The Roar
The Roar

AFL
Advertisement

Opinion

A perfectly reasonable and sensible prediction of the 2022 AFL season

Autoplay in... 6 (Cancel)
Up Next No more videos! Playlist is empty -
Replay
Cancel
Next
Roar Guru
10th March, 2022
30
2238 Reads

It’s that time again.

The Who once sang “got a feeling ’21 is gonna be a good year”. Much like the Walkers in Tommy, ‘21 turned out to not be a very good year.

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling ’22 will be the turnaround. At least until conquest, war, famine and death come riding along with a whole band of trumpeters, we still have the circuses.

Once again I have randomised the names of the teams into no particular order and will now provide spurious reasoning, sarcastic quips and petty jabs in a pathetic attempt to demonstrate why that order will occur this season.

I look forward to the usual comments from folk who didn’t read this section jumping down my throat.

Advertisement
Max Gawn

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

18. Power
Last season, Port got blown out in a home prelim by the Bulldogs in a choking performance that made it seem like their nickname was still Magpies after all. Nothing went right on the night and the match was over by quarter time. Once more Port Adelaide fell over in the finals after a solid home-and-away season.

Naturally something has to change. Port picked up Jeremy Finlayson from the Giants so their forward line has gone from having one patchy but potentially game-breaking key forward to two. His best is impressive but he is prone to disappearing.

Plus their most dangerous forward in Robbie Gray is another year older and I don’t know how much longer he can keep winning them matches. Ollie Wines may struggle to win another Brownlow without any support.

Advertisement

Ken Hinkley has been coach of Port Adelaide since 2013 and is contracted for 2023, but I can’t see him going that long without a grand final appearance. This will be his final year at Alberton.

17. Roos
They say that the kangaroo is one of the only animals that can’t take a step backwards. Last year, North Melbourne were as far back as one can be. That means the only way is up. Of course climbing vertically can be a slow process so a minimal step forward this year.

It’s hard to know exactly who is going to take the leap forward this year. Nick Larkey looks likely to loiter about looking for loot in the forward 50 for the next decade and Jason Horne-Francis is exciting as any number one pick is. However, there is plenty of work to be done to get the Kangaroos back into finals contention.

I think they’ll pick up six or seven wins, likely including one over a top-eight side, but the losses will be plenty and a few of them will be plenty big.

Advertisement
Jaidyn Stephenson

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

16. Suns
Oh, Stuart Dew. You seem like such a nice guy, and I think you have a good footy mind but you just can’t take a trick. And with Alastair Clarkson now available, I can’t see you lasting as coach of the Gold Coast.

The Suns don’t have a bad list. Touk Miller is one of my favourite players and he could give the Brownlow a shake at his best. But there seems to be a malaise over Carrara that prevents success from moving in. Maybe they’ll have to go to the Apple Isle to cure it.

I don’t know if Clarkson is the solution here. If Dew does get fired, the club will be at square one again. I don’t know if Clarkson wants to rebuild a list from scratch like he did when he started at Hawthorn again but the league will try to make it happen.

Advertisement

Maybe they’ll even get some games to go a certain way to make sure of it.

15. Eagles
The bigger they are, the harder the fall. The Eagles have fallen in a heap from their premiership success of 2018 so spectacularly it would be perfect for a retrospective on the collapse. Very little has gone right for West Coast since they won that grand final.

Their current playing list is starting to look downright geriatric with the second oldest list in the league and they lost arguably their main key forward to his steadfast refusal to take an injection literally billions of people have had to avoid a deadly pandemic.

Not to mention the injury disaster that has made their active list barely longer than the touring line-up of Earth, Wind and Fire.

Advertisement

West Coast will need to have a big bottom-out period. Sadly I think this means that Nic Naitanui will retire without a premiership medal. I don’t see West Coast competing for finals for at least another three seasons. Premiership contention might take twice that.

Andrew Gaff

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

14. Bombers
This is going to annoy some people. After a surprisingly successful season last year, some are tipping Essendon to finally break their 6000-plus-day wait for a finals victory. The randomiser says their Cincinnati Bengals-like streak will continue and won’t be broken this year like their NFL counterparts.

They are a relatively young and inexperienced list. That could lead to a second-year slump for Ben Rutten’s coaching. His quick-fire ball movement leads to some high-scoring games (which is nice to see) but leaves them vulnerable if they don’t score. I could easily see teams figuring out their play and/or injuries at the wrong time leading to a massive slump.

That being said, they have some exciting young players like Nik Cox and Andrew McGrath, who I think could compete for the most Crichton Medals since James Hird retired. But for right now, the Bombers’ long dormancy in finals footy will continue.

13. Demons
Well, I guess you could call this a hell of a hangover. With hell on earth seemingly getting more established every passing year, you’d think the Demons would find themselves well-adjusted for the lakes of frozen fire and ironic punishments. I guess even playing at home every week could still lead to a losing season if you don’t play the game.

The 2021 season was the culmination of an impressive turnaround with the Demons going from 17th to ninth to premiers in the span of a couple of years.

The pick-up of Ben Brown was surprising and early on seemed to not be worth it but Sideshow Bob paid his new team back by ably contributing to their finals run.

With the exception of part of the second and third quarters in the grand final, the Demons were never threatened during their charge to their first premiership since the introduction of the Australian dollar.

That’s all going to fall apart. Apparently. If I had to guess I’d say bad luck with injuries to key players and simple errors like the ones they made in 2019 and 2020 could see them drop out of the top four, but for Melbourne to miss the eight entirely, it’s going to take an intervention by Fathers Merrin and Karras.

Ben Brown

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

12. Tigers
A lot of people are predicting that Richmond will rise again. I (the randomiser) say they shall not. While there is hype around the return of Dustin Martin and what is likely to be the swan-song season of Jack Riewoldt and Trent Cotchin, I think this is missing the forest from the trees.

Injuries can permanently make a player weaker. For every one that comes back as they were before, there’s another who is never the same. Martin might not be able to dominate a game any more. And Riewoldt and Cotchin have been great players for their club, but there’s an obvious reason why people think this is the end. The game and age has passed them.

I don’t think the Tigers will be smashed in many games and I don’t think it’ll be a long rebuild like the last 30 years was. However, I don’t know if it’ll be short enough to get Martin and Tom Lynch another shot at the flag.

I don’t know why the TV industry thought eight was enough. Everyone in footy knows three is plenty. It was enough for the Lions, Cats and Hawks (kinda), it should be plenty for the Tigers too. Thank the Lord.

11. Cats
Father Time comes for us all. Even the greatest people are laid low by the ravages of age and eventually pack it in in this world for the undiscovered country.

Geelong have managed to stay competitive for the last decade despite not winning a flag since 2011 but with their best players almost entirely over 30, the Cats have run out of lives and it’s time for them to drop.

It won’t be a complete disaster, their good players are still good enough to prevent that from happening, but it is the beginning of a long climb back up.

Fortunately for them I’ve heard cats are good at climbing. The next few years will involve painful decisions on who to keep and who to move on. I have a feeling coach Chris Scott will be first on the list to go.

The biggest downside to this will be the pervasiveness of dead cat stories. Look forward to Kardinia Park being full of complaints about bugbears and conspiracy theories while Geelong starts picking in the top ten of the draft regularly.

Joel Selwood and Chris Scott

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

10. Bulldogs
Hmm. Well as a Giants fan I approve but I don’t think this is particularly likely. I guess if Richmond can drop out after back-to-back flags then a team that lost by 12 goals in the grand final can also miss the eight entirely. I should know. That happened to us when we lost by 15 goals.

So perhaps there was something in the third- and fourth-quarter collapse that foreshadows the Bulldogs returning to the not finals. The only quarter they scored more than two goals was the second. That suggests they were more holding the Demons back for most of the game rather than actually beating them.

Looking back at the rest of the finals, they were helped by Essendon’s inaccuracy in Week 1, got through a game that could have gone either way against the recent finals flops in the Brisbane Lions and then blew out the other finals flop of recent years in Port Adelaide in the first half before taking their foot off in the second half. While they all were wins, there’s plenty to point at that’s a bit less than solid, much like this run-on sentence.

Plus in a contact sport there’s always the risk of injuries. Josh Bruce still has plenty of time to go before he comes back from his ACL and that’ll put a lot of pressure on the rest of the forward line.

Jamarra Ugle-Hagan may not be the number one key forward that the Dogs want him to develop into. Maybe he’ll get traded to a rival and win them the flag as a ruck. Now that would be, as Bruce McAvaney used to say, delicious.

Sports opinion delivered daily 

   

9. Blues
Well if Ninthmond can’t have it, at least it goes to another worthy victim. People at Carlton are very excited about getting Michael Voss to coach after the David Teague train was derailed two thirds through its maiden whistle stop.

I guess they remember his Lions winning at the Gabba over them in 2009 and think that was all they needed to give him the keys to the car.

But the team with the worst theme song has plenty more to do. The best team they beat last year was the tenth-placed Saints and the closest they got to a top-eight win was a 16-point loss to the Bulldogs.

They’ve been spinning their wheels for the last decade and the sort of turnaround they’re looking for takes time and patience, something that is sorely lacking at Princes Park.

That being said, with a year of new coaching and more time to get the chemistry their up-and-coming list needs to compete regularly against the best teams, the Blues will be thereabouts soon.

Harry McKay might even go back to back in the Coleman. Unfortunately that means that awful song will be played more and Dave Hughes might be happy. That makes me want to grumble.

Harry McKay of the Blues kicks a goal

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

8. Giants
Say what you want about Toby Greene, everyone seems to already. GWS are in a bit of a weird spot.

Their best players are in the prime of their careers and they have some really good ones. But there’s a whiff of missed opportunities (believe me, I know) because they couldn’t get into the right situation to grab that elusive premiership.

That being said, you have to make finals to win them and the Giants have only missed them once since 2015 and they’ve won at least one final every time they made it. They’re experienced in the big games so they’re going to be a threat as long as they can put a solid team together.

Injuries have always seemed particularly cruel to GWS and with Jesse Hogan as the main big forward, it’s likely they’ll play a part this year too.

That being said, if Hogan is able to play at least 16 games, the Giants will play finals. If through some miracle he plays 20 or more he could grab the Coleman Medal. Not super likely I know, but stranger things have happened.

7. Hawks
Apparently the Sam Mitchell swap is going to work out. How on Earth am I supposed to justify this?! I hate you, randomiser.

Okay, what have Hawthorn got? They have some good albeit ageing forwards in Luke Breust and Jack Gunston and a solid key defender and motormouth in James ‘Tight Lips’ Sicily.

Plus their young players are really exciting. Changkuoth Jiath might be the best defender in the league in the next few years if he keeps developing the way he has been and the PCL injury last year doesn’t derail it.

Sam Mitchell was one of the best players around during his day and he was an assistant coach under Adam Simpson at West Coast when they won the flag before moving back to Hawthorn to coach the midfield and then the reserves.

There is a whiff of the Voss at Brisbane, James Hird at Essendon and Nathan Buckley at Collingwood appointments about this: a favourite son is appointed more so they don’t coach elsewhere rather than because they are the best option right now.

Maybe this time it’ll work, the randomiser thinks so. But all three of those coaches also made the finals in their first season in charge before it all fell apart so maybe this is more accurate than it appears. I doubt it very much though.

Changkuoth Jiath

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

6. Magpies
Oh, and Collingwood is going to host a final? What kind of drugs are you smoking, randomiser, and why aren’t you sharing?!

Hmm. I guess the Pies have the Daicos brothers and they seem pretty good. Scott Pendlebury is still around and he’s able to contribute. Brody Mihocek is a solid developing forward who could kick 50 goals this year.

Craig McRae has had a long time to develop his skills in coaching at both Collingwood and elsewhere so he should have the skills needed. Plus the club is finally rid of Eddie McGuire so he shouldn’t overshadow the footy team anymore.

All those are positives pointing toward a healthy improvement this year. A breath of fresh air can cause even the sickest to feel at least a little better and there’s quite the zephyr blowing through Victoria Park right now.

We’ll see how the wind is blowing come September, I suppose. Maybe it’ll turn out to be a fart.

5. Crows
I’m just going to stare into the camera for a bit like I’m in a sitcom.

I guess Adelaide has some nice young players in Riley ‘Thrillhouse’ Thilthorpe, Elliott Himmelberg and Darcy ‘Fortunate Son’ Fogarty. If these players can take a step up, then the Crows can compete and grab some wins.

I guess if they and older players like Rory Sloane have seasons that put them in All Australian conversations then maybe they can grab a finals spot.

The Adelaide Oval has some of the most vocal crowds in the country and if they’re allowed to fill it every week, that will give them a mental edge. Maybe that’ll be enough. It’ll have to be because I can’t see anything else to get them there.

James Rowe

(Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

4. Swans
The surprise packet of last season (I guess you could compare their turnaround to what the randomiser is predicting for the last three clubs), Sydney have many young exciting kids in their first picked squad and some older heads to lead the way. That’s a winning combination.

The big question is will the Swans continue their high-scoring ways (they were number three last year) or will John ‘Richard Harris’ Longmire want to shore up the defence by controlling the ball more?

My feeling is that they’ll drop a few spots in attack in exchange for climbing a few spots in defence. Plus the slick skills of the youngsters like Errol ‘Flynn’ Gulden, Justin McInerney and Ollie Florent will continue to impress and improve.

Lance Franklin is nearly at the 1000-goal mark and I personally hope that he does it at the SCG in Round 2, partly because I want him to struggle against the Giants in Round 1 and partly because when the crowd runs onto the field I don’t want to wind up a close COVID contact. But I digress.

3. Dockers
Well, well, well. I know a few Dockers fans who’ll get obnoxiously pleased by this: all of them.

It’s been a long time without finals for Fremantle with no action post Round 23 since 2015. Now that they’ve been free of Ross the Dross Boss for three years it’s time for coach Justin Longmuir to get them into a finals series.

Freo have some real positives despite their long-term September absence. Another year of David Mundy is always welcome and Matt Taberner should finally crack 50 goals this season.

They’ve kept Rory Lobb as second ruck/forward and their clearance work remains a real strength. Plus there’s no way that Nat ‘Mike Love’ Fyfe’s terrible goal-kicking accuracy can continue much longer, right?

I think they’ll drop their first final but win a semi. That’s a successful season, especially when you haven’t made it into the top ten in seven years. They just need to keep building and be ready for the premiership when it’s looking for a place to dock.

Sean Darcy

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

2. Saints
Oooo. That’ll be a fun final. St Kilda are one of those teams where you’re not sure where they are. Apparently they’re right in the premiership window according to the randomiser so the Saints will be marching in on the one day in September.

The Saints are a relatively old team when you look at their list. But that’s not a downside if they have the ability to go for the full season.

They were never able to build any momentum last season and several big losses, particularly in the first half of the year, meant that even their good wins in the second half of the year were essentially only good for morale. So a usual St Kilda year in the grand scheme of things. This year, they will be very meaningful.

The Saints start with five games that they should go 4-1 or even 5-0 in. With that sort of momentum the tougher stretches should be far more important and competitive. If they get rid of the blowouts and nab some of the close ones, then the sky’s the limit.

Could we even see Tim Membrey give the Coleman Medal a shake? Or can Captain Jack Steele defeat the evil megalomaniac trying to destroy the world with his death ray satellite, get the girl and win the Saints their first Brownlow since Robert Harvey?

We’ll see when Captain Jack and the Saints release into footy cinemas this year.

1. Lions
Learning how to cook a complicated meal takes time and several failures before it finally comes together. And a premiership is a Michelin-star degustation in the cooking world of footy.

This will finally be the year that Brisbane clicks it all together. Like a 1000-piece jigsaw or a flat pack bookshelf, the process of getting here was long and complicated but the completed work will be worth the wait.

Moving on from the tortured metaphors, the Lions managed to keep most of their team together from last year. After much media hype that Lachie Neale would head back across the Nullarbor he’s back for another season.

Lachie Neale

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

It turns out that the Lions’ most impactful off-season move would be losing Cam Ellis-Yolmen to the YouTube medical experts. I think they could have pushed harder for a trade for Jim Carrey as I think he could really have provided a morale boost with his banner writing. Nevertheless, Ellis-Yolmen walked in the facts-free agent period.

I foresee big years for Eric Hipwood and Cam Rayner. Both are coming off long-term injuries and have the ability to rip a game apart. Once they’re settled in the line-up again, the Lions’ attack will be even more potent.

The two of them also take more of the attention off Charlie Cameron, Dan McStay and Joe Daniher. With that sort of forward line the Lions will be downright impossible to stop on their march to a new premiership cup.

Which they’ll need to pawn when their crypto investments get dumped because some gold standard enthusiast clicked on a phishing scam. Seriously, get the hell out of crypto, you foolish league.

So that’s the ladder for the upcoming season. What do you think? Tell me how wrong I am (about the footy) and I hope you enjoy going to the matches. I’ll be giving them a miss until the league gets some sense back.

close