Drug scandals, caps, $2 million pay packets, contracts, match fixing and a Horse’s head resting comfortably since September – no, it’s not the mafia – in fact it’s only the matinee, and the main event begins this Friday.
For the AFL it has been an off season like no other, with Essendon under investigation for peptide use, the Demons fined and football manager Chris Connolly suspended for tanking, hot air and controversy over the imminent interchange cap, the Kurt Tippett – Adelaide Crows contract saga, the introduction of free agency and finally, revelations that the man overseeing all of it pocketed a cool $2 million for twelve months work last year.
After a healthy, though ultimately unfulfilling summer diet of cricket, tennis and horseracing, come March the diehards become restless and only the finest Sherrin leather will satiate the football appetite. When 50,000 people congregate in Adelaide this Friday night, it will not be for the grand opening of the new Ugg Boot warehouse in Rundle Mall, but the opening bounce of season 2013 – and not a moment too soon.
Let’s take a look at how each team will fare in 2013…
Adelaide are the odds on favourites to collect the title for ‘worst guernsey,’ with this modern art / ink blot / new years day vomit design, dubbed ‘Murder of Crows’. With a new and large ‘Tippett sized’ hole in their forward line, which no amount of mullet will fill, as much as ‘the man with no first name’ tries, the Crows will struggle to reach the dizzy heights of 2nd again, though should win enough games to feature in September action.
Despite winning the pre season competition, nobody in Queensland seems to remember or care about who the Brisbane Lions are. After 10 wins in 2012 they should improve. History suggests, following their NAB Cup victory, that the Lions should reach the finals, though with home games against Adelaide, WCE, Carlton, Collingwood, Geelong and St Kilda they will struggle to win enough games on the road.
Placing their faith in new coach Mick ‘Chuckles’ Malthouse and captain Marc Murphy, Carlton will be under more pressure than the stitching in Kim Kardashian’s underpants this year. After missing the finals in 2012 and sacking a favourite son in Brett Ratten, anything short of winning a final will leave Blues fans questioning the decision to recruit a coach with a senior’s card. With an injury free year they have the talent to do it and will return to the finals.
Couldn’t give a shit – I hope Travis Cloke does his knee, Dane Swan gets arrested / punched up on King St / suspended for illicit drug use, Dale Thomas gets frustrated and leaves for another club, Alan Didak retires mid season due to ‘questionable associations with underworld connections’ and the whole damn institution implodes so we don’t have to be exposed to Eddie’s fake grin or Joffa’s toothless grin anymore. In saying all that, they will probably win enough games to play finals.
Even with the assistance of peptides in 2012 Essendon could not beat an inept Melbourne side and while the injection of Brendon Goddard this year will no doubt improve the Bombers, it simply means they now have two A grade players plus one very good senior citizen and a sprinkling of ‘good solids’. With the doping controversy set to loom over the Bombers for most of the season expect them to struggle and miss the finals. The only question then is what happens to Hirdy?
Footscray (Western Bulldogs)
The poor old Doggies had a horror year in 2012, winning only 5 games. Don’t expect 2013 to be much better. On the upside they can only improve on last years 15th position. Keep an eye on youngsters Dalhaus, Wallis, Smith and Wood who are future stars of the ‘scray.
Watching the Dockers dismantle Geelong in last years elimination final was almost as scary meeting this guy in the street after the game. 2013 should be a continuation of that form and see the purple haze crack the top four. If ‘Burj Khalifa’ Sandilands stays fit, Hayden Ballantyne continues to annoy the shit out of opposition players and Pavlich does what he does best, then at least a preliminary final is on offer.
The Cats are one of the great unknowns this season. ‘Sans Scarlett’ is the most important factor for Geelong circa 2013 and with an array of aging stars, mature age recruits and ‘almost there’ kids, they could tire quickly and miss the finals altogether, then again, if they played Hawthorn every week they would end up on top of the ladder. Pride alone should see them reach the bottom half of the eight.
Gold Coast Suns
Couldn’t really care less about where they finish or what they do. They will get flogged a lot and I predict the Giants will overtake them. They need a new guernsey before they will be any good, something that actually resembles a football jumper. Bottom four.
Greater Western Sydney
In the words of Calvin Candie of Django Unchained fame, ‘You had my curiosity, now you have my attention’. I like the Giants much more than the Suns. They have a better jumper, more talented youngsters, smarter recruiting (ok, if you overlook Israel Folau) and have a few more scalps under their belt (including pre season games). They will overtake the Suns this year, though will still finish bottom four.
While the Hawks narrowly missed premiership glory last year, they did come away with the coveted title of worst guernsey with this effort modeled by a unintimidating and unconvincing Luke Hodge and co. Returning to a more traditional strip in 2013 the Hawks will be around the mark again, boosted by the recruitment of former Bulldog Brian Lake. Not sure if they can win the flag, but will give it a fair shake. How hungry and driven are they to go again?
It has been ‘annus horribilis’ followed by ‘annus even more horribilis’ for the Demons since their last finals appearance in 2006. With the ‘Blind Freddy’ tanking allegations cum charges finally settled, the Demons simply have to win this year, and repay the fans who have cheered so long for priority draft picks. The big new ‘7.30 Report’ forward line of Clarke and Dawes adds some structure to a young side and high flyer Jeremy Howe will continue to challenge Anthony Hudson’s punning abilities. The Dees will win a few more games, though are still a long way from finals action.
After eighth place and an elimination final walloping in Perth last year, the Kangaroos are widely tipped as the side to fall out of finals contention this year. Then again, nobody is saying that with much confidence. They are not quite as good as Carlton at full strength, but are better than Essendon and probably Richmond and St Kilda, so they should maintain their spot in the eight.
Another side I could not care less about. Given they hail from Adelaide, it is not surprising that ‘the Smears’ possess some of the roughest heads and worst haircuts in the AFL, in John Butcher, Jackson Trengove and Justin Westoff. With a new President in Sunrise host David Koch, coach in Ken Hinkley and captain ‘almost Cat’ Travis Boak there is a minty, Toilet Duck freshness in the air at Alberton. That should diminish quickly with the kind of football they play and the bottom echelons of the ladder beckon again for a team who only won 5 times in 2012.
Once again, the Tigers are ready to roar – or so we are told. Of course every year is the year for Richmond and every year it lasts until about quarter time of Round 1 against Carlton. There is a little more room for optimism this year with the Tigers having some genuine A grade players and having taken some real scalps in 2012. Personally I would love to see the Tige’s back in the finals this year, what a place the MCG would be if they came up against Carlton or Collingwood in a week one elimination final.
Aah, my beloved Saints. I want to believe we can make the finals in 2013. As the ‘best of the rest’ in 2012 and having lost 5 games by 13 points or less we were not far off the pace. The next generation of Steven, Armitage, Stanley, Siposs and Saad must step up if we are going to do anything this year. If the fitness Gods are smiling and we play our best the Saints can be back in September action.
Last years surprise premiers would not shock anyone if they did it again in 2013. The Swans pulled off the most amazing recruit of the summer, somehow squeezing a 26 year old primed tall forward into a premiership team. While he won’t play until Round 12 because of suspension, the Tippett – Reid combination will be one to reckon with come finals time.
West Coast Eagles
The Eagles are many pundits choice for premier this year. I still remember the semi final against Carlton in 2011 and thinking this team was bound for something special. Darling and Kennedy are as good a forward duo as any in the competition. Add Le Cras to that forward line and Big Cox swinging forward will provide many coaches with sleepless nights. Former Collingwood recruit Sharrod Wellingham adds the Bogan icing to the WCE cake which has been absent since Ben Cousins’ departure in 2007.
It wouldn’t be a season preview without a final 8 prediction, so here it is…
WCE, Hawthorn, Fremantle, Sydney, Carlton, Adelaide, Richmond, Nth Melbourne
St Kilda and 7 other teams