Five-horse race now a free-for-all

Vince Rugari Columnist

39 Have your say

    Congratulations to the Sydney Swans, who were crowned 2012 AFL Premiers on the weekend following their 37-point comeback win over Hawthorn in Tasmania.

    They are now the fifth team to have been awarded the flag early this season after Geelong, the Hawks, West Coast and Carlton.

    Obviously, I’m being facetious. They don’t give out premierships in May, let alone five of them. But if they did all of a sudden, it wouldn’t really surprise, because this has been a very abnormal year so far.

    The natural order has been disturbed, to our horror, and nobody is quite sure what on earth is going to happen from here on out.

    Usually we have some sort of idea by now of how the rest of the season is going to pan out.

    In seasons gone by, there have been established hierarchies. These allow us to divide the various clubs in the AFL into convenient groups – contenders, pretenders, young up-and-coming sides, Richmond and those who tanking for draft picks. It helps us understand where teams are at in the bigger picture.

    Think back to 2004. That was the time of Port Adelaide and Brisbane, when Mark Thompson was still an unproven coach and the Hawks stank to high heaven.

    When Port and the Lions fell, nobody could touch West Coast or Sydney. In 2005, the bottom three was Hawthorn, Collingwood and Carlton. Slowly, they’ve risen.

    Recently it’s been all about the Geelong and Collingwood juggernauts, while St Kilda and Hawthorn sort of bubbled under the surface while the big boys did their thing.

    The point is this – right now, we’re lost. We’ve tried to figure out where we’re going but ended up looking silly.

    The narrative so far in 2012 has been that there is a ‘Big Five’. Geelong, Hawthorn, West Coast, Collingwood, Carlton. Outside of them, nobody can win the flag.

    That was the plan, anyway.

    Hawthorn, the team anointed premiership favourites by an impatient media, have stage fright. The Colliwobbles have been hit by injury and in-fighting. West Coast are up and running, but their true credentials are unproven.

    Geelong, annoyingly, aren’t going anywhere. Carlton are terrific, yet nobody will truly accept it until they’ve got silverware in their grasp. There’s your ‘Big Five’, but there are a couple of spanners in the works.

    Sydney are the flavour of the week – and rightly so, after their amazing come-from-behind win over the Hawks in Tasmania. Steered by everyone’s hero, Adam Goodes, the Swans went from 20 points down at the interval to six-goal victors after the final siren.

    Who needs to bottom out for draft picks when you can stay competitive and play this well?

    The momentum will roll along nicely for John Longmire’s side. Just take a look at their next four assignments – Adelaide, Richmond, Melbourne, St Kilda. There’s every chance they’ll emerge from May with their undefeated record still in tact.

    On the Crows – they look alright too, and Patrick Dangerfield has taken his game to another level, but they’re way too green to move into the competition’s elite bracket. Apparently.

    If we frothed over Hawthorn and overlooked the Swans – not to mention the fact that we were blindsided by the Eagles’ rise last year – what else have we missed?

    Will Fremantle have a say? They’ve taken to Ross Lyon’s gorgeous game plan like a duck to water.

    It’s hard to imagine them being shoved around by the supposed ‘Big Five’ without hitting back. And what of Essendon and North Melbourne, the two sides who are scheduled to go up a level or two this year?

    Who knows. Actually – nobody knows. And there’s no point trying to pretend we do, because it could all change again very quickly.

    After so many cut and dried seasons, to have a genuinely, abnormally, excruciatingly open field is a strange feeling. But it’s worth it.

    Vince Rugari
    Vince Rugari

    Vince Rugari is an Adelaide-born journalist who cut his teeth on the sporting graveyard of the Gold Coast. He fancies the round ball and the Sherrin, and used to be a handy leg-spin bowler before injury curtailed a baggy green push. A Port Adelaide fan by birth, he now is a sports reporter for Australian Associate Press

    This video is trending right now! Submit your videos for the chance to win a share of $10,000!

    Have Your Say

    If not logged in, please enter your name and email before submitting your comment. Please review our comments policy before posting on the Roar.

    Oldest | Newest | Most Recent

    The Crowd Says (39)

    • May 1st 2012 @ 4:17am
      Ironmonger said | May 1st 2012 @ 4:17am | ! Report

      Being blindsided by the Swans form is a product of the Victoria centric press in AFL.
      Some good coaching moves by Longmire on the weekend is encouraging for the Swans too. But the big turning point was Josh Gibson rolling his ankle. That guy plays better every time I see him and he dominated again until he hurt his ankle in the 2nd quarter. A sign of how much Hawks have become dependent on his great read of the play and strength. He even takes marks now rather than punching the ball away like he used to…

    • May 1st 2012 @ 7:24am
      Macca said | May 1st 2012 @ 7:24am | ! Report

      The Sydney vs Adelaide game will be an interesting one…as we might have a new flag favourite if Adelaide wins it. Adelaide, one must remember, also gets to play GWS and the Gold Coast twice each for some odd reason. The fixture is well and truly fixed in their advantage. Would have been nice to have seen Port beat them on the weekend. I will be going for teams that don’t get an unnatural benefit from AFL fixturing. On the Swans, Josh Kennedy must be the front runner for the Brownlow right now. Great player.

    • May 1st 2012 @ 9:09am
      Christo the Daddyo said | May 1st 2012 @ 9:09am | ! Report

      The Melbourne media ALWAYS ignore Sydney’s chances. Happens every year. You’d think they would have learned by now, but it doesn’t appear that way…

      • May 1st 2012 @ 10:00am
        Nathan of Perth said | May 1st 2012 @ 10:00am | ! Report

        The Victorian media has never been happier than in the last few years when the Victorian teams got back on top. They got to happily forget about the rest of the country again after suffering years of inter-state blaspheming. Two non-Victorian teams in their Grand Final?? Sacrilege!

        • May 1st 2012 @ 10:57am
          Matt F said | May 1st 2012 @ 10:57am | ! Report

          They’ll have to launch another enquiry πŸ™‚

          • May 1st 2012 @ 11:27am
            damo said | May 1st 2012 @ 11:27am | ! Report

            Oooooooooh, noice call!!!

        • Roar Guru

          May 1st 2012 @ 12:09pm
          Redb said | May 1st 2012 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

          Its always entertaining to hear from the provinces. πŸ™‚

          Sadly Christo the Daddyo, the Sydney press have been lagging on the Swans. I keep a bit and eye out and its only been in the last week that coverage has lifted in their home town.

          Most people in Melbourne, had Sydney in the top 8. Up until Saturday they had not beaten a top 4 side from last year. The added press is warranted but dont get carried away that Melbourne lags behind when Sydney’s own press had relegated articles to the bottom of the page!

          Nathan, I’m afraid West Coast are in the same boat as Sydney. Until they can come to Melbourne and beat Collingwood, Geelong or Carlton they really are not flag favourites despite what the provinces think πŸ˜‰

          Richmond ran West Coast to the brink of defeat. Its only that it is written into AFL regulations the Tiges must finish 9th prevented the win. The AFL Commish at the last minute intervened and ordered Reiwoldt to miss that goal. πŸ™‚

          • May 1st 2012 @ 12:26pm
            Nathan of Perth said | May 1st 2012 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

            We *did* beat Carlton in Melbourne, actually beat them more handily in Melbourne than we did in Perth, with what is effectively the same team as today.

            As for Geelong and Collingwood in Melbourne, well that has stopped being such a daunting ask. And after the first couple rounds the Eagles realised that what is really important is just not losing, the percentage isn’t very important, so we’ve spent the last three games find tuning our just enough strategy to conserve energy and injuries. Just wish all the out of state teams we play weren’t so dirty and focused on injuring us! Our poor necks….

            • May 1st 2012 @ 12:35pm
              Nathan of Perth said | May 1st 2012 @ 12:35pm | ! Report

              Interesting though that the majority of the BF Richmond supporters were saying that, out of their matches against sundry contenders, they considered the Eagles to have been the most difficult of the lot and that they had thrown the kitchen sink at this match. πŸ˜€

            • Roar Guru

              May 1st 2012 @ 1:30pm
              Redb said | May 1st 2012 @ 1:30pm | ! Report

              You beat Carlton last year when you finished 4th. Is that your prediction for 2012.

            • May 1st 2012 @ 3:04pm
              Nathan of Perth said | May 1st 2012 @ 3:04pm | ! Report

              It’s a relative prediction: “Above Carlton”

              If Carlton get seconds, well… πŸ˜€

          • May 1st 2012 @ 4:30pm
            Jonny G said | May 1st 2012 @ 4:30pm | ! Report

            The Swans only beat Geelong in Geelong last year, which no team had done in 2 years or so

            • Roar Guru

              May 1st 2012 @ 8:27pm
              Redb said | May 1st 2012 @ 8:27pm | ! Report

              One off fluke.

              • May 2nd 2012 @ 1:01pm
                Matt F said | May 2nd 2012 @ 1:01pm | ! Report

                Just like Essendon’s win over Carlton πŸ˜‰

              • Roar Guru

                May 2nd 2012 @ 9:16pm
                Redb said | May 2nd 2012 @ 9:16pm | ! Report

                No Fluke – our destiny.

          • May 3rd 2012 @ 5:43pm
            Jaceman said | May 3rd 2012 @ 5:43pm | ! Report

            Telegraph coverage improved out of sight with non NSW teams mentioned but this ahppened for soccer when they got the soccer rights to fuel subsciptions but then fell away. The SMH lagging of course and still has other columnists having a dig but I assume NRL money keeping NRL front and centre (as it should) and they suspect the Tele will go “pay wall” soon so they can gain a bit of circulation…

    • May 1st 2012 @ 9:16am
      Tony said | May 1st 2012 @ 9:16am | ! Report


      Hey good on you Sydney gutsy gutsy win

    • May 1st 2012 @ 11:16am
      brendan said | May 1st 2012 @ 11:16am | ! Report

      Sydney have been fantastic but realistically who have they beaten? Great win over Hawthorn but how good are the Hawks really they are making a habit of putting in ordinary last quarters.The Eagles are the premiership favourites IMo at the moment as they look like finishing top four with the double chance and dont lose often in the finals at Patterson stadium.I do agree with you Vince that we are in for an exciting season and that none of us really know.As an aside good performance by Suns without Ablett on the weekend .

      • May 1st 2012 @ 11:38am
        Nathan of Perth said | May 1st 2012 @ 11:38am | ! Report

        “at Subiaco Oval”

      • May 1st 2012 @ 11:49am
        hawker said | May 1st 2012 @ 11:49am | ! Report

        “Sydney have been fantastic but realistically who have they beaten?” – Could say the same about West Coast – Bulldogs, Melbourne, GWS, Richmond (3 of those sides will finish in the bottom 5).

        • May 1st 2012 @ 1:27pm
          brendan said | May 1st 2012 @ 1:27pm | ! Report

          Thats true hawker.

      • May 1st 2012 @ 12:19pm
        Matt F said | May 1st 2012 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

        We’ve had a harder draw then West Coast so I’m not sure how we’re unproven yet they’re the favourites if you’re basing it on the draw?

        Besides, quite a few “experts” had us losing to the Hawks, the Roos and the Dockers. It looks easy in hindsight but they weren’t considered easy games at the time. It’s by no means the hardest draw but it’s not as easy as some others have had right now.

        That being said it’s way too early to claim any team as premiership favourites or anything like that. Some people were calling Essendon a top 4 side at this time last season (Mike Sheehan was still saying it in round 8-9) and they ended up scraping into the 8.

    • Roar Guru

      May 1st 2012 @ 11:55am
      Redb said | May 1st 2012 @ 11:55am | ! Report

      Way too early to predict an outcome on any team. It is wide open with all bar West Coast from last years Top 4 flagging, 2 of the 4 are not even in the 8. Round 10 would be a good time to revisit the ladder and make some judgements from there. At this stage the draw allows some teams an easier run than others.

      We had a top 5 for the likely premiers group, we need to add the Swans to make it 6.

    , , , , ,