After three rounds of AFL, one thing is clear: injuries and new personnel are going to muddy the water and cause the form guide to be thrown out the window.
Richmond, after two years of keeping their key players on the field for over 20 games a season, have been devastated by injury this year and none were more important than the season-ending knee problem suffered by Alex Rance the key backman at the club.
As a result, the Tigers’ only victory in the first three rounds has been against the lowly Blues, who have failed to win a game in the 2019 season.
The introduction of new blood into most teams early in the season has no doubt had an impact and it is interesting to note that three of the six clubs who have filled their sides with players new to the club currently occupy the bottom three positions on the ladder; namely Carlton, Melbourne and North Melbourne.
Two other teams, Gold Coast and Port Adelaide, would consider the introduction of seven new players and six new players respectively to be a success at this time, but only Geelong with six new players could claim total success with the new talent as the Cats sit on top of the ladder undefeated.
I still believe that – despite the good form shown by these newbies to the club – the key to Geelong’s success so far has been the fabulous trio of superstars who have been able to marshal the troops and provide a calming influence over team members later in the game while still racking up possessions themselves.
Over three teams’ worth of players (70) have pulled on the jumper for a new AFL club in 2019 in a growing trend of player movement. This includes the quality players headhunted to fill gaps or provide options, and I have counted ten of these, although others may disagree with this number.
The remaining 35 imports with AFL experience are made up of players seeking better opportunities who were just outside the ‘A’ team at the club they were leaving, or players surplus to requirements who are seeking a second (or third) chance to play AFL football.
For those just starting the long journey into league football, 12 of the 25 are the first players of the new millennia, albeit from 14th January 2000 (Chayce Jones – Adelaide) to 7th December 2000 (Jordan Clark – Western Bulldogs) and a number have slotted into league football with ease showing star qualities already: Sam Walsh (Carlton), Scott Bailey (North Melbourne), Connor Rozee (Port Adelaide), Nick Blakey (Sydney) and Bailey Smith (Western Bulldogs) are the first five that spring to mind.
Again, there will be different views on this.
Amongst the slightly older or more mature first-timers, Gryan Miers (Geelong), Jay Lockhart (Melbourne), Matthew Parker (St Kilda) and Charlie Constable (Geelong) have also come under notice.
The high priced recruits currently paying off their debt to their new club include Lachie Neale (Brisbane), Mitch McGovern (Carlton), Rory Lobb (Fremantle), Gary Rohan (Geelong), Chad Wingard (Hawthorn) and Tom Lynch (Richmond).