With the 2019 AFL draft in the rearview mirror and club lists finalised for 2020, we decided – despite overwhelming popular opinion – that it’s not at all too early to start speculating about the season ahead.
2015 has come and gone with the AFL not wasting anytime in stamping its impact on the 2016 sports landscape.
In a modern society hell-bent on instant gratification, starting a series to summarise 2015 on January 15, 2016 might be lunacy. However with the dust settled on the full year that was 2015 and every other take and opinion of the year out of the way, let’s throw it over to bracketology to see just who ‘won’ 2015.
Full disclosure that this concept is completely stolen from other parts of the world, including the USA who obsess themselves with the bracket concept.
Again, using an American concept for an Aussie piece? Lunacy I say, lunacy!
So for the 2015 AFL Bracketology we have broken it down into four distinct brackets: a players bracket, a personalities bracket, on-field moments bracket and off field moments bracket. In today’s first piece we look at the 64 contenders aiming to ‘win’ 2015.
Players Bracket (seed)
Adam Goodes (1)
The dual Brownlow Medallist and premiership player endured a controversial 2015 and final AFL season.
Lance Franklin (2)
Never one to shy from the spotlight, the talk was on his indifferent on-field performance early and then his off-field battles late.
Nat Fyfe (3)
Backed up his breakout 2014 season with one of the great on-field seasons in 2015 winning almost everything there is to win in the game.
Patrick Dangerfield (4)
Had one of his best seasons ever in trying circumstances for Adelaide while being the talk of the league off-field eventuating with a high publicised move to Geelong.
Rob Murphy (5)
From the moment he took ownership as the new captain of the Western Bulldogs became the fan favourite of the media and footy public alike.
Luke Hodge (6)
The definition of an up and down year with suspensions and arrests the low and holding the premiership cup aloft the high.
Harley Bennell (7)
Started the season as a controversial Sun, finished the season as a reformed Docker. Watch this space in 2016.
Josh Kennedy (8)
Won the Coleman Medal, bagged 10 goals against his former club and finished his season with a stinker on the biggest stage.
Nick Riewoldt (9)
Battled manfully on-field leading a young Saints side while dealing with a private loss in a very public environment.
Taylor Walker (10)
After being a shock appointment as Adelaide captain, he embraced the responsibility and became the real face of human emotion.
Gary Ablett (11)
While his on-field best was fleeting during the year, he always remained a talking point as his beliefs, attitudes and leadership came under fire.
Jesse Hogan (12)
The rising star winner put a club on his young and powerful shoulders showing a legion of fans the hope for the future.
Cyril Rioli (13)
A Norm Smith Medal capped off a season where he finally seemed to win acceptance of his place among the game’s best.
Matt Priddis (14)
Backed up his Brownlow season with a second place finish creating his own sense of achievement in the process before finally living his dream of a grand final match.
Jake Carlisle (15)
Maligned and misunderstood on-field as a Bomber; maligned and misunderstood off-field as a Saint with controversy a nose away.
Chris Judd (16)
Cruel circumstances, yet still left the game with the class and dignity that defined the majority of his career, consider his seeding a lifetime achievement award.
Personalities Bracket (Seed)
Phil Walsh (1)
The Adelaide Crows coach’s untimely death rocked the AFL world to its core, putting the perspective of the game in a real world picture.
James Hird (2)
Unflinching to the end, he finally fell on his sword as on-field performance ended what off-field controversy could not.
Alastair Clarkson (3)
The architect of a modern day three-peat, his reputation as the school for coaching only enhanced across the year.
Gerard Whatley (4)
Widely regarded as the most respected personality of the game, continued his rise in notoriety with his performance on AFL360.
Mark Robinson (5)
As the co-host on AFL360 his appearance four nights a week and his affiliation with Essendon ensured he was always front and centre.
Gil McLachlan (6)
His first full year in charge was spent trying to stay out of the public limelight while still acting decisively on key administrational decisions.
The Scott Brothers (7)
Can’t be separated by birthday, can’t be separated by personality impact, with both being instrumental to changes to the AFL going into 2016.
Mick Malthouse (8)
Broke the all-time coaching record and then got fired, spent some time giving expert opinion while posturing for new coaching gigs behind the scenes.
Ross Lyon (9)
Instrumental in a fundamental change to the AFL fixture while leading another side to the last week in September before falling short.
Mark Thompson (10)
His closeness to the Essendon saga meant his views were respected highly and his laid back nature continued to win footy fans over.
Neale Daniher (11)
Took his role as patron for MND to a whole new level in 2015 highlighted with an iconic day on the Queens Birthday holiday.
Jonathon Brown (12)
Regarded as one of the new talents and a rising star within media circles, he also found time to launch a book while giving a unique take on AFL issues.
Brett Ratten (13)
Cruelly lost his son in the year, a tragic event that would be the catalyst for Hawthorn’s final push to a three-peat being called out as the reason for the premiership win.
Matt Stevic (14)
Rightly or wrongly, was the umpire of controversy in 2015 with certain fans feeling the ire of his appointment and performance.
John Worsfold (15)
After being chased and courted for years, the unthinkable occurred late in the year when he signed with red and black.
Luke Beveridge (16)
Taking on a list that was given no hope, was regarded as a breath of fresh air and one of the coaches of the year enabling the Dogs to go into finals action.
Off Field Moments (Seed)
Performance enhancing or recreational, it did not matter as the AFL slipped and slid from one drug related controversy to the next.
Came to a head in front of a parochial home crowd in the west, yet across the season the biggest word wasn’t really a word at all.
Mitch Clark put mental health on the map with his ongoing battle in Geelong colours before Lance Franklin’s stark admission again put the game in perspective.
Not that long ago it was Essendon who were the winners in the ongoing 2012 supplements scandal.
Headed by North Melbourne and Fremantle the final round of the season was a farce as clubs took the next week approach forcing swift movement from the AFL.
On a chilly Melbourne day, personalities joined the big hearted Neale Daniher to spread the word and fight for a cure to MND.
After a controversial ruling on banning Sydney from trading in 2014, the AFL bowed to pressure and removed some of those ban conditions in 2015.
A big talking point was the move of the grand final parade to support a new local public holiday, thanks to great weather the new route was a success.
It was Nat Fyfe’s Brownlow night all night long with the performance of his date and his interaction with Bruce McAvaney now apart of Brownlow folklore.
Billed as the biggest trade period of all time, players continued to move as October became another big month for the AFL.
The west became the centre of the AFL world for one weekend in September as Fremantle and West Coast hosted joint preliminary finals.
A new bidding system was released and the draft was madeover as a whole, yet an underwhelming class left few suitably impressed.
Jarryd Roughead had a mid-season cancer scare having to take time away from the game before returning to play a pivotal role in Hawthorn’s success.
Never one to stay away from the spotlight, inconsistences remained as one Brownlow favourite kept attention focused on the MRP.
Gnowangerup and Moggs Creek; who could find these places on an Australian map 12 months ago?
Kane Cornes career came to an end as he took up an offer to trial for the fire brigade again bringing footy’s place in life into perspective.
On Field Moments (Seed)
From the centre circle post match tribute, to a full Adelaide Oval to watch no game, to the Adelaide players at Subiaco, to a memorable Showdown, the AFL was one.
Indigenous round got off to a controversial commencement with Adam Goodes war dance followed weeks later by a tribute from teammate Lewis Jetta.
Hawthorn’s place in history was confirmed as the Hawks rattled off a third straight flag against an overwhelmed West Coast on grand final day.
Perhaps telling to the state of the game in 2015, the greatest on-field battle of the year was not between two teams, but two players put head to head.
Chris Judd leaving an AFL field for the final time on a stretcher seemed the wrong way to go, but few get to write their farewell script.
Perhaps the most remarkable game of the season occurred when the Giants knocked off Hawthorn.
The moment when cousins Jack and Nick came together in a tribute to Nick’s sister Maddie was another touching reminder of the human side of AFL.
Not one, but two players reached the 400 game barrier as Brent Harvey and Dustin Fletcher ensured membership doubled from 2 to 4.
His whole family on hand, Mick Malthouse passed the record, what followed was a night and month to forget.
Another of the incredible games of the season saw St Kilda complete a historic comeback to defeat Western in round 6.
Bryce Gibbs put the sling tackle on the agenda as he faced suspension, with subsequent weeks spent asking what was a legal tackle.
Daniel Menzel had a memorable return to AFL football with a four-goal haul in Round 22 against Collingwood.
It was not the best of finals series, yet there were enough close matches to remain compelling with a somewhat un-compelling final result.
For Naitanui his body soared against Geelong to claim the mark of the year, later in the year his spirit soared in tribute to his late mum.
Almost as to prove he loved all pockets at the Adelaide Oval the same, Betts kicked goal of the year with a freakish goal from long range on the Adelaide Oval boundary.
David Hale will go down as the last player to be handed a red sub vest as Matt Suckling was the last to wear the green one, so long to the sub.
Round One Battles Are:
(1) Goodes versus (16) Judd
(8) Kennedy versus (9) Riewoldt
(4) Dangerfield versus (13) Rioli
(5) Murphy versus (12) Hogan
(6) Hodge versus (11) Ablett
(3) Fyfe versus (14) Priddis
(7) Bennell versus (10) Walker
(2) Franklin versus (15) Carlisle
(1) Walsh versus (16) Beveridge
(8) Malthouse versus (9) Lyon
(4) Whately versus (13) Ratten
(5) Robinson versus (12) Brown
(6) McLachlan versus (11) Daniher
(3) Clarkson versus (14) Stevic
(7) Scott Bros. versus (10) Thompson
(2) Hird versus (15) Worsfold
(1) #drugs versus (16) #kanesfire
(8) #parade versus (9) #brownlowflirtation
(4) #essendonwins versus (13) #roughbattle
(5) #rest versus (12) #draft
(6) #bigfreeze versus (11) #thewest
(3) #mentalhealth versus (14) #mrp
(7) #tradeban versus (10) #tradeperiod
(2) #boo versus (15) #randomtowns
(1) #weflyasone versus (16) #subbye
(8) #400 versus (9) #715
(4) #dangerfyfe versus (13) #finals
(5) #goodbye versus (12) #return
(6) #upset versus (11) #sling
(3) #threepeat versus (14) #nicsoars
(7) #maddie versus (10) #comeback
(2) #wardance versus (15) #eddiesotherpocket
Over to you Roarers, how would you pick Round 1’s battles?