Brook Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA from Adelaide, South Australia
MORE SAINTS, LESS SINNERS
After a messy 2011 that featured player scandals, reputations on the line and a coach leaving for greener - some might say purple - pastures, the Saints have quietly ushered in a new era under incoming coach Scott Watters. With a handy draw that has them playing just two of the Top Eight teams from 2011 twice (Carlton and Sydney) and two sure wins against the Gold Coast Suns, there should be no excuses in what should be an exciting 2012.
Freed up from the dour defensive style of predecessor Ross Lyon, expect the Saints to play a faster, more attacking style under the tutelage of Watters. An injury free season from Nick Riewoldt plus the return of midfield spiritual leader Lenny Hayes will go a long way to having the Saints back in Final Four calculations.
Watch out for:
1. the continued emergence of Ben McEvoy as an elite ruckman in the competition.
2. a super midfield with the re-injection of Lenny Hayes to join Goddard, Dal Santo and Montagna.
3. new kid on the block Ahmed Saad, a pocket rocket who kicked 50 goals in the VFL last season. Saad will line up as a second goal kicking forward alongside serial pest Stephen Milne.
HAWKS TO SOAR IN 2012
After missing out on a Grand Final berth by just three points in 2011, Hawthorn will be fired up to get back to the big dance in 2012. With arguably a better line-up than the one that took home the Premiership in 2008, the Hawks are locked and loaded to take on Collingwood and Geelong as Premiership Cup favorites this year.
Alastair Clarkson must be licking his lips at the thought of his improved forward line after stealing medium forward Jack Gunston away from the Adelaide Crows. Throw in the expected return from injury of Lance “Buddy” Franklin’s main foil in Jarryd Roughead, and the Hawks forward line is looking more ominous than the impending shark attack music in the movie Jaws. Add in another season of super smooth Cyril Rioli and the classy Shaun Burgoyne, and you have an attacking combination that will strike fear into the hearts of any opposition back line.
Watch out for:
1. Gunston and Roughead to be classy supporting acts in the Buddy Franklin show.
2. more pinpoint short passes out of the back line by Birchall, Suckling and company.
3. opposition players being knocked flat by Jordan Lewis and Luke Hodge as these two Hawk stalwarts continue to show complete and utter disregard for their own bodies.
TIGERS TO RESTORE THE ROAR
The rebuild at Punt Road continues into 2012 as Damien Hardwick’s young charges build on a solid foundation that saw them finish 12th in 2011. The emergence of an injury free Trent Cotchin and the continued development of young gun Dustin Martin gave Tiger fans some hope that a return to the glory days may not be too far away.
Hardwick made some tweaks to the team in the off-season, adding solid if unspectacular ruckman Ivan Maric from the Crows to step in as the number one center bounce ruckman. The thinking is that Maric’s solid contested ruck work will get the ball down to Richmond's talented center brigade Martin, Cotchin, Tuck, Foley and Jackson to give Richmond first use of the ball at the stoppages – a big problem in 2011. The second tweak was to strengthen a weak back line. The Tigers drafted elite kick Brandon Ellis and traded for hard-running West Adelaide defender Steven Morris as a mature age recruit. If injured youngsters David Astbury and Dylan Grimes can return to health and continue their development, the Tigers hope to plug their leaking back line and improve significantly as a team.
Watch out for:
1. an injury free Jack Riewoldt to return to his elite 2010 form and challenge for his second Coleman Medal.
2. Tyrone Vickery to have a major impact in the Tiger forward line.
3. whether the Tigers sink or swim with a tough early draw. By the end of Round 10, they will have played every Top Eight team from 2011, starting with Carlton and Collingwood.
PORT TO TURN THE POWER BACK ON
After a putrid showing in 2011 that included giving away the first ever win to the Gold Coast Suns, Port showed a glimmer of hope by sneaking a win in their final round game. Coach Matty Primus has his work cut out to bring Power fans back to the footy, and the only way to do so is to win more games than they lose.
Gone are the old war horses in Chad Cornes and Dean Brogan who are continuing their careers with ex-Port coach Mark “Choco” Williams at Greater Western Sydney. In come some youngsters plus Collingwood recruit John McCarthy and West Coast recruit with a famous Port bloodline, Brad Ebert. The dilemma for Port and Primus is that they need to build for the future but the fans want to see them win now. It is definitely time for the Power to bite the bullet and build from youth. If Port can become competitive by the time they move into their new surrounds at picturesque Adelaide Oval, the Teal army will return in droves and give the upmarket Adelaide Crows a serious scare.
Watch out for:
1. an injury free season from Hamish Hartlett. If he stays healthy, watch Hartlett rise up the ranks to become an elite footballer.
2. Chad Wingard. Picked at number six in the 2011 National Draft, Wingard is full of promise and should get plenty of game time in 2012.
3. the freakish John Butcher. After an injury-plagued couple of seasons, the man who kicked six goals with as many kicks in one game last season is poised to break out and show off his talents.
COLLINGWOOD BUCKLEY’S CHANCE?
After a not so seamless passing of the torch from Mick Malthouse to incoming coach Nathan Buckley, will the Magpies remain the powerhouse unit they had become under Mickey M? The obvious answer is a resounding “yes”!
Collingwood is chock full of talent although a few early season injuries may test their depth. Fresh from giving All-Australian Leon Davis his walking papers, first Brett Macaffer and now Andrew Krakouer seem lost for the season with nasty knee injuries. The flip side is the return to fitness of Nathan Brown, the return from Ireland of Marty Clark and a fully fit skipper Nick Maxwell to lead the way.
Incumbent Brownlow Medal winner Dane Swan is back as half of a dynamic midfield duo with Scott Pendlebury. Add Dale "Daisy" Thomas and gun forward Travis Cloke into the mix and the Pies have a very fine squad. Emerging runner Steele Sidebottom joins Dane Beams and young Alex Fasolo as players with a very big upside and there will be improved output from Darren Jolly who had an injury interrupted 2011.
Watch out for:
1. Swan and Pendlebury to run rings around opposition taggers all season long.
2. Dane Beams to become the third musketeer in the midfield while chipping in with plenty of goals.
3. Buckley to smash his phone against the MCG coaches box window when Marty Clarke turns the footy over in the first minute of Round 1.
Article last changed on Saturday, March 03, 2012 - 10:52 PM EST