Monday, 19 March 2012

AFL season prediction: 18th-16th

In the lead up to the start of the AFL season next Saturday I'm going to post a 6-part AFL season preview, detailing my predicted ladder from the bottom upwards, and finishing with the individual awards. 

Here's the first part; the teams from 18th to 16th:

Greater Western Sydney Giants

Why here: Taking a different strategy to the Gold Coast, GWS decided to recruit a mixture of young guns who could be at the club for the next 10 years, and experienced players who had been discarded from their old clubs. Whilst this may serve them well in the long term it’s going to be a baptism of fire for the AFL’s newest team, with the main question being whether they’ll win a single game rather than how many they’ll win.

Star player: Phil Davis has a big task on his hands as he leads the Giants defence in trying to stem the wave of opposition attacks. He had an impressive pre-season and as one of the club’s inaugural captains will be looked upon to provide some on-field leadership for this fledging club.

One to watch: Stephen Coniglio was long touted as a high draft pick before being selected at #2 in the 2011 draft, and will see a lot of action in the middle of the park for GWS this season. Blessed with good skills, excellent physical attributes and the ability to snare a few goals, he will provide sparkle on the oval for many years.

This season will be a success if… the GWS Giants manage to get 1 or more wins on the board and maintain the enthusiasm of their new fans in what will be a testing debut.

Gold Coast Suns

Why here: Despite only taking grabbing the wooden spoon from Port Adelaide on the final day of last season, the Gold Coast Suns struggled all year finishing with a woeful percentage of 56.27. Whilst we can expect improvement from a team with many players entering their second AFL season, I’m unconvinced that they have the game plan to win many games and if they can’t pull off the close victories they achieved last season another year in the bottom 2 spots beckons.

Star Player: Gary Ablett remains the game’s best midfielder, easily capable of racking up 30+ quality touches and a couple of goals per game. He can burst out of a pack with the ball, produce a dummy to sidestep an opponent & kick the miracle goal all within a matter of seconds. The former Cats player will go down as a future Legend of the game.

One to watch: The Suns forward line is still their main weakness, with the club lacking a focal point up forward. Tom Lynch managed to kick 15 goals in 13 games last season, and if the 199 cm forward can improve on that record next season whilst playing all 22 games they may have found their CHF for the next decade.

This season will be a success if… the Suns manage to limit the heavy losses to only a few games and remain competitive throughout the whole season. Anything more than 5 wins would be a great return.

Western Bulldogs

Why here: Despite having a number of promising young players I think the Bulldogs slide from last season will continue this year. They have a tough opening 3 fixtures and if they drop all 3 may struggle to get their season back on track. With a new manager the pressure for a high finish is off, and I feel that the club will be looking to rebuild for another few years before hoping to climb the ladder again.

Star Player: Over the past couple of seasons Ryan Griffen has transformed from a flashy but inconsistent player to one of the competition’s most damaging midfielders. Ranked #1 in the competition for inside 50s per game last season, the classy Bulldog will be the first player opposition coaches look to shut down.

One to watch: Luke Dahlhaus burst onto the scene late last year after starting the 2011 season on the Bulldog’s rookie list. The livewire forward has an electric burst of pace and a keen goal sense, as well as being capable of providing excellent defensive pressure inside the forward 50. Over the next couple of years he can become one of the competition’s most effective small forwards

This season will be a success if… the Bulldogs young guns cement their spots in their best 22 and transform the team. If everything goes right the Bulldogs are still capable of reaching the finals, but I think they’d be better suited to look for the future rather than sneaking into 7th or 8th.

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