Friday, March 31, 2006

Round 1 2006 early report.

Well I am laughing after one game. One up and seven to go.

For what it is worth I have gone for Melbourne over Carlton, Bulldogs over Richmond, Geelong over the Lions, Adelaide over Collingwood, Essendon over the Swans, Kangaroos over Port, Hawthorn to beat Freo.

All care but no responsibility taken.

Phil of the NSW Parliament House tipsters lured me back with the promise that this could be my year. But can I handle the pressure of being in the top half of the table?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Bombers in 2006

Since their first premiership in 1891 Essendon has won the most premierships (twenty) in the nation’s leading Australian Rules competition. Before Port Adelaide fans get too excited they should realize that their thirty-odd SANFL premierships are irrelevant.

Unfortunately, previous achievements are of little value when looking to the future. In 2005 Essendon had one of their worst years for a long time, although it was not as bad as it seemed because they lost several games by less than twenty points. One of their main problems was an inability to kick a winning score despite having the opportunity to do so. One of the main reasons for this was the early season arm injury to Lloyd who was only regaining confidence towards the end of the year. Another was that there was too much mucking around with the ball around the centre and half-forward lines instead of kicking it to the goal square.

What about 2006? As with most clubs the 2006 results will to some extent depend on the injury list—if players such as Hird, Lloyd, Fletcher, McPhee, Lucas, Hille and the Johnsons remain fit Essendon will finish in the eight. Another problem in recent years has been the tendency for players such as Fletcher, Lloyd and Rioli to get reported and suspended at inopportune times—this is not helpful. Given the fact that Essendon has never had early draft picks (one of the downsides of continually playing in finals) they have a pretty good younger brigade (more of them in later reports), but these players are still a year or two away from achieving their potential. A realistic prediction for Essendon in 2006 would be somewhere between eight and eleventh, although with luck they could finish fifth or sixth.

First Round. Against South Melbourne at Docklands. Both games last year were quite close. There is a fair chance of South having a premiership hangover, so Essendon has a good chance, particularly they should have almost a full list to pick from. I predict a three goal win for the Bombers. Barry Hall of course should still be serving a suspension from the preliminary final.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Decline and Fall of Various Empires

Faced with the almost infinite array of possibilities for the new season, I will take a leaf from the book of Roy Masters and boldly punt on the ups and downs from the end of home and away rankings last year.
Swans - the quiet (and injury free)achievers, you have got the target painted on your backs this year and don't expect another dream run with injuries. Down four places.
Melbourne. Nothing much going on there and a waste of space in the finals last year and the year before. Same position this year. Hope White stays healthy.
Brisbane Lions. Still a force. Up three places.
Collingwood. Showed some class in patches and a lot of ticker despite a crippling injury list. Up seven places.
Geelong. Frustrated last year, should have done better. Down one place.
Adelaide. Everybody hates you. Down six places.
Western Bulldogs. Thrive on adversity and could have made a mark in the finals last year. Will be there this year, up two places.
Essendon. Could have done better last year with an ounce of luck, will improve five places.
West Coast. Too short in the forwards and can't travel. Down five places.
Hawthorn. Worried most teams last year but could not sustain pressure. Experience will make the difference, up six places.
St Kilda. On the cusp, did not perform to expectations and unlikely to do better this year. Down two places.
Carlton. Nowhere to go but up, strong recruiting will bring out the best in the old hands. A proud club with a lot to play for. Up eight places.
Richmond. Ready to show some tiger. If they can improve their conversion rate they will ruffle some feathers this year. Up four places.
Freemantle. Have trouble delivering under pressure. The extra year will make a difference for the young players. Up two places.
North Melbourne. Will be there again this year but some legs are wearing out. Down two places.
Port. Likely to be there again but unlikely to improve. No change.

The Roy Masters column that I had in mind was written when there were five teams in the rugby league finals. The end result of all the ups and downs that he predicted had every team in fifth place. So I have picked everyone to come in at seven or eight. Not likely, but I suppose two will be correct at the end of the day.

Getting real for a moment, West Coast and Saints could consider themselves hard done by last year, wrecked by injuries at the wrong end of the season. The Eagles missed two stars and carried one through the grand final on one leg. Adelaide looked the goods but played one bad quarter against the Eagles and then kicked a string of points when they bounced back. Geelong would have to wonder about the game that got away. So the top five is likely to remain intact. Melbourne and Norths will hang in but their lists are likely to be too short at the end of the season unless they enjoy a Swanies type of dream run with injuries. They may be vulnerable and Port will surely fall out of the eight. So there is one place up for grabs and possibly two or three. There will be fierce competition for those places and any side but Carlton could be there.

North Melbourne Season Preview 2006

By Arden Fast

With the three year deal with the ACT government coming to a close, The Age's Caroline Wilson has helpfully suggested that North should look at playing some home games on the Gold Coast. This sort of speculation has been helped along by Commissar Demetriou re-starting talk about mergers and relocations, and of course this sort of negative media spotlight inevitably comes to rest on the battling Shinboners.

Meanwhile the club is getting on with business taking no notice of the knockers/experts who predict failure every single year and the end of the club every other year. A deal with the City Council and the State Government to revamp Arden Street into a prefessional training base has been struck and with new CEO Graham Duff formerly boss of the VRC and new number one ticket holder Ricky Ponting on board the off-field future is looking good.

On field, it's underdog status as usual. New full back Jon Hay admitted in an interview with the Herald Sun that he was baffled by the lack of credit given to the Roos by the media and the public:

"I think there's heaps of talent here and I don't understand it," he said. "Last year they finished fifth and even this year I had a look they're paying $2.50 to make the eight, which is one of the bottom four sides. I'm thinking, 'What's going on there?' They won 13 games and finished fifth at the end of the regular season and no one still rates us.

"I think we've got a really strong side all over the ground. It's great, I reckon, always being the underdog."

The addition of Hay at full back and the emergence of Jesse Smith has solidified the back line, the midfield looks even more potent with the rise and rise of youngsters like Daniel Wells and Daniel Harris alongside the Commander Adam Simpson and Brady Rawlings and the maturation of the big men such as David Hale and Hamish McIntosh. Up
forward there's plenty of tall timber with Nathan Thompson, Drew Petrie and the evergreen Sav Rocca and of course the dangerous Shannon Grant is always lurking. I reckon we'll give the eight a shake again and if we have luck with injuries the top four is not out of the question.

The devastating loss to Port in last years finals is a burning fire in the belly of Dean Laidley and his men and the best way to start to avenge that is to give those Teal wearing wankers a hiding in round 1, but the rage will drive the club on to make another appearance in the finals. The Shinboner spirit can only be avenged through finals glory!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Roll on Season 06!

After I ran out of puff midway through Season 05, there is an innovation this year, a team of contributors will come on board to provide their own unique perspectives. Recruitment is still under way, at this stage we are still short of a few places, so lets see how things pan out.

The idea is to have a supporter of each team contribute their view of how things went on the weekend. I will put the comments up in pairs for each game. Then of course others can buy in using the Comments facility. Those who are sufficiently enthusiastic can contribute extra stuff, like their favorite stories, their greatest team ever, how they learned to love the game, their most memorable achievement if they played, etc etc.

Contributors can use real names or a dummy, no probs either way. My tipping record was so poor last year I wish I had used a false name.

Lets start with a round of pre-season comments and predictions. The first cab off the rank here is our Kangaroos representative. Welcome aboard Arden Fast!