Position: 6th
Win-Loss ratio: 8-4
Points: 32

Season so far:

After an impressive start to the year with strong performances in their opening two games against North Melbourne and Carlton, the Magpies tailed off, suffering often heavy losses in four of their next seven matches. These defeats against Hawthorn, Essendon, Fremantle and Sydney placed serious doubts over the Magpies depth and top four prospects. However, this form was countered by their wonderful effort in upsetting the previously undefeated Geelong in round eight, followed by three straight wins going into their round 13 bye. As a positive, the Pies have successfully blooded a number of players including Josh Thomas, Kyle Martin and Sam Dwyer in their bid to cover the loss of key midfielders such as Dayne Beams, Luke Ball and Dale Thomas throughout the first half of the year.

Biggest Improver: Paul Seedsman

The 2012 debutant managed 11 appearances at senior level last season, mixing his time with the seniors and in the VFL. This season, the 21-year-old Seedsman has taken a large step in his development, playing in all bar two of the Magpies’ matches so far. He has lifted his output accordingly, recording 16.9 disposals per game; a definite increase from his average of 11.9 in 2012. The improvement in his game was especially evident with his round ten performance against the Brisbane Lions, where Seedsman collected a career high 28 disposals.

Biggest slider: Steele Sidebottom

After his 2012 breakout year, Sidebottom appears to have trailed off with his form this season. Most noticeably, his disposal average has fallen from a career high 26.5 per game in 2012, down to 23.2 this year. While still remaining a solid contributor, his drop in numbers has been noticeable, thereby placing more pressure on the likes of Scott Pendlebury and Dane Swan to step up and shoulder even more responsibility. Given the loss of key playmakers Dayne Beams and Dale Thomas for much of this season, the expectation that Sidebottom would step up his output in order to pick up the slack has not occurred and the Pies have suffered in big games as a result.

Prediction for the rest of the season:

Nothing short of a finals appearance will appease the Magpie army and although they are undertaking a process of renewal, the Pies are well placed for a tilt at the top four in the second half of the year.
With winnable matches coming up in the next five weeks after the bye against Adelaide, Carlton, Port Adelaide, Gold Coast and GWS. Collingwood should be well positioned to claim a top four berth, but their poor percentage will count against them in the final wash up.

Prediction: 15-7 (5th)

Position: 3rd
Win-Loss ratio: 9-3
Points: 36

Season so far:

The Essendon Football Club are to be commended on the way they have handled the first half of the season, with a record of just three defeats in the first 12 rounds. Of these losses, the first came against Geelong in round seven, ending the Bombers previously unbeaten start to the season. The follow up ten point loss against the Lions had some worrying of yet another slide, but the rallying comeback over the Blues in Round 11, and the consolidating win over the Suns last week has the Bombers well placed for a second finals appearance under the reigns of James Hird.

Biggest Improver: Michael Hibberd

An unheralded performer compared to last years Brownlow Medallist Jobe Watson and his high profiled teammates in Brent Stanton and former Saint Brendon Goddard, Michael Hibberd has become the most improved player in the Bombers line up. His 2012 average disposals per game of 17.8 has increased to an impressive 23.7 and he has also kicked five goals this season something he failed to achieve in the 13 matches he played last year.

Biggest Slider: Michael Hurley

Admittedly, his ability has not lessened, however the decision to name Hurley as the slider surrounds the increasing time that Hurley is unavailable for selection, or worse still incapacitated during a match. This has hampered his form and the Bombers could certainly do with his best form later in the year. Simply put, Hurley has averaged less disposals, marks, goals and time on ground compared to his 2012 season, and as a result the 23-year-old maybe lacking in confidence in his own body, therefore affecting his output each week. If he can get his body right and find his best form, the Bombers will rejoice as he is the type of player that could win a final in a ten minute burst.

Prediction for the rest of the season:

After the way the Bombers capitulated in the second half of last season, missing the finals this year after the start they have had would be seen as a massive failure and serious questions would need to have been asked of the coaching group. Realistically, given the Bombers’ run home, they could win as many as seven more matches placing them well and truly in the race for a top four position. However, a finish of 14-15 wins is well within the Bombers grasp and this would be a welcome finish after the off-field shenanigans that has plagued Essendon all year.

Prediction: 14-8 (6th)