Our quest to unearth the ‘winner’ of the AFL world in 2015 commences with Round 1 results of bracketology. After that, the match-ups for Round 2 are announced.
For those first timers to the ‘Bracketology’ concept, the idea is to look at a person or a moment’s impact across the year.
The person or moment deemed by this committee of one to have had the biggest impact wins the match-up and progresses onto the next round.
Hopefully, ideally, in a week or two’s time, what will remain is the person or moment that had the biggest impact on the AFL in 2015 and therefore is deemed ‘the winner’ of 2015.
Housekeeping out of the way, Round 1 results right here right now.
(1) Adam Goodes defeats (16) Chris Judd
Goodes and Judd over the past decade and a half have combined for four Brownlow Medals, three Premiership Medals, two Leigh Matthews Trophies, one Norm Smith Medal and zero contest this year. The two retiring greats could not have experienced more contrasting final seasons. Judd’s exit may have been a talking point for one week, but Goodes final three months of football is among the most talked about in AFL history.
(9) Nick Riewoldt defeats (8) Josh J Kennedy
On field Kennedy was the superior performer of these two picking up a deserved Coleman Medal and perhaps putting to bed the argument of who won the infamous Carlton-West Coast trade. But it was Riewoldt who overcame incredible personal anguish to play a key role in what appeared to be commencement of a St Kilda revival. The human element of the Riewoldt story in this case trumps the brute force of a dominant power forward season by Kennedy.
(4) Patrick Dangerfield defeats (13) Cyril Rioli
In some ways this is a match-up of two players finding their place. In the case of Dangerfield he found that place at home, while Rioli finally appears to have gotten the understanding of the player he is. For so many years the Rioli question was on how many possessions, now the question finally is how does he do so much with so little. As for Dangerfield, racking up possessions on-field and article space off-field moves him to the next round.
(5) Bob Murphy defeats (12) Jesse Hogan
The old stallion versus the young buck. It is hard to pinpoint why Murphy so late in his career has picked up the cult following, but now that it has come it has come with a rush, with Captain Bob being the one player media outlets were clamouring for through the year. Credit to Hogan for getting cult status at nearly half the age of Murphy, but in this battle, experience gets the nod.
(6) Luke Hodge defeats (11) Gary Ablett
Heading into the finals series it could be argued that these two captains and modern greats had each had their worst years of the past decade as injury, suspension and ultimately leadership controversy spilled. In one month though all of Hodge’s wrongs were righted. Funny what lifting a premiership cup can do. As for Ablett the real question now becomes whether he will ever again taste premiership success.
(3) Nat Fyfe defeats (14) Matt Priddis
The on-field story of the season was the coming out party of Nat Fyfe as he cemented his place in the AFL’s elite, finishing his season with a Brownlow. Arguably this 1-2 duo of Brownlows past each played better footy in 2015, alas for Priddis it was second individually, second as a team and second in Bracketology.
(10) Taylor Walker defeats (7) Harley Bennell
There was genuine shock within AFL circles when 12 months ago Taylor Walker was elevated to Adelaide skipper. 12 months on the genuine shock is that there was even debate as to who should be Adelaide captain. As for Bennell 12 months ago you could have almost predicted that he would be stung for his off-field behaviour and be heading to a second AFL club. The fall could be even bigger in 2016 for Bennell and as shocking as his demise has been, the rise of Walker has been more profound.
(2) Lance Franklin defeats (15) Jake Carlisle
Credit to Carlisle and his ‘very poor decision’ as he certainly was the most talked about player across October and November. It just so happened that Franklin trumped him and pretty much every other AFL player from January until September culminating in his stunning admission of mental health problems.
(1) Phil Walsh defeats (16) Luke Beveridge
Credit to Beveridge for his stunning first season as Bulldogs coach. No-one, not even optimistic Dogs fans had expectations of finals going into the season given the turmoil and injuries that the club had suffered. As amazing a first season as Beveridge enjoyed and as big a story as the Bulldogs revival was, it simply was not in the same league as what Walsh’s untimely death was.
(9) Ross Lyon defeats (8) Mick Malthouse
Each of these two gentlemen would consider themselves a part of this list for all the wrong reasons. Malthouse’s future captivated the AFL world for the opening half of the season with his record-breaking coaching performance being in reality a final swansong to a great coaching career. Lyon could again not land the big one, but under the radar had one of the most surprising years of any coach. He forced the AFL to change their fixture, forced a club to change their future and forced a great to go on one more year. For underrated performances, Lyon steals what was Malthouse’s win for half a year.
(13) Brett Ratten defeats (4) Gerard Whatley
Whatley is the almost undisputedly the best commentator in the game and almost has to be considered the go to for all big moment events. He was on television screens more than any AFL personality and even found time for his regular radio commitments. If this was purely looking at media contribution Whatley is the winner. But this is about who won in the AFL. If Hawthorn claim that Ratten’s personal loss and circumstances were the reason for a three-peat, that one fact holds more weight than Whatley’s mountain of season long work.
(12) Jonathon Brown defeats (5) Mark Robinson
The bloodbath at the top of the personalities seeds continues as the rookie in Jono takes down the veteran in Robbo. Courtesy of 360 Robbo again got the time to voice an opinion, but Brown and his refreshing recent takes from the game made him a rising star of the box. In honesty this one was a close one, call it an arm-wrestle, and who are you honestly taking in an arm-wrestle. You are welcome Browny.
(6) Gil McLachlan defeats (11) Neale Daniher
Daniher featured in one of the great days of the 2015 AFL season as he very publicly spoke about his fight against MND. Like some of these other battles if it was a one day impact than Daniher wins, but McLachlan’s first full season in charge was an underrated one. Massive impact and massive decision making across the board showing no fear of taking the game into a new reality.
(3) Alastair Clarkson defeats (14) Matt Stevic
Sorry Fremantle fans, could not resist the idea of putting Clarkson and Stevic head to head. Kudos to Stevic in that it is rare that physically unassuming umpires become household names, he cemented that legacy in 2015. Clarkson’s body of work not only included a fourth premiership, but a budding school of Clarkson coaching. In the end you get the feeling that Stevic would award this one to Clarko and the Hawks as well.
(10) Mark Thompson defeats (7) Scott Brothers
Interesting years for the Scott brothers as they were never far from the headlines and spotlight, yet really failed to build on their coaching records. For all the talk, that one Chris premiership seems a lifetime of sagas and retired players ago now. While Thompson was not as outspoken as he had been in previous years, he did still have some intriguing insight into one of the biggest ongoing stories of 2015.
(2) James Hird defeats (15) John Worsfold
Worsfold may have supplanted Hird as the top man at Essendon, but this is a first round walkover for Hird who for practically 12 months of the season grabbed the headlines whether it was football related, drug related or legal related. Barely a week could not go by without a development in the life of Hird and you just had to know he was trolling when he ended up in hospital after a bicycle crash. Call Worsfold’s hire the biggest moment of the incoming coaches, but that one moment was nothing on Hird.
(1) #drugs defeats (16) #kanesfire
Kane Cornes’ decision to walk away from the game was a stunning one and an unheralded reason behind Port Adelaide’s 2015 struggles. But whether it was performance enhancing or recreational, it was drugs and doping that was at the centre of many AFL scandals and conversations.
(9) #brownlowflirtation defeats (8) #parade
Despite the worry and concern prior, Melbourne turned on stunning spring weather and the Grand final parade was among one of the best ever with a big crowd and two well-supported teams making a memorable occasion. Still who does not want to see more of the antics of Michael Barlow or the awkward chemistry that is a McAvaney-Fyfe ooze fest. It feels like the Brownlow favourite now must be required to take Barlow as a date and the McAvaney-Fyfe duo host every Brownlow winner on stage. More please.
(13) #roughbattle defeats (4) #essendonwins
Even when Essendon had a supplement saga win as was the case in 2015, it never felt lasting. It was big news at the time, but ultimately will be just a footnote on the whole story as 2015 was the beginning of the end, and time for a new day for the Essendon football club. Jarryd Roughead’s surprise cancer reveal and recovery to win a fourth premiership is among limited feel good stories for the year. Score one for feel good.
(5) #rest defeats (12) #draft
It was a massive story in Round 23 when coaches showed complete disdain for a full premiership round and instead thought premiership. When the dust settled on the Round 23 carnage the league had shocked the football world by deciding 2016 would incorporate a full bye before finals. A simply remarkable reaction to a remarkable stand by coaches on a premiership quest. Compare that to an underwhelming draft where the biggest story was a stuff up on the new live bidding process, rest easy.
(6) #bigfreeze defeats (11) #thewest
The Big Freeze was one day whereas the west was AFL king for one preliminary final weekend. Yet thinking back months after these events, it is the Big Freeze that has stayed with most football lovers. The vision of personalities going down a water slide and that infectious Neale Daniher laugh meant more then and means more now than what was an underwhelming feeling around Perth that one weekend in September.
(14) #mrp defeats (3) #mentalhealth
The dual mental health battles of Mitch Clark against depression and Lance Franklin’s private battles were both reminders of the human side of the AFL. But especially when you consider the secrecy behind the Franklin story, one is skeptical about the positive impact the AFL could be having on mental health. While it is understandable that these are private issues, the public nature of a footballer’s life means Franklin could have done so much more for this massive social issue. Consider it an MRP win be default, and really they wouldn’t get it any other way.
(10) #tradeperiod defeats (7) #tradeban
It was one of the big stories lingering into 2015, what a trade ban was doing to Sydney’s list. The AFL in a surprising turn relinquished some of the power it had back to Sydney and gave it the ability to at least bring in some form of talent to rejuvenate the list. It was a big story early in the year, but for the longevity of trade period and a host of big and minor names that moved club, the trade period for 18 clubs beats the talking point of one.
(2) #boo defeats (15) #randomtowns
It seems almost ironic to put good ole country towns like Gnowangerup and Moggs Creek up against booing. All good country footy games and rivalries have a sense of hatred and every weekend boos go up at country towns all around Australia. Sadly when replicated at the AFL level, when those boos have racial undertones, it goes against that same good-natured fabric of country towns.
(1) #weflyasone defeats (16) #subbye
The much debated and really the much hated substitute rule bid farewell in 2015 after a short history that received more negative response than positive. Still it is a pretty big deal to see such an about face so soon after a seismic change was brought in by the AFL. Oh and if you are wondering why not much has been said about We Fly As One, expect a deep run from that phrase and memories.
(9) #715 defeats (8) #400
It honestly feels like the 400 game achievements of Brent Harvey and Dustin Fletcher should have been bigger. But as Fletcher’s fell on Dreamtime at the G and Harvey’s happened in Brisbane these great moments were left underwhelming. Even though Malthouse’s 715th game in charge was one to forget, the theatre and occasion felt deserving. Plus 715 feels unachievable ever again, 400 will get other members.
(4) #dangerfyfe defeats (13) #finals
Debate what is sadder, that an individual head to head battle can be a bigger on-field moment than any one game, or that the battle between Nat Fyfe and Patrick Dangerfield was a better spectacle than the whole finals series.
(12) #return defeats (5) #goodbye
What sort of ACL story do you like? Chris Judd falling victim to an ACL injury and seeing his career end because of one, or Dan Menzel’s stunning AFL return after four times suffering the same? The Judd moment was probably the bigger story, but for what it could mean for 2016 and beyond, Menzel steals the upset win.
(6) #upset defeats (11) #sling
In a season where there really wasn’t the standout games of years past, the GWS upset of Hawthorn was the most shocking result and close to the best game of the year. It is underrated just how big a win and moment that night was. As for the sling tackle, the unrest is still there going into 2016 as fans and players alike will still battle to know what is good and what is bad. Unknown in these areas is never a good thing.
(3) #threepeat defeats (14) #nicsoars
Okay Nic Naitauni, your mark of the year was good and your tribute to your mum a special moment. It was not however historic, as was Hawthorn’s three-peat run.
(7) #maddie defeats (10) #comeback
Two games at Etihad Stadium involving St Kilda go head to head. Arguably the Round 6 win was crucial in the ongoing quest for a winning culture at the Saints, but nothing can pull a club together like tragedy and overwhelming human spirit. In a season of surreal moments and surreal feelings, the crowd atmosphere at Maddie’s match was unlike any other.
(2) #wardance defeats (15) #eddiesotherpocket
Note Eddie Betts, see Nic Naitanui. Your goal was great and very deserving of goal of the year. It was not however a war dance.
So with Round 1 in the books, Round 2 is as follows:
(1) Goodes versus (9) Riewoldt
(4) Dangerfield versus (5) Murphy
(3) Fyfe versus (6) Hodge
(2) Franklin versus (10) Walker
(1) Walsh versus (9) Lyon
(12) Brown versus (13) Ratten
(3) Clarkson versus (6) McLachlan
(2) Hird versus (10) Thompson
(1) #drugs versus (9) #brownlowflirtation
(5) #rest versus (13) #roughbattle
(6) #bigfreeze versus (14) #mrp
(2) #boo versus (10) #tradeperiod
(1) #weflyasone versus (9) #715
(4) #dangerfyfe versus (12) #return
(3) #threepeat versus (6) #upset
(2) #wardance versus (7) #maddie
Again I will say to Roarers, who you got? Who makes it on to the round of 16?