This year’s top three AFL disappointments

Michael DiFabrizio Columnist

By Michael DiFabrizio, Michael DiFabrizio is a Roar Expert

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    Darren Glass evades Leigh Harding during the AFL Round 08 match between the North Melbourne Kangaroos and the West Coast Eagles at the Gold Coast Stadium.

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    Every year, there’s a small handful of AFL clubs that don’t just fail to meet expectations, they fall drastically below them.

    In 2013, three clubs stood out.

    The output of these teams was the furthest below what was or could’ve been expected of them.

    Before we get into the top three, an honourable mention – if that’s the right term – to the one-win Greater Western Sydney.

    The Giants were saved by the fact they were expected to finish last and more or less struggle for wins.

    #3. Melbourne
    The third-biggest disappointment was the Dees.

    This writer said during the Mark Neeld saga that everyone got their Melbourne expectations way wrong this year. They were always going to be bad.

    Given they lost so much experience over the break – and, despite reports, didn’t gain anywhere near enough to make up for it – they were never going to match their 2012 efforts of four wins, 16th place and a 67.5 percentage.

    In the end, though, that they got nowhere near any of those three indicators was damning. They were more than just bad.

    The Dees dropped to two wins, ended up three wins short of 16th and had a paltry 54.1 percentage – worse than Gold Coast in either of their first two seasons.

    While the co-captains certainly worked hard, like others at the club before them they’re behind where most expected them to be after a few years in the system.

    It didn’t help that the two big recruits of the past two years, Mitch Clark and Chris Dawes, either barely appeared or were never at full fitness. But these points are only part of the story.

    For those wondering, yes, had Neeld continued and they remained this far off the pace, even his most ardent defender would have nothing.

    In the end, both Neeld and Neil Craig had a 1-10 record in 2013. With the respected Craig having four cracks at the eventual bottom four versus Neeld’s one, the notion that Melbourne’s issues extend well beyond the coaches’ box has been well and truly validated.

    #2. Carlton
    The Blues have made it to September, which would normally give them a get-out-of-jail-free card in an article like this, but we know the events that transpired to get them there. They got lucky.

    Basically, this is the same middle-of-the-road team we had at the end of last year.

    Same number of wins – 11 – and virtually the same percentage – 108 down to 106 – and probably the same number of frustrated pre-season tipsters.

    Mick Malthouse was meant to be an instant saviour. Pundits had his presence alone as a deciding factor that would push them up the ladder.

    Some of us weren’t that spellbound, however it was difficult to picture another 11-win season.

    Mitch Robinson, Chris Yarran and Lachie Henderson finally had 50 games under their belt at the start of the year. They’d blooded 12 debutants between 2011 and 2012.

    They made the pre-season final despite acknowledging that players were still getting their heads around Mick’s game plan.

    And they were also “that” team: the one that drops out of the top eight after a promising season and is now expected to bounce back with a vengeance.

    The Blues ultimately lost more than they won at both home grounds, noteworthy given they had a winning record at the MCG in each of Brett Ratten’s final three seasons and also given Malthouse has stated he wants all the Blues’ home games there.

    They lost twice to teams from the eventual bottom four, something that had happened just once between 2011 and 2012.

    The way things have worked out, they have the opportunity to completely change perceptions about their year this weekend. Maybe they will.

    But two weeks ago, when they were out of the finals race, this year was absolutely a disappointment. We shouldn’t lose sight of that.

    #1. West Coast Eagles
    The biggest disappointment of 2013, however, was the West Coast Eagles. Boy oh boy.

    Injuries have hurt, but they do not explain going from a 16-win team to a nine-win team. They do not explain the conceding of 15 extra points per game.

    The players who finished top ten at the Eagles’ best and fairest last year missed a total of 35 games.

    Guess what? Those that made the Dockers’ top ten missed 37 this year. (The Blues’ top ten, for any angry fans still reading, missed 40. So there’s that.)

    Injuries are most definitely a part of the slide, but to put 100 per cent of it on that one issue is to grossly misallocate blame. Let’s recap what went wrong.

    West Coast slipped eight ladder positions.

    They surrendered the Patersons Stadium fortress.

    They registered not a single win against the eventual top eight.

    Their final three games of the year were each losses by more than ten goals. Their highest score from those games was 43.

    In Rounds 21 and 22 they registered their lowest ever scores at Patersons Stadium and the MCG. In Round 23 they lost to non-finalists Adelaide by 86 points – their biggest loss since Round 3, 2009.

    It’s hard to believe this is the same team that was seen by some as flag favourites. Pre-season, seven club captains said it would be the Eagles they face in the grand final.

    The only other side to register more than one vote was Hawthorn.

    With a highly efficient forward line and an elite spine, you get the sense West Coast will assume the “that” team mantel going into next season.

    There’s enormous potential for them to bounce back in a major way.

    But as far as 2013 is concerned, the past 23 weeks are best forgotten.

    Michael DiFabrizio
    Michael DiFabrizio

    Michael DiFabrizio is based in Mildura, Victoria. He has been an expert columnist at The Roar since 2009, leading to appearances on ABC News 24 and in the Age. Follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelDiFab.

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    The Crowd Says (41)

    • September 4th 2013 @ 8:53am
      mindquad said | September 4th 2013 @ 8:53am | ! Report

      Fair call on the Eagles. Those stats about the last three games of the year are damning. Surely Worsfold shouldn’t – can’t – be reappointed

    • September 4th 2013 @ 9:03am
      Macca said | September 4th 2013 @ 9:03am | ! Report

      The problem I have with the blues this year was at the selection table – they lost to the Saints because they tried the already failed Warnock/Kreuzer/Hampson combination but more importantly they just weren’t brave enough. Tom Bell was constantly in the best for the VFL side but had to wait uintil the last few games to get a decent crack at senior footy, Nick Graham was in the best couple every week in the VFL after returning from injury but has been given just a couple of senior games both times starting as the sub, Troy Menzel is clearly a talent and is good on a lead and crumbing a pack up forward but again wasn’t gvien a real opportunity until late in the season, Matthew Watson demonstrated he could play as a key defender and release Henderson Forward but again was not used until the season was almost gone and Levi Casboult, while has has his faults, is boviously the best forward/ruckman prospect the blues have for the long term but has played just a handful of games and givern very little consistent footy.

      That being said the blues were more competitive against the top sides this year and while they are fortunate to be in the finals they could easily get past the Tigers this weekend and finishing 6th or higher won’t be as disappointing as Adelaide.

      • September 4th 2013 @ 10:18am
        Jack said | September 4th 2013 @ 10:18am | ! Report

        + 1 and I they can roll tigers they will be a huge chance against Sydney I reckon.
        Blues have room in salary cap next year I would
        Trede Eddie betts plus 2nd trade selection for sloane ( that midfield would be murphy, Simpson , Gibbs , Robinson , bell judd cazzaro sloane)
        A great mix of youth class and experience.

        Then I would give first draft pick plus Hampton for jack watts.
        Two good ball users would surely give malthouse the fire power he needs .

        • September 4th 2013 @ 10:27am
          macca said | September 4th 2013 @ 10:27am | ! Report

          Not sure I would Trade Betts (and he may be gone before then anyway) but I agree the blues need to get a young quality midfielder as that is where they will lose players from first (Judd, Carrazzo, Simpson).

          I also think Hampson and our first draft pick is well over the odds for Watts and do we need him? Next year I think we will haev Jamison, Watson & McInnes as our three “Tall” defenders with Walker & Simpson providing the run and up forward we would have Henderson and Casboult as the 2 “Talls” with Menzel playing a Gunston type role. That still leaves Waite to slot in somewhere. Where does Watts really fit?

          I can’t see massive changes to the blues list, one of Warnock or Hampson will go, Laidler and Duigan would be attractive to some clubs and Joseph probably go. The likes of Collins, O’keefe & McCarthy have all had bad luck with injuries and could pay the price.

          • September 4th 2013 @ 10:33am
            Jack said | September 4th 2013 @ 10:33am | ! Report

            I agree that massive change is certai ly not required , betts will go. We have Menzel now plus garlett and yarran are better players.
            I would go watts over say daisy as watts can play down back or up front … Could he be used in midfield or not a big enough engine?
            I think the blues are so close to bein a contender just two or three tweaks not whole sale chanes.
            We just need natural growth from casbolt Robinson lukas bell watson and we should be right up there

            • September 4th 2013 @ 10:39am
              macca said | September 4th 2013 @ 10:39am | ! Report

              Betts hasn’t had a great year but he has been much more consistent over the last few than Yarran or Garlett plus he seems to provide some leadership to those 2, I would be disappointed to see him go.

              I thnk you could add Nick Graham & Dylan Buckley to that list as well.

              • September 4th 2013 @ 10:48am
                macca said | September 4th 2013 @ 10:48am | ! Report

                Jack – What do you think of trading say Warnock and Carrazzo to GWS – I thnk they would like to have a quality tap ruckman to feed their young guns and a big bodied tagger who is a good leader would fill a big hole for them. Curnow and Cachia seem to be able to do the job for us and that combo could get a decent pick.

              • September 4th 2013 @ 11:54am
                Jack said | September 4th 2013 @ 11:54am | ! Report

                Yeah I could live with that. We dont need 4 big men that’s for sure. I just sense we are much much closer then a lot o people think… I do have a soft spot for carrazo though we do have a lot of defensive mids . Atleas one of the four big men will go 100 percent proabably Hampson

              • September 4th 2013 @ 11:56am
                Jack said | September 4th 2013 @ 11:56am | ! Report

                Not one hundred percent sold on cachia just yet either

        • Roar Guru

          September 4th 2013 @ 12:12pm
          DingoGray said | September 4th 2013 @ 12:12pm | ! Report

          Who in their right mind would facilitate a trade involving Betts for Rory Sloane?????

          • September 4th 2013 @ 12:28pm
            Jack said | September 4th 2013 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

            I did say a draft pick as well. U have to remember both bombers and crows are in an awkward position at trade time this year

            • Roar Guru

              September 4th 2013 @ 12:49pm
              DingoGray said | September 4th 2013 @ 12:49pm | ! Report

              They are in an awkward spot…However Dangerfield & Sloane pretty much their midfield. They not Trading one of them!

              • September 4th 2013 @ 1:00pm
                Jack said | September 4th 2013 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

                Hopeful thinking I guess

        • September 4th 2013 @ 1:04pm
          Matt said | September 4th 2013 @ 1:04pm | ! Report

          Swans beat them easily earlier in the year, and I can’t see that changing if they meet again in Week 2 of the finals. Doesn’t matter as they won’t roll the Tigers anyway.

          • September 4th 2013 @ 1:09pm
            macca said | September 4th 2013 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

            Matt – I am not saying the blues would beat the Swans but that game early in the year should not be taken as form – the weather was terrible and the Swans got an early lead and held on.

    • September 4th 2013 @ 9:45am
      Nev said | September 4th 2013 @ 9:45am | ! Report

      Yes Eagles did disappoint this year , Phil Walsh gone already , I think that was a monty after hearing from Luke Shuey about a month ago that the players wer not happy with the match plan
      I think they will keep Woosha , with Roos goin to Meilbourne , I don’t think the eagles would accept anything less .
      But watch this space. There will be more heads roll at the eagles , starting with recruitment dept

    • Roar Guru

      September 4th 2013 @ 10:46am
      TomC said | September 4th 2013 @ 10:46am | ! Report

      Surely Adelaide are a bigger disappointment than Carlton? I’d say even Collingwood were a bigger disappointment than Carlton. Maybe it’s just me, but I felt Collingood were a serious premiership contender this year, whereas Carlton were a mid-ladder team.

      Carlton actually performed better than I thought they would this season. Eleven wins is about right, but they had a lot of close losses.

      • September 4th 2013 @ 10:51am
        macca said | September 4th 2013 @ 10:51am | ! Report

        I reckon you are pretty right their TomC – had Yarran kicked straight in round 1 or had the blues held on for another 30 seconds against Essendon either time, they would of made the 8 without the bombers going out, add in some close losses to Geelong, the Hawks and Collingwood (the first time) and a narrow loss to St Kilda (when their selection stupidity was compounded by injury) and the season isn’t as bad as some say.

      • Columnist

        September 4th 2013 @ 11:05am
        Michael DiFabrizio said | September 4th 2013 @ 11:05am | ! Report

        TomC, it’s as simple as this: Adelaide were expected to slide and potentially leave the top eight, Carlton were expected to improve and potentially push for a top four spot.

        They did have close losses but I don’t think 11 wins was about right for them.

        • September 4th 2013 @ 11:18am
          macca said | September 4th 2013 @ 11:18am | ! Report

          Michael – I think you need to look beyond win loss – look at the margins the blues lost to the top sides last year and compare them to this.

          Plus if they win this weekend they are pretty much where people expected them to be, to rate them more disappointing than Adelaide or North is a bit rich.

        • Roar Guru

          September 4th 2013 @ 12:57pm
          TomC said | September 4th 2013 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

          Well it’s certainly not as simple as that!

          Who are these people who had these crazy expectations at the start of the season?

    • September 4th 2013 @ 11:06am
      Rich_daddy said | September 4th 2013 @ 11:06am | ! Report

      Definitely the Eagles have been the biggest disappointments this year but Carlton and Melbourne?

      Most expected the Demons to be cellar dwellers in 2013 and for many years to come. The fact they met those expectations isn’t exactly ‘disappointing’

      Similarly, Carlton are the most overrated team in the comp. The hype early last year about them being premiership favorites was a joke. They have some pretty flaky players, something a coach even with Mick Malthouse’s pedigree would have difficulty fixing in less than a year. However they still made the * (albeit by default) and could easily make it to the semi-finals.

      For me North Melbourne has been far more disappointing. A top 8 finish last year they failed to make the finals and lost 5 games by less than a goal. Adelaide have also had a massive fall from grace.

    • September 4th 2013 @ 12:20pm
      Franko said | September 4th 2013 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

      Surprised GWS haven’t had a mention – They had 2 wins last year and only 1 this year, that is going backwards.

      Essendon have been poor in that they replicated their good start and fade late season they same as 2012 (albeit with much more success this time, the fade out began later)

      WCE have been the big one for me, I thought they’d be top 4-6.

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