There is an absolute tidal wave of water still to pass under the proverbial bridge between now and the first weekend in October, but as we have just passed the halfway mark of the season it’s quite often time to reflect and look ahead.
We do it with teams all the time, have a look at how they’re travelling, who they face, and by gazing into the crystal ball, predicting where they are going to finish.
We even do it with players, pondering on who is set for All Australian selection.
But what about coaches?
With a dozen games down and just 10 to go, if the coach of the year gong was handed out tomorrow night in a glittering ceremony at say, the Monash YMCA, who would be the deserving winner?
As I said I know there’s still an ocean of water to flow, but at this point who would be the leading candidates?
And I should also mention, too, that the AFL Coaches Association has handed out this award since 2003 and in those 12 seasons only five times has the premiership winning coach won the award.
After giving the award to Paul Roos, who brought the Swans from 11th in 2002 to a preliminary final in 2003, the award then went to the coach of the regular season ladder leaders for the next seven years, before steering away from the trend to reward John Worsfold for bringing West Coast from last in 2010 to a preliminary final in 2011.
Then John Longmire, whose Swans went from a third-placed finish to premiers, and Ken Hinkley in 2013 for taking the Power from 14th to top eight the next season, were rewarded. Longmire won the award again last season after leading the Swans to a first-placed ladder finish.
With Fremantle rolling along the way they are, Ross Lyon – who won the award with St Kilda back in 2009 – would be a short-priced favourite, but I think a couple of others deserve mention, and candidacy for the (half-yearly) award.
And with last year’s grand finalists – barring a hiccup from Sydney on Friday – appearing to be thereabouts again, both Longmire and Alastair Clarkson could be legitimate candidates.
But I choose to steer away from the favourites. They have the cattle and class, and it’s no surprise they are where they are. Some might even dare to say a lesser coach could have each sitting where they are. I personally doubt that, but you get my gist.
The coaches I have been impressed with in season 2015, and my mid-season coach of the year candidates, are Adam Simpson, Damien Hardwick, Luke Beveridge, and Leon Cameron.
Simpson’s Eagles have been a revelation. Last season they were 11-11 and finished ninth. Those 11 wins were all against teams that didn’t make the top eight. At this point last year they were 5-7. Now they sit 9-3 and in second spot on the ladder.
They have been accused of being flat-track bullies and belting unsuspecting sides from the east on Subiaco, and while they have won four out of five at home – the only loss to co-tenant Fremantle – they have also won four on the road, including Richmond in Melbourne and Port in Adelaide.
Simpson went to Perth with rave reviews and he’s now living up to the high expectations.
Heading into this season, his sixth at the helm of Richmond, Damien Hardwick was at a point where it could go either way. He had taken the Tigers to the finals twice, but both times they meekly bowed out in week one. He needed more and so too did the fans.
Last year they started dreadfully being 3-9 at this point but rallied to reach the finals in eighth position. Six rounds in and with just two wins, it seemed likely where Hardwick might end up.
But to his credit he and his team have turned that around, and now, not only have moved into the eight with a 7-5 record but they have collected two impressive scalps along the way – ending Fremantle’s unbeaten start to the season, and then turning a certain loss on the road into a stunning comeback win last Friday night against the Swans.
Of their remaining 10 games they only meet three teams above them – Fremantle, Hawthorn and Collingwood – and all are clearly winnable games on current form.
Could this be the year of the Tiger?
Next is Luke Beveridge.
While his Bulldogs may not be serious premiership contenders this season, they are certainly making the moves in the right direction. Last year they were 4-8 right now, and went on to be 7-15 and finish 14th, beating just two sides above them on the ladder.
This season under Beveridge they are 7-5 and sit inside the eight. But what’s more impressive are some of their scalps – West Coast, Richmond, Adelaide, a very good Greater Western Sydney outfit at the time, and the stunning one, Sydney in Sydney.
Beveridge has the kids playing like it is fun again. The tension has disappeared in their play, and they are getting some great results. They may or may not make the eight in 2015, but the future is glistening.
And finally, Leon Cameron.
I know some may say well he’s got the star kids, he should be getting the results, but I’ve been so impressed by the way Cameron has brought these talented kids to the next level.
In his first season he went 6-16. They have already surpassed that with a 7-5 record, which sees them out of the eight on percentage.
Injuries to key people, notably Shane Mumford and Joel Patful, has and will continue to hurt them in 2015, but I saw enough signs this year – including their big wins over Carlton and the Gold Coast and of course that wonderful win over the premiers – that in 2016, they will be a serious finals team.
Well to me they are the mid-season standout coaches, with perhaps an honourable mention to Paul Roos, who I feel beyond a doubt has continued to improve the Melbourne Demons, although wins and losses don’t show that right how.
My pick right now is Simpson, but by season’s end, I reckon Hardwick might be the man.