Ok so here goes, it’s time for @thehardsword to look at the 2012 AFL season. Yes we are 1 game in but that result was expected. This year the season opener was all about making noise in the harbour city, not the game itself.
The Geelong era may very well be over, no Ling, Milburn, Ottens or Mooney will hurt one of the best teams we have all seen in our lifetime, but who is to replace them at the top of the tree? Looking through all the teams, all but four can make the top 8 and about six are capable of winning Australia’s sporting Holy Grail.
2012 not only brings us a new team, but one of the toughest to pick in recent times. Looking into my crystal ball I see Luke Hodge holding up the Premiership cup, Ross Lyon still in the Premiership race and football millionaires Gary Ablett, Israel Folau & Karmichael Hunt starting their annual leave in September once again.
Premiers – Hawthorn
All the stars might just align for the team that sports the worst colours (including Fremantle) in the league. A team sheet that contains Hodge, Franklin, Mitchell, Rioli and Burgoyne will never be far away from that final day in September. Some ruck and defence deficiencies may let the team down at times, but if Jordan Lewis and Jarrod Roughead have good years there will be forgotten. Hawthorns stars in 2012 will be just too prominent; thank goodness Jeff is no longer President.
Eddie’s boys will be close again, but for the legion of fans I see heartbreak for yet another year. In what may be Scott Pendleberry’s final year at the pies falling at the final hurdle if my predictions run true. Injuries will hurt the pies early in the season, but Collingwood have a deep list and will be more than capable to cover losses such as Macaffer and Krakouer. Travis Cloke will frustrate fans once again, and there will be more than one occasion that media outlets (the few that don’t employ Eddie McGuire) will be questioning the coaching tenure of Nathan Buckley.
The carnival is over down at the cattery. Too many veterans have departed for Joel Sellwood to become a four time premiership player. Once again Steven Wells has recruited well to keep the cats in the top four, but ultimately the most attacking team of the last 20 years, will find the going just that bit tougher in 2012. The loss of Brad Ottens will be the cruellest on the cats, and we cannot under estimate the value of rugged tagger Cameron Ling. Tom Hawkins will be looking to build his name on from his impressive Grand Final performance, whilst you can never under estimate any team with Jimmy Bartel on the team sheet.
4th West Coast
As we rediscovered last year, it’s very hard to return from across the Nullarbor with four points. The loss of LeCras will hurt their forward stock, but may open the door of a return to form for Quinten Lynch. Last year the West Coast midfield showed great improvement, and will only continue to get better. Nic Natanui will continue to provide a weekly highlight reel, but will need to improve on his all round game. If veterans Dean Cox and Andrew Embley continue their form of last year the cup may be heading back West for the fourth time in their short history.
Over the past few years Carlton have been carrying no passengers, been busy in the kitchen and this year, but this year the marketers have finally worked out their crisis identity and discovered “I am Carlton”. Of course all this will mean little to Brett Ratten and his men if they don’t make the top four. The engine room is one of the best in the league (Judd, Murphy & Gibbs) but down forward is where they let themselves down. Eddie Betts and Jarrod Waite are too unreliable for the blues to be a premiership contender.
James Hird, the prodigal son of Essendon now has 12 months under his coaching belt so there will be more pressure to perform this year. At times Essendon look like world beaters, beating eventual premiers Geelong, and scoring 15 goals to 0 is a first quarter performance that was so sublime I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t witness it live. The core of young players is very impressive, with Michael Hurley capable of performing miraculous acts with the football. Unfortunately for the bomber fans I see their ‘Premiership drought’ (11 years at present) continuing through 2012.Google+