After winning their second premiership in three years, Geelong entered the 2010 decade as the team to beat.
We have now had three weeks of AFL action. Who are the standouts and what can we expect as the AFL season draws ever closer?
1. Tom Who
In the 2013 National Draft GWS Giants pulled a first round surprise with the 14th pick when they took young West Australian prospect Cam McCarthy. While McCarthy clearly had the talent to be a first round pick, given the tall stocks that GWS had, McCarthy seemed to be an unnecessary luxury.
Fast forward 18 months and with the first pick from that draft in Tom Boyd gone from the club and Jon Patton out indefinitely injured, the opportunity is there for McCarthy. And the past two weeks have been of a player who wants to take that opportunity.
With an excellent pair of hands, willingness to impact the contest and an accurate shot on goal, McCarthy is unlike any other GWS forward prospect and makes him an intriguing and likely Round 1 starter in three weeks’ time.
2. Demise of Butcher
When Port Adelaide were at the lowest of their lows one of the only bright spots was the first season performances of John Butcher. In what were trying seasons for the Power, it was the hope that Butcher offered that was solace to many Power fans.
Now with Port Adelaide one of the hottest teams on the verge of the 2015 season, the performance of Butcher in a half-strength side was a stunning revelation of an individuals fortunes at odds with the clubs. Butcher failed to hit the scoreboard and only had four possessions on a tough day for Port Adelaide’s forwards.
Once the comfort for Port Adelaide fans, it appears that Butcher will have limited impact as Port begin what they hope will be a 2015 premiership campaign.
3. 10 goals as an improvement
For all the hype that has been generated on Melbourne’s new look forward line with Jesse Hogan, Chris Dawes, Jay Kennedy-Harris and Jeff Garlett, the reality was that at the weekend the side could only muster 10 goals. This included a paltry return of 2.5 in the second half.
The problem for Melbourne at the weekend was certainly nothing to do with getting the ball as they dominated possession. The continued problem is that the game plan and game style is not lending itself to attacking play and high scoring.
For that reason opponents are always going to be kept in the game. While they got the win over Western Bulldogs at the weekend, keeping other teams in games is fraught with danger.
4. A complete Caddy game
While Geelong’s Mitch Clark and Nakia Cockatoo grabbed the headlines in Thursday night’s win over Adelaide. It was a complete performance of Josh Caddy that slipped under the radar of most. Caddy represents the ceiling of Geelong’s next midfield group and his toughness around the contest and disposal gives Cats fans high hopes for the 2015 season.
Caddy laid seven tackles, had two inside and rebound 50s, kicked a goal in an impressive 23 possession outing.
5. Chris Judd turns back of the clock
Whether this ends up being the last season of the West Coast and Carlton great, it appears that Judd is set to finish his career strongly. While the explosiveness of a decade ago is gone, Judd’s performance on Sunday against Collingwood was everything that is good in the current Judd game.
His work inside and around the stoppages was first rate indicated by 10 clearances, nine from the stoppage. Those two numbers were practically double any other player in the contest and are strong indications that a big season may be coming from the Carlton number five.
6. Sydney’s reliance on midfield goals
It was an underappreciated fact in Sydney’s 2014 season how important the midfield goal scoring impact was to the team’s success. Last weekend’s win over the Dockers again showed that Sydney are more dangerous when they get impact from their midfielders.
On the weekend Craig Bird, Luke Parker, Dan Hannebery and young midfield prospects Brandon Jack, Harry Cunningham and Issac Heeney all hit the goal scorer list. Hawthorn exploited this on grand final day and expect teams playing Sydney early in the season to try to reduce the midfield goal kicking impact.
7. Contested possession for a third time
18 games into 2015’s pre-season and the score line reads 16 wins, one loss to the team that wins the contested possession battle.
While at the weekend Adelaide became the first team in this pre-season to win the contested ball, but lose the game, the other five results mean a real trend is emerging in the AFL.
As has been the case for the first two weeks, in week three that real ability of a midfield to gain the advantage around the stoppages was pivotal to being able to control the game. With only one more weekend of pre-season action to go, right now, keep a close eye on contested ball in Round 1 to predict your early winners.