My pre-season expectations were 10th to 6th, with eighth being the pass-mark.
There were questions about how well the returning players would get back to the level of seniors AFL football, what effect changing half(?) a best 22 would have to team cohesiveness, and the matter of returning players ‘hitting the wall’ as Worsfold said.
On the other hand we had the sheer quality, hardness, and size of the returning players as a positive to look forward to.
I think we recruited solidly, if not spectacularly in the preseason, and gave ourselves a lot of depth, which should have held us in good stead for the year ahead.
We also had the best draw we have ever had. Or will ever have.
But overall, we went into the season with our best list in a long time, and our previous three coaches had taken us to finals, the last two in far more trying conditions than this year.
A few unpredictable things occurred during the year, one of which was that no team was consistently, truly awful. In fact, on looking back through the records, I see that was just my perception. This actually wasn’t an outlier year for the bottom four.
I thought there would be two or three absolute basket case teams that would only beat each other, but I was wrong about that.
The other thing that couldn’t be reasonably predicted was our amazing run with injury.
We lost Laverde, Ambrose and Brown for significant chunks of the year (apologies if I’m forgetting someone). I reckon you’d take that every year.
Fantasia, Green and Hooker all went down towards the end of the season, but again, that seems about average for AFL clubs, if not better than.
I could go through the individual games, but I won’t.
We’ve been doing that all year, no need for it now.
But I will say that looking back over our fixture and results is a seriously wtf experience.
Not just for the failures but the successes too.
You look at it and think, ‘how is that even possible?’
We did make the eight. So that’s a pass for the year for me, in the context of just this year.
We were also bundled out of the finals in ten minutes of football.
Yes, we were unlucky to come up against one of the best two teams in the league in that final, but that doesn’t excuse or change what happened. So if you’re giving some sort of grade for a pass mark, add a minus to it after that game.
Backs: Hurley was outstanding. He tired towards the end. And it seems like clubs had also started to figure out how to exploit him, and by extension our backline.
Kelly was very good. But he’s gone now.
Hartley’s gone backwards at an alarming rate.
McGrath was everything we could have hoped for.
McKenna stepped up in a big way, and you get the feeling he would be unbelievably damaging in a better team.
I thought Baguley had a good year.
And I thought Gleeson had an inconsistent year. However, I do think he’s playing well more often now.
I didn’t see enough of Ambrose to make a call either way. I’m not as convinced as others that he’s best 22, let alone a key component of the side. Not writing him off, by any means. I guess in stock-market terms, he’s Hold for me.
Brown and Dea are good depth. I think we’ve seen what they’re capable of. I’d be surprised if anyone really wants them to be best 22, or expects them to get a lot better next year, but they’re good back-ups for injury.
Overall, for next year, I think our backs are thin and very much need an injection of talent.
Mids: Watson - gone, Myers - perennial under-achiever, Bird - unwanted, Colyer - miles off his best, Goddard…lol…he’s a weird one. Reliable. To do all sorts of things, both good and face-palmy.
Heppell - not his best year, but form is temporary, class is permanent. One of the few things I’m genuinely bullish about next year.
Hocking - gone, Howlett - gone.
Zerrett - exceptional. Zaka - had a pretty good year, as I expected he would. Going forward…well, I think his game more than anyone’s depends on who we bring in, what role we expect of him.
Stanton - gone.
Parish - I think I’d describe his development as stalled.
That’s…not a great position to be in for next year.
Rucks: T-Bell, Loony, Smack, Draper.
To be blunt, none of them are good enough. Hopefully Draper will be one day, but that won’t be next year.
Forwards: Daniher - elite elite. Hooker - the amount of goals he’s kicked is great, but he goes missing for long, long periods. Stewart - very handy, young third tall, and makes our forward line more dangerous.
Fanta - gun. Green - okay little forward pocket. Tippa - some great games and some poor ones. I don’t think we’ve seen his best yet. I friggin’ hope not.
Begley’s shown some great signs, both on the scoreboard and just generally. Could develop into a medium-sized forward beast, and that’s very welcome.
And then we have this huge bank of players that we know little to nothing about.
Francis, Laverde, Langford, Clarke, Long (gone- surely?), McNeice, Morgan, Mutch, Redman, Ridley, plus three to six more after the draft.
How many of them will step up to the level required of them next year? I honestly don’t know if any will.
I’m hopeful, but it’s no more than hope.
But I’m guessing four to six are going to have to, ready or not.
I’m not at all confident about making finals next year.
The year after I think is much more likely, and that sucks but there it is.
I might throw together three teams a bit later, expanding on that further, if I can be bothered.