Half a season down, still no AFL premiership favourite
Darren Jolly of Collingwood celebrates while Patrick Ryder (L)_ and Dustin Fletcher of Essendon show thier disappointment as the final siren soundsduring the AFL Round 05 ANZAC Day match between the Collingwood Magpies and the Essendon Bombers at the MCG, Melbourne. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Photos)
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It has been a tumultuous season for footy fans and punters. Half the rounds are complete, but no frontrunner has emerged.
West Coast and Essendon have proved to be surprise packages at the top of the ladder, but there is nothing to suggest that they will remain there as the season progresses.
Both were humbled last week by Brisbane and Melbourne respectively, the cellar dwellers of the competition.
Setting the pace early and maintaining top position are characteristics of champion teams.
While form suggests that the table leaders have justified their positions, there are still pre-season favourites such as Collingwood, Geelong, Hawthorn, Adelaide, St Kilda and Carlton making the charge to eclipse the pacesetters.
It will be a test of nerves and astute list management that will determine this year’s premiers.
Right now I cannot decide where my money is.
An in-depth analysis suggests that Collingwood, Hawthorn, Geelong, West Coast and Adelaide are the front runners this year.
But the dark horses appear to be Essendon, Richmond, Carlton, St. Kilda and to a lesser extent North Melbourne, the latter having dropped off after early promise.
Hawthorn and Carlton have stumbled in their quest for glory.
The Hawks have recovered, on the back of a Lance Franklin avalanche to smash North Melbourne by 115 points.
The Blues, meanwhile, are on a downward spiral leaving coach Brett Ratten lost for answers for their dismal recent form after a rip-roaring start to their campaign.
After looking the goods early, their last loss to reigning premier Geelong showed a distinct lack of staying power, which is a worrying trend for Blues fans.
Collingwood are currently travelling under the radar and look the most formidable of the top lot, after suffering a couple of uncharacteristic setbacks early in the season.
The distinct improvers this season have been the Tigers, Essendon, and the Adelaide Crows.
Richmond, in particular, have given a good account of themselves, and their resounding thrashing of Hawthorn announced them as the latest threat to the top sides.
My early rating suggested that from one to 13, anyone could beat anyone this year.
But that has changed to anyone can beat anyone after last week’s upsets. Newcomers Greater Western Sydney, coached by wily maestro Kevin Sheedy, upset the Gold Coast for their first AFL win, and Port Adelaide resurrected their season with a shocking but emphatic win over Carlton to turn the competition on its head.
As the turnaround comes this week, the teams have set their sights on the straight, and the sprint for the line.
Right now it is a dead heat despite the differential in the points separating first from the rest.
But all of that will change in the coming weeks, at the business end of one of the best seasons of football ever.