It’s almost that time of year – Round One is a matter of weeks away and predictions for the coming season are starting to fly around AFL circles.
Experts and journalists, desperate for their slice of the relevancy pie, start emerging from hibernation and begin waxing lyrical about the coming season and where they envision teams succeeding and failing.
Sometimes they’re held to account for their extremely misguided takes – Robert Walls is the poster boy for AFL media foolishness after last season making the statement that the West Coast Eagles would win the wooden spoon. Well, the good news is two-fold. He is now no longer part of the football media, so you’ll be spared his out-of-touch views.
But he’s also now employed at Carlton to mentor Brendan Bolton, so I’m guessing while that’s great news for 17 clubs, it may be less warmly received at one.
But in fairness, Walls has a few mates when it comes to terrible predictions, and here at The Mongrel, we have long memories.
Before I start swinging for the fences, I should start by putting my hand up and admitting my own moments of misguided idiocy sprinkled among things I got relatively right last season. Here goes…
I thought Joe Daniher was a red hot chance at winning the Coleman in 2018. Alas, Osteitis Pubis entered the equation and squashed the chances of that happening.
I had West Coast in the eight - just. I thought the loss of Sam Mitchell and Matt Priddis would leave a hole in the midfield that would be more difficult to fill.
I questioned whether the move of Darcy Moore to the backline – mooted as Collingwood’s big change heading into last season – speculating it was going to be a disaster. It was, but that was due to Moore’s entire year being disrupted, irrespective of where he was supposed to line up.
I predicted that Luke Hodge’s move to Brisbane would be a disaster – it’s been anything but, with Hodge providing the Lions with plenty, including one of my favourite moments of the year when he ironed out Dyson Heppell..
And then I speculated that we’d been too quick to anoint Alex Rance as the greatest defender ever. I feel the last one was justified, given we saw some games in 2018 where Rance was soundly beaten. Still, another AA selection in 2018 is hard to argue with, and if he gets another in 2019 he will place himself in the conversation.
But I did say that North Melbourne was a much better team than others were giving them credit for, and would be nowhere near bottom of the ladder. Pretty happy with how that one worked out.
But enough about my poor predictions – let’s pick on others. Its more fun.
I try to stay away from the traditional “pick your top eight” kind of scenario. So many things can go wrong, as we’ve seen in the last 24 hours at St Kilda, with Jack Steven and Jake Carlisle both looking at missing times for mental health and back-related issues respectively. In the context of a season that runs over six months, making predictions is an absolute crapshoot. So many things can change so rapidly that it makes the business of predicting one of bravery, with a healthy dose of stupidity mixed in. And the line between those two attributes is very blurred.
Of course, that doesn’t stop those in the public eye from making those kind of predictions. Let’s have a look at their track records.
For the purpose of this exercise, I’ve delved into my less-than-extensive archive of footy preview magazines to secure the 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2018 season previews from the Herald Sun. I toyed with the idea of buying the 2017 version from the Herald Sun, but they want something around $15 for it, and it’ll take over a week to get here, so I’m passing on that.
Let’s start in 2012, shall we?
Ah, these were the days before Mark Robinson was the Chief Football Writer… good times. Still, he was able to somehow come to the conclusion that CARLTON was going to win the flag. He also made the call that Billie Smedts would be the next big thing in the AFL. Yep, this guy possesses one of the biggest voices in Australian Football. Great, huh?
But he wasn’t the only one on the Blues bandwagon – Gerard Healy also predicted the Blues to win it all, and Daryl Timms gave us the pearl of wisdom that Tommy Walsh was the next big AFL thing. How did Walsh’s career pan out? I have no memory of this bloke playing AFL footy at all.
A quick visit to afltables.com reveals Tommy Walsh’s career stats – five games averaging 6.40 touches for Sydney. I guess we can rule out Timmsy as a talent scout, huh?
We make the leap forward to 2015, and with the Hawks coming off back-to-back flags, things appear a little simpler for our panel of experts.
Of the 20 experts, ten of them successfully predicted the Hawks to win the flag. However, Gerard Whateley thought Port Adelaide were a big chance, and he had some support from David King and Sam Edmund, whilst old mate Timmsy went some way toward redeeming himself for the Tommy Walsh faux pas by correctly selecting the Hawks to win it all.
In something that would become a common theme, West Coast – the eventual runner-up, were left out of the top eight by 18 of the 20 panelists. The only two that had the Eagles as part of their finals series were Ron Reed (who?) and Sam Landsberger.
Heading into 2016, not one of the 18 panelists had the Western Bulldogs selected as premiers. As a matter of fact, Shane Crawford, Dermott Brereton, Rebecca Williams and David King didn’t have them in the top eight.
Now, I don’t know about you, but for an expert analyst, David King has appeared on my radar twice in the two years he’s been part of it up til this point (he wasn’t a part of 2012 at all). He’s missed West Coast making the finals in 2015, and the Dogs making the finals in 2016 (and here’s another tidbit… he also doesn’t have West Coast or Collingwood in his top eight in 2018 - three terrible efforts from three attempts).
I reckon it could very well be time to put a line through Kingy in terms of his predictions and rely on him for his Champion Data-fed analysis during the Fox Footy broadcasts… I legitimately enjoy them..
Derm holds a bit of an inauspicious distinction here – in 2016, he failed to have either the Dogs or the Swans in his top eight. So, neither of the eventual grand finalists were in his top eight teams for the season in 2016. That’s a tough look for Derm.
17 of the 18 surveyed thought Essendon would win the wooden spoon, with only Jon Ralph believing Carlton would be so poor that they couldn’t do better than a team with half their players suspended.
And so, 2018… hands up those surveyed who had West Coast as the premiers?
Hands up those who had West Coast as finalists.
Hmmm, to be fair it was a very tough year to predict, with only one out of the 20 surveyed appeared to have a little faith in the Eagles – Dane Swan. The rest, including Mark Robinson, James Hird, Mick Malthouse, Matthew Lloyd and Dermott Brereton (and David King, remember?) didn’t have the Eagles in their top eight. Swan was joined by two others - Jay Clark, and Gilbert Gardiner (?) in picking the Pies to make the finals. Go Dane - that loyalty really paid off.
Makes ya wonder about the rest of the experts though, doesn’t it?
So, where is this all heading? Why is The Mongrel sitting here, shooting down the opinions and predictions of those who get paid to have an opinion on footy? Well, the answer is two-fold.
Firstly, it is painfully apparent to me that most experts really have absolutely no idea what teams will look like and how they’ll perform heading into a season. Seriously, if only one expert has the guts and brains to go against the hive-mind mentality of “West Coast will fall way down the ladder” and predict the eventual premier can make his top eight, then the rest of them know no better than you or I. It kind of makes their pre-season predictions kind of redundant. They really seem to have little idea.
Secondly, here at The Mongrel, we actually think some of you DO know better than those in the media. Whilst it is a job to many in that forum, it is your passion. You’re not following it because you’re being paid to - you’re following it because you love it. You’re invested. You care.
As such, we’d like you to put your mouth where our money is. Yep, in the coming weeks you’ll be able to record your predictions to win $250 in prizes in our annual competition; The Ultimate Mongrel.
Unlike the generic “name your top eight” kind of predictions, we’re offering dozens of fields where you can exercise your footy knowledge. And because it’s The Mongrel, and you’re our kind of people, it’s free to enter.
Who’ll get the most touches in the league? Who’ll take the most contested marks? Who’ll win the Norm Smith? Which coach will be first to be sacked?
Over 50 questions that go beyond the basic questions the experts completely botch every year will form part of our season predictor. Interested? Stay tuned over the next week as the Old Mongrel starts putting together as comprehensive a football survey for the 2019 season as you’re going to find.
2019 Ultimate Mongrel is coming. It’s your chance to put the experts, and your mates to shame.
As you’ve seen from the examples above, it can’t be too hard, right?
And hey... if you'd like to support us, you could head over to our Mongrel Shop and purchase one of our hideously overpriced hoodies or notebooks. We even have a place for donations now. ORRRRRR, get one of the more moderately priced stubby holders or bumper stickers. Click the links below. Keep The Mongrel alive in 2019.