As the top ten clubs prepare to battle it out for positions in September; the members of the anointed bottom six of St Kilda, Brisbane, Greater Western Sydney, Melbourne, Carlton and Richmond are readying themselves for the proxy, inverse battle for the wooden spoon.
The allure of finishing in the bottom three should be most prominent for St Kilda, Brisbane and Carlton. A trio of stand out key position players in Patrick McCartin, Peter Wright and Sam Durdin loom as top three picks, and all three clubs desperately lack tall talent.
However, despite the temptations found at the top of the draft , clubs like GWS, Melbourne and Richmond can’t afford to lie down and strive for top picks. Melbourne has shown drastic improvement under Paul Roos this year and needs to continue building a winning culture as the year goes on. GWS don’t really need any more picks having more first rounders in the NEAFL than most clubs do on a list. Richmond, meanwhile, needs to keep winning – or Damien Hardwick may not last the year as senior coach.
Round 16 will be crucial in determining the order of the bottom six, with Carlton facing St Kilda; Brisbane and GWS definite chances for wins; and Melbourne with a tough game against Fremantle in the Northern Territory. Carlton could sink as low as 17th – equal last – if the results are unfavourable, or favourable, depending on how you look at things.
The Blues have the most to gain from a low finish, with an ageing list and an incredibly lean draft period between 2009 and 2011 subsequently leaving only Andrew McInnes, Sam Rowe and Dylan Buckley as fancied future prospects. The Blues need to rejuvenate their list with as much young talent as possible, and this could start with securing a bottom three finish and getting one of Durdin or McCartin to help fill their exceedingly thin key position depth.
Similarly, St Kilda has a pressing need to get the best possible youth into their club. Their drafting between 2008 and 2010 was deplorable, with only Rhys Stanley and Arryn Siposs remaining on their list from the period. Nick Riewoldt’s stellar career is coming to an end and a replacement up forward is needed immediately, putting St Kilda in a similar position to Carlton. The Saints appear to be in the box seat for the spoon with a tough draw and injuries to senior players.
Brisbane is coming off an upset win over North Melbourne, and should take that momentum in against Richmond this week. However, after losing Sam Docherty, Patrick Karnezis, Billy Longer, Jared Polec and Elliot Yeo last year, they need to replenish their list. The advantage Brisbane has is its academy, which looms as a possible jackpot for them this year. The Lions are in a position where winning and keeping momentum is the best course of action to get confidence into their players and keep fans coming through the gates. They are essentially certainties for a top five pick regardless.
No club will ever admit to tanking, and the AFL will refuse to acknowledge its existence. However, it would seem that Carlton and St Kilda in particular are in positions that would be benefited by losing. So if you’re a supporter of one of these bottom five clubs, remember the silver lining that comes with each loss.