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A totally accurate, not at all random prediction for the 2017 AFL ladder

The Swannies will go one better this season. (AAP Image/Rob Blakers)
Roar Guru
21st March, 2017
9
1993 Reads

This time last year, I randomised a list of all the AFL teams and decided to argue why that would be the correct outcome for the season. It wasn’t, but there were some close calls, including being very close to predicting the grand final.

Since I liked the results of that piece, I’ve done it again.

So, here is the definitive, absolutely 100 per cent going to happen, exactly Nostradamus-level prediction of the 2017 AFL season.

18. St Kilda
As Scottish punk band Skids once said, “The Saints Are Coming” (I will not deign to refer to the mediocre U2 and Green Day cover).

Apparently this year, they are coming last. Just as a Tiger’s natural habitat is ninth, a Saint’s favourite cooking implement is the wooden spoon.

While St Kilda have improved steadily over the past few years and have a pretty solid structure building, this will not be a year of good tidings.

The potential of their forward line to kick big scores will sadly not come to fruition, nor will the clearance dominance of the midfield lead to many victories.

There’s good reason why the Saints could come last: injuries. So that’s what I’ll blame.

17. North Melbourne
The Kangaroos lost close to a million games worth of experience at the end of last year, with original Shinboner Brent Harvey being told his services were no longer required, coupled with the retirement/delisting of Michael Firrito and Nick Dal Santo.

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Mind you, they also delisted Drew Petrie, so maybe that cancels it out.

But you can’t replace that sort of ability quickly, especially when they make up a big part of your team’s engine room.

The inconsistency of many of North’s best 22 will cause them to lose a lot of games this year, but when they fire they’ll cause some upsets.

16. Western Bulldogs
This country likes to consume alcohol. When it does, it often does it to excess, particularly during celebratory periods. In such circumstances it is typical for one to suffer a prolonged sense of dehydration brought about by this consumption of alcohol. This is known as a ‘hangover’ and when one suffers from one, it’s difficult to achieve much.

Since the Bulldogs won their first flag in more than 60 years, we can let them sleep this one off and make sure there’s an aspirin and glass of water next to their bed for when they wake up.

When they do, they’ll roll over and see they’re in bed with Travis Cloke, so they have bigger problems to worry about.

jake-stringer-western-bulldogs-afl-grand-final-2016-tall

15. West Coast
The Eagles have a firm belief that they are ready to strike at the flag here and now. They’ve brought in Sam Mitchell from Hawthorn for his experience and hard-dog attitude, and the aforementioned Drew Petrie for his, um… media experience? Whatever the case, I must disagree with West Coast’s recruitment strategy (mostly because the randomiser told me to).

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The loss of their best ruckman will cause their midfield to fall away in contests and put their defence under pressure. The ‘Weagles Web’ (I hate that phrase) was unsuccessful last season compared to their runner-up season and this year the trend will continue.

Even their vaunted forward line won’t be able to kick scores that high.

14. Adelaide
The Crows exceeded expectations last year after the loss of Patrick Danger-(Wildman)-field, making the semi-finals. They still have a potent forward line and a decent defence, but matches are won, as the cliché goes, ‘at the coalface’, and that’s where Adelaide are weakest.

That’s not to say that they’re totally without midfield talent, but it’s a young group of on-ballers.

There are a number of up-and-coming squads that could use this year as the opportunity to pass the Crows. It could be just a failure in game plan or adaptability that is quickly rectified, but Adelaide will have a disappointing season.

13. Port Adelaide
The more-than-a-sport folks down at Alberton have recently been one of the most disappointing Great Disappointments since the one in 1844.

After their preliminary final run they have gone backwards and it looks like once most-highly praised coach, Ken Hinkley, might lose his job this year.

Port have some good players and I like watching them play when they play well. But they also suffer from patchy form, particularly their key forwards and ball winners, and have an oddly built squad.

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It might be the case that they require some fresh eyes to fulfil their potential, as it doesn’t look like they’ll live up to it this year.

12. Richmond
“How do you solve a problem like a Hardwick?” is not a pamphlet concerning candles that refuse to light, but Richmond’s most pressing question.

Is coach Damien Hardwick the one to lead the Tigers back to the promised land of the top eight, or has he had enough chances and it’s time for someone else to have a go?

There are some amazing similarities between Richmond and Port Adelaide: both can be compelling at their best but infuriating at their worst. It might be the case that both have new coaches next season if their recent form continues.

The sad fact that DH is the most successful Tigers coach since the early 1980s hints that they will probably pull the trigger first if early results don’t go well.

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11. Hawthorn
The Hawks have won quite a few flags over recent years and taking a break from the ‘poos and wees’ in September might do the AFL some good.

The team has lost handy players in Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis, and all the other major contributors are another year older.

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It’s nice to see Jarryd Roughead back after beating skin cancer. Naming him sole captain is a bit of an odd choice since I’d be amazed if he played every game after 18 months off, but he’ll certainly be keen to get into things and might lead his team to another finals appearance.

But then, with Ty Vickery in the squad, maybe that will cancel out…

10. Brisbane
With the success of the Brisbane Lions women’s team to inspire them, the male Lions might just start pulling it together. All the way to the heady heights of the AFL top ten.

Improvement can be a slow process and rebuilding a football club nearly glacial, but this is taking an awful long time.

Brisbane do have some good young forwards and their midfield has talent; their main ruckman, Stefan Martin, was already a big threat before the new ruck rules (of which I approve) and will only be more dangerous now.

But their consistency is lacking, to say the least, and while it would be nice to see a return of the Lions to the finals, we’ll just have to watch the Lionesses for that.

9. Fremantle
What happened with the Dockers last year? It was one of the strangest collapses in recent memory. Is it a sign that Ross Lyon’s gameplan is a relic of another time, or was it a speed bump on the journey to premiership glory?

It didn’t help that Nat Fyfe (the most overrated player in the league) missed most of the year – even a top club would feel his absence and Fremantle wasn’t one of those.

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Now with some time to change their approach, the Dockers can turn it around, but they’ll need more time to gel.

8. Essendon
See the Bombers fly up, up to win a place in the finals! After all the tumult of the last few seasons, now Essendon can focus on football. It’ll be interesting to see how the returning drug cheats – sorry, suspended players – deal with the long down time. Coming back to any job after a break takes time to adjust, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bombers lose some games that they shouldn’t.

However, the players will be hungry and enthusiastic. When they were up and about they could run like they were on something, and they can score a lot.

But that leaves them vulnerable on the counterattack and it’s hard to keep up for a whole season, especially after a long break, so the Bombers will just make the finals.

Joe Daniher Brendon Goddard AFL Essendon Bombers 2016 tall

7. Melbourne
The Demons improved out of sight during the Paul Roos era. Now they have Roos’ handpicked successor at the head and it’s up to him to lead.

Melbourne don’t really have a part of the ground that you could call their weakness, but their strength is clearly in the ruck. Max Gawn was already the most dangerous thing in red and blue and he will only improve this year.

Their midfield is young but talented, their forward line even more so. It looks like it is finally time for Demon fans to spend September at the MCG rather than out of town. I’m actually looking forward to it.

6. Carlton
The Blues had some good wins last year, but the losses were some of the worst. Still, the quality of those wins mean that if they can stop those bad losses and get a few more of those good wins, the finals aren’t out of reach.

The most important thing Carlton need to improve this season is their goal kicking. They generate plenty of chances but rarely take as many as they should. This wastes all the effort of the rest of the team and makes it hard to win games.

If they start capitalising, they can make September.

5. Greater Western Sydney
The Giants had a very successful 2016, hosting a preliminary final before falling to the Dogs in a tight match. Out of those two combatants, it turns out GWS will be going a lot further this year. They have good, if not great, players on every line and will trouble all teams.

However, their gameplan still has some kinks and there is always the risk of injuries. I do hope that one of Jeremy Cameron or Gold Coast’s Tom Lynch wins the Coleman this year, just to ensure that they get one.

4. Gold Coast
Speaking of Tom Lynch, the best key forward in the league will lead his team into the top four for the first time this year. The Suns have been really disappointed in the last couple of years but with a full year out of their best midfielders and their solid key position players, now is the time for it all to come together.

Their main weakness is their inability to travel – even at their most dangerous they don’t do that well outside of Queensland. If they can start knocking off teams in Melbourne and elsewhere, and keep Carrara as a stronghold, they’ll do very well this year.

Gary Ablett Gold Coast Suns AFL 2016

3. Collingwood
It is a truism that you should always be wary around a cornered or wounded beast; that is Collingwood this year. They have gone downhill every year since 2011, but this season they are going to turn it around in a big way.

Their midfield is a mixture of old heads and young up-and-comers, and it’s where they’ll need to do the most damage, as the other parts of the ground are nowhere near as strong. But they have Ben Reid as the defence general and if they can keep a variety of scoring options, they can make it deep into September.

2. Geelong
Hmm, much like last year, the generator has placed the Cats as the runners-up, which was so close to coming true last time: if the preliminary finals had gone the other way I would have had the top two correct. So it’s not hard to argue Geelong might also be runners-up this year.

They still have the best one-two punch in the middle, in Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood, as well as decent forward and back halves. But even with the ‘Dangerwood’, the Cats will again just fall short. Perhaps next year.

1. Sydney
Last year’s runners-up, this year’s champions. The Swans will use the disappointment of losing to seventh place (and friends) to push themselves back to the MCG for the ultimate prize.

Nothing major has been lost by the side over the summer and with another year into their promising youngsters, they will have everything they need to make 2017 the Year of the Swans.

Perhaps this time, Lance Franklin can kick the winning score and claim the Norm Smith. That would really make the Victorians weep.

So, that’s what the generator has given me. I’ll wager you don’t agree but I’m curious as to what you think might be accurate. I’m looking forward to finding out.

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