All three sides will look back on 2012 as a season of wasted opportunity. Richmond will rue coming close and losing so many times from winnable positions, Essendon, bashed by injuries, crashed from the top four to miss the eight and
Carlton failed to live up to the early season hype.

 

Richmond
Win/loss record: 10-11-1
Ladder position: 12th
Percentage: 111.63%

The Tigers looked like world beaters at times during 2012, but yet again were plagued by inconsistency and were forced to sit on the sidelines during September.

Battling a tough early draw, a string of narrow defeats conspired against the Tigers as they began the season with four losses in their opening five games. Returning to form mid-season, Richmond seemed well-placed to break their decade long finals drought, however losing three matches in succession (Rounds 16-18) by a collective margin of eight points, ended the Tigers’ finals charge once and for all.

Trent Cotchin was a clear standout in a breakout season and was rewarded with the club best and fairest award, and All-Australian selection. Other key contributors were fellow All-Australian Brett Deledio, who also stepped up a notch to play his best ever season, while Shane Tuck too resurrected his career with a fine year.

Ivan Maric capped off the move from the Crows with a top three finish in the best and fairest, and Jack Riewoldt claimed his second Coleman Medal with a total of 65 goals.

The undeniable highlight of the year was the 62-point hiding of Hawthorn in Round 9, while the lowlights included the mid-season delisting of Daniel Conners and suspension to Dustin Martin, as well as blowing so many chances to win in close games that ultimately destroyed any realistic chance of making the eight.


Looking forward to 2013

The Tigers under Damien Hardwick are undoubtedly a much better outfit than the team he inherited from former coach Terry Wallace, but the failure to make finals will be rightfully seen as a negative. It is imperative that in 2013, the Tigers make the most of their talented list and play finals football.

They have a core group of highly talented players, but lack a secondary forward as Brad Miller wasn’t the answer, and a solid defender, which Troy Chaplin can offer should he move from the Power.

Age-wise, the Tigers have a young list, and with Chris Newman stepping aside as skipper, the opportunity to shape the club’s future with new leadership is one that must be grasped with both hands.

2012 debutants Steven Morris and Brandon Ellis enjoyed great success in the backline, and along with the likes of Alex Rance, Jayden Post, Matt Dea, and Jake Batchelor, will provide the backbone for the Tigers in coming years, and their expected improvement will assist the club in its finals dream.

No more can the Tigers say near enough is good enough. The time to make a serious run at a premiership must begin in 2013.

 

Essendon
Win/loss record: 11-11
Ladder position: 11th
Percentage: 100.05%

With a season that can genuinely be described as having two halves, Essendon failed to back up its 2011 finals appearance with a repeat performance in 2012.

Most observers would have been impressed by the Bombers’ early season form, with an 8-1 record, second spot and a solitary one-point defeat to the Magpies on Anzac day to their name. It seemed to be a precursor to an inevitable top four finish.

However, a six-point loss to the winless Demons in Round 10 spelled the beginning of the end for the Bombers, as they crashed from 10-3 and fourth spot after Round-14 to end up missing the finals, after losing their last six matches.

Jobe Watson enjoyed a stunning season, clearly leading from the front, and his endeavour for the entire year cannot be questioned.

The concern all season was for the persistent soft tissue injuries that occurred to so many players that cruelled the Bombers, and in the end, contributed heavily to the plunge down the ladder as they could not get their best 22 on the park at all.

Fully fit Michael Hurley and Stewart Crameri formed quite a solid forward duo, and evergreen Dustin Fletcher yet again completed his role with a minimum of fuss.

Brent Stanton began the year like a man possessed, but his form tailed away, along with his team’s fortunes. The continued improvement of youngsters Dyson Heppell, Ben Howlett, Heath Hocking and Jake Melksham would be pleasing for Bombers fans.


Looking forward to 2013

Having a fully fit squad to work with would be a good start for coach James Hird, and while this season can be seen as a failure, the Bombers’ early season form showed that at their best, Essendon is quite capable of matching it with the best in the league.

Continued improvement for the youngsters, combined with a better run with injuries, should see this Bombers line-up return to the September fold in 2013, but hard work is still needed, and the late season form slumps that have plagued this team in the last two years need to be rectified.

If Essendon fail to reach the finals, then the pressure will rise on Hird, but he still has plenty of goodwill and will be given ample time to ensure success for this list.

14 wins is not an unreal expectation, given the quality of players at the Bombers’ disposal, but this is provided they can get their best 22 on the park more often than not. This is the main concern for 2013, and must be attended to if any improvement is expected.

 

Carlton
Win/loss record: 11-11
Ladder position: 10th
Percentage: 108.00%

The Blues suffered a major fall from grace in 2012, and with it brought an end to the coaching tenure of Brett Ratten, thus paving the way for the appointment of three-time premiership coach Mick Malthouse.

After expecting a top four berth, the Blues will look back at 2012 as a wasted year.

In a season that started so promisingly, building upon last year’s finish in fifth place, the Blues’ year peaked after their Round 6 demolition of GWS, leaving them in second spot on the ladder with five wins. However, between Rounds 7-16, Carlton lost seven of their nine matches which ultimately killed off any finals hopes, despite a late season rally, which ended with consecutive losses to Gold Coast and St Kilda.

While crucial injuries to key personnel dented the Blues’ performance, the likes of Andrew Walker, Bryce Gibbs and Chris Yarran were unable to maintain their form of 2011, and subsequently the team suffered.

It must be remembered that each of Chris Judd, Marc Murphy, Jarrad Waite, Kade Simpson, and Andrew Carrazzo were missing for considerable portions of time during the year, and Ratten was forced to plug these gaps with players that were not quite ready for senior level.

However, the likes of Levi Casboult, Josh Bootsma, Tom Bell, Frazer Dale and Luke Mitchell all received some valuable experience at senior level which will definitely hold them in good stead moving forward.


Looking forward to 2013

Carlton under the coaching reins of Malthouse will implement a new game plan; how this performs will have a large bearing on where the Blues finish the 2013 season. However, a finals berth is considered mandatory now, given the reasons presented by the board for Ratten’s sacking, and anything less will have the Blues fans baying for blood.

If the Blues can keep their best 22 in the field for an increased portion of the season, this will greatly assist Malthouse in lifting the team back into top four calculations. It remains to be seen whether the Blues can acquire the much-maligned Travis Cloke, but if Malthouse gets his wish then Cloke will be in navy blue in 2013.

The likes of Dylan Buckley and Sam Rowe remain untapped resources and will play senior football, and in addition to the youth blooded in 2012, all signs point to a bright future for Carlton.

However, Chris Judd is nearing the end of a stellar career, and he needs as much support as possible. If Brock McLean can maintain his wonderful form from the second half of 2012, it would assist the Blues greatly.

In 2013, it seems it is the finals or bust for the Carlton Football Club.