It’s been a topsy-turvy AFL season so far and the premiership race is wide open. Eleven rounds remain in the minor round for the wheels to fall off or to get a season back on track. In the race for September here’s how they’re placed at the turn.
Geelong with 8 wins 3 losses and a superior percentage leads the way. The Cats have added a much-improved defensive action to their free-flowing style of football and are a big chance to end a 44-year premiership drought. Jimmy Bartel and Gary Ablett Jr are in single figures with the bookies for the Brownlow medal.
West Coast is second, also with 8 wins. Time out for key on-ballers has hardly affected normal service and captain Chris Judd remains unstoppable. Ben Cousins, who is back from rehab, made a nationally televised ‘mea culpa’, which, to many, was long on the mea but a little short on the culpa. He must agree to a raft of conditions, including regular drug testing, before returning to the fold.
Hawthorn’s buddy system seems to be working. It goes like this. When in doubt kick it to Buddy. Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin that is. The emerging centre-half forward kicked a bag of 9 against Essendon and 6 last round against Sydney in a losing side.
Essendon, second last in 2006, are fourth behind the Hawks. Recruits Alwyn Davey and Mal Michael have added pace and strength respectively to allow old hands Lucas, Lloyd, Hird and Fletcher to show their class. Consecutive 1-point wins over the Swans and West Coast has confounded the tipsters.
Collingwood’s army is on the march and the Magpies sit in fifth place at the mid-season break. Despite injuries to key players, the Woods have maintained their good form and the mix of youth and experience has brought results. At their best they can give the flag a shake come September.
The Kangaroos, who started favourites for the wooden spoon, round out the four teams on 7 wins and 4 losses. Despite suffering three straight losses at the start of the year they recovered with 5 wins on the trot and on current form will make the eight.
Sydney, while similarly placed to their 2005 premiership year, have their problems. The new ‘hands in the back’ rule has rendered bustling forward Barry Hall anachronistic, dual Brownlow medalist Adam Goodes’ form is enigmatic and running halfback Tadgh Kennelly popped his kneecap again in Saturday’s win over Hawthorn. The Swans head a group of four on 6 wins and 5 losses
Adelaide’s tortuous training regime, devised by former Australian cycling coach Charlie Walsh has, theoretically at least, made the Crows the fittest team in the AFL. If they can ever get their best 18 out of rehab, that is. Two preliminary final defeats in a row and an aging list mean that 2007 may be their last shot at glory for a while. My guess is that it’s going to be a while.
The Western Bulldogs lie just outside the eight on percentage. While the Scraggers boast perhaps the second best midfield in the competition they lack marking power and rely too heavily on Brad Johnson in attack. When the run-and-carry game is denied them they know no other way home.
Port Adelaide was on top after 6 rounds but has stumbled since. Old time wharfies would be horrified that the Power has been labeled ‘soft’ and the switch to indirect ‘tempo’ footy has been a waste of time in more ways than one.
Fremantle’s ill-disciplined acts have seen them lead the league in players fronting the AFL tribunal. Mercurial forward Jeff “The Wizard” Farmer stands out with a 6-match ban for eye gouging followed by a 7-week club imposed ban for assaulting a Mt Lawley nightclub bouncer. Still the Dockers came home with a wet sail last year and they’re only a game outside the eight.
Brisbane has seen retirements and salary cap pressures reduce the ‘Kings of the Jungle’ to prey. The ‘Gabbatoir’ is feared no more. Early wins made some believe that the heydays were back but a draw against lowly Richmond is all that followed giving them 4 and a half wins.
Carlton’s played in 5 of the 6 highest scoring games this season. Problem is they’ve lost 3 of them. The Blues can entertain all right but they just can’t defend. If they can plug a leaky defence they could storm home.
St Kilda is down and out on Fitzroy Street and looking for an angry fix, metaphorically speaking of course. Off the field, the president is suing the ex-coach over an unpaid loan and the one-time best mates can’t stand each other. On the field, a plethora of soft tissue injuries means the highly rated playing list never gets on the park.
Melbourne supporters were throwing the chains in the back of the Range Rover for a winter in the chalet at Crackenback before the Demons snapped a 9 game losing streak with 2 straight wins. One more loss however, and its back to the glu-vine and the snow bunnies.
Richmond have 10 losses and a draw and that means they have plenty of time to decide who they take with the number one draft pick. Coach Terry Wallace mused before the season that the Tigers wouldn’t see success until well into next decade. Others are less hopeful.