Time to just have a look at where everyone is at and what the immediate future holds
Adelaide - 0-4. In summary, their stuffed. There was no shame losing to Freo and Sydney, but Melbourne was gut wrenching and the Blues at home was one that shouldn't have got away. They are seriously bad. What went wrong? A bad preseason and more injuries. Lets throw in an unimaginative game style, old heads that finally are slowing, and the great white hope Kurt Tippet doing nothing. So when will they win? Not this week against the Dogs, nor the next against Port. In round 7 though they get their chance at home against the Tigers. If they lose that (and frankly the way their playing they may) someone is going to be lynched. The Hawks were in the same position last year and never could get off the ground and it will be the same result for the Crows, finals are a right off.
Brisbane - 4-0. Wow! I don't get it. They are potent AND their midfield is good. Much of that is due to improvement in Rischitelli has been excellent and Brennan has been a revelation. He has transformed himself into a top notch midfielder, rather than a homeless swingman. Add to that Brown's superb form and Fev chipping in and they have a pretty sound team. But how long can it last. My guess is no Brown no Brisbane, but they seem to be built on a few key figures, so anyone of them goes and they could be fragile. Last week they finally beat someone worthy, in the Dogs, but I'm wary of that form because the previous week the Dogs had a nasty fight with the Hawks, and like the Cats before them, they lost after playing the Hawks. Melb up next is a gimmie, but then it gets interesting. They play another peer in Sydney (away), then the surprise packets, Freo and finally Geelong. In 4 weeks we'll know a lot more about Brisbane. Gut feel says they'll drop 1 or 2, but will still be in great shape.
Carlton - 2-2. Win/Loss can be deceiving. They have beat no one (Tigers and Crows) and lost respectfully to Brisbane, and also Essendon. So whats it all mean? Probably that the Blues aren't that good. Their key forward last week (and they won) was Setanta O'Hailpin. What is up with that? Harsh reality check for Blues fans is that they beat Adelaide. And amazingly that doesn't mean much at all. But heck Juddy is back and that does actually make a difference. Not only through his brilliance, but by freeing up the other mids. So what's next? Geelong, Collingwood, St. Kilda and Port (away). This could very easily mean 4 losses. And whatever the Blues will be cooking won't be smelling or tasting that good at all (if you don't get the reference check out their season motto).
Collingwood - 3-1. The Pies are in a very good place. Excellent wins against the Dogs and Hawks, both would be challengers and a great fight that they should have won against the Saints. Mark my words, these guys are a good side and can match it with the best. I have questioned their form a little, mainly because of the mental lapses against the Dees and in front of goal against the Saints, but they still have done the job. Coming up they have very winnable games against Essendon, Carlton and North (lets face it they should NOT drop any of those), so they'll be 6-1 going into a much more interesting draw; Freo at Subi, Geelong, Brisbane at the Gabba and then the Doggies. We'll know a lot more after those 4 games, but they if they are contenders than they should win at least 2 of them.
Essendon - 1-3. Sigh. I get sick of reading about Essendon being a team with a lot of promise. Knights hasn't demonstrated that he can coach, they haven't demonstrated a reasonable forward line and their midfield isn't particularly skilled. On top of all of that they have the dubious honour of having the most over-hyped player in the comp in Ryder. What exactly has he done except for a handful of good performances? Ok enough on the negatives, lets see if I can salvage some positives. Hooker and Pears, two players that a future can be built around. And I suppose they have lost 2 of their 3 against respectable opponents in Geelong and Freo (I don't believe I just said they were respectable). So in summary, finals pretty much no hope. They just aren't good enough. And frankly they need to cut half their list. Sorry, but that harsh reality.
Fremantle - 3-1. Ok I am surprised. Actually that is an understatement. I'm flabbergasted! What the hell is going on? Freo, winning? Freo, beating Geelong? WTF? Deep breaths. Ok I'm back. Freo have been excellent simply because they have won 3 including beating the Cats and took the Saints (sans Reiwaldt) right to the wire in Melbourne. Gone (so it seems) is the classic Freo yo-yo, and now they are playing a harder, meaner style of footy. Lets not get too carried away. 1. 3-1 does not a season make. 2. Pav and Sandilands have be awesome, if one of them is injured or is in poor form who knows what can happen. So I'm waiting to see what happens before I make a call. they have Richmond and West Coast, both should be wins if they are actually the real deal, and then back it up win a win or two against Brisbane at the Gabba, the Pies at home and Sydney at the SCG. If they come out of that with wins, then they are the real deal.
Geelong - 3-1. Ah the Cats. How damn good are they? Very, and that's probably an understatement. They have lost one, at Subi against the improved Dockers and that was after a very tough encounter against the Hawks. Make no mistake they are every bit as good as they have been over the last 3 years. The midfield is as good as ever, the backline still solid and the forward line is successfully experimenting with Podsiadly and a healthy Steve Johnson. If they don't finish top 2 (I had them 4th at the start of the year) I'll be surprised. Carlton and Richmond coming up next are wins, and the Sydney, another improver, at Geelong should be another. So their next text is in 4 rounds time, the Lions at the Gabba and then backed up by the Pies. I would be surprised if they lost more than 1 of those 2.
Hawthorn - 1-3. Brave for 2 matches woeful in the last. What to make of the hapless Hawks? They seemed thereabouts against both the Cats and the Dogs but just weren't good enough. No shame in those losses, but the Pies, well that was a capitulation. I figure there is two explanations: 1. They just aren't good enough and have been overrated. Yes they have some serious talent, but frankly who has really improved, or even stayed as good, since the 2008 GF? Maybe Hodge and Rioli with Gilham showing improvement too. The leave as awful lot of players that have gone backwards. 2. Late preseason injuries, suspensions, ingame injuries, fatigue from hard games against the Cats and Dogs coupled 3 games in 12 days against 3 of last years prelim finalists. So yeah, what do you make out of it? No idea. So the next few games are really important for the Hawks. North, Essendon, West coast, Richmond, Carlton. Thats 5 games that should be very winnable for any team that is a shot at top 4 let alone top 8. If the Hawks do all the right things in those games then they look a heck of a lot healthier. However, they drop a few and all the sudden they look like the top 8 or at least the upp echelons are out of their depth. Very interesting times ahead. Oh and if they do do OK, I can't wait to see what happens in a horror run later where they face Dogs, Cats, Brisbane, St.Kilda, Port (away), Sydney (away).
Melbourne - 2-2. They have been better than expected, but lets not get carried away. Yes they beat Adelaide, but really big deal. Adelaide are rubbish at the moment, and it was here and the Crows and no players on the bench in teh last quarter. That aint a victory to hang your hat on. And they beat Richmond, and that REALLY is nothing to talk about. The team the loses to Richmond is in big trouble. In fact their best performance has been their 1 point loss to Collingwood. A legit contender they took it right up to the Pies, and in all honesty should have won. Melbourne are a young, developing side with some excellent kids. Look no further than Grimes. This kids is a ripper. But they have class all over the ground, not the least being Scully, Trengrove, Frawley, Garland, Petterd, Bate and their best player, Sylvia. Throw Davey in and the reputation of a slow developing (not unusually for a big kid) Watts, and they have the beginnings of a great side. What they really need is a forward line, and for a couple of years Watts isn't going to be ready to carry it. Brisbane, North, Dogs, West Coast, and Port coming up next, and there are 3 potential wins there but realistically they will win a few more, but probably no more than 4 or 5 for the rest of the year.
North Melbourne - 1-3. Early on in preseason I was sucked in by the talent of youth they had especially in the midfield. And what about 3 ruckman? Then there are the leaders in Harvey, Rawlings and most importantly Petrie. These guys were going to be pretty good. But then Petrie went down, I realised Harvey and Rawlings were not the players they had been and the kids, well they are kids and for 90% of them it takes 2-3 years to find their feet. And they've played like that. Bunch of kids with a new coach. Exciting at times, woeful at others. Its going to be that for them. Obviously finals is out of the question, but the club with the smallest membership base in Melbourne has got to put in some brave performances. Their draw isn't going to help. Hawks next, they a genuine fight with Melbourne, Pies, another genuine fight with Adelaide (unless they finally start living up to expectation), then doggies and Freo at Subi. That's a pretty tough run. I wouldn't expect too many wins.
Port Adelaide - 2-2. They have improved on last year as they seem harder at the ball (all reports are that's Laidley's doing) and don't seem to be as yo-yo as they have been. They have won games that they would have hoped to, although perhaps surprised themselves with the West Coast win at Subi, and have been beaten (spanked in teh case of the Cats) by Brisbane and Geelong. Its probably a reflection of where they are at. Somewhere near the bottom end of middle. And they won't get better. With St. Kilda, Adelaide, Essendon and Carlton they have winnable games, but they are also droppable. They could win 3, or lose all 4. It really depends I think more on the opposition (Essendon and Carlton can be up and down) that will dictate Ports results. I can see Port getting somewhere between 7-10 wins, but essentially they are not good enough (their balance of youth and experience isn't quite right), and I don't really think they are well coached. Port should have terminated Williams' contract last year, but thats another story.
Richmond - 0-4. Man they are bad. Its not unexpected, but well maybe they weren't supposed to be THIS bad. Frankly there isn't much that can be salvaged thus far. Cotchin is back, thats good, Martin is a genuine player (or will be in a couple of years), and Reiwaldt does ok whilst playing out of position. But thats it. To be fair it will take time for these kids to show their true colours and also to understand any semblance of a game plan. so what's coming up? Well I'm not going through the list, but if Adelaides form holds round 7 may see a Tigers victory.
St. Kilda - 4-0. They haven't lost a game, but they have lost big Nick. I guess you can never complain when you win everything, including the Pies and a currently firing Freo. I'm not sure if they are as good as last year, but they will be winning lots of games. I mean look at their run, Port, Dogs, Carlton, Bombers, West Coast, Adel, Richmond. In all honesty a team this good would be embarrassed by losing to any of these teams except the Dogs. Top 2 beckons.
Sydney - 3-1. I have been really impressed with the way they've gone about it thus far. Pretty much taken on all challenges, including a full strength Saints outfit in round 1 (a game they deserved to win). However, a little like Melbourne actually, they have beaten low ranked sides in North, Adelaide, and Richmond so we don't have a really good indicator on where they are at. Goodes needs to improve to give them more potency, and stunningly McGlynn's absence in the next few weeks could be telling. West Coast should be defeated, but after that we'll get a true gauge. Lions, Cats (away), Dogs (Manuka), Freo and Hawthorn. That's a tough stretch that I suspect will bring the Swannies back to the pack.
West Coast - 1-3. I must admit I'm a little disappointed. I expected more from West Coast. Kerr hasn't fired and Cox has taken awhile to warm up. They have plenty of young talent but as I've said before, youth takes time. I suspect I got a bit ahead of myself with my early assessments. West Coast will be a really good side in a few years, but similar to North just need time. I can actually quite easily see North, West coast and Melbourne contesting Prelims in about 4-5 years. But with Sydney, Freo, Hawthorn coming up before a really winnable one against Melbourne and more pain with the Saints and Cats over a three round period, they are going to struggle to make an impact this year.
Western Bulldogs - 2-2. Its hard to pick the Dogs. NAB Cup indicated that they were here to play and contend. Since then they lost to a peer in the Pies and another in the Lions, although like Geelong they lost coming off a nasty game against the Hawks. So where are they? I don't really know. They definitely aren't showing the same form they had in preseason, but their next few have some very winnable games and some challenging ones. Adel is a win, St. Kilda will be a great test, Melbourne a win and Sydney at Manuka a test. If they can't win against the Saints or Sydney then the doubts I have will grow. They are teams a serious contender must be able to beat. After round 8 they could well still be at evens at 4-4. Whilst that is not the end of the world, they would be hoping for much better return with over a third of a season done.