Every year before the season starts off I do an end of home and away season ladder, and I have this system of calculating how accurate I’ve been. It goes something like this:
Compare the actual ladder with mine, and for every team I have in exactly the right spot I get 0 points. If I have a team that is 2 places away from where they actually end up I get 2 points and so on. Essentially the idea is to get as few points as possible. The lower the points the more accurate it is.
Ok, enough boring preamble, let’s get to the point (rare for me BTW). Here’s my preseason ladder for 2010:
1. Western Bulldogs – Perhaps I’m a little sucked in by the Hall hype and their solid preseason form, but really I don’t think it’s that. Honest! I think that last year they improved on every line. Great defenders, great runners out of defence, workman like midfield but very reliable with a bit of class and a forward line that finally covers all the bases. The best thing about the Dogs is that they actually have some improvement left in them. Hudson, Hall and Lake are my three key players. If any one of those guys is out for an extended time it will seriously hurt the dogs. They always say you need luck to win a flag, well these guys need a little less luck because of excellent coaching, finally some stronger bodies, a good structure and a little bit of list depth. They will finish top 4, but likely 1-3.
2. St Kilda – The Saints are very good. Actually that is an understatement. They are excellent. Every line is excellent. Sure they maybe a little one paced (can’t really see Lovett fixing that problem) although Peake will give some run. I’m not that convinced by him though. But for me they have two concerns, and its why ultimately I haven’t picked them to play off in the Grand Final. Riewoldt and minimal improvement left. Before you jump up and down screaming how much of a champ Riewoldt is, that is exactly the problem. He is a KPP forward and the only decent one the Saints have. He gives them goal kicking, gut busting run, a legit marking option and above all he brings his other less talented forwards into the game. If Rooey goes down, the Saints are stuffed. Its all standard single point of failure stuff. The other point is that so many players improved to be very good players last year, I just can’t see too much of it left to be honest. McEvoy is one of the only ones I expect to improve, and that will reduce the risk they have in ruck with the old boys King and Gardiner. Like the Dogs they will finish top 4 but I’ll be less generous and say 1-4.
3. Collingwood – The Pies are like the Dogs, puzzle finishers. I can just see Mick peering over his mo and looking at a team photo and happily slotting in a pic of Darren Jolly into the last spot. Jolly and to a lesser extent Ball have been enormous acquisitions for the club. Their defence is underrated with some excellent stoppers, hardness and great creativity and dash. The Pies are a team that relies very heavily on run from defensive. The midfield looks nice too. No longer one paced and reliant on too few classy players, it now has depth, great ball winners and runners. Jolly of course finally gives them a ruckman, something they have not had since Damian Monkhurst. Don’t even bother telling me Fraser is a ruckman, he isn’t. At best he is an athletic half forward or the specialist ‘around the grounds’ ruckman. The forward line is my biggest concern. Yes they have plenty of options, but not much variety. They are all smalls with goal kicking talent. Anthony is a lead up forward with a nice kick, but he isn’t particularly threatening, its the same role Medhurst play, but he has more tricks. Cloke can’t kick, and really should impose himself more (and plays very high), Brown is a unreliable. Having said that, their smalls give them the lots of opportunity. They almost look a bit like the Dogs of last year. Maybe Mick’s puzzle making isn’t quite complete? So where will they end up, 2-7.
4. Geelong – Ah the Cats. What a magnificent team. They really should be seen in the same light as Brisbane of 01-04. They had the Hawks on the ropes in 08, but didn’t have the mental strength (you could call it over confidence) to nail them. That would have been 3 in a row my friends. No point rambling on too much about Geelong, because every man and his cat have done that. They are still a formidable team, but my concerns are really about whether they can stay fit enough. Johnson is the barometer, and frankly I’m not convinced that he can be half the player he was 2 years ago. Mooney is getting on and provides a massive service by bringing the ball to ground and making a contest. He isn’t a great KPP but he does his job well. The midfield is awesome, lets just move on. Otten’s is a risk, he just doesn’t seem to play a lot of footy, and his number 1 understudy in Blake is average at best. The backline as always looks solid, but Scarlett is at the point where he could be one soft tissue injury away from being a normal player as opposed to a gun. Harley is gone (arguably from a playing point of view no massive loss based on last year) and Milburn really started to look average at the end of last year. Can they hold it all together? Maybe. 1-6 for me
5. Hawthorn – First up I did this before Taylor and then Skipper decided that actually playing footy wasn’t for them, but I’ll stand by it. Last year was an off year. Lots of reasons, not point going into it as we’ve heard it before. What they do have is a great midfield, and a couple of great KPP forwards. They could be a very enigmatic side this year. There are questions over ruck (OK, no questions, they have no half decent ruckman available, and when Taylor gets back, well maybe they get a half decent one), and their defence looks undersized, but, and its a big but, Buddy and Roughy up forward is just ominous. If the Hawks can get their run from half back going and their midfields decide to follow team structures and actually zone up as opposed to last year, they are in with a faint chance. They could be anything, so its tempting to put 1-16 as a range, but I’ll try to be realistic, 2-10.
6. Adelaide – I like Adelaide. I have a lot of time for them. They have an interesting and diverse forwardline, and excellent midfield, a solid and stingy defence. But my big nag on them is Neil Craig. He doesn’t seem to allow them to play inspired exciting football. They are and will be Crowbots whilst he is in charge. I just don’t think he can get them to a flag. They have the players, but perhaps not the game plan to get there. 3-8. Hmm, that was a bit shorter than I intended...
7. Brisbane – The Lions like the Hawks are an enigma. So many list changes, including one pretty big name, Kev. Oh hang on, that is it? That’s it, Fev, sorry about that. Just forgot his name for a moment, you know he’s slipped in quite quietly and seamlessly. All a bit sneaky if you ask me. Brown and Fev, its mouth watering on paper, unknown in practice. Two of the great KPP forwards together at last (or is it again, did they play in that tribute match a couple of years ago). But no one really knows if they will gel. Both are strong personalities that command the ball so I am expecting some teething problems. Getting rid of Bradshaw was a dumb move. He knew his role. Fev is more talented but that isn’t all that makes you the best player for a club at a particular time. Enough on Fev (I almost feel like a journo the way I’ve gone on about him), the midfield is solid without being outstanding. Black is the key. He is probably their most important player because his midfield class is so much more obvious than anyone else they’ve got. Yeah, yeah Brown and Fev are important, but if one goes down they still have the other. Their backline is solid, no frills. At best they are a very dark horse, 3-10
8. Sydney – Rounding out the 8 is the Swans. This was a last minute change based on a couple of things. This first, their list. Its damn good! Sure they lose Hall, O’Loughlin, Barry and Jolly but the first three were pretty much done at the Swans for a variety of reasons. Jolly is a big loss, but not irreplaceable. Seaby, Mumford and White make for some decent ruck prospects, even if they aren’t outstanding. What I love is their forward line, White (OK I’m using him in two positions, but heck he will play in both), Goodes, Bradshaw and throw in whoever you want as smalls. That my friends is mouthwatering. With the strong midfield they have they should potent. And the backline, well, can it be anything but good? These guys like to defend. I’m kind of hoping for a dour defensive fame that explodes as soon as they are in possession. 6-10 is where they will end up
9. West Coast – They are stiff not to be in the 8, but I got so excited by Sydney I had to drop someone. They are young, they are exciting and they importantly have a class through their spine. Kennedy is improving, LeCras is a gun, Kerr, Cox, Glass, Adam Selwood and Hurn are all class. NicNat and Masten will both develop this year. The future is rosy for the Eagles. The home ground advantage is enormous and they know how to exploit it. 6-12
10. Carlton – Oh no I’ve dropped Carlton out of my 8! Am I insane, well no I don’t think so. Instead of having two superstars they now have one. And that is a huge impact. Juddy is key to success now and he’s missing for the first three which could see them behind the 8 ball early (at least they did the expected thing and beat Richmond last night). There is a massive hole up forward that needs to be filled, and like the Pies they have plenty of options but no one to stamp themselves on a game consistently. Their midfield is pretty good, and will improve a lot. Their defence is better that people think, Jamison’s return is huge. So if goal scoring is one question the other is depth. After the best 18 or so (which is better than in previous years where there might have been a best 10) it really starts to get threadbare. 8-14
11. Essendon – They are young, and they lost a lot of experience at the end of last year. Perhaps its a good thing, but to me they don’t have the excellent older players that they used to. They barely scrapped into the 8 (on the back of one of the great inspirational and self sacrificing, or is that suspendable, acts in a match), and I think it will be 2 steps back before trying to climb forward. Midfield is inexperienced but speedy, forward line is unproven and unknown, defence actually looks like it is getting there, but I can’t pick them with any confidence especially as so many seem to think Ryder is actually anything more than a good footballer (and I’m being generous). If he is one of the best at Essendon, then there are dark times ahead. 9-15
12. North Melbourne – I’m fickle. I admit it. Drew Petrie breaks his foot, and I have north tumble from 9th to 12th. That’s how important he is. He isn’t their best player, not most talented but he is flexible, and probably is the only thing that resembles a good KPP forward. He is out for at least 6 weeks. The first 6 weeks of the year. The most important 6 weeks in the season. For it is at the start where a season is set up. I love North. Great kids (this midfield is going to be one of the best in a couple of years), hard coach, great ruck stocks and an underrated developing backline. 9-15, before Petrie I would have had 6-12 I reckon.
13. Port Adelaide – Sorry Port fans, but Port is crap. Heavy reliance on old stars, a bit of talent spread throughout, and a coach who is a fool. Man, that was a bit harsh, but its where I reckon they are at. Lets wait for Laidley to take over as soon as possible and actually form this team into something palatable. But it looks bleak with compromised drafts coming. 10-16
14. Fremantle – Freo...they are just so unthreatening. Its sad really. They do have two great players in Sandilands and Pav, and they have oodles of talent. All they need now is some time and cohesion and they could develop nicely. But its too early. 12-16
15. Richmond – After last night many will jump on them and say 16th for sure, well guess what 15th aint that far away people, and I did this before last night! OK they have a new coach and lots of kids. Hardwick has salvaged what he could from the last 10 years of Frawley and Wallace, and it really isn’t that much. Delidio is class, Cotchin is potential, and then there are a host of OK players. Their backline is developing, their forward line is developing and way too short, their midfielders are developing. Reality is more than half the list aren’t good enough (and won’t ever be) to be considered best 22. They have the building blocks to start again but that’s it. 4 years minimum before getting to the finals. 13-16
16. Melbourne – The Dees are on the right track. They are more advanced that Port, Freo and Richmond. They just need the games in the kids. It really is that simple. Oh, and they need to find a forward line. Bates is a good player, but doesn’t play like a KPP. Miller is solid, but is a link man only unless someone points him at the goals., so that leaves Jack Watts as their best KPP forward, and he has done all of nothing so far. I had them as high as 12 before all the injuries and rumours of a poor preseason. But right now I would be surprised if they finished any higher than 13. 13-16