Season 2016, The Story So Far

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All Smiles: Michael Firrito and Jack Ziebell of North Melbourne celebrate the round 6 victory over the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium.

It’s round seven and the previously inconsistent North Melbourne sit on top of the AFL ladder, undefeated and with a high-scoring prowess. Hawthorn, the greatest club of the modern era, has received a thumping to the tune of 75-points against the AFL’s new super Giant in Greater Western Sydney. Last year’s Preliminary finalists, the Fremantle Dockers, sit in 18th position. Searching for answers with the most likely being a rebuild; the first in Ross Lyon’s coaching history. The agony and the ecstasy of the AFL is strong in 2016 – it’s great to have footy back.

It’s been a great start to this year’s AFL season (unless you’re a Dockers fan), with shock results and even bigger surprises. An American kicked the first goal on Anzac Day, Jarred Waite is arguably the most valuable player in the competition and Patrick Dangerfield seems like a distant memory for the Adelaide Crows – although, we all know he won’t be when he returns to the Adelaide Oval in round eight.

As the competition stands at round seven, there are probably up to an enormous EIGHT clubs capable of claiming glory on the 1st of October at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Hawthorn will make the top eight in 2016, and probably the top four. If they get there then the ageing but battle-proven premiership stars of the Hawks are more than a live chance of adding a fourth flag in the twilight of their dynasty. ‘Fourthorn’ does have a nice ring to it? Doesn’t it?

Many other teams do not think so, with North Melbourne perhaps leading that charge currently, the ladder certainly says so. They have overcome two tough tasks against the Crows in round one and the Western Bulldogs in round six. Whilst avoiding a late scare against an improved and inconsistent Melbourne side at Blundstone Arena. Many believe North Melbourne’s real test will be against Hawthorn at the MCG, win this and they can beat anyone perhaps, we will have to wait until round 21 for that encounter; and who knows what will happen between now and then.

The Geelong Cats and the Sydney Swans both sit in equal second, five wins and one loss each, with GWS downing Geelong at Spotless Stadium and the Swans falling short against the Crows in the match of the season at Adelaide Oval. Geelong this season are a new and improved model, adding Zac Smith, Lachie Henderson and Scott Selwood (yet to play) to their line-up. Oh, and Patrick Dangerfield who marked his arrival with a brilliant display against Hawthorn in round one.

The Swans are in some good form, playing some talented kids who have looked to ensure the Swans challenge for the flag again this year. They also have a 29 year-old forward with the last name Franklin, which helps a bit.

The Western Bulldogs set the tone for an exciting season, using their quick ball movement with run and dash to give opposition team’s windburn, they were quickly touted as premiership chances. Then along came a team called Hawthorn, who beat them of course, taking the four points and Captain Robert Murphy’s season. The following weeks would see more blows to the damaging half-back line of the Bulldog’s, with Jason Johannisen and Matthew Suckling both succumbing to injury. Football can be a cruel game, but the Bulldog’s will still be a dangerous side this season.

The GWS Giants as mentioned before, have never been scarier. Most people believed they were building quite nicely, with an abundance of top-end talent to choose from surrounded by the likes of Heath Shaw, Steve Johnson and the man mountain Shane Mumford. Then they decided to take this to another level, teaching the reigning premier a lesson with a 12-goal win. Greater Western Sydney are a premiership threat now, after all stranger things have happened – like Leicester City winning the Barclays Premier League. The element of surprise would be lower, but to finish outside of the top eight one season, and to win the competition in the next would be an incredible achievement.

The Adelaide Crows are playing some seriously good football, and sitting seventh on the AFL ladder will never quite do that justice. Their two narrow losses come against North Melbourne and Hawthorn and if they continue their recent form, there won’t be too many more losses to report on this season. The forward line is scary and the team features a number of role players who continue to serve Don Pyke admirably week in week out. The Crows are the pride of South Australia once again at the moment (sorry Port Adelaide) and if they can continue to score heavily then there are no boundaries as to where they can finish this season.

The last of the premiership hopefuls is the West Coast Eagles, last year’s runners up. With a brilliant forward in Josh Kennedy, a Brownlow medallist leading a strong midfield and an equally good defence, the Eagles are a team capable of reaching something special at the end of the season; as they so nearly did last year. It does help though if you can win away from home, an ability that is sorely lacking for this talented group of Eagles. If they can do that then they are capable of becoming the most dominant team in the competition, if not, the term ‘Flat-track bullies’ will stick along a little longer.

Melbourne, Gold Coast and Port Adelaide find themselves a game outside the top eight and pose no serious threat to the eight’s current incumbents at the moment. Although this can change with a couple of wins in-a-row.

The rebuilding Saints look promising from time to time, and Alan Richardson looks as though he is slowly building something at Seaford. Collingwood have been disappointing, and the downward spiral has looked to continue since Nathan Buckley took over. This can be arrested however, with a midfield that features Scott Pendlebury, Steele Sidebottom, Taylor Adams and Adam Treloar. Throw in an in-form and reasonably accurate, (I use the term reasonably very loosely) Travis Cloke and the Pies can find themselves improving substantially on their position, how long that takes remains to be seen though.

Carlton, Richmond, Brisbane, Essendon and Fremantle all round out the bottom of the AFL ladder. It’s a tight race but Fremantle edge out Richmond by a nose as the most disappointing club of 2016 thus far, but there isn’t much between them. The other three clubs are all having development years (afterall, there isn’t much more Essendon can do this year unfortunately).

It’s been an interesting and exciting year so far in the AFL, throwing up just as many questions as there is answers in the early stages. Will the Hawthorn dynasty continue or will we have a new winner at the end of season 2016? Time will only tell.

 

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