I’m sure I am not the only one that gets things wrong. Look, according to some, I may be the only person who never gets things completely right, but all of us put our foot in it at one point or another, don’t we?
Sadly for me, most of the things I get wrong can be found in the archives of this very site for those intrepid enough to look for them before I delete them. seriously, though, rather than be called out at some point about a prediction or a thought, I figure it’s better to own errors and embrace them.
And that’s what this column is for.
In the AFL Media landscape, it seems as though “experts” bounce from one hot take to the next and if they get one wrong, they simply don’t acknowledge it. Like Jay-Z, they’re onto the next one. If they’re operating on the Broken Clock model, eventually they’ll get a couple of things right and they can hang their hat on those for a while.
One bloke I do like is David King – he loves his stats, and engages with your everyday supporter on social media. He seems like a good egg, but when he makes his predictions, you’d be best to steer clear of them. From 2015-2022, Kingy has predicted ZERO premiers, with the average finishing position of tenth for the teams he did pick to win it all.
And they called Lou Richards the Kiss of Death…
Even I’m not that bad – how did Kingy miss the Tigers in 2019/20?
See, we all put our foot in it, and now that I have made myself feel better about things by throwing Kingy under the bus, here are some of the things I was dead wrong about over the last 12 months.
CONOR MCKENNA WAS A POOR RECRUIT
Yes, well I’m not sure how wrong a bloke can be about his first prediction, but I have been pretty wrong about this. I should explain myself.
I didn’t like the last couple of years McKenna spent at Essendon – feeling homesick, running back to Ireland and playing in a Gaelic Football game whilst under contract… hell, I remember Ollie Wines getting smashed in the media for going water skiing in the pre-season – Conor was playing competitive sport!
And then there was the noise about him wanting to play forward, only for Heath Shaw to run off him to snag two goals from half-back in one of the games where he got his wish. I just didn’t feel like McKenna had his heart in it. Gaelic Football is an amateur sport – the AFL pays good money and in coming back to the league, I thought that maybe McKenna was looking at a decent payday and little else.
He has slotted into the Brisbane defence like a hand in a glove… or five condoms, maybe. And as the season progresses and be becomes more comfortable in the role, he seems to be getting better!
With Daniel Rich missing for a good chunk of the season… mainly due to being a bit of a good chunk, himself, McKenna has been vital to the Lions with his run and long kicking from half-back. There have been no hints that he is feeling homesick, and no indications he is dissatisfied with the role he has been allocated – the bloke is just playing good footy, and whilst that is great to see, it hasn’t reflected well on my lack of faith in him.
HAWTHORN WOULD WIN THE WOODEN SPOON
Look, the Hawks haven’t been great – let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but I may have failed to recognise just how shit West Coast and North Melbourne were going to be.
Hell, this section is two wrong predictions in one, as I genuinely thought that North Melbourne would show a decent amount of improvement this season. I felt justified after the first two rounds – you cannot get better than going 2-0 for a club that struggled so much in 2022. But then… well, the wheels kind of fell off. Then the bumper bar. Then the wipers stopped working and the muffler started dragging along the road.
That last one actually happened to me when I was a young man – and when I got home the whole exhaust pipe simply fell off the car! The 1982 Holden Gemini… what a car! It waited til I got home to fall apart!
Anyway, North have now lost 18 in a row. I had a West Coast fan message me last week with a sense of humour, stating only shit clubs lose 18 in a row, after his own club halted their run of losses at 16. Funny stuff.
Anyway, given that I expected North’s stockpile of high draft picks and young leaders to buoy them, and West Coast’s decision to bolster their list with another season of the perpetually injured brigade, I thought they may be a bit better than the Hawks, but I was surprised. The Hawks have demonstrated a competitive fire and spirit about them that I wasn’t sure would be evident this early in their development. There is some fire in the belly of the young Hawks, and I have to say, I love it!
Prior to the season, I had quite a few discussions with people about the choices Sam Mitchell made. Whilst I was certain I didn’t want the club going down the same path as the Eagles and their old brigade hanging around too long, I was a little miffed at seeing Tom Mitchell depart after winning a Brownlow with the club. I just wasn’t sure you treated club greats that way, but I do see the results, and I have to admit that Sam Mitchell had a vision and he has stuck to it.
And it is working!
It was on full display as the Hawks took it up to the ladder leaders and gave Collingwood an unexpected whacking this past weekend, giving me a swift elbow in the ribs in the process to prompt this column.
As for the Eagles – they now have to make some tough decisions that probably should have been made 12 months ago pertaining to Luke Shuey and Nic Naitanui. Shuey is an unrestricted free agent. Nic Nat has a year to run on his deal. Some mature conversations need to be conducted.
North, well… I am hopeful that Alastair Clarkson will now get a clean run at season 2024 and we can start to see that improvement I thought would come this season.
FREMANTLE WILL CONTEND IN 2023
This bloody mob has shown they have the capacity to be a good team – they have beat Melbourne at the MCG and Geelong at Kardinia Park this year. Those types of wins don’t just happen by accident – Freo were the best road team in the game in 2022 and had demonstrated the ability to play anywhere and do it well.
But they fell over multiple times, lost to North Melbourne, for God’s sake, and dropped games at home they should have banked (Carlton, Richmond, Bulldogs). This was a team that was on the rise last season with one of the best-balanced defences in the game… and you build a winning team by building a strong defence.
Luke Ryan, Alex Pearce, Brennan Cox… they were the pillars of the Fremantle back half, but a lack of pressure through the middle allowed too many easy entries and even with that type of talent back there, the Dockers have been unable to hold back the rolling tide of opposition goals.
To compound their defensive woes, the Dockers are also the fourth-worst scoring team in the league. When you are the fourth-worst defensive team in the game and the fourth-worst scoring team, chances are, you’re rubbish, and that is exactly what Freo has been for long stretches of the season.
However, I do not believe that this is a case of throwing everything out the window and starting all over again – not by a long shot. As stated, the defence, when healthy and firing, is one of the best, The midfield is still young – or at least the star power of the midfield is, and the forward line boasts excellent ground-level players in Lachie Schultz and Sam Switkowski.
So, why did they fall down?
Some have pointed to the exodus of players following the 2022 season. I don’t buy it.
The biggest loss was Blake Acres, as he was not as easily covered as Griffin Logue (defender without a defined role in the Freo defence), Rory Lobb (a sook), Darcy Tucker (not best-22), Connor Blakely (not best-22), and Lloyd Meek (playing behind Sean Darcy and Luke Jackson so not best-22, either).
Acres’ run on the wing was pivotal and gave James Aish the chance to play more on-ball (and as a defensive mid where required). The other loss was David Mundy, and it was perhaps a bigger loss than I expected. They recruited Jaeger O’Meara for next to nothing to replace him, but whilst you can take the place of someone on a list, you don’t replace what a club legend means to a group. And the Dockers have not walked as tall without Mundy out there.
I still think this group can make an impact in 2024. You don’t win games like they did in 2022 by luck. This team needs to file the pain of 2023 away and use it to drive them back to finals. I’m getting ready to make a statement you’ll no doubt throw back at me this time next season – Freo will be the big riser next season.
SYDNEY WOULD AVOID THE POST-GF BELTING HANGOVER
I don’t believe in superstitions, hoodoos, or entire teams being scarred by an experience – apart from those superstitions Jimmy Ayres trots out weekly as part of his Austrology AFL horoscopes… I’m all in on them. So the theory that there is some type of psychological damage done to teams that get whacked in Grand Finals… I don’t buy it.
But the 2023 season of the Swans was close to backing up that theory once again, wasn’t it? It happened to Adelaide in 2018, to GWS in 2020, and with Sydney probably having to win the remaining two to have a chance at a spot in the finals, it looks as though it may happen to them. They’re not dead yet, but they’re not exactly having the best time out there this year. They have to win against the Crows this week, which may set up a life or death clash against the Dees in the final game of the season.
Injuries to almost all their key defensive players was more likely the culprit than some mystical force that flattens the runner-up from the year before, but with just half a game separating the Swans from those outside the top eight, their destiny is now in their hands. I thought they’d go close to playing off for the flag again this year – their kids are brilliant (Gulden is superb – if you haven’t watched a game and taken note of what he is doing, please do so) and will only get better, but their stars have struggled this season.
Cal Mills has been injured and is only now playing some good footy, Buddy, even before the calf injury that ended his career, was average, Heeney was up and down, and Papley was not having the same type of season he did in 2022, either.
When you add that to the defensive woes, you can see why they struggled, but after another win, this time against a Suns team that had the wood on them at the SCG this weekend… guess what? The Swans are back in the hunt!
I may not be completely wrong, yet!
But hey… I got some right, too.
– Rory Lobb would be a poor choice at the Dogs. TICK!
– GWS would be a lot better this year. TICK!
– Nat Fyfe is not a forward. TICK!
– Sam Taylor is one of the best defenders in the game. TICK!
– The St Kilda kids would stand up early in the season. TICK!
– Tim Taranto would be the best recruit of the year. TICK!
And there is one I am particularly interested in how it plays out.
Former Geelong Falcons will continue to gravitate back to the nest.
I wrote about it earlier this year. Darcy Parish remains out of contract, and rumours continue to circulate that Geelong want Sean Darcy (he is out of contract after 2024). Watch this space… the Cats tend to get things done, and if they don’t make finals, expect them to hit trade/free agency period pretty hard.
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