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Already making your AFL 2018 predictions? Don’t be daft

Ryan Buckland Columnist

124 Have your say

Popular article! 4,410 reads

    Welcome to the post-truth Australian Football League, where the rules of the previous decade have been tossed asunder and anyone can win the last game of the season.

    Were it not for Sydney’s stellar second half of the season comeback, that statement would be the Gospel according to Gil. Cast your mind back to the end of the 2015 season just briefly – really put yourself in that moment – and consider the below has come to pass in the past two seasons.

    Hawthorn was eliminated in a semi final in 2016, and missed the finals series all together in 2017. Sydney crashed from a losing grand final in 2016 to an 0-6 start in 2017, rallied back to miss the top four by a game (and top two by a game and a half), only to lose a semi final against their bunnies.

    Geelong successfully staved off a rebuild that was five years coming, and has made it to a preliminary final in the past two seasons. The Western Bulldogs won a premiership, winning four in a row (including two interstate trips) as sizeable underdogs, breaking a half century premiership hiatus.

    Richmond won a premiership, coming from a flattering 13th the year prior to finish in the top four for the first time in more than 20 years. Theirs was not quite as long a dry spell as the Dogs, but the fans were certainly parched.

    Then there are a few sub points.

    Dustin Martin became the best player in the competition, and won the league’s three most prestigious individual awards in a single season. Patrick Dangerfield won a Brownlow medal with a record vote tally in 2016, and had a better season in 2017 to run second to Martin.

    Dustin Martin Richmond Tigers AFL Grand Final 2017 tall

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    Nat Fyfe, the 2015 Brownlow medallist, has become an afterthought for most of the football world. Essendon, ravaged by WADA suspensions, bashed together two teams into one – like a Holden panel beater working on a Ford – and rode some kind of wave into September.

    Port Adelaide rose like Lazarus, an ascent that no one saw coming, only to fall in one of the great finals of the decade. Greater Western Sydney hasn’t made it into a grand final, nor, as it were, won a premiership.

    Gold Coast still hasn’t made a finals series, and might be the worst team in the competition as we enter 2018. Melbourne and St Kilda, who’ve rebuilt the traditional way, fell just short of the finals series two years running, as all of this goes on around them

    And that’s just the big picture stuff. To those who may have taken a break from following the game on account of Hawthorn fatigue: hello, welcome, and yes, this all happened.

    If you can weave that into some grand narrative you are a better person than I. For two seasons we have revelled in the glorious chaos of increased parity; the promise of the 2016 pre-season has come to pass.

    Where does that leave us? It is not the time to make bold predictions, settle on team line ups, or pick a premier. We will discover these things over the next 71 days as the preseason unfolds. There are, however, a handful of trends we can look to as a scene setter for the year ahead.

    The experience cycle has turned
    The AFL lost plenty of on-field intellectual property last season. The retiring class of 2017 included almost a full team of players who’d played 200 or more AFL games – if Luke Hodge had pulled the pin we’d have got there – six of them reaching the 300 game milestone.

    Every year, some 9,108 games of experience are added to the league through the 198 home-and-away season games and nine finals. Generally speaking, the league as a collective loses about that through delistings and player retirement. Last year, the outflow of experience was significantly larger than the inflow of experience: 11,019 games of football IP have been lost.

    It meant the league as a collective lost experience for the first time since the 2012 season, from 62.1 games per player in the 2017 preseason to 61.4 games per player here and now (we use per player to adjust for the advent of the two expansion teams). Last off season marked the end of a six year streak where the collective experience of the league’s players increased from 52.1 per game (a post-2000 season low).

    A quick parse of the data suggests the league’s aggregate experience level is cyclical, with long periods of steady growth and decline. The last time the worm first turned – the 2007 preseason – the experience level of the league fell for six straight seasons, through 2012, where it started to rise for six straight seasons.

    Such a small dip from one year to the next, or a per-player basis at least, is not going to drive the competition one way or the other. But it is interesting to consider the role that veteran players play.

    As of the end of last season, there were 70 players with 200 games of experience, or close to four per team. With 21 of those stepping out, just 49 remain. It is one less old head, wise and worldly, and available to help the coach on field.

    At a headline level this would look to hit the West Coast Eagles the hardest. The Eagles dropped a staggering 1,485 worth of AFL games from their playing list in the 2017 offseason, or almost half the average AFL list.

    However, 650 of this was two one-year wonders: Drew Petrie and Sam Mitchell. Still, Matt Priddis (240), Sam Butler (166), Josh Hill (173) and Sharrod Wellingham (171) were long term, consequential players for West Coast.

    Matt Priddis West Coast Eagles AFL 2017 Finals

    (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    Essendon have been similarly impacted by player departures, losing 1,195 games of experience. Unlike West Coast, the Dons partially offset this at the trade table, with Jake Stringer, Devon Smith and Adam Saad bringing in 246 games of collective experience.

    In net terms (considering delistings, trades, free agency and the draft), there has been a shift in the league’s experience to South Australia. Adelaide and Port Adelaide have added a combined 865 games of experience to their respective lists as they load up for premiership tilts.

    All things considered, a shift in the experience profile of the league could be expected to affect the ‘softer’ skills of the game: positioning, team defence, composure and the like. Indeed, that is likely to have been the biggest driver behind the most surprising move of last off season: Luke Hodge’s move to Brisbane on a two year contract, after announcing his retirement from the Hawks.

    Qualitatively though, it is hard to go look past the metaphoric changing of the guard that began last year. Most of the champion players of the early part of the decade are now out of the game, and the opportunity for the next batch to drive the league forward is clear.

    Total team football
    The past two premierships have been won by teams without traditional forward line set ups. The Western Bulldogs steamrolled their way through forward half congestion with a blend of mid size and small players, who ran rings around taller defenders.

    tom-boyd-western-bulldogs-afl-2016-grand-final

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    Richmond played one conventional tall forward for the vast majority of the home-and-away season, and doubled down during their finals campaign.

    It led me to ponder whether going small in the forward line – or smallball, because it’s not a thing until you put a label on it – was the way of the future. It is a significant shift, if only because convention dictates a team’s centre half forward and full forward should be taller than the average, at least.

    The wrinkle of course is Adelaide’s scheme, which coalesced to give the Crows almost two goals a week extra scoring punch than second place, is centred on tall players. Adelaide’s system had four tall forwards and two smalls – the binary opposite of Richmond if there was such a thing. And now Charlie Cameron, Adelaide’s pace ace, has left for the Lions, it is likely the quartet of talls will be called upon to do a little more of the heavy lifting while the Crows figure out what to do at his spot.

    There is still a trend here. The best teams find a way to use their best players in complementary ways: they play a system which fits their personnel. Defence has evolved in this way since the Malthouse days of high pressing, but the Dogs, Tigers and Crows suggest scheming forward of the ball, rather than kicking forward and hoping a tall guy takes a mark over another tall guy, is a way to bust team defences.

    Pace, right across the ground, is also critical. This is an issue I’d like to spend some more time on than we have here.

    I still suspect teams will experiment with smaller forward line ups. Geelong loom as a prime candidate should the team’s large number small forwards enter the season with a clean bill of health. Melbourne’s jettisoning of Jack Watts would suggest the club is considering this direction. West Coast could give it a shake too, albeit would be a fundamental change in the way Adam Simpson’s teams have gone about their business over the past in his four years in charge.

    The theory of ‘the man’
    Team defence is the only kind of defence in today’s AFL. Team attack might be the way of the future. You know what can help trump both of these things? If you’ve got ‘the man’.

    The man is Dustin Martin. Patrick Dangerfield. Nat Fyfe. Lance Franklin. Alex Rance. It’s any number of singular entities which can change the game with their individual play, by breaking up the schemes and systems of their opposition. They excel at winning the ball when it is up for grabs. Every player has the capability for brilliance, but the man does it with clockwork regularity.

    Patrick Dangerfield Rory Sloane Geelong Cats Adelaide Crows AFL 2017

    (Photo by James Elsby/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    The man is an important circuit breaker. He can burst from congestion, ball in arm, and create time and space for his team where there wasn’t any before. He can create a scoring opportunity – for himself or a teammate – with a sharp move or incisive delivery of the ball. The man sees the play like everyone else, but has the audacity to try things that seem impossible.

    It seems counterintuitive to speak of the role of the individual in an environment where team play is growing more important. Simply, it’s one of the best features of Australian football: that there is so little regulation of what can and can’t happen on the field (in a relative sense) means the game evolves naturally. The code has evolved to prioritise total team play, and one of the natural counters is for the very best players to play in a way that allows them to rise above the rest.

    I expect we will see a number of players grow into this kind of role, starting this year. There are candidates across the league. Marcus Bontempelli is practically there already. So is Josh Kelly. Rory Sloane was just about to become the man, until he was tagged into oblivion and his role shifted.

    Christian Petracca is in the early stages of becoming the man. Luke Parker could be the man, but Sydney’s midfield is so even at the top. My dark horse pick is Ollie Wines.

    There have always been outstanding individual players. And naturally, there always will be. But if this theory is correct, their importance will only grow, and so will their value. We have seen this play out in high profile contract negotiations in recent years: Franklin’s nine-year deal, Dangerfield’s lucrative five-year contract, Fyfe and Martin’s deals from 2017.

    More chaos and uncertainty
    As the past two seasons have unfolded, the ambiguity of the premiership race has been a throw back to the middle of last decade. Another year of uncertainty looms large. While there are a handful of big picture trends, as ever the individual details and nuances of each team will play a larger role in sort out the 18 teams.

    Our group of prospective cellar dwellers is small once more. The mid table is full of intrigue, particularly after Richmond circumvented convention and made it all the way immediately after a disappointing season. Our top weights are mostly unchanged in name, but rocking a new set of silks.

    The next ten weeks will help provide some clarity. But if the past two years of football are anything to go by, the AFL will throw up all manner of story lines we won’t see coming.

    Ryan Buckland
    Ryan Buckland

    As an economist, Ryan seeks to fix the world's economic troubles one graph at a time. As a sports fan, he's always looking one or two layers beneath the surface to search for meaning, on and off the field. You can follow Ryan here.

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    The Crowd Says (124)

    • January 10th 2018 @ 7:11am
      Ironmonger said | January 10th 2018 @ 7:11am | ! Report

      Swans to win the flag IF Tippett fires and Lance doesn’t get injured in the finals again. The hunter becomes the hunted and so the Tigers to fall away like Western Bulldogs did in ’17. Another 30 odd years before Tigers get anywhere near a GF.

      • January 10th 2018 @ 11:35am
        Alicesprings said | January 10th 2018 @ 11:35am | ! Report

        Agree i think the tigers will struggle to adjust to being hunted. They’ll finish somewhere between 5 and 8.

      • January 10th 2018 @ 4:36pm
        Thatsashame said | January 10th 2018 @ 4:36pm | ! Report

        Swannies won’t get close. They’ll be one of the team’s to start going backwards. No improvement anywhere.

        • January 16th 2018 @ 5:10pm
          deccas said | January 16th 2018 @ 5:10pm | ! Report

          They have debuted more players than anyone bar the lions while remaining competitive last 2 or 3 seasons. I think natural improvement will take them pretty close tbh. There or thereabouts.

      • January 15th 2018 @ 5:23pm
        Larry1950 said | January 15th 2018 @ 5:23pm | ! Report

        That’s a big “if” to start your prediction, Tippett has been a virtual non-competitor for two seasons & done little to justify his hefty pay packet. The Bulldogs were supposed to have revolutionised the game after their 2016 GF win & disappeared quickly, who’s to say the Tigers don’t drop their bundle in 2018. Having a bunch of guys maturing at the same age supported by a few old heads seems to be the formula, goes back as far as the Voss led Lions, so who’s got that mix this year. Haven’t got a clue but someone will stand out. Have a gut feel the Crows might have blown their ideal opportunity in 2017, their club attitude seems to be that they never got it wrong & things just went against them.
        Could the Bombers be the big improvers this year? Not my team but they could step up. My lot in Brisbane have scary young talent but their older guys might be on the wane by the time the young guns hit their straps, Hodge might accelerate the improvement but maybe the age mix just doesn’t gel.

    • January 10th 2018 @ 7:35am
      Tricky said | January 10th 2018 @ 7:35am | ! Report

      Ryan, if there were ever a more apt word it to describe the uncertainty of the coming season it would have to be

      Speculation.

      Right now on all sorts of footy forums, all posters are throwing up every type of “may” or “should” be in 2018 with varying degrees of pre season training reports and injuries, supposed club strategies, in and out trades, and game plans that “will” be used this year all the way down to “history says” or even worse “history never repeats” – all to suit the scribe’s argument. All of this “evidence” from by and large paying supporters with no internal contact at any of the clubs.

      Speculation

      Good popcorn material though!

      • Roar Guru

        January 10th 2018 @ 7:51am
        Cat said | January 10th 2018 @ 7:51am | ! Report

        So what you are really saying, is it’s business as usual. Speculation runs rampant in the off season every year. Plenty of pundits give themselves outs. In this day and age of vicious internet feedback, who wouldn’t hedge their bets?

        • Roar Guru

          January 10th 2018 @ 8:09am
          AdelaideDocker said | January 10th 2018 @ 8:09am | ! Report

          Precisely!

          I’m going to be writing ladder predictions – like I did last year – but it’s pretty obvious I’m not going to be Nostradamus. I’m going to get things wrong, and I don’t see why that’s a bad thing. It’s all part of of the off season experience.

          Hell, just look at Josh’s “best players in 2025” article the other day. Speculation at its most extreme, but is was still a good article.

          • January 11th 2018 @ 10:21am
            Don Freo said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:21am | ! Report

            Just have Freo top 4 and you’ll have at least one thing right.

        • January 11th 2018 @ 5:43am
          Tricky said | January 11th 2018 @ 5:43am | ! Report

          Ahh yep, with the added on “evenness” of the comp it seems there’s even more speculation or more accurately “hope”

    • Roar Guru

      January 10th 2018 @ 8:03am
      Cat said | January 10th 2018 @ 8:03am | ! Report

      Hey Ryan, another great article.

      However, I am still not convinced of this ‘smallball revolution’. The Dogs won their flag on the back of Tom Boyd playing his only paycheck worthy game of his career. The Bulldogs have desperately wanted to find some talls but have been unable to develop them for what feels like decades. They went small because they had no choice.

      The Tigers were much the same. Early in the season Richmond played practically every combination of tall they had. Their form just didn’t warrant the Tigers sticking with them. Again, Richmond went small not through choice but necessity.

      I think what is really happening is clubs are finally learning to be flexible and go with the ‘hot-hand’ rather than stick with their ‘best 22’ and ride them to make or break. I’d be interested to see if there was a trend regarding total players used by each side since 2000 and more importantly the total number of players on a list to have played 10+ games in a season each year (players being forced into a game or two because of injury doesn’t tell us much, but a coach finding ways to get a player games does).

      A few years ago much of the talk was about the strength, or weakness, of a clubs bottom 6 and most people had that as players 20-25. Now I think lists need to be 28-30 deep and I think it is trending upwards. If true this would explain why clubs that have gone down the traditional rebuild path are taking longer and longer to find their way out. It takes more drafts to turn over (and find/develop) 30 players than it did 22.

      • January 10th 2018 @ 11:15am
        Vocans said | January 10th 2018 @ 11:15am | ! Report

        List depth and flexibility will be increasingly crucial due to the effect of injury, but, more significantly, the need to pick horses for courses. You take the tools that fit the day’s task. So, 28-30 might even be too few. It will mean some very good players in their own right will get less game time than they might have in the past. It will mean less likelihood of a long career for many that would have had one in the past. It will mean increasing pressure for things like mid-season trades as clubs look to tweak their lists.

        The quality of player will likely be there as the focus on developing young talent will get even better than it is now.

        • Roar Guru

          January 10th 2018 @ 11:31am
          Cat said | January 10th 2018 @ 11:31am | ! Report

          I don’t think long careers will shrink, in fact I think we’ll see more players play for longer. Sure, the days of a player reaching 200 games in 9-10 seasons may shrink but players who are properly managed may get an extra year or two out of their bodies.

          It may come down to whats better; 10 years of 22 games a year or 13 years of 19 games a year? I’ve said for a while that the AFL should axe the bye(s) and mandate that players can only play say 20 of 22 H&A games a year. Force clubs to use their entire list and manage players. Could even add rounds to the season if this model was used and lists expanded (which they essentially have been now that Cat A rookies can play without being elevated to senior list).

          • Roar Guru

            January 10th 2018 @ 12:16pm
            Paul Dawson said | January 10th 2018 @ 12:16pm | ! Report

            I think also you’ll see good players playing longer because when they get axed by their main club due to age or rejuvenation reasons, there’s bound to be struggling clubs looking to pick them up for another season or two to help with development.

            • Roar Guru

              January 10th 2018 @ 12:50pm
              Cat said | January 10th 2018 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

              Yep, I think clubs, and players, are starting to realise just because a player has lost value at one club doesn’t mean there isn’t value at another. Hodge is a great example. He certainly needed to be moved on from Hawthorn but can definitely provide some on field coaching Brisbane needs.

          • January 10th 2018 @ 4:52pm
            Matto said | January 10th 2018 @ 4:52pm | ! Report

            Is there a precedent in sport where the number of games a player can play in a season is limited.

            I like the idea of the lists being used more, just seems extreme to be forcing it on teams.

            • January 10th 2018 @ 5:26pm
              Slane said | January 10th 2018 @ 5:26pm | ! Report

              It would create a ‘rolling bye’ of sorts. I’m all for it. Let teams decide which players need breaks and when.

            • Roar Guru

              January 10th 2018 @ 8:19pm
              Cat said | January 10th 2018 @ 8:19pm | ! Report

              Why does someone else have to do it first? It’s okay to be different. If you don’t want to see players be limited to 20 games a year then add 2 rounds to the season and limit them to the current 22. Every player would still get 2 weeks off, but footy fans don’t need to deal with the absolutely pox bye weeks. AFL wouldn’t have to worry about ‘losing ground’ to some other sport (if you believe that line of thinking) by having less or no teams playing in a bye week(s).

              I reckon the quality of football would improve as well, players wouldn’t need to push through until a set date, if they were banged up and sore they can have a rest. You also have players that are in great form, come to a scheduled bye and lose that form. Wouldn’t it be better if a team could pick when its best to rest their player?

              You’d also get rid of one of the worst parts of the whole scheduled rolling bye – the inequality of the post bye fixture.

              • January 10th 2018 @ 9:58pm
                Matto said | January 10th 2018 @ 9:58pm | ! Report

                Wasn’t saying there should be a precedent first. Just asked if there was one.

                I agree more games the better.
                I’d have every team play each other home and away so we actually had a fair fixture.
                Would mean mid week games. So more tv money, more chances for people to go to games.
                And because the sport is so tough there would be no choice but to rotate squads better.

                I agree the bye’s are poor, especially the way they currently are. Would be happy to see them done away with and this limit you suggest tried.

              • January 11th 2018 @ 10:28am
                Don Freo said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:28am | ! Report

                I can’t think of any sports besides AFL that have as many as 22 a side.

          • January 10th 2018 @ 7:54pm
            PeteB said | January 10th 2018 @ 7:54pm | ! Report

            Yes, yes, yes. Get rid of the byes and have clubs rotate the players on their lists. My understanding is that it is the players association who have pushed for the byes so players can have time off. Just change the AFL players contract so that individual players can only play 20 games maximum in the home and away season and get rid of those awful byes.

          • January 11th 2018 @ 10:15am
            Vocans said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:15am | ! Report

            I think you’re right. One thing we might see as well is an increase in shorter AFL careers in terms of game numbers, with more AFL players moving in and out of the state leagues.

      • January 10th 2018 @ 12:15pm
        Aransan said | January 10th 2018 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

        A small point Cat but Boyd had a breakout game in the preliminary final against GWS after Roughead went down. People forget he is only 22y.o. and these big guys often take 5 years to develop. My memory is that Tom Hawkins took 5 years before he could handle the training load. This season will be Boyd’s fifth year.

        • Roar Guru

          January 10th 2018 @ 12:51pm
          Cat said | January 10th 2018 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

          Hawkins wasn’t paid extravagant money though. Nothing wrong with time to develop, but if a player is making $1m+/yr like Boyd, its time to earn it.

          • January 10th 2018 @ 1:03pm
            Aransan said | January 10th 2018 @ 1:03pm | ! Report

            The Bulldogs will have finished in front even if Boyd doesn’t play another game. The game has changed in just a couple of years, the day of the dominance of the power forward is over but I think Boyd will have a better chance of adjusting than Hawkins.

            • Roar Guru

              January 10th 2018 @ 1:09pm
              Paul Dawson said | January 10th 2018 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

              Hawkins is 29, Boyd is 22. Huge difference in where they are in their careers. Hawkins will just keep being a power forward until his deal is up in 2020 and then re-assess if he retires or plays on. As a power forward.

              Why does Hawkins need to adjust anyway? A big bloke in the forward 50 is always going to be dangerous and draw good defenders. He’s also kicked 62, 49, 68, 46, 55 & 51 goals in his last 6 seasons – frankly I’d be ecstatic if a Lions key forward returned those sort of numbers.

              • Roar Guru

                January 10th 2018 @ 1:18pm
                Cat said | January 10th 2018 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

                Hawkins is also doing it while being paid somewhere around half of what Boyd is. If ‘winning flags’ is the measure of ‘being worth it’ then Hawkins owes nothing either. Without him in 2011, Cats don’t win the flag.

              • January 10th 2018 @ 1:34pm
                Macca said | January 10th 2018 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

                PaulD – I agree that Hawkins doesn’t need to adjust and the small forward line thing is way over blown, if you look at the sides that finished top 8 last year almost all of the have multiple tall forwards, Adelaide and GWS both finished top 4 with multiple tall forwards, Geelong had Hawkins and even Richmond had Riewoldt.

                Manic forward pressure is great but take s a lot of energy and falls down if even 1 player is a bit off, having a big marking target (or 2) who can get you 50 plus goals a year to build the pressure around is still the best way to go

              • January 10th 2018 @ 1:51pm
                Aransan said | January 10th 2018 @ 1:51pm | ! Report

                It is true that Boyd has a huge contract but there are a couple of important points:
                1) The Bulldogs had plenty of space in their salary cap and Boyd filled a missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle that was necessary for them to accomplish their 2016 premiership.
                2) Boyd’s contract did not affect the Bulldogs ability to hold onto their existing players or recruit new players.
                3) It is silly to compare player payments at different clubs on the basis of the “quality” of the player. Many players will have quite different values at different clubs in terms of their clubs needs.

                Just because a player kicks over 50 goals a year doesn’t mean necessarily that they are a good player — when they become a focus point it could mean that they are missing many opportunities where a team would be better to diversify their goal kicking options. I would be surprised if Hawkins is only on $500k p.a.

              • Roar Guru

                January 10th 2018 @ 2:16pm
                Cat said | January 10th 2018 @ 2:16pm | ! Report

                1. That would be relevant if Boyd’s contract was front loaded. However, we know he received the standard rookie contract around $200k in his first year at the dogs on a 7 year, $7m deal. That means he is averaging $1.133m for the remaining 6 years. There is no way you can know whether the Dogs would have chased a free agent or trade but lack cap space because of that monster deal.

                2. You know this how? I certainly have no idea the Bulldogs cap situation, I doubt anyone on this website does.

                3. So its okay to compare players, but not how much they get paid? If a player gets a contract that pays them in the top few percentile of the entire league, as Boyd did, I think it is fair to expect performance in the top few percentile of the entire league.

                Boyd is the highest paid player at the Dogs, is he the best player at the dogs? Not even close. Hawkins is not the highest paid at the Cats. Danger and Selwood are the highest (at about $800k/yr each. Taylor and Hawkins would be the next tier down (at about $650k/yr each). Which is reflective of their value to the club, unlike Boyd.

              • January 10th 2018 @ 2:21pm
                Aransan said | January 10th 2018 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

                Boyd couldn’t have been paid more than the standard contract in his second year of football and his first year at the Dogs. You have no possible idea of whether his contract has been front loaded since.

              • Roar Guru

                January 10th 2018 @ 2:32pm
                Cat said | January 10th 2018 @ 2:32pm | ! Report

                You have no evidence it is. The FACT is the Dogs signed a 19 year-old with 9 games and 8 goals to his career to a 7 year, $7m contract. That’s absurd. It was pure desperation by a perennially broke club that just happened to luck into a flag. Winning the flag doesn’t change the stupidity.

              • January 10th 2018 @ 3:03pm
                Mattyb said | January 10th 2018 @ 3:03pm | ! Report

                We might have lucked our flag but the rules that if a VFL club finishes 7th they get a home GF if the top team is not from Victoria is available to all the VFL clubs,and was also utilised by Richmond and Hawthorn.

              • January 10th 2018 @ 3:09pm
                Aransan said | January 10th 2018 @ 3:09pm | ! Report

                The Bulldogs wouldn’t have beaten GWS in the preliminary final or won the grand final without Boyd.

              • January 10th 2018 @ 5:28pm
                Slane said | January 10th 2018 @ 5:28pm | ! Report

                It’s cap money. The club has to spend it. Guaranteed every club in the competition would be lining up to trade 7mil salary cap space over 7 years for a flag. It’s a no-brainer.

              • Roar Guru

                January 10th 2018 @ 8:09pm
                Cat said | January 10th 2018 @ 8:09pm | ! Report

                Slane, I guess that is the difference between clubs who are so desperate for relevance they’ll risk their list management for 7 years and clubs who go for sustained success and repeat flags.

              • January 10th 2018 @ 9:49pm
                Mick_Lions said | January 10th 2018 @ 9:49pm | ! Report

                What was Buddy’s deal?
                10 mil over 9 years?
                How many flags?
                How many new members?
                How much extra sponsorship?
                Zero flags but the Swans have made their money back and then some.

                Boyd?
                1 flag helps.
                Particularly with memberships and sponsors.
                And 2 thirds of his salary is paid by the board, not the club.
                I know for a fact that they’re all happy with the deal.

                I can’t ever see Boyd coming close to Buddy’s level but i do believe the Dogs made the right play as not only a statement to every other club but as a statement to their playing group that they would do anything for success and that’s exactly what they achieved.

              • January 10th 2018 @ 10:06pm
                Aransan said | January 10th 2018 @ 10:06pm | ! Report

                Mick, at a minimum the Boyd move has paid off for the Dogs and who knows what the maximum will be. We will be seeing a number of million dollar players under the current salary cap and I believe that we have yet to see the best of Boyd. What he has done already as a 22y.o. is remarkable and there is much more to come. Where the money comes from isn’t so important, the point is that there is room in the salary cap to accomodate him.

              • January 11th 2018 @ 12:54am
                Mattyb said | January 11th 2018 @ 12:54am | ! Report

                Good commenting Aransan,as a Dogs fan I’m well aware we are an ordinary club,we struggle but tend to have a red hot go,have a crisis,rise again unexpectably etc etc.
                Boyds helped us win a premiership few thought was possible,he’s been great,I’m confident our list will bounce back next year and Boyd will contribute,most likely as an expensive ruckman but I’m happy with that.
                I Love the dogs just because, but Boyd was a massive buy for us under the circumstances of what we were going through before his arrival,he’s now one of only 42 players who have won a flag at our club,you can’t put a price on that as a doggies fan.

              • January 11th 2018 @ 8:35am
                Aransan said | January 11th 2018 @ 8:35am | ! Report

                Matty, I am sure Boyd will be more than just a ruckman. Every now and then an extremely talented player comes along who creates a new position in football for themselves and I believe Boyd is capable of that.

                There is no reason the Dogs can’t be successful for a few years to come but premierships are even harder to win these days than previously.

    • Roar Guru

      January 10th 2018 @ 8:07am
      AdelaideDocker said | January 10th 2018 @ 8:07am | ! Report

      Nothing like reading the title whilst having multiple draft word documents of ladder-prediction articles open in other tabs.

      In all seriousness, it’s a very good article. Nice to have you back, Ryan!

    • Roar Guru

      January 10th 2018 @ 8:41am
      DingoGray said | January 10th 2018 @ 8:41am | ! Report

      Nice Ryan!

      I’ll be Daft, the Lions to win 8 games.

      • January 10th 2018 @ 11:31am
        Alicesprings said | January 10th 2018 @ 11:31am | ! Report

        I’d say that’s very likely.

      • Roar Guru

        January 10th 2018 @ 1:21pm
        Paul Dawson said | January 10th 2018 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

        Will be tricky Dingo, we don’t play Carlton twice.

        Have to roll some teams like Collingwood, Essendon, Hawks and the Weagles at home if we’re going to win 8.

        • January 10th 2018 @ 9:53pm
          Mick_Lions said | January 10th 2018 @ 9:53pm | ! Report

          Just signed Cam Rayner till 2021 before he’s even played a game coz he believes they’ve got it!
          8 wins may well eventuate Paul ?

        • Roar Guru

          January 11th 2018 @ 5:16pm
          DingoGray said | January 11th 2018 @ 5:16pm | ! Report

          Nothing is easy with the Lions Paul.

          I’m not one to usually over hype the Lions, but I just have this feeling that we are very
          much well into the process of breaking our last 10 year theme.

          I think the Lions at Home will be that much harder to beat this year. And god we are
          due a decent year on the injury front!

          • Roar Guru

            January 11th 2018 @ 5:23pm
            Paul Dawson said | January 11th 2018 @ 5:23pm | ! Report

            Look, I wanna believe, I just can’t bring myself to get emotionally invested in this side again until I see some real progress, they cut my heart out between 2013-2016.

            It’s not results that concern me so much, I just want to be able to regularly go to games and watch us still be in the contest and a chance to win into the 4th quarter. Nothing so depressing as a one thirds full Gabba getting steadily emptier over the course of the next 2 hours because the game is over at quarter time.

    • January 10th 2018 @ 9:15am
      Macca said | January 10th 2018 @ 9:15am | ! Report

      Just a couple of questions on small ball;

      How many top 8 teams played with a small ball model in the last 2 years? (Even Richmnd had Riewoldt)
      If small is the way forward why have the Bulldogs recruited Cloke and Schache in the past 2 trade periods?
      Shouldn’t we wait for a small ball team to make finals 2 years in a row before getting too excited?

      • Roar Rookie

        January 10th 2018 @ 1:17pm
        Lamby said | January 10th 2018 @ 1:17pm | ! Report

        I agree – the small forward thing is a bit premature. It is just a couple of sliding door moments and the Swans & Crows would have won (Swans with a couple of free kicks, Crows with Cotchin suspended and/or injuries to Smith and McGovern – and/or a couple of free kicks) and we would be talking about teams needing powerful forward lines (that put a lot of pressure on).

        The Crows play 4 talls, but 2 of them actually have ‘small’ rolls but just happen to be tall – Lynch plays as an attacking midfielder, McGovern plays like a pressure small forward (but can take a hanger).

      • Columnist

        January 10th 2018 @ 1:26pm
        Ryan Buckland said | January 10th 2018 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

        I’m not saying a team will play six small forwards. I think teams will play one or two tall forwards. Three prong tall forward lines will look unusual, with most teams preferring to play with smaller forward lines than we have been used to seeing.

        Recruiting Cloke was a stop gap because the Dogs didn’t have a lot of depth in that part of their list. Schache is a young player with lots of upside who could be the Jack Riewoldt of a smaller forward line set up.

        Like I say in the piece I think the thread here is teams are wising up to the deliberate use of their personnel in a cohesive way, rather than just blindly adhering to the traditional six man set up.

        • January 10th 2018 @ 1:42pm
          Macca said | January 10th 2018 @ 1:42pm | ! Report

          “1 or 2 talls”? Like say a full forward and a CHF throw in say 3 small crumbling/pressure types on the flanks and pockets and maybe a quick agile six two type with good hands who can play both tall and small, where has this structure been for the last fifty plus years?

          As I said the small ball story is very much overblown.

        • Roar Guru

          January 10th 2018 @ 2:01pm
          Cat said | January 10th 2018 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

          I’ll ask again Ryan, is it teams making a choice to go smaller or it it through necessity because there simply are not that many tall talented players in the league? Some of it is because of increased teams through expansion but some of it is also because the talls of yesteryear are now midfielder sized. Nat Fyfe is listed at 190cm or 2cm taller than Dunstall and 1 cm shorter than Lockett. With the 180-190cm players in the middle now, there just isn’t many players left who are taller.

          • January 10th 2018 @ 2:11pm
            Macca said | January 10th 2018 @ 2:11pm | ! Report

            Cat – given the dogs have actively recruited tall forwards since winning a premiership I would definitely go with necessity

            • January 10th 2018 @ 3:40pm
              Brian said | January 10th 2018 @ 3:40pm | ! Report

              I don’t really think there’s much of a difference in height between Hawthorn 2013-2015 and Dogs 2016. Roughead or Boyd were the conventional if somewhat agile big man. Dickson/Gunston was your 90% goalkicker and the rest were small forwards. Rioli/Bruest/Puopolo vs Macrae/Smith/Stringer. Hale probably went forward more then Jordan Roughead but its hardly a revolution in styles.

              The Tigers too were maybe slightly shorter but still had Townsend in support of Riewoldt.

              • January 10th 2018 @ 3:41pm
                Brian said | January 10th 2018 @ 3:41pm | ! Report

                Is that in moderation due to the name of a certain Dogs player?

              • Roar Guru

                January 10th 2018 @ 5:35pm
                Paul Dawson said | January 10th 2018 @ 5:35pm | ! Report

                Same reason I never refer to our coach by his full name. Chris Fagan always trips the filter. It’s a bit of a blunt instrument. You think they’d require it to be a standalone word or something.

                Don’t know how arsenal fans deal with it personally. Makes it hard to comment on the big bash too when you want to say a player has mishit the ball.

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