Sunday, 1 April 2012

AFL Round 1 questions

Wow-wee, what a fantastic start to the 2012 AFL season! We had a real blockbuster on Friday night, followed by two absolute thrillers on Saturday night. Before, in between & afterwards we saw every team show their cards, playing some fantastic football along the way. Many questions were asked and whilst it may be too soon to answer them all, I think we need to discuss a few of them here and now…

Are Carlton the real deal?

Much was made of Carlton’s pre-season form, with the prevailing thought that they were unprepared for a Premiership challenge. However on Thursday night they were sharp, clean and ruthless in dispatching a spirited Richmond side by 44 points. Carlton are perhaps the quickest side in the league, and have an impressive ability to pile on a number of goals within a short timeframe. Chris Judd’s influence will increase as he regains match fitness, and the majority of teams will find the Blues very difficult to stop. Whether they can compete against the other contenders remains the big unknown, but for now they have to be taken seriously as a contender.

Can the west challenge the Victorian hegemony?

Victorian clubs have dominated the AFL ladder in the past 4 years, with 15 out of 16 double chances being claimed by old VFL clubs. However the Fremantle Dockers & West Coast Eagles were impressive in their victories in round 1, and both appear capable of challenging Geelong, Collingwood & Hawthorn for the top 3 spots. It’s hard to see either team dropping more than 2-3 games at Subiaco, and both teams are also capable of picking up 6+ wins on the road. If that happens, we could see two teams from the west inside the top 4 and pushing for a Grand Final spot in September. I still think it’s more likely that only one of them will claim a double chance and will stick with my original pick of Fremantle as the dominant force in the west, but wouldn’t be surprised to be proven wrong on both counts.

Will Saint Nick ever return to form?
Is Nick Riewoldt’s best behind him?

Although Riewoldt managed to pick up 2 goals and 16 possessions on Sunday, there’s no doubt that he struggled for much of the game against the Power, and was unable to ever make his presence felt as he so often used to. His knee still seemed to trouble him, despite clean-up surgery over the summer, and his set shot kicking appeared as hit & miss as ever. As one of the pre-dominant forward players over the past decade his body has taken quite a beating, so it may be that he’ll have to adapt his game if he wants to continue to have a positive influence on the Saints’ fortunes. I’m always cautious when it comes to writing off a champion player, but right now would be very surprised if Riewoldt returns to his former dominant self.

The answers to these should be revealed over the next few months, but what are your thoughts on them? Are any other teams capable of challenging for the top 4, or will one of the expected contenders slump? And can Riewoldt rediscover some of his old magic, and if he can’t are the Saints still capable of challenging for a finals spot?

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