My AFL predictions - 2012

Good evening,

That time has come again when serious AFL followers must, with their hand on their heart, make a call on the season ahead. So without any more fanfare:

The Ladder

Hawthorn (Premiers)
West Coast
Geelong
Collingwood
Carlton
Fremantle
Sydney
Essendon

North Melbourne
Adelaide
Richmond
St Kilda
Western Bulldogs
Port Adelaide
Brisbane
Melbourne
Gold Coast
Greater Western Sydney (honourable Wooden Spoon)

Why?

Hawthorn had a wretched run with injuries in 2011 and still really should have played in the Grand Final. They have had a solid pre-season, only slight injury concerns with their rucks, Roughead to return, plenty to play for (revenge etc) and they are well coached by a maturing Alistair Clarkson. And no Jeff Kennett distractions from on high! I see this year as a boom or bust for West Coast. Lynch and Cox are ageing, Nic Nat is only showing glimpses still. They need to capitalise on the big guys this year plus a fit Daniel Kerr and their famous home ground advantage.

Geelong has lost their spiritual leader in Ling, their finals weapon in Ottens and will have more clubs looking at them this year after they arguably flew under the radar (marginally) in 2011 after Thompson / Ablett Gate etc. The Carlton / Collingwood positions are honestly a toss up. Carlton probably deserves to be ranked in the four but 'coz I hate them so much, it is fifth for them. Collingwood appears to be underdone at season's start and have a heavy injury list plus the distraction of GWS poaching some of their out of contract stars.

I think Ross Lyon will add structure and discipline to the talented Freo list, enough to get them into the finals after a years absence. Although I don't rate the Swans (no one does) they always seem to make the eight so let history be a guide and add the Sydney team in once more.

Now all the above is pretty easy really. Now the fun begins. Who gets the eighth spot?

If only there was a five headed coin! Essendon, Richmond, North Melbourne, Adelaide and St Kilda probably have genuine and valid expectations.

My heart has given it to Essendon for a few (mainly) soft reasons. The Bombers are almost injury free; the new training strengthening regime should see some improvement in close and later season games; Courtenay Dempsey is almost a 'new' recruit and will provide elite run off half back; I am expecting break out seasons from Michael Hurley and Paddy Ryder. And we have lost nothing (poachings, retirements, de-listings) from 2011. Go Bombers!

That said the next four will challenge not only Essendon but potentially those from seventh and above as well with a little luck. It will be a great mid table battle I believe this year. There is plenty to like about Sanderson's Adelaide so far (NAB Cup form is winning form), the Tigers are looking better than they have in decades, the pressure and expectations are deservedly high on the in-form Kangas. And it is now or never (well five years rebuilding) for the Saints. Nick R, Kosi, Lenny are not going to be at their peak much longer. Overall a tipster's nightmare!

Even at the lower reaches of the ladder, their should be serious jousting. Port Adelaide have started the season by removing some dead wood, keeping a couple of key players to inject some confidence in the future and a competitive NAB Cup performance. Brisbane can't go as badly in 2012 as their injury plagued form of 2011 suggested (although their captain J Brown has gone down again). I have a lot of time for the coaching and teaching skills of Brendan McCartney so expect the Doggies to give a solid account especially with Brian Lake fit and firing. He is a bell weather for the side.

Melbourne is an enigma wrapped in a conundrum and in my view have made too many changes in the off season, sent too many mixed message (the old guys are out but Jack Watts is on notice???) so I believe they will trail much of the field this year.

Finally I look forward to watching the improvement of the Gold Coast and the entry of the expertly coached GWS into the competition. Still training wheels for both in 2012 but look out 2013 and beyond!

There you have it. YMMV!

Brownlow Medal

Plenty to choose from. Usual suspects Judd, Goodes, Murphy, Ablett, Pendlebury etc. Richmond's Dustin Martin should be prominent, Jobe Watson will poll well (subject to soft tissue injuries) and Daniel Kerr may pop up. I kinda like Adam Goodes. A noted vote getter, not too many stars to poach votes from him and the Swans should win enough games to sway the umps to give votes to players from the winning side.

Coleman Medal

I liked Jack Riewoldt as an outside chance last year and will back the same horse again for higher honours in 2012. Not sure Buddy Franklin will be able to top the list while enabling the Hawks to have enough avenues to goal. A fit and firing Jonathan Brown is a chance as well.

Rising Star Award

No real idea but I got it right with Dyson Heppell last year. One of the kids from GWS will be a chance. They have so many that are so good, I expect one to salute with Stephen Coniglio my tip.

First coach sacked

An ugly award but Bluey McKenna and Mathew Primus must still lead the betting and be most at risk. But it may be a quiet year with so many new coaches appointed in 2012. The knives may need to stay in the scabbard in 2012!

As always, 2012 is shaping up as an another great year. Bring it on!

Bye for now, BomberBoy