridgade is very inexperienced and badly needs the reliable big bodies there. Fyfe is at least a Top 5 midfielder in the game and there's little doubt he's going to need to work hard for Fremantle to remain competitive this season. Heaven help them if he gets injured....

    [Hogan would've been key but for his mental health absence]


    Blake Acres. He's not that young admittedly, but he always looked a promising player at St Kilda but never got a full chance at it. He's exactly the sort of player that could flourish with a new, more settled role and in a new environment. If he progresses, it could be a big hole filled for Fremantle.


    Cam McCarthy. Was really hyped up when he first joined Fremantle, but has never truly clicked. I think his best role would be as a third tall putting his athleticism to good use, and that sounds like where he'll play. He really is at last chance saloon, and if he flops this season his career will effectively be over.


    On paper I think they'll be strugglers. There isn't a lot to like in their side and too many of their better players are injured. Yet oddly it wouldn't surprise me if they really surged this year. A lot of how they played last year reminded me of how the Dogs played in McCartney's last season there. I would not be that surprised if Longmuir could have a Beveridge/Hinkley-like effect here given that their kids look rather good and I think there's some talent that is thusfar untested. I won't tip them to play finals and in all honestly they'll likely finish Bottom 4, but if they start their season well....jump on them for a surprise Top 8 finish.
  12. Sultan Pepper HG Emm

    Freo desperately need to find a way to keep troops on the paddock, our talls go down every year. At full strength I don't mind the side, would love to still have Brad Hill though. The back line is one of the best in the comp, really well balanced when Hamling and Pearce take key forwards with Ryan and Wilson rebounding, Ryan is an absolute weapon, definitely one for your super coach team.

    I think one person that can help the midfield big time is Connor Blakely, I really, really rate him when he's not surfing. At full strength I'd just about start him in the midfield with Fyfe, Walters/Mundy rotation and probably Cerra. Still too much dead wood through the middle/half forward line though with the likes of Hughes and Tucker, just can not get excited about them. Really need someone like Acres to come on.

    Cam Mccarthy and athleticism shouldn't be used in the same sentence, I nicknamed him the backboard after about 6 games in purple as everything that goes near him just bounces back. I've never seen a supposed tall forward give less competition in the air. The talk is he'll be used up the ground on a wing or flank this year, no point having him up front as a 'target'.

    The one to watch I think is Brennan Cox. If Hogan, Tabernar and Lobb can stay fit he won't get a start, but when they inevitably aren't fit he'll slot in as a 3rd/int tall. Got a good set of hands but just lacks the intensity for the top grade, one of the more disinterested looking players I've seen but still has had some stand out performances. Hopefully age and a new coach helps him develop.

    I don't think bottom 4 is likely, the kids are a year older, I genuinely believe guys like Ryan and Blakely are superstars but don't get the hype because they play for freo. We'll hopefully have some talls to aim at up front, I think Ross had perhaps gone a bit stale and law of averages may mean a better injury run (thats the best i can hope). Hopefully under Longmuir they open up a bit, I'm tipping mid table, 7th to 12th, the trip to Perth is always annoying for the away teams and tends to get them an extra couple of wins.
  13. morgieb MC Burridge


    Best 22:

    B: Tom Stewart - Mark Blicavs - Jack Henry
    HB: Zach Touhy - Harry Taylor - Mark O'Connor
    C: Mitch Duncan - Joel Selwood - Jordan Clark
    HF: Gary Ablett - Esava Ratagolea - Luke Dahlhaus
    F: Gryan Miers - Tom Hawkins - Gary Rohan
    R: Rhys Stanley - Patrick Dangerfield - Jack Steven

    Int: Jake Kolodjashnij - Cameron Guthrie - Brandan Parfitt - Sam Menegola

    Emg: Tom Atkins - Jed Bews - Quinton Narkle - Charlie Constable - Lachie Henderson - Josh Jenkins

    HOW 2019 WENT

    Another side who can say a year of two halves, though of course this means different things to say Carlton. For the first half of the year they were nearly invincible, winning games by huge margins and their one loss being against quality opposition and by a very tight margin. The second half of the year was nowhere near as good, and they dropped games to a number of sides they probably shouldn't have (Fremantle, Hawthorn). In the finals they blew a winnable game against Collingwood and were rolled by the Richmond juggernaut despite their excellent first half against them. While that was still a significant improvement on 2018, one can't help but feel that 2019 was their last chance at a flag with this group.


    Despite being a bit more "recycled" than the rest of the team with several rookies and mature-aged players here this might actually be the best part of their team. They had mathematically the best defence in the competition last season; while that can mean a lot of things there's no doubt there's a heap of talent here. Take Mark Blicavs. Before 2018 he was mostly a C-grade midfielder who could relief in the ruck. While even being an OK midfielder was a fantastic achievement at his height and where he came from (mostly abandoning footy as a teenager to focus on athletics), I always felt that his athleticism could make him an elite defender. Over the last two years he has been a rock down back, and has allowed Geelong to easily handle the transition from Lonergan, Taylor and Henderson with him holding down full-back and being excellent at it.

    The other big name that came from the clouds was Tom Stewart. He had to wait until he was 24 before making his AFL debut, but since making it he's been one of the best defenders in the entire comp. Versatile, big ball winner and a solid stopper - he's a winner and has well and truly earned his two All-Australian guernseys. The two Irishmen Tuohy and O'Connor offer the pace off half-back to ensure good transition; whereas Jake Kolodjashnij is another versatile defender who can comfortably play on talls and smalls. Jed Bews is limited but can be relied upon to blanket dangerous small forwards. Just don't expect him to offer anything the other way.

    The question of who will partner Blicavs is an interesting one; Taylor did a good job here in 2019 but is only getting older, and the same applies for Henderson. Jack Henry however has shown terrific signs in his career thus far and could step it up - it's more likely he'll fill the third tall role for now and whether he has the height to go play CHB is a tricky question. Still, the overall health of their backline is very solid and it's one of the best ones in the competition.


    Although their midfield has long looked great on paper there are periods where it doesn't work all that well in practice. I think a lot of this is down to too many players being rather sameish - strong attacking weapons but don't work all that hard the other way. This was kind of addressed last year by Ablett moving up forward and Selwood playing more of a wing role, allowing someone like Atkins and Guthrie to play a more defensive role, but by the time the year was done the old problems started to pop up again.

    The big question for 2020 is can they adequately replace Tim Kelly? Kelly was flat out incredible last season, easily ending up in the Top 10 mids of the season and arguably being their best player. However everyone knew that once his two years was up he'd likely return to Perth and so it proved. Jack Steven is as good of a replacement as possible....however his foot skills are nowhere near as good and it remains to be seen what shape he is in for 2020. His last season at St Kilda he missed lots of footy with mental health problems...and if Hogan and Beams are any sign that kind of thing doesn't go away. There were also games where he basically looked like the love child of Stewie Dew and Dean Rioli.....

    Dangerfield remains Dangerfield. He probably isn't quite where he was in 2016/17 right now, but even now he's still a Top 5 player in the comp and easily their biggest weapon in the midfield. The midfield will not look anywhere near as good if he's not there. His only concern is age - there are signs that the cracks are appearing in his game, but I still expect him to remain awesome in 2020. Selwood on the other hand has definitely dropped off as he's aged, and him missing most of the pre-season is a concerning sign at his age. His body is only getting more and more bashed and the end could come quickly for someone like him.

    On the wings Mitch Duncan is a terrific and eternally under-rated player, out of pure wingers the only one I'd take over him is Whitfield, yet he never seems to pop up in the discussions for All-Australian. Meanwhile Jordan Clark had an outstanding first season and I think is likely to become one of the game's leading outside players. Maybe their wings could be quicker and there are question marks about this position if one of them were to go down, but it's a very impressive starting wing combo.

    Their second tier mids look pretty good too. Cam Guthrie is a bit of a whipping boy and I thought given their kids he'd fall by the wayside at this point, but he held down the third onball slot to Dangerfield and Kelly pretty well. He provides a lot of defensive output to the midfield which helps and his attacking game is solid. Parfitt may not be an awesome user of the pill but he has a lot to like and I can see him exploding in the near-ish future. Menegola at his best is a fine outside mid, Atkins is a good tackler at least and Narkle and Constable have shown excellent signs in limited appearances - expect them to bolt in the near future. Overall I think their midfield is a very strong one but the question marks might hold it back from the really great ones.


    Before last season this was probably the weakest bit of their team - it was basically Tom Hawkins and not a lot else. Thanks to some reshuffles and signings it looks a lot better now. They cut Daniel Menzel - someone who could kick goals but provided no defensive pressure - and added two big forward pressure players in Luke Dahlhaus and Gary Rohan. They also moved Ablett up forward. For half the year it worked really well - Ablett was arguably the best small forward in the competition, Rohan both kicked goals and laid pressure on and Dahlhaus added a fair bit too. Unfortunately for Geelong Ablett dropped off in the second half of the season and Rohan turned into the Rohan that Sydney fans knew too well - one that just couldn't work himself into games consistently.

    What quite possibly cost them in 2019 was Tom Hawkins missing a key final. Whether they win that game anyway is another question altogether but there's little doubt that their forward line doesn't look too flash when he's not there. Josh Jenkins is an interesting addition that could go either way but if he's somewhere near his best footy he at least means they have another target for when Hawkins is quiet - as promising as Ratagolea seems, he still has a long way to go. Hawkins still remains the man, and scarily seems to be getting better with age - you could make a case that his last two years are his best.

    Ablett remains the wildcard as far as their smalls go. In what is probably his final season, he might well be useless, but if there's one player you can't write off, it's Gary Ablett. He is still probably the greatest footballer I've ever seen and he might yet still have some tricks left in reserve. The way he finished 2019 would have to concern some Geelong fans, though. Rohan is also an interesting factor - he was playing fantastic footy early in the season, but dropped off badly in the second half of the season. It's hard to see him improving but his best can add some significant spark and pressure to the Geelong forward line. Dahlhaus remains a solid half-forward who is an elite tackler and a good ball-winner but probably doesn't kick as many goals as you hope - he still is a good forward though.

    Then there's Gryan Miers. He was one of the finds of 2019, proving a quality small forward in his first season. Where he goes from here is interesting - Geelong can't afford for him to suffer from second year syndrome - but he adds a lot to the forward line and could become a terrific player down the track. Atkins played up here too, but doesn't have the nous required to do anything more than tackle.


    A big area of concern. Rhys Stanley probably cops a bit too much of a bad wrap at times, but there's little doubt that he isn't really rated by Geelong and is one of the weaker tap ruckmen in the comp, which is probably another thing that holds Geelong's midfield back. It wouldn't be a problem if they had other options to go up against the monsters.....but they really don't. Some of their ruck relief options are decent (Blicavs, Ratagolea) but are better utilised in other positions.


    Chris Scott is a tough one to judge. He showed a fair bit of guts to change up some of their key players positions last year, and was justly rewarded for it for much of the season. The problem remains that since his first flag Geelong have typically been great during the Home & Away season but tend to bomb out of finals with a whimper rather than a bang. I don't know what the main flaw is but it's something that he'd love to fix. Still, he has consistently kept Geelong up near the top and that has to be given some credit.


    For what is considered an aging list I actually quite like Geelong's youth - their problem is more their "mid-aged" players. Jordan Clark looks an utter star, whereas all of Esava Ratagolea, Jack Henry, Brandan Parfitt and Gryan Miers now hold down key roles in the side. There's upside in Charlie Constable, Quinton Narkle and Lachie Fogarty too. It's a pretty solid core for a side that hasn't had the chance to rebuild for over 15 years and they'll gradually get more picks to get the future stars in.


    One of the better sides as far as leadership goes for reasons that shouldn't need explaining. All of Ablett, Selwood, Dangerfield, Taylor and Hawkins are very much "been there, done that" guys and provide plenty of experience for the kids to lean on. Selwood in particular is arguably the best leader in the entire league now with Hodge gone. Remains to be seen what the next gen leadership is like, but there's still plenty of time for that to develop.


    Tom Hawkins. Although Jenkins signing helps a little bit, the forward line still revolves around him having a good game. If he drops off in age Geelong will have a lot to be concerned about.


    Quinton Narkle. Broke in to the side late last year, and looked good doing so. While expecting him to get to Tim Kelly's level is too much, I see a little of Kelly in him and he might be a big factor if he can get good chances.


    Joel Selwood. As crazy as it sounds, he was fairly quiet (by his standards) last season and I do worry about him hitting the wall hard and becoming a borderline liability. Geelong can't let that happen and they need a great season from him if they're to do anything this season.


    I don't think they'll be real contenders this year, I feel like last year was their last chance in this regard. They should remain a good team though and their unique home ground advantage will ensure that they don't fall too far. It is an aging team with a worrying age balance though so I do wonder if their finals spot is as solid as it seems. Won't tip them to miss the 8, but you never know.....
  14. morgieb MC Burridge

    With so many clubs not done there is basically no chance of me finishing this by Thursday, so instead here's my ladder prediction:

    1. Richmond
    2. Greater Western Sydney
    3. West Coast
    4. Western Bulldogs
    5. Brisbane Lions
    6. Collingwood
    7. Hawthorn
    8. Port Adelaide

    9. Geelong
    10. Melbourne
    11. North Melbourne
    12. St Kilda
    13. Sydney
    14. Essendon
    15. Fremantle
    16. Adelaide
    17. Carlton
    18. Gold Coast
    Sultan Pepper and jimmy_c8 like this.
  15. Sultan Pepper HG Emm

    Still better than most of the write ups in the paper. The West Australian did a spiel about the players to watch for Freo, had Bailey Banfields photo on Cerra's write up.
  16. Sultan Pepper HG Emm

    Do you see any hope whatsoever for the Gold Coast morg?
  17. morgieb MC Burridge

    This season, probably not a lot, though I expect the percentage gap between them and the second worst to be much lower than 20 points. If they win 5 games, get their percentage around 75-80% and see Rankine and/or Rowell finish high in the Rising Star ratings I think they'll view the season as a relative success.

    I actually like what they're building a lot, the problem is that the Gold Coast is kind of a death zone for all sporting teams. Just look at the NRL or the A-League.....
  18. stupersteve03 SJ Cambridge

    What a waste, such good writing, so little season will happen
  19. Arheiner SIA Yates

    At least it gives him a decent reason to finish these.

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