The NAB is now in the basket for 2010 and I thought it was actually not a bad series this year with a few good to very good matches on offer for the television audience. If the NAB is any guide to the pace of the game then we could be in for a bumper Football Season in 2010.
The pre-season though is much more than just the NAB as many clubs found out to their cost. Melbourne, Hawthorn and Adelaide have been the clubs struck by the dreaded injury curse with Hawthorn in particular looking vulnerable in the Ruck after a multitude of injuries to men capable of playing in this position. The Demons have copped a couple of long term injuries with the Hawthorn vs. Melbourne match almost a last man standing affair.
The teams that are ‘up and about’ might not be the teams sprinting at the end but a few clubs look set for a flyer. With that in mind it is time to predict the final minor round finishing positions for 2010……..yes, it’s time for me to talk rubbish again. Footy is here!
1st: Western Bulldogs
It doesn’t take a Rodney Eade to see that the Bulldogs will benefit enormously from the acquisition of Barry Hall and the improved fitness of Robert Murphy. Brodie Moles has added a bit of extra spark in the midfield and could this be the year that Long Tom Williams finally gets on the field? It all appears to be falling into place for the Doggies but I’m yet to be convinced that this will result in premiership glory. I’m not sure that now is the time to be peaking but one thing is for sure is that the Bullies and Bazza have complimented each other beautifully so far.
Apart from a quarter here and there the Cats have looked decidedly wobbly at this stage of the year with the club admitting that they won’t be at their best in Round 1. The Cats could suffer a few surprising early losses but is helped by not meeting the Saints until Round 14 and the Dogs until Round 20. I believe that these three sides will be a force this year and that all three teams will have a good to extremely good record over the rest. With a soft draw, the Cats can overcome a slow start and once again be a major threat come September.
3rd: St Kilda
The Saints had a successful pre-season but will be hampered by the loss of defensive general Sam Fisher for the early rounds. The form of some players remains a concern and a lack of support for St Nick appears evident. Having said that though a St Kilda at half rat power is still better than the majority of the clubs in the comp. The Saints, Dogs and Cats will all be there again much to the dismay of clubs like Collingwood, Hawthorn and Brisbane.
Like Geelong, the Crows did not have the greatest of pre-seasons but I think that this group will be about the place for the majority of the year. Adelaide has a reasonably soft run at the start of the year but things get a lot tougher towards the end of the year so a good start is essential. I reckon the Crows can have a good minor round but will once again come up short in September.
The Pies have the draw from hell and this will cost them a top four spot this year even though I rate them higher than Adelaide. I think it will be Darren Jolly who will be the recruit of the year from a Pie perspective although Luke Ball will add plenty too. Surely this team can’t crab around the flanks for another year? They have a real ruckman now and a good inside infielder so it’s time to step up in the corridor or remain waiting in the wings.
Despite a big turnover of players, I see the Lions occupying the same spot as last year and earning themselves another home final in the first week of the finals. Despite having a gun forward line this team does not look especially strong in midfield so who is going to kick it to Fev and Browny? I can’t see this team doing enough damage outside of Queensland to rank any higher than this.
At the start of the year I had Hawthorn challenging for the top four but a lot has gone wrong at Glenferrie since then. Once again many Hawks are underdone through injury and already suspect area of their side has been further weakened with Taylor’s injury. The Hawks still don’t have anyone for the Gorilla forwards – Inside Football even mentioned a possible move to the backline for Buddy. The Hawks might be hungry but they might not have the legs to climb the ladder.
8th: West Coast
This is where it gets tough. I reckon the next group of teams down to Carlton are very even and matches between them will be almost impossible to tip as the year goes on. The West Coast can rebuild fortress Subiaco but must improve on the road. They’ll need to beat teams like Melbourne and Richmond on the road and winning the majority of home games to make the eight. I reckon they might just squeak in ahead of their neighbours the Dockers.
I reckon Freo can be a big improver this year especially if they can claim home victories against the out of sorts Crows and Cats in the first three rounds. If Freo fail to win either then another wasted season could be on the cards – win both and it is a good start to an assault on the eight. I’m still not sure why they left so many at home against the Saints for that NAB final but they did have a few injuries. An injury free run could see the Dockers grasping the brass ring of respect this season, but another year in the wilderness probably awaits.
10th: North Melbourne
The Roos will be another to improve this year but I can’t see them squeezing into the eight. I reckon that they might tail off at the business end of the year due to the relative youth of their midfield. This club has a lot of important players who are young and this could well be their downfall in August. North still have some list cloggers as well and these will need to be weeded out before they can return to September action.
Sydney, as usual will have a real crack like they do every other year but this is a year in which the Swans will need to play a few more younger players and as a result they won’t be quite as consistent as previous seasons. I like the acquisition of Bradshaw to the Swans but his interrupted pre-season is not something that would fill me with confidence. It’s not that I believe that Sydney are a bad side necessarily, it’s just that there a few ahead of them.
Not to sure about the Bombers. I’m not too sure about the Knights game plan or the forward structure with it’s apparent reliance on guys like Neagle and Gumbleton. Losing Hurley for the early part of the season is just what the Bombers didn’t need and I reckon that Hille won’t be much of a replacement for Lloyd, Lucas and Hurley up front. The draw gives the Bombers no favours either with Hille having to front up to Matty Scarlett in round one. They might have to go backwards before they once again move forward.
13th: Port Adelaide
The Power appear to have found some intensity around the ball this season but have too many light bodies and will miss Brendan Lade (retirement) and David Rodan (injury). Danyle Pearce appeared to be working harder to beat the tag but while the attitude adjustment is the first step, the gut running appears to not be there quite yet. An impressive pre-season but they just don’t look strong enough for mine over the full distance.
I reckon the Blues are in real trouble this season. The forward line remains a problem with Carlton struggling to kick a winning score so far in the post-Fev era. That’s all well and good when your defence is working well but with key man Jarrad Waite still not a hundred percent there are plenty of question marks. They get the Tigers in the first round but after that the draw gets pretty vicious so the Blues might get off to a very slow start this year and never really recover.
The Dees will look a monty to retain their wooden spoon from last year due to a large amount of young players who will be playing in the early matches for Dean Bailey’s injured squad. With Bell, Jurrah, Morton, Silvia, Watts, Tapscott and Austin Wonaemirri all on the sidelines don’t expect the Red and Blue to salute in too many early matches. I expect this team to click at one stage during the middle to latter part of the year and win enough games to overtake Richmond who I reckon will hit a massive wall around late July.
Hardwick’s Tigers have cleared the decks and there is an abundance of youth at Tigerland. The expectations will be low at Punt Road this year but they might surprise with a few encouraging results in the first part of the year before reality bites. I think that this young side might start a losing run which could turn out to be lengthy one as the season progresses. I don’t expect them to win all that many games so it’s a long season ahead for the yellow and black.