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2012 AFL ladder prediction, 9th to 18th

Cameron Rose Columnist

By Cameron Rose, Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert

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    The AFL season commences in five days, and as usual we’ve seen a mixed bag of preparations.

    The NAB Cup saw some dazzling football from Hawthorn and Adelaide, the inaugural senior football victory of GWS, and shaky beginnings for anticipated contenders in Carlton and Collingwood.

    Apart from the Blues, every team had at least one victory, while the Crows are the only team yet to taste defeat in 2012.

    While many find it difficult to read anything into pre-season form, and Carlton people in particular are singing from that hymn book at the moment, it can be a pointer to the business end of September.

    It’s worth noting that five of the six NAB Cup grand finalists of 2009-2011 were still alive come preliminary final weekend some six months later.

    Either way, it’s prediction time, and here are the teams that I fancy can book holidays at the completion of 22 rounds.

    18th – Greater Western Sydney

    No great revelation here, and only the most optimistic or foolhardy GWS supporters will have them finishing anywhere but last. Two 74-point defeats in the Nab Cup at the hands of Hawthorn and Richmond are realistically the type of results we can expect to see this season.

    But as with the Suns last year, there is plenty of young talent to get excited about. The Giants will be well and truly stumbling out of the gates with senior players Tom Scully, Luke Power and Dean Brogan missing round one through injury, and we can expect the Swans to win by triple figures come Saturday night.

    17th – Gold Coast

    Four of the Suns’ five heaviest defeats last year came inside the first six rounds, so despite only winning one of their last 16 matches, they improved throughout the season.

    They impressively ranked fourth in clearances, but were terrible at kicking goals, and couldn’t help but concede them in abundance.

    Shifting senior men Nathan Bock and Campbell Brown into attack will help with the former, and playing Jared Brennan and ex-Demon Matthew Warnock down back will help the latter.

    They’re still a long way away, and five wins is the most we can expect, but it will be no surprise if they reach that number.

    16th – Brisbane

    The Lions battled their way to four wins last season, and suffered the ignominy of losing the first ever Q-Clash against the fledgling Suns.

    But they were mainly competitive against the tide in 2011 and will regain important bookends Jonathan Brown and Daniel Merrett this year, if the skipper can stop breaking his face on whichever player happens to be running past.

    However, too much will be left to these two, Simon Black, and young guns Tom Rockliff, Jack Redden and Matthew Leuenberger. Coach Michael Voss believes a premiership side can be built around the latter three, so the extended future is not all grim.

    15th – Port Adelaide

    It will shock most to learn that the Power won three pre-season games, and lost their other two against NAB Cup finalists Adelaide and West Coast by a combined six points. Not bad from a team that was a laughing stock for almost every minute of last year.

    Matthew Primus seems to have injected some much needed spirit and enthusiasm, as well as a defensive press, but one gets the sense they were playing closer to 100 percent intensity than most throughout their games, and will still struggle in the home and away rounds.

    Pearce to half-back helps, Gray and Hartlett stepping up to help Boak in the middle will also be of benefit, and mature-age ruckman Jarrad Redden was their best player over the four rounds, sure to find himself in almost every fantasy football team in the land.

    14th – Western Bulldogs

    Some have the Dogs rebounding from last year on the back of regaining Brian Lake, Adam Cooney and Ryan Hargrave from injury.

    Others find it difficult to see the Dogs covering the loss of Barry Hall and Callan Ward. The latter opinion is the popular one, but like all teams I’ve ranked from seventh to 14th, it won’t completely surprise to see them in the conversation for the finals in the later rounds.

    Hardness certainly won’t be an issue with the experienced Boyd and Cross leading the fresh Liberatore, Wallis, Smith and cult hero Luke Dahlhaus, while Giansiracusa, Murphy and Higgins will look to provide the class.

    Ryan Griffen provides both in equal measure, and is far and away the best and most important player on the list – if he goes down for a lengthy period, the Dogs could finish lower than this.

    13th – Melbourne

    The ‘Demon blood’ was well and truly pumping after the Dees dismantled the Pies in round two of the NAB Cup.

    They were committed, hungry and eager for the contest, attacking ball and man fiercely, and locking it in their forward line for lengthy periods – essentially, they looked more like Collingwood than Collingwood did.

    A 79-point loss to the Hawks and a more galling eight-goal loss to Port soon had that same blood slowing to a trickle in their supporters’ veins.

    Add in a six week injury to Melbourne’s most dynamic player in Colin Sylvia, and the outlook is less friendly than it once was.

    New coach Mark Neeld will demand hardness but not always get it from a notoriously fickle playing group.

    The addition of Mitch Clark from Brisbane will add a crucial dose of physicality to the forward line – opposition defenders haven’t normally required an ice bath after playing the Demons in recent times.

    This will be a learning year for coach and players, but expect a sharp rise in 2013.

    12th – Essendon

    The Bombers are one of many teams that are difficult to place, but their horrid run home put them lower than most, as they won’t have the consistency to win all the games they should before round 17.

    We can be confident that if Hurley, Heppell and Zaharakis haven’t already ‘arrived’, they’re not far away, but the names that could, should and might take the next step are familiar to all – Ryder, Monfries, Dempsey, Reimers, Carlisle, Melksham, Colyer.

    If this group can improve to the extent that Zaharakis did last year, and help superstar captain Jobe Watson to shoulder the load, then Essendon can hold onto their spot in the eight, and surge higher.

    The Bombers went from one of the hardest teams to score against at the start of 2011 to one of the easiest by the end, so it will be interesting to see if James Hird and his brains-trust have found a way to respond to such a dramatic fall from grace.

    11th – Fremantle

    Fremantle are the easy team to tip a dramatic rise up the ladder for in 2012, and many pundits have been falling over themselves to declare it so.

    It absolutely could happen, and any team combining the talent of Sandilands, Pavlich, Mundy and Fyfe with the tactical acumen of Ross Lyon must be taken seriously.

    All agree how important Sandilands is, but with only 13 games last year and zero so far in the pre-season, I’m not sure we can take for granted that he will continue to be a dominant force.

    The Saints took a year to get used to the Ross Lyon game plan and the hard yards required to implement it, and something similar wouldn’t shock here.

    Look for them to fall away in the second half of the year as the physical and mental toll of working for the new coach takes effect.

    10th – Richmond

    It’s not hard to ascertain that Richmond are on an upward curve, but with the third youngest list in the AFL (only six players older than 25) there is still a long way to go.

    The extension of coach Damien Hardwick’s contract will provide a boost, but it will be needed with an extremely difficult first five rounds.

    The Tigers needed to address their inability to stop being scored heavily against, and looked to have done so in the pre-season with a more defensive edge to their game plan.

    Their clearance work was also abysmal last year, ranking in the bottom two both in the centre and around the ground.

    The scalps of Hawthorn and Geelong in the NAB Cup won’t hurt their confidence, and if all else fails, well, they have Dustin Martin, and no one else does.

    9th – St Kilda

    According to Champion Data rankings the Saints have 19 players ranked either Elite, Above Average, or Average for their positions. Of these 19, only three are under the age of 25.

    It will shock no one to find out that they are the oldest team in the competition and after years of finishing at the top end of the ladder, they have a new coach and are expected to slide.

    Sound familiar? It should, because all of the same factors were true of Geelong in 2011. Will Scott Watters and St Kilda come back refreshed to be this year’s fairytale, or are the experts on the money?

    The latter for mine, but a soft opening five rounds could see them unbeaten, confidence regained and a long-awaited premiership in their sights.

    If they are any worse than 3-2 after taking on Port, Gold Coast, Bulldogs, Fremantle (at Etihad) and Melbourne, then it’s going to be a long year. The form of Nick Riewoldt in particular will be watched closely over this period.

    Cameron Rose
    Cameron Rose

    Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for there's nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.

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    The Crowd Says (28)

    • March 19th 2012 @ 8:39am
      Rob said | March 19th 2012 @ 8:39am | ! Report

      Interesting piece. Agree on Fremantle, everyone jumping to conclusions on them, feel that effort would be better placed supporting the Adelaide case for a strong rise.

      No surprise to see this guy have Essendon in 12th, doesn’t seem to have much time for the Bombers. Think we’ll see the reverse of last year for them , slow start, warming up towards the middle/latter part of the year. Also a group which has the ability to beat better teams, something a team like the Tigers haven’t been able to do yet (NAB cup this year could be a sign this is changing?).

      • March 19th 2012 @ 8:44am
        camtherose said | March 19th 2012 @ 8:44am | ! Report

        Good luck warming up in the latter part of the year as a Bomber fan – enjoy a run home of Geelong, Hawthorn, Adelaide away, North, Carlton, Richmond and Collingwood. Book your September holidays.

        • March 19th 2012 @ 9:15am
          Rob said | March 19th 2012 @ 9:15am | ! Report

          Ironically i’ve already booked my September holidays, but kept the first week free, think we’ll make it that far, but yes, if we don’t start the year well with the easy draw we have, in strife later.

        • April 29th 2012 @ 9:37am
          JohnnyT said | April 29th 2012 @ 9:37am | ! Report

          Bombers should beat Geelong, North and Richmond. An outside chance to beat Collingwood or Carlton (again!) depending on form. Way too early to predict us struggling in the home run, don’t let your dislike of Essendon get in the way of the obvious fact that we’re on the improve.

    • March 19th 2012 @ 9:10am
      D.Large said | March 19th 2012 @ 9:10am | ! Report

      How nice would it be for the Dees and the Dons to finish 12 and 13th that would almost be worth the Pies winning another flag. Agree the Dogs are done and I think one of Port or Brisbane could finish above them. It will be truly a year that doesn’t surprise if any of about 8 teams finish 6th or 13th, could be that close for the mid ranked teams.

    • March 19th 2012 @ 9:23am
      Robert said | March 19th 2012 @ 9:23am | ! Report

      People that think the dogs are done have no idea. Its funny all these experts are saying this then when they see our style of play this preseason they say the dogs won’t be that bad………………..can’t wait cause people are going to cop it later in the year

      • March 19th 2012 @ 9:45am
        camtherose said | March 19th 2012 @ 9:45am | ! Report

        And that’s the beauty of footy, we all get to make our predictions, and stand to be ridiculed if they don’t pan out. If everything goes right for them, and I do mean everything, the Dogs can make the eight.

    • March 19th 2012 @ 9:23am
      Robert said | March 19th 2012 @ 9:23am | ! Report

      People that think the dogs are done have no idea. Its funny all these experts are saying this then when they see our style of play this preseason they say the dogs won’t be that bad………………..can’t wait cause people are going to cop it later in the year

      • March 19th 2012 @ 9:45am
        D.Large said | March 19th 2012 @ 9:45am | ! Report

        Maybe you’re right Robert; I have probably underestimated the majesty of Will Minson, the speed of Jarrad Grant, the run of Lindsay Gilbee, the class of Justin Sherman and the toughness of Patrick Veszpremi… No wait, I did take that into consideration. Yep 14th it is.

      • Roar Guru

        March 19th 2012 @ 10:02am
        The Cattery said | March 19th 2012 @ 10:02am | ! Report

        The dogs have lost Hall and Ward the last two seasons, but can look forward to Lake and Cooney returning to full fitness (Lake has looked great during the pre-season).

        For me – the keys are:
        1. Can Libba and Wallis jnr keep improving this season and push for permanent spots in the team.
        2. Can Jones start taking big grabs consistently.
        3. Can Roughead get back the form that he briefly showed two years ago (before getting injured just before the finals).

        But in reality, the very best the dogs can hope for is to sneak into the lower reaches of the eight.

    • March 19th 2012 @ 9:51am
      Paul T said | March 19th 2012 @ 9:51am | ! Report

      Intersting reading, my prediction is that the Saints will fall further than 9th, Melbourne’s form is still like a yoyo and you never know what side is going to come out and play so may be a painful year 13th sounds about right. Richmond could be a surprise bolter if they can hold their current form for majority of the season.

    • March 19th 2012 @ 10:27am
      Robert said | March 19th 2012 @ 10:27am | ! Report

      Realistically i think if things go right we can finish 7-8 and if things go bad 10-12. We have a good core of experienced players that won’t let us bottom out with some exciting youth. They will need to start putting it together for us to make the finals but i don’t believe we will bottom out nor do we have to especially with our very contested gameplan. I can see its going to be a frustrating year for myself and other doggies supporters as i do think scoring wiill be a problem unless we can find a consitent goal scorer. Even against Geelong the other day we controlled the game for most part but struggled to put the score on the board. Gia will provide atleast 30-40. Jones, Dickson, Sherman, Grant, Dahlhaus all need to have consistent years and share the load. I really like the look of Dickson though and i feel he may surprise a few this year with his goal sense.

      My estimation is 7th-12th

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