Collingwood will be looking to stamp its authority early and make a strong charge for finals with a revitalised forward line, Fremantle will be looking to capitalise on its captain’s 2012 form and hunger and Essendon will be hoping and praying that it doesn’t implode for a second year running; or keep physiotherapists around the country gainfully employed on their own.
2012 win/loss record: 16-6
2012 ladder position: 4th
Projected ladder position: 2nd – 5th
As hard as it is for those to admit that aren’t members of the one-eyed black and white army, Collingwood fans have had a lot to like on the field in recent years, and 2013 shapes up to be no different.
After demonstrating time and time again throughout 2012 that the squad was able to rally together to pull off victories in the tight encounters – ANZAC Day being the prime example – the Pies managed to finish an enviable fourth, notwithstanding suffering some crippling injuries throughout the year and having significant off-field distractions; most notably the protracted contract negotiations surrounding full-forward Travis Cloke.
Despite this – or maybe because of it – the Pies went on a 10-game winning streak, providing a platform for their finals assault which climaxed in a Preliminary final defeat at the hands of eventual premiers, Sydney, at ANZ Stadium.
However, with Cloke’s signature cemented and after some aggressive drafting and trading, the Magpies have managed to set up a multipronged attack which will leave several clubs scratching their heads with exactly whom requires the most coverage to temper the scoring possibilities – a position which will leave many green eyed.
There is no doubt about it, the Magpies can beat anyone and everyone on their day – they’re the very epitome of that old nursery rhyme about the little girl with the little curl; when they’re good, they’re very, very good, but when they’re bad, they’re horrid. Not many fans would have been expecting the 10-goal drubbing at the hands of arch-enemy Carlton earlier on in the year, let alone the follow up defeat in Round 15, but that’s just part and parcel with Collingwood. When the Pies click, nothing can get in their way.
The Magpies have potentially fared better than anyone in the off season signings department, securing Eagles big man Quinten Lynch, together with Jordan Russell from Carlton and Clinton Young from Hawthorn. Further, their first-round draft picks in Brodie Grundy, Ben Kennedy and Tim Broomehead all look to be promising players who should more than balance the team defensively once they attain senior status.
The Collingwood draw – always a talking point – sees the Magpies play 14 games at the MCG but with a tough run home. Given the 2012 issues with injuries, it would not be surprising to see a few youngsters blooded mid-year to enable the senior core group to withstand the attack of the final few matches against Essendon, Sydney in Sydney, Hawthorn and West Coast, before finishing with the easier Kangaroos.
Although Collingwood would need the injury gods and luck on its side, it is not unfathomable that the Magpies could be season 2013 premiers. That said, it is probably more reasonable to expect a top four finish, but they won’t lie down. Expect the Magpies to raise their version of hell as they fight tooth and nail to make the big one.
2012 win/loss record: 14-8
2012 ladder position: 7th
Projected ladder position: 5th – 8th
The end of season 2012 threw up some mixed results for the Dockers, who will be eager to start their 2013 campaign off with a bang in the local derby.
After moving captain Matthew Pavlich into a regular role in the forward line, coach Ross Lyon was rewarded for his trust with Pavlich having an outstanding season, leading the Dockers into winning their first ever away final against the reigning premiers Geelong – a feat that not many have been able to achieve in the last five years. Fremantle met an absolutely sizzling Adelaide unit at AAMI Park and were eliminated from the finals race by less than two kicks, but fans from the west were convinced 2013 would be a better year.
That belief wavered slightly when 21-year-old midfielder Anthony Morabito injured his left knee, requiring a reconstruction as a result of a pre-season mishap, his third in such a short career. Together with the buzz of having Pavlich back on the training track after hip and Achilles tendon surgery, the Dockers are ready to tackle whatever the year throws at them.
Although the loss of Morabito was one that the Dockers could do without, their run home at the hands of a relatively soft draw is one that many clubs will be in envy of. With three of their last four matches against 2012 cellar dwellers GWS, Melbourne and Port Adelaide, Fremantle will be looking to run into its finals campaign with a hell of a lot of momentum in an attempt to cause more than just a ripple in 2013.
With one of the league’s premier nigglers in Hayden Ballantyne, a player who is more than capable of getting into the heads – and faces – of opposition players, teamed with one of the best ruckmen in the league in Aaron Sandilands, Fremantle will be looking to build around the midfield to perfect its delivery into the forward line, leaving Pavlich to do what he does best.
The off-season acquisitions of Danyle Pearce as a free agent, together with draft picks Josh Simpson, Tanner Smith and Max Duffy, should help develop a streamlined unit which will only solidify under Lyon’s tutelage.
One would expect Fremantle to play a part in finals again this year, and whilst they might struggle to hold it together to make a Grand Final appearance, they are more than capable of shaping the ultimate outcome and cause some major damage to other clubs along the way.
2012 win/loss record: 11-11
2012 ladder position: 11th
Projected ladder position: 8th – 12th
Essendon, Essendon, Essendon. It was a season that the Bombers would love to forget, to wipe out from their memories, after promising so much and delivering so little.
The early season form of the Bombers was electric, racing to an 8-1 start and creating a stir amongst supporters, but the realisation that their early wins, all bar West Coast, were against weak opposition and the defeat at the hands of the Demons signalled the beginning of the end for the Bombers’ season. Despite losing by a solitary point to Collingwood in the traditional ANZAC Day clash, the Bombers struggled to match quality opposition for much of the season, resulting in a freefall spiral out of the finals and settling into 11th. Countless soft-tissue injuries, which resulted in effectively an entire squad on the sidelines, wreaked havoc on the club, but as a true captain does, Jobe Watson led by example time and time again, ultimately being rewarded with winning the Brownlow Medal.
Looking forward, Bombers fans will be delighted with the signing of ex-Saint Brendan Goddard, whose versatility and experience around the ground will be invaluable to the team and in conjunction with Jobe Watson, Dustin Fletcher and David Hille, will add some form of stability into a line-up that can tend to be overwhelmed and melt when the heat is on against quality opposition.
Unfortunately for fans of the black and red, it’s hard to see season 2013 as being one of finals redemption. Rebuilding and working their way through injury will be the club’s focal point, but a mid to long-term plan is precisely what the club needs. With the inevitable retirement of Fletcher and potentially four or five other stalwarts at the club, a succession plan is required and the balance of mixing experience with youth will be vital for James Hird to promote the Bombers back up the ladder.
A fit Michael Hurley, teamed with a fit Stewart Crameri, would be high on the Bombers’ wish list. Although injury has plagued the Bombers to date, consistency will be the key throughout the midfield and Leroy Jetta will be one that needs to lift to his full potential more frequently.
Injury excluded, it’s hard to see the Bombers matching it with the top of the ladder teams, but given an opportunity, it’s not unfathomable to see them scraping in to that final position in the eight. It might be just the redemption that Hird needs after the enforced “rotation policy”.