The Bulldogs fell asleep in the second half of the season but next season looks a lot more promising. Port Adelaide took small steps forward in 2012 but will want to boost that development next season. Brisbane flew under the radar all season and in hindsight, shouldn’t have been underestimated.

 

Western Bulldogs
Win/loss record: 5-17
Ladder position: 15th
Percentage: 67.01%

It was a tough season for the Western Bulldogs, and that’s being a little bit nice.

You have to wonder how a team can go from 5-6, fresh after a victory over Port Adelaide the week after the bye, to not winning a game for the rest of season, which did include some genuine blowouts.

Whether it was an aging core tiring earlier in the season than usual, a group of young players not yet having the legs to run out a full season or just an inconvenient string of poor performances in a row is tough to pinpoint, but it’s something that first-year coach Brendan McCartney will need to work on.

Adding to that was the stagnation of players such as Liam Jones, Jarrad Grant, Justin Sherman and Pat Veszpremi which hurt, mostly up forward, with a lack of ability to convert inside 50s into scores killing them the most.

But what was there, while inconsistent, did impress. Captain Matthew Boyd had a near-All-Australian year season again, while Ryan Griffen, Robert Murphy, Will Minson, Dan Giansiracusa and Mitch Wallis all had fantastic years.

Combine that with the emergence of Christian Howard, Michael Talia, Clay Smith, Lin Jong, Jason Johanissen and Zephaniah Skinner as youngsters and the continual improvement from Easton Wood, Tom Liberatore, Dylan Addison and Luke Dahlhaus and there’s plenty of material to be worked with.


Looking forward to 2013

The Bulldogs have to assemble their side for the next five years, and they have to continue to do it now. From that, this year we’ve seen the emergence of young talent, which will need to have more regular game time to prove its worth.

Unmentioned yet are the versatile tall options in Jordan Roughead and Ayce Cordy, who can still become genuinely important facets of the future Bulldog outfit. Them as potential parts of a forward line can be very vital in what needs the most restructuring of the side, as you’d think that the midfield could maintain the same output.

With Jones and Grant still young, it’s also impossible to write them off as they could yet lock their place in the side for the year as scoring options.

And, with picks five and six in the upcoming National Draft, there’s even more talented youth to inject in what is truly a changing of the guard, plus whatever can come from younger players Jason Tutt, Fletcher Roberts, Matthew Panos and Tom Hill.

However, 2013 will begin to separate who will be a part of that side from who won’t. For a lot of players, it’s time to prove themselves, because it won’t be long before the old heads that support the club now won’t be there any longer.

And, for that reason, the benchmark of successful transition rather than premiership points should be set.

 

Port Adelaide
Win/loss record: 5-16-1
Ladder position: 14th
Percentage: 78.87%

Five wins and a draw from an entire season, in the entire scheme of things, isn’t a great record, and for most an unacceptable one. However, Port Adelaide should be completely pleased with their year on-field.

For a team not tipped by too many to reach heights much greater than their three wins from yesteryear, to nearly double that tally – including a memorable four-point win over ninth-placed St Kilda in the first round – and to do it with a very healthy and a very competitive percentage is a good effort.

And it’s one that can’t justify Matthew Primus’ sacking, either.

Kane Cornes re-emerged from being told he wasn’t wanted to winning a fourth best and fairest award. Playing every game this year alongside him was Brad Ebert and Matt Broadbent, who both, as 22-year-olds, made their name as part of the core of the future with consistently impressive years.

Senior players such as Jay Schulz and Dom Cassisi also had good years.

Many younger players also had their fair share of opportunity, and while some disappointed, some excelled. Names such as Chad Wingard, Jackson Trengove, Paul and Daniel Stewart and the late John McCarthy led the way in a year in which all bar five senior-listed players had a crack at senior level.

While that may stem from the injury list – Robbie Gray, John Butcher, Cam O’Shea, Cam Hitchcock and Jasper Pittard combined for seventeen games this year – it is definitely something to play into the hands of the next Power coach, development-wise.


Looking forward to 2013

Expect the year to be make or break for a lot of the players, young and old.

The new coach – whether it be Brett Ratten, Rodney Eade or whoever else – will need to sort out who can and will play from the rest, and that’ll be drilled into the minds of many fringe players.

For example, the ruck stocks; currently Jarrad Redden, Matthew Lobbe and Brent Renouf, are fighting for the number one role, with Daniel Stewart likely to maintain a role as a tall versatile player. It’s time for one of these players to step up because the constant rotation of these men in and out of the side doesn’t help the clearance midfielders.

Another key defender will not go astray either, with the loss of Troy Chaplin, but they are fairly settled for key position stocks.

However, the midfield brigade will need to be bolstered, no doubt – what is there and performing is good enough, but the drop-off from that to the rest of the team is detrimental to the side.

Players such as Andrew Moore, Darren Pfeiffer, Mitch Banner and Aaron Young need to make their mark as players to support the team and strengthen the lower half of the side, or hopefully enough, the top half.

But with the return of the injured players mentioned above, and another draft to recruit more talented youngsters such as another Wingard or Butcher-type top pick, there’s plenty of improvement to look forward to, and it’ll continue through to 2013. Expect more wins.

 

Brisbane Lions
Win/loss record: 10-12
Ladder position: 13th
Percentage: 91.01%

Finishing in 13th and finishing with 10 wins seem quite contradictory, yet Brisbane managed to do it in what was a year most of the Lions faithful would be happy with.

They were the type of team that most would consider to lose outside of the Gabba, but could rattle most inside it, which they eventually did through wins over finalists West Coast and Adelaide.

This will set a positive vibe, knowing that they can better some of the best teams in the competition with a well-balanced squad.

The midfielders – veteran Simon Black plus younger players in Jack Redden, Daniel Rich, Tom Rockliff, Pearce Hanley, Andrew Raines and Dayne Zorko – all had fantastic years, supported nobly by Ben Hudson and first-year Billy Longer at times.

And they played knowing that their defence could support them efficiently. Best and fairest winner Joel Patfull and Matt Maguire both had very underrated seasons and with Jed Adcock, Josh Drummond, Mitch Golby and Ryan Harwood playing through there and playing well, their back half was impressive.

It was just a matter of scoring conversion that held them back, mostly – Jonathan Brown and Daniel Merrett were very good up forward and former Hawk Jordan Lisle was handy late, but many small and medium forwards, while showing signs, couldn’t hold their place, and it led to inconsistency.

In saying that, Rich, Rohan Bewick, Aaron Cornelius, James Polkinghorne and Josh Green all looked to have futures hitting the scoreboard, which should hold the Lions in good stead.


Looking forward to 2013

Voss is on the right track, despite the criticism he can fall under. He’s developed a squad which, out of the teams outside the eight, may yet have the brightest future.

Their midfield has the core and the outside rotating flanker-type players to acquire a genuine depth, and their back and forward lines have already shown the skill and work rate to continue to improve.

However, it’s time for forwards to step up. Bewick looks good, but Cornelius, Green, Todd Banfield, Claye Beams and Patrick Karnezis need to prove to Voss that they are each worthy of a spot every week with consistent outputs up forward.

Combine that with the young Lisle and the potential acquisition of Kurt Tippett, the forward stocks look damaging. They just need the cohesion and flux in 2013 for their long-term benefit.

With other unmentioned youth – Jack Crisp, Elliot Yeo and Jared Polec can all play, as well as the injured Sam Docherty – plus older heads to return in Matthew Leuenberger and Brent Staker, the Lions only have improvement ahead.

How much improvement comes in 2013 will be interesting to keep an eye on.