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Revisiting my AFL predictions for 2021 - and a farewell to The Roar

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Editor
28th October, 2021
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2509 Reads

After six years involved with The Roar – three as a member of the editorial team after three as a writer and intern – it’s time for me to bid farewell to one of the internet’s truly great sporting communities.

It’s been a rewarding journey from humble crowd contributor to assistant editor, but a new opportunity has presented itself and it means it’s time to hand my roles and responsibilities on to someone new.

I’d always planned to do a piece revisiting my predictions for the AFL season just gone at some point, and it’s probably fitting that it also doubles up as a swansong.

So, without further ado…

Adelaide Crows

15th: 7-15, 82%

What I said
“This team is a multi-year work in progress, although they at least appear to have settled on a big group of young players they can start pumping games into.

“It’ll be another experimental year for the Crows as they test out their young guns, [and] I expect them to remain firmly entrenched in the bottom four.”

Prediction: 16th

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What happened
‘Entrenched’ in the bottom four isn’t quite right, but it was another tough slog for Adelaide in 2021 despite a surprising start that saw them win three of their first four.

There were enough encouraging performances to suggest they’re on the right path, but a seven-win season that saw them finish four points adrift of a spot outside the bottom four means I’m giving myself a tick.

Verdict: Spot on (1-0)

Ben Keays of the Crows

Ben Keays (Photo by James Elsby/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Brisbane Lions

4th: 15-7, 133.3% (5th after finals)

What I said
“[Brisbane] have got a strong mix of veteran heads and young bodies and can play hard and contested or free and open under the guidance of an excellent coach.

“They’re ready to fire and I’m going to buck the early trend and name them my premiership favourite.”

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Prediction: 1st

What happened
After a shaky start, the Lions looked very much like a premiership-calibre side for much of 2021, but Eric Hipwood’s ACL injury late in the year was a blow they never really recovered from.

His absence in the finals series (plus Cam Rayner’s season-long absence) ruined their forward structure completely and they suffered a straight-sets exit that, in hindsight, felt predictable.

Verdict: In the ballpark, but ultimately not there (1-1)

Hugh Mcluggage of the Lions celebrates after scoring a goal

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Carlton

13th: 8-14, 88.5%

What I said
“They’ve added some brilliant users of the ball who can play outside mid or on the half-back line … [but] will it be enough to get the job done? I still have grave concerns about their forward line – even though they did finish ninth for scoring last year – and their flakiness has been well documented too.”

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Prediction: 10th

What happened
I was right for the wrong reasons. Their forward line – led by Coleman medallist Harry McKay – clearly wasn’t the problem. It was those ‘brilliant users of the ball’ who were found to be incapable of effectively playing outside mid.

The Blues put in some encouraging performances against non-finalists, but were no match for the top eight sides in almost every contest they played. Another season without finals footy was a fair result.

Verdict: Correctomundo (2-1)

Sam Walsh

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Collingwood

17th: 6-16, 85.6%

What I said
“We’ve seen stranger things before – but I can’t see the Pies featuring in finals again this season.

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“I’m quite confident in picking them to make way for either the Demons, Giants or Blues come September.”

Prediction: 14th

What happened
Oddly enough, this proved to be one of my most controversial predictions coming into 2021. The suggestion they’d fall all the way to 14th was called harsh and even laughed at by some punters – turns out I was being generous!

The Pies were nowhere near it in 2021 and are back to square one approaching next season.

Verdict: On the money (3-1)

Jordan De Goey and Jeremy Howe of the Magpies

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Essendon

8th: 11-11, 109.1%

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What I said
“Make no mistake, it’s back to the drawing board for the Bombers in 2021.

“If there’s anyone from this group I’d put money on to slide into the bottom four in 2021, it’s Essendon.”

Prediction: 15th

What happened
To put it mildly, not that. Essendon’s finals win drought may have continued for another year, but they deserved their spot in the eight and made a complete mockery of any suggestions it was back to the drawing board – they’re well on their way.

Verdict: Egg on my face (3-2)

Zach Merrett celebrates with Essendon teammates Nick Hind and David Zaharakis.

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Fremantle

11th: 10-12, 86.5%

What I said
“I can smell what Fremantle are cooking and I like it.

“They’re building, but I can’t see them seriously challenging for finals while their forward group is so toothless.”

Prediction: 12th

What happened
The Dockers continued to build encouragingly in most areas of the ground, but were unable to play finals on the back of finishing in the bottom four in scoring once again.

Verdict: Bullseye (4-2)

Sean Darcy

(Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Geelong Cats

3rd: 16-6, 126.7% (4th after finals)

What I said
“You simply can’t beat Richmond relying on one good key forward … The only times [Geelong] have gotten close to the Tigers since the start of the 2017 finals is when they’ve had a second tall forward.

“Now, they’ve got the perfect man for the job and are perfectly capable of going a step further.”

Prediction: 2nd

What happened
It was more of the same for the Cats, unfortunately. They dominated the home-and-away season once again but, when finals time came around, they fell to pieces. Their capitulation against Melbourne in their preliminary final was an embarrassing end to their season.

Verdict: They didn’t go further, but the prediction was close enough to split the points (4-2-1)

Joel Selwood and Chris Scott

(Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Gold Coast Suns

16th: 7-15, 76.8%

What I said
“Like the last few seasons, it’s all about the young guns in 2021.

“The pieces are coming together and I hope they take another stride forward this season, but I can’t see the Suns rising any higher than 11th.”

Prediction: 11th

What happened
There were some encouraging moments, but they were mixed in with far too many ‘nothing’ games. Expectations are always low for the Gold Coast, but to regress to a 16th-place finish just wasn’t good enough. 2021 was a failed year.

Verdict: Too optimistic (4-3-1)

Suns coach Stuart Dew talks to players

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

GWS Giants

7th: 11-10-1, 99.7% (6th after finals)

What I said
“What I’m most interested in, is how a team that’s been told for years they’re good enough to win multiple premierships goes when they’ve been written off for once.

“It could break them, or it could unleash the beast – and I’m ever so slightly tempted to lean towards the latter.”

Prediction: 7th

What happened
The beast may not have been unleashed, but the Giants bounced back smartly from a terrible 2020 and an 0-3 start to the season to prove a few doubters wrong and return to the finals – claiming some impressive scalps along the way.

Verdict: Bingo (5-3-1)

Josh Kelly of the Giants celebrates kicking a goal

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Hawthorn

14th: 7-13-2, 85.2%

What I said
“Surely an Alastair Clarkson-coached side that boasts Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O’Meara in the middle can’t win the wooden spoon? They’re not the favourites, but they’re very much in the conversation.”

Prediction: 17th

What happened
The Hawks found a new gear once Alastair Clarkson announced he’d leave with a year to run on his deal and finished the year with a flurry of three wins and two draws from their last six matches.

While a 14th-place finish may look like I got it wrong, Hawthorn were undoubtedly one of the weakest sides going around in 2021 and were absolutely in the wooden spoon conversation for the majority of the year.

Verdict: I’m claiming the points (6-3-1)

Changkuoth Jiath

(Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Melbourne

1st: 17-4-1, 130.8%

What I said
“I’m bullish on Melbourne and, despite it costing me a handful of tipping points over the last two years, I’m bullish about them this year too.

“There’s no reason the Demons can’t continue to improve and I expect we’ll see them in September this year.”

Prediction: 8th

What happened
Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten already? We didn’t just see the Demons in September, we saw them dominate September. To borrow a line from an Oak ad, they didn’t just kill their premiership drought, they dressed inappropriately at its funeral.

My prediction may have been ultimately too timid, but I need to remind you I almost got laughed out of the room for suggesting halfway through last year that they were back on track. Apologies accepted.

Verdict: Should’ve been braver (6-4-1)

Clayton Oliver of the Demons celebrates after scoring a goal

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

North Melbourne

18th: 4-17-1, 70.3%

What I said
“There is an absolute mountain of work to do.

“In my books, they’re the heavy wooden spoon favourites.”

Prediction: 18th

What happened
North Melbourne weren’t as catastrophically bad as some predicted pre-season, but they occupied last place for literally the entire season.

Verdict: Bingo (7-4-1)

Jaidyn Stephenson

(Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Port Adelaide

2nd: 17-5, 126.3% (3rd after finals)

What I said
“I just wonder whether they’re in for an ‘easing’ year they slide back into the pack just a touch.

“There’s a lot to like about the list, but the Power could be in for one of those ‘not quite there’ years.”

Prediction: 6th

What happened
I was kind of right and kind of wrong. Obviously they finished well above sixth, but their struggles against the top sides around them were well documented. They only beat a fellow top four side once all season – by two points – and the demolition they copped in the preliminary final was proof they weren’t quite there.

Verdict: Could be a draw, but it’s my last day so I’m claiming a win (8-4-1)

Travis Boak of the Power and Ryan Burton after the loss

(Photo by Sarah Reed/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Richmond

12th: 9-12-1, 97.9%

What I said
“They deserve to start the favourites against anyone they come up against.

“That said, I’ll pick them to finish inside the top four once more, but go down in a prelim.”

Prediction: 3rd

What happened
Richmond put in the worst premiership defence since Adelaide followed up back-to-back premierships with a bottom four finish in 1999. Untimely injuries played a big role, but the Tigers never won more than two in a row in a very ordinary campaign few saw coming.

Verdict: As shocked as the rest of you (8-5-1)

Toby Nankervis looks on

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

St Kilda

10th: 10-12, 91.5%

What I said
“A popular pick by many to slide, I actually really like what the Saints have done over the offseason.

“I’m confident playing in a much better side where [Brad Crouch] doesn’t need to be numero uno in the engine room will see him reach a new level and help power the Saints to a higher finish this year.”

Prediction: 4th

What happened
Brad Crouch had himself a pretty decent season, but the Saints were arguably 2021’s biggest disappointment and their 10th-place finish ultimately felt quite generous given how many times they got blown off the park. This was a shocking prediction.

Verdict: Outrageously wrong (8-6-1)

Jack Steele

(Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Sydney Swans

6th: 15-7, 119.9% (7th after finals)

What I said
“A cleaner bill of health and more games from their impressive young guns could see [Sydney] narrowly escape another bottom four finish, but anything higher than 12th would be a stunner.”

Prediction: 13th

What happened
I thought I was being a bit cheeky having the Swans that high! Instead, they blew us all away by not only being one of the better sides in 2021, but also being one of the most entertaining to watch. They’ll be disappointed with how their finals campaign ended, but the season itself was a roaring success.

Verdict: Happy, but incorrect (8-7-1)

Tom Papley (R) and Callum Mills of the Swans celebrate

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

West Coast Eagles

9th: 10-12, 93.2%

What I said
“I’m worried about the Eagles coming into 2021.

“I can’t shake the feeling they’re in for something of a disjointed year as older players fall out of form and younger players aren’t quite ready to pick up the slack – and I think it could result in a surprise ninth-ish finish.”

Prediction: 9th

What happened
Oh how you laughed! The bemusement! The vitriol! ‘Shallow and cliched analysis’ I remember one user calling it.

Well, well, well. The Eagles were a shadow of their former selves – their older players did indeed fall out of form and their younger players were indeed not ready to pick up the slack. If I say so myself, my prediction was virtually correct to the letter.

Verdict: Nobel Prize-worthy (9-7-1)

Nic Naitanui of the Eagles takes the ball

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Western Bulldogs

5th: 15-7, 132.8% (2nd after finals)

What I said
“There’s no denying the Doggies have a great list that, on paper, should be a top four side.

“For now, I’ve got them finishing around fifth and winning their first final.”

Prediction: 5th

What happened
Well, they did finish fifth and they did win their first final…

…and their second and their third.

I never said they’d lose the semi, so I think I’m entitled to take the points here as well.

Verdict: Technically correct, which is good enough for me! (10-7-1)

Adam Treloar of the Bulldogs celebrates

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

And with that, the ink dries on my last article for The Roar.

The list of people I need to thank is too long and I hope it doesn’t come across as insincere when I say you know who you are.

Finally, to the audience. It’s been a lot of fun conversing with you over the last few years – even if you were especially harsh about my tips this year.

I wish each and every one of you the very best.

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