Three coffees at breakfast couldn’t ease Carlton recruit Jack Martin’s nerves before he finally got the news that had been almost a year in the making.
As we draw closer to kick-off in season 2010, anticipation is, naturally, high for the upcoming season. At this time of the year, there are more questions than answers.
Can Hawthorn re-discover the form that won it the 2008 premiership?
We all know the Hawks had a wretched run with injuries last season, but it goes deeper than that. Coach Alistair Clarkson has admitted he made errors (as most coaches do), the pre-season did not exactly operate like clock-work and players were below their best and above their usual playing weights.
But what does that all mean coming into this season? Luke Hodge and Lance Franklin are as fit as ever, but the retirement of Trent Croad should not be underestimated. It will hurt. The Hawks still have a remarkably young list, but was 2008 simply a year where they got lucky? Should we simply expect a return to the top-eight or is Hawthorn in the running for the premiership? Or will they miss the finals altogether again?
If they miss finals again, it is a massive failure. The list is still strong and it goes as deep as any. Don’t expect the Hawks to finish lower than sixth. A good run in the medical room might even see them play-off on the last Saturday in September.
Will Carlton make the finals?
With the loss of Fevola, Judd suspended for the first three games, and a tough early season draw, we may know the answer to this question by the halfway mark of the year. The Blues qualified for their first finals series since 2001 last year. But the loss of Fevola, on-field, will be enormous. Can the likes of Lachie Henderson, Matthew Kreuzer, Eddie Betts and Jarrad Waite work together to fill the void? Make no mistake, they will have to find a way.
There will also be a reliance on the gun midfielders, such as Gibbs and Murphy to kick more goals. A part-time forward role has also been mooted for Judd. But he will miss the first three games – against Richmond, Brisbane (away) and Essendon. When he is back, the Blues then face Adelaide (away), Geelong, Collingwood, and St.Kilda. It is a brutal draw by any measure. How the Blues emerge from a torrid first seven rounds will determine if they play finals in 2010.
Is Barry Hall the missing link for the success starved Western Bulldogs?
All the early indications point to a resounding ‘yes’. But don’t get too excited yet, Dogs fans. We need to see if Hall has disposed of the anger issues that ended his career at Sydney. The opening rounds will tell us, when opposition defenders will, no doubt, test his patience. How Hall responds will tell us if he has changed his spots. If he has, the Dogs are in for an exciting year. Plenty of knowledgeable punters have tipped them for the flag.
And what do we make of Richmond and Melbourne?
There is more optimism surrounding Melbourne due to their long-list of talented draft picks. But they will take time to find their feet at AFL level. That said, the Demons should be alarmed if they go backwards this season. The thought of Richmond, without Matthew Richardson in the forward half, is a painful one. New coach Damien Hardwick may have a tough initiation. Don’t expect too much – it takes time to fix up a system that has been broken for a long time (before Hardwick arrived).