AFL Mid Season Reviewman

With teams each approaching their respective halfway points of the season, it’s time to review each club’s performance using my innovative scale (0 to 10, where 10 represents the best and 0 the worst).

Adelaide Crows

This is a club that was literally a single kick away from a grand final berth in 2012.  Yet halfway through 2013 they find themselves struggling to crack into the top eight.  Their losses have been, for the most part, to quality opposition, including three likely top four candidates in Fremantle, Hawthorn and Sydney.  However, losses to fellow mid-table teams Carlton, Port Adelaide, and Richmond are a fair indication that this team doesn’t deserve to play finals.  A lack of a quality key forward is as conspicuous as Kurt Tippett’s contested marking ability.  One of the season’s great disappointments.  5/10.

Brisbane Lions

Here’s a microcosm of Brisbane’s season.  In Round 10 they were thrashed by Collingwood on their home turf.  In Round 12, after the bye, they were similarly shellacked by Fremantle, despite the fact that they made a whopping seven changes, bringing back genuine superstars of the future in Rockliff, Rich and Leuenberger.  Brown and Black, have missed stretches and appear to be past their best, and with a lack of obvious, consistent replacements, it’s going to be a long season, and perhaps a longer few years.  4/10, every one of those marks for the unbelievable victory away from home against Essendon.

Carlton Blues

Honourable loss: it’s the term every coach hates.  But Carlton opened their season with three of them, to Richmond, Collingwood and Geelong, with the largest margin a mere 17 points.  They’ve since started to click into gear a little better, perhaps becoming used to the coaching style of Mick Malthouse, but still seem to struggle to turn close losses into close wins, with Essendon, Hawthorn and St Kilda getting the better of Old Proud Navy Blues by under three goals.  Waite simply MUST string together games.  Walker’s reinvention as a backman has been a resounding success.  But they must find consistency.  6/10.

Collingwood Magpies

It’s been an interesting season for the Pies.  They’ve been thrashed by teams, but have dished out their share of buggerings too.  Fremantle, Hawthorn, Sydney and Essendon brushed the Black and White Army aside with relative ease, which would indicate that the top four might be beyond them.  However, their best is good enough to at least trouble sides in the finals, as their defeat of Geelong would indicate.  For me though, the gap between their best and worst is too great.  That, and I hate them.  6/10.

Essendon Bombers

Off field, you’d probably go with a 2/10 at best.  On field, they’ve been among the top performers.  The injury woes of 2012 are behind them, which would make another second half of the season fade-out as likely as peptides not popping up in the news again.  They worked a miracle on Fremantle’s home turf, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, and have only struggled against fellow top four aspirants Geelong and Sydney, losing each of those games convincingly.  Their spot in the four, however, is deserved.  8/10.

Fremantle Dockers

The Purple Haze is pretty damn hazy!  The Rollers/Rockers’ only losses have come against top performers in Essendon and Hawthorn.  They’ve ground out close games against Adelaide and Richmond.  They pulled a rabbit out of the hat against Sydney at the SCG, managing an astonishing come-from-behind draw.  They’ve convincingly beaten Melbourne, the Gold Coast, the Western Bulldogs and cross-town rivals West Coast.  They have the best defence in the league by a long way.  And they’ve done it without a who’s who of key players, including Pavlich, Fyfe, Walters and Hill, along with first, second and third choice ruckmen in Sandilands, Griffin and Bradley.  An incredible effort, all things considered. 9/10.

Geelong Cats

It’s back to business as usual for Geelong, who have resorted to old habits.  And by that, I mean they’re brushing aside just about everything in their path.  Despite the retirements of so many key players across every line, the worrying thing for the rest of the competition is the injection into the side and rapid improvement of youngsters like Vardy, Duncan, Blicavs, Smedts and Motlop, who have fit in seamlessly.  They’ve added pace to an already potent midfield, are finding more avenues to goal rather than relying on Hawkins, and have made it look like Matthew Scarlett never really mattered (all due respect to Matthew).  So… why did they lose to Collingwood?  9/10

Gold Coast Suns

Wow.  People laughed when Gold Coast’s chairman John Witheriff announced his 20-ONE-3 vision: an aspiration to achieve 20,000 members and a premiership within three years.  Those laughs are being accompanied by worried looks over shoulders now.  They managed three wins in 22 games in 2012.  Halfway through 2013, they already have five.  The ahead-of-time recruitment of Jaeger O’Maera was a masterstroke – give him the 2013 Rising Star now.  Aaron Hall, Dion Prestia, Trent McKenzie and veteran Campbell Brown have gone up a notch.  And it turns out obscure midfielder Gary Ablett is by far and away the best player in the league, and possibly the best player the game will ever see.  Worryingly convincing improvement.  8/10

Greater Western Sydney Giants

It’s been more of the same for Greater Western Sydney in 2013, who have shown fleeting glimpses of brilliance, primarily off the boot of Jeremy Cameron.  Based on the first half of this season, it’s not unrealistic to say that he will at some stage become the premier forward in the game.  The rest of the team has stagnated, with high-profile veterans like Brogan and Cornes non-contributors, and the allegedly promising youth showing little development outside of reeling in a few 20 goal margins and making them 10-15 goal margins.  The best thing you can say about the rest of the team is that they try hard in patches.  And at the top level, patches won’t cut it.  1/10

Hawthorn Hawks

A horror first half of 2013 saw the losing 2012 Grand Finalists playing 2012’s top eight across the first seven rounds.  Much to the horror of the rest of the competition, barring perhaps Geelong, they now sit first, with the best attack and percentage in the league, if you don’t mind.  The fact that Franklin has been well below his devastating best shows depth in the forward line, while the supposedly weak backline is in fact the third strongest in the league, trailing only Fremantle and Sydney, two teams who have already fallen to Hawthorn anyway.  They’ve done it without Suckling and, for the most part, Rioli too.  I am frightened.  10/10

Melbourne Demons

Where do you start?  They beat Greater Western Sydney that one time.  Then again, so has everyone else.  With literally less than a handful of players performing at the standard required at this level (Jones, Howe and maybe Frawley), young talent with a distinct lack of talent, and a rag tag bunch of trades who must cry themselves to sleep at night, Melbourne’s 2013 season is surely one of the most uncompetitive efforts in recent memory… in sport.  They’ve got the worst attack and percentage in the league, the second worst defence and probably the lowest attendance numbers.  The only fair score to give is a 0/10, the same score I give Mitch Clark’s decision to go to Melbourne when top four chance Fremantle practically had the red carpet rolled out, a nice hot bath running and champagne and strawberries on his bedside table.

North Melbourne Kangaroos

So close… yet so far.  That’s been 2013 for the Kangaroos.  They’ve been in winning positions against the Gold Coast, West Coast, Adelaide, Hawthorn and Geelong.  They lost all of those games.  There have been bright spots, like Lindsay Thomas’ shocking improvement, and the fact that they’ve been able to get into these winning positions at all against two flag favourites.  Nevertheless… call it a losing culture, a mental issue, or a team that trains well but crumbles in real game situations… I call it being quite good, but not good enough.  5/10

Port Adelaide Power

Along with the Gold Coast, another big improver.  These idiots could only manage five wins for the entire 2012 season, but have already notched six this year, and are lurking dangerously outside the top eight by percentage alone.  They probably still haven’t shown enough to mix it to any meaningful degree with quality sides, with West Coast the biggest scalp they’ve taken, in a miraculous 41-point fightback.  But I’ve been ever so impressed with the so-called Power.  The youth is looking good, with Wingard and Hartlett taking promising steps forward, while experienced players like Cornes and Boak have impressed.  Maybe they don’t have the power to rule in 2013, but they certainly have the power to (occasionally) win.  7/10.

Richmond Tigers

The Tiges look like they might have found a little something.  They’ve put together some solid wins, coming out on top in the pressure cooker environment against Carlton in Round 1, while spanking Port Adelaide and West Coast outside of Melbourne.  They’ve been more ruthless against the weaker teams too, managing some decent margins that have helped them into the top eight.  Riewoldt is having another solid season in front of goal but is still prone to the odd stinker when pitted against a quality opponent (G’day Luke McPharlin, you legend).  Deledio and Martin are cruising nicely, and could be right in the mix for All Australian selection.  7/10

St Kilda Saints

The Saints are on a dangerously slippery slope, and are clearly continuing to feel the loss of Ross Lyon and the defensive edge he brought to the team, while Fremantle fans point and laugh.  Finals are now impossible, with a severe lack of quality and depth to blame.  They showed a bit against West Coast before letting the game go by four points, and snuck home against Carlton in an impressively resilient performance.  The shining light has been Nick Riewoldt, who appears to be in All Australian and potentially Coleman Medal form.  Montagna has tried hard too.  Unfortunately, their normally reliable amigos Milne, Dal Santo, Fisher, Gilbert and Hayes have either been below their best or missed out on too many games to have an impact.  As for the rest of the list?  Let’s just say they’re developing.  2/10

Sydney Swans

The Swans started out with unconvincing wins against the expansion clubs, a loss to the Cats, and a near-loss against the Saints.  Since then, they’ve improved, despite the lack of high-profile recruit Tippett and Rhyce Shaw.   Based on the first half of their season, I wouldn’t lock them in for back-to-back flags.  They broke even with Fremantle after being nearly five goals ahead in the fourth, and were similarly unconvincing in losses to premiership fancies Geelong and Hawthorn.  They will face Hawthorn and Geelong again, before the home and away season is over, that will be a true test of whether or not they deserve the 2013 flag.  Solid, but not super impressive.  8/10

West Coast Eagles

A pre-season survey of the nation’s footy fans would’ve seen a remarkably high percentage of them locking in the Eagles for the flag.  As it stands, they’re struggling to stay in the eight.  The House of Pain is no more – embarrassing home losses to Richmond, Carlton and Hawthorn have seen to that.  They also conceded bragging rights in the Western Derby.  Injuries may have hurt early, but a supposed flag favourite should pack the depth to cover them (see Geelong).  Without that depth, it’s easy to see why they’ve only beaten the bottom six teams on the ladder, but have failed in every other test.  3/10

Western Bulldogs

It’s been another tough year for the Doggies, who appear to have well and truly reverted back to being one of the whipping teams of the league, as they were before those preliminary finals a couple of years back.  There’s a serious lack of firepower up front – the only teams who’ve scored less are Melbourne and Brisbane.  On the bright side, Cooney looks like he might be able to return to some sort of form, while Giansiracusa, Griffen, Boyd, Murphy and Liberatore have been admirable in their efforts.  There’s very little to make a song and dance about outside of those players trying hard.  At least they’re not worse than last year. 4/10

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