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Crystal ball gazing for 2011 AFL season

Michael Filosi Roar Guru

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    Footy is back! The 2011 AFL season kicks off with what has become the traditional season opener between Carlton and Richmond on Thursday night. As our attention turns to the winter football codes, it is time to make some predictions for what lies ahead in AFL season 2011.

    Here goes…

    St Kilda Saints to Slide Down the Ladder
    After the Summer from hell and failing to win a premiership despite playing in three grand finals in the past two years, surely St Kilda are due for a let down this year.

    The famed “Saints bubble” has failed to deliver the side premiership glory, and I feel that this year will see the Saints slide out of the top four teams. The Saints best six players are as good as any other side’s in the competition, but they need more support from the next tier of players to prevent a fall down the ladder.

    I feel that the Saints premiership window may have closed on this group of players.

    One Coaching Favourite Son to be Sacked
    The fascination of AFL clubs with appointing favourite sons as coaches continues this year, with Essendon’s James Hird joining Brett Ratten, Michael Voss, Matthew Primus and John Worsfold in coaching the side he played for.

    Although Hird and Primus will be safe in their first full year as senior coach, I expect one of Worsfold, Ratten or Voss to part ways with their club mid-season.

    No Change to Top Eight
    History tells us that several sides will fall out of the top eight from one season to the next, but I feel this season the top eight teams will be the same eight which contested the finals series last year.

    In the past five years there have been three changes on average to the final eight when compared with the previous year, but I can’t see which of the bottom eight sides from last year are strong enough to challenge the top eight.

    North Melbourne finished ninth in 2010, but that result was better than many expected given the club’s playing list. Port Adelaide finished tenth, but seem a long way from being finals bound.

    Adelaide finished eleventh last season after starting the year with six consecutive losses, and appear the side most likely to crack into the top eight this year from those that finished outside the finals last season.

    Melbourne, Richmond, West Coast and Essendon don’t appear to have the talent to challenge any of last year’s finalists, although golden boy Hird may be able to just sneak the Bombers into eighth spot with a bit of luck.

    I can’t see it happening though, and feel that this year’s top eight will be the same teams as last season.

    Gold Coast Suns to finish the season without the Wooden Spoon
    The new franchise on the Gold Coast will surprise a few sides this year, and will finish the season well clear of the bottom of the ladder.

    The last new side to enter the league, Port Adelaide in 1997, finished 9th in its inaugural season, winning ten matches. Two years before that, Fremantle won eight matches and finished 13th in its first season in the AFL.

    It is worth bearing in mind that neither of these sides had the concessions that the Gold Coast side has had.

    Yes, there will be a few floggings along the way, but the Suns will win enough matches to stay away from the wooden spoon. I expect the Suns to notch up between six and nine wins this season.

    Geelong to Silence the Doubters
    With key figures Gary Ablett and Mark Thompson leaving Geelong, many expect the Cats to start to drift down the ladder. Thompson’s heart clearly wasn’t in it last season, and new coach Chris Scott will be taking control of a club filled with talent.

    The Cats have quality on every line, and plenty of stars in Paul Chapman, Stevie Johnson, Joel Selwood and Jimmy Bartel. I expect the Cats to show their doubters that last year was just a hiccup in what will remain a strong team for another couple of years at least.

    Hawthorn to win the Premiership
    How can a side as jam packed with talent as the Hawks not seriously challenge for the flag? The side is brimming with talent, the majority of which should be entering their most productive years over the next few seasons.

    Lance Franklin is a superstar, and the most entertaining player in the competition. Newly appointed Hawthorn captain Luke Hodge is all class, ex-Captain Sam Mitchell can find his own ball like few others, and Cyril Rioli seems destined for more time in the midfield this year to showcase his exquisite skills.

    Add to this mix Shaun Burgoyne and Jarryd Roughead, and the Hawks are capable of knocking anyone off on their day.

    I expect the Hawks to deliver on their promise after two disappointing years following their 2008 premiership.

    Top Eight
    1. Collingwood
    2. Hawthorn
    3. Geelong
    4. Western Bulldogs
    5. Fremantle
    6. St Kilda
    7. Sydney
    8. Carlton

    Premiers – Hawthorn
    Runners Up – Collingwood
    Wooden Spoon – Brisbane Lions
    Brownlow Medal – Chris Judd (Carlton)
    Coleman Medal – Lance Franklin (Hawthorn)
    Rising Star Winner – David Swallow (Gold Coast)
    Big Improver – Hawthorn
    Big Slider – St Kilda
    Big Question Mark – Adelaide. The Crows have a hint of the Bombers 1993 about them. The Crows are a young and talented list with plenty of self belief. This season will show whether 2010 just an aberration, or a sign that the club needs to go back to the drawing board and modify its game and playing list more thoroughly.

    Think you know more than The Roar’s expert columnists? Leave your predictions for AFL season 2011 below.

    Follow Michael Filosi on twitter @michaelfilosi

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    The Crowd Says (22)

    • March 21st 2011 @ 8:53am
      Bob said | March 21st 2011 @ 8:53am | ! Report

      Hawks premiers, Saints to slide- think everyone was saying the same thing last year. I’d look at the bottom 6 players in the 22 to decide how teams are likely to go. Thats where Collingwood and St K were superior last season. The ability of the Leigh Brown’s and Farren Ray’s to stand up in the big games. Any team that didn’t need to select Fraser, Lockyer, O’Bree and Medhurst must have had a strong tail in its list.

      With the Frankilin’s and Hodge’s and St K’s top six the difference in performnace year on year doesn’t chnage that much.

    • Roar Guru

      March 21st 2011 @ 11:13am
      MyLeftFoot said | March 21st 2011 @ 11:13am | ! Report

      Many experts are predicting that the Saints will remain top two, but I’m with Michael here, I believe they are set for a slide, eventually, the off-field events must impact on form.

      Lions and Suns to fight out the wooden spoon, which isn’t good news for footy in the Sunshine state.

      Also, the Suns will recover before the Lions in in the next few years – rocky road ahead for the Lions, unfortunately.

    • March 21st 2011 @ 11:53am
      TomC said | March 21st 2011 @ 11:53am | ! Report

      I agree with most of this to an extent, but the Gold Coast stuff is way off the mark.

      The comparison with the Power and the Dockers doesn’t hold up. Those teams recruited a bunch of mature age rookies from the SANFL and WAFL. Physically they were no different from any other team. The Power’s team for their first AFL match had just one player under the age of 21, Peter Burgoyne. The Dockers had just three. The Suns will be a lot more reliant on young, less developed bodies in 2011.

      The Suns were comfortably beaten by the Lions in the NAB Challenge. They’re going to have to get a lot better fast if they’re going to beat them in the regular season.

      • Roar Guru

        March 21st 2011 @ 1:12pm
        MyLeftFoot said | March 21st 2011 @ 1:12pm | ! Report

        The Age has a story today about how up to 12 will debut as an AFL player for the Suns in rd 2, most of whom will be 18/19 years old.

        Perversely, the Suns have the most AFL experience of all the start up clubs in AFL history!! (thanks to the likes of Ablett, Fraser, Bock, etc)

        The youngest team ever was fielded by Footscray in 1959 (20 years, 53 days). They won their first ever wooden spoon that year, and then made the grand final two years later (for the last time to date).

    • March 21st 2011 @ 12:15pm
      Walt said | March 21st 2011 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

      I expect one of Worsfold, Ratten or Voss not to part ways with their club mid-season.

      Cant quite work this line out.

      • Roar Guru

        March 21st 2011 @ 1:01pm
        Michael Filosi said | March 21st 2011 @ 1:01pm | ! Report

        Apologies, that is a typo, line should read – “I expect one of Worsfold, Ratten or Voss to part ways with their club mid-season.”

        I think that one of Worsfold, Ratten or Voss will either be sacked or asked to leave before we get to the end of this season.

        Text has been changed now, thanks for pointing this out Walt.

    • Roar Guru

      March 21st 2011 @ 1:17pm
      MyLeftFoot said | March 21st 2011 @ 1:17pm | ! Report

      Opening game in three days.

      Richmond v Carlton fast becoming a regular opener to the season, I think this will be the 3rd Thursday night opener they have played in succession (maybe 4th).

      The last two has attracted good crowds, but Richmond has been thumped on both occasions.

      You’d think they’d only break 80k if the Richmond supporters can be convinced of at least being competitive on the night (but no evidence yet that that will be the case).

      • Roar Guru

        March 21st 2011 @ 5:25pm
        Michael Filosi said | March 21st 2011 @ 5:25pm | ! Report

        MyLeftFoot, I think the season opener will always get 10,000 to 15,000 more people through the gate, just for the fact that it is the first game of the season.

        It would be great to see 80,000 at the MCG on Thursday, and hopefully Richmond can put up more fight than what they have in the previous couple of years.

    • Roar Guru

      March 21st 2011 @ 1:37pm
      MyLeftFoot said | March 21st 2011 @ 1:37pm | ! Report

      The best bit about living in Victoria is that footy permeates every fabric of our being – and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

      As one example, of many, I note today in the Education section of the Age, under the regular “Maths Masters”, they dedicate a whole article to footy tipping.

      You just gotta love that!!

      • Roar Guru

        March 21st 2011 @ 1:43pm
        MyLeftFoot said | March 21st 2011 @ 1:43pm | ! Report

        That article is a great read, even if it’s mostly common sense.

        Last season, there was not one single round where all the favourites won – not one! And only one round when 7 favourites won.

        Last season, the favourites only won 113 of 176 games – yet mathematically, you are far better off going for favourites than going for the smokey.

        Final question for all tipsters: can you hold your nerve and pick Freo to win at the Gabba? sheez, tough one!!

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