Sunday, 25 June 2006

Mid-Season Review

Or what passes for such a thing on this shambles of a site. Well the good news is that after starting 0-3 (I'm sure you remember that?) we go into the second half of the season 8-4 with wins over three teams in the eight, and creditable losses to each of the top two. The bad news is that history has shown this to be the point of the year where in the past two seasons things started going horribly wrong. In '04 we saved it until the last five games to botch things magnificently, last year we lost 7 in a row before wobbling into the finals and getting smashed. Where will it go wrong this year? My heart says Grand Final Day, my head says the first week of the finals (again..) But what of the components of this performance? Let's review shall we,

HITS


* Clint Bartram
Nobody taken at #53 in the draft should be able to walk into a side in Round One and play as well as he has this year. Runs himself into a frenzy, has good skills and a great defensive game. A star for years to come.

* Matthew Bate
Big, agile, finds the ball easily and can kick goals. Another long term player. Set shots for goal have been average but it's the only flaw in an otherwise excellent debut season so far.

* Cameron Bruce
All class. All the time. Five good years left in him if he stays injury free and can be consistently relied upon to be amongst the best on the ground in any given week. A gun.

* Nathan Carroll
All-Australian might be a bit strong but the scariest looking player in the league has gone ballistic down back this season and in partnership with Jared Rivers has formed the best defensive unit we've had since the Seecamp/Shanahan/Ingerson "Jurassic Pack" of 1998. I'm happy to admit I was wrong about him early last year because he has proven the critics wrong with authority.

* Aaron Davey
Has kicked goal of the year and 19 others that weren't too bad either. Consistently amongst the best and developing into one of the most important players we've got. Weathered a two week dry spell and came back with a vengeance to tear Collingwood's throat out on Queen's Birthday Monday. Best defensive forward in the league.

* Lynden Dunn
Has looked a more accomplished CHF in seven games than Miller has in two seasons. Takes marks, gets touches at ground level and more importantly kicks goals (10 so far). Still not fully developed and a chance to be frighteningly good when he is.

* James McDonald
Written off by many (including me, which proves what a fiasco this entire analysis is) at the start of the year but has responded with one of his finest seasons ever. Laid 15 tackles against Fremantle in Round 7 and has been a vital cog in our midfield with his assured disposal skills almost always hitting their mark. Is signed to the end of next season and has plenty left in him yet.

* Brock McLean
The next big thing has missed three games through injury but when he's been on-field he's played like a man with ten times more experience. Confident with the ball, good at getting it and tough as fuck. The X Factor in our midfield and a future Brownlow Medallist if I've ever seen one.

* David Neitz
Has defied age to put on a great season so far. Cracked the games and goals records AND kicked what surely must have been his finest goal ever amongst his 8 against St. Kilda from outside 50 on the boundary line. Probably has one more season after this left in him but is playing like a 20 year old again after a couple of years where it looked as if he was falling apart.

* Byron Pickett
Yes, when I got a text message at 4.30am while I was asleep in London that told me we'd signed him I cried out in anguish. Yes, I thought he'd lost it. Yes I said he had an arse bigger than Sydney Harbour during the pre-season. Yes I was - again - wrong. I've been suitably chastised and it's even been in the fecking papers. Has been a star, and along with McLean has added much needed grunt to our midfield. Looks to have a few good years left in him and may turn out to be one of the most visionary trades in recent history, and further proof of why professional coaching staff run football sides and not fat bastards in the outer.

* Jared Rivers
Was a Rising Star. Now is simply a star. If he ever attempts to go back to play in Adelaide I suggest we declare war on the state of South Australia and wipe them off the face of the map to ensure it doesn't happen. Along with Davey, McLean, Dunn and Bate he represents the group that will ensure that we're still a good side even after Neitz/Yze/McDonald etc.. have retired.

* Russell Robertson
Not having the year he did last season and has been struggling with injury but still represents a vitally important part of the side. Has kicked a goal in every game this season and other than against Collingwood (where Neitz and the midfield contributed the goals) has looked dangerous every week. The player that Chris Tarrant would love to be.

* Matthew Whelan
The most underrated man alive. One of those players that murder it week in week out but supporters of other clubs have no idea about it. Surely one of the best in the business against small forwards, and a man who launches into every tackle as if he's flattening the guy who stole his wallet. Undoubtedly destined to play a few more years and then be criminally forgotten by the wider football community. Another great year, and in a just society would be right in the mix for an All-Australian guernsey.

* Jeff White
Consistently kills it in the centre. Far more important to the side than I ever give him credit for. Mark Jamar isn't bad, and has certainly improved this year to the point of being non-cringeworthy backup, but I'd still take White at the centre bounce any day of the week. If, god forbid, we're going to win anything this year he needs to remain fit and firing. Has only just turned 29 and has plenty of football left in him - a statistic that somewhat arouses me.

* Adem Yze
Almost certainly not the player he used to be but has ripped out some slashing performances this year (Geelong/Fremantle/St. Kilda) to prove that he's still got it. And his now annual demolition job on Collingwood was quite amusing too. Another vitally important player to our Premiership tilt.

MISSES


* Brad Miller
Surpassed at CHF by Dunn after years of being groomed to play the position and now seemingly unable to get a game in our backline due to the second coming of Ben Holland. Touted as a future captain and stuck on the membership card he's gone backwards this year. Will obviously be back for another crack but his stocks have fallen dramatically so far in '06

* Colin Sylvia
Slightly harsh as he's still only played 20 something games but his progress has been nowhere near that of Brock McLean (selected two sptos later than him in the National Draft) and he's finding it hard work to break into our midfield. Will, undoubtedly, bounce back but those of us who fell for the hype when he was drafted have every right to wonder whether or not it's going to happen anytime soon. The new Travis Johnstone? The idea simultaneously amuses and terrifies me.

* Clint Bizzell
Has been great over the years but injuries have kept him out of the side this season and it's hard to see him winning back a consistent spot in the starting lineup again.

* Nathan Brown
Same as Bizzell. Has been great for the last six years, and there's still few others who play with the same level of intensity as he does. Signed to the end of next year I'm sure he'll back for more over the next season and a half but his year so far has been a bust.

* Brent Moloney
Hasn't been able to follow up his excellent debut season. Will be back (possibly with a vengeance, though we are unable to confirm this) but would struggle to break into our best 22 at the moment. I'm a big fan of his so consider this tough love.

* Alistair Nicholson
Sorry ladies, he's finished. Another year on his contract but the way Rivers and Carroll have come on he's nothing more than a backup for them now. History will remember him as a gallant competitor in a seriously undermanned (and often shit) backline from 2001-2005 but with what's on offer now there's no consistent place for him.

* Paul Wheatley
Our selection in the BigFooty "Adopt a Demon 2006" has dropped off the radar since Round Four. Is he still alive? What kind of adopted parent am I? I don't even know if he's injured or not but he'd have to grimacing at seeing Holland taking his position. At least if he's not getting a game on form it's because others are playing well in front of him - unlike 2003 when he was dropped for most of the year despite the fact that our defence was a Grade-A shambles which was being breached more often that Paris Hilton. Will be back I'm sure - you can't argue with running defenders who get 10/15 possessions a game.

NEITHER HERE NOR THERE


* Ryan Ferguson
Crippled in an accidental collision with Sylvia early on his absence has hardly been missed down back where Carroll and Rivers have been butchering it all year. Given that we already tried to trade him to Hawthorn at the end of last season he might again be dangled as trade bait later this year. Personally I'd like to see him go forward as part of the "Who the fuck is going to replace David Neitz then?" trials that we're going to have to run in the next year. I like him as a player, and he's every chance to replace Holland in the NEW JURASSIC PACK at the end of the year but if I was Ryan I'd be looking over my shoulder and wondering which club they're going to try and flog him off to.

* Simon Godfrey
To be entirely frank he's got no place in our best 22, but look at the win/loss record this year when he's been in the team (7-1). Maybe there's some method to the madness? Still scares the shit out of me every time he goes near it.

* Ben Holland
Has reinvented himself as a defender in the last few weeks (and who was calling for that two years ago? Your old pals at Demonblog.com that's who) but you'd be nuts to think it's going to last and be a longterm prospect. Contract runs out at the end of this year and he may survive for another if he can continue this form for the next four months.

* Brad Green
Came good when the rest of the team did in round four and has played well since. Interestingly his kicking for goal has absolutely lost the plot this season after being so good for years. Is 189.100 in his career but only 6.10 this year. I'm still not sure we shouldn't entertaining the prospect of trying to flog him off to get a top FF (Fevola anyone?) at the end of the season.

* Travis Johnstone
Controversial this one I'm sure, but I can't be alone in occasionally cringing at his disposal. Gets the thing like it's on a string and is generally excellent but ocassionally has costly brain explosions. And shouldn't be allowed to kick out as much as he does. Like Green he'd be a hit if we didn't expect so much of him.

* Shannon Motlop
Did what he was hired (at short notice) to do last year but hasn't been seen since Round One this season. Would love to see him back in the side for another run but he's no long-term prospect. Contract ends at the end of this year and will almost certainly be delisted but we can't have any complaints about the job he's done for us.

* Philthy Phil
I repeat what I said in the last match report. BIGGEST CULT HERO SINCE DARREN KOWAL. Hasn't actually done much this year but a great man nonetheless. Will almost certainly have him hamstrings explode again before the end of the year but no matter what else happens he'll always be my hero for the "If he kicks this I'm walking out and never watching football again. Oh, shit he has!" goal against Essendon in the '04 finals.

* Nick Smith
Hasn't played since 2003 but is finally showing some form at Sandy and even managed to be an "IN" earlier this year before being culled from the extended bench. Definately not the Neitz replacement that he was initially touted as, and probably not even an AFL standard player but tell me you don't want to see him line up just once for the novelty value of having missed two entire seasons between games - how often would that have been done before?

THE VERDICT


You know we could win a flag this year. We really could. But next year is going to be Year Zero - if we add an Akermanis or Fevola (yer come on, let's do it) then it's going to be the year that we go for it. Cross your fingers (and other things) and hope for it this year but don't despair if we cock it up because next season is going to be MASSIVE.

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