THREE rounds in and if anything, the season looks more unclear than before it began.
The two powerhouse teams of the last few years at least remain winless and seemingly heading in different directions. Carlton, Fremantle and the Gold Coast all won and the Pies finally got up but by only a point.
But the more things change, the more things stay the same. Bad kicking is bad football, wet weather footy evens everybody out and the Eagles still somehow can’t play well in Melbourne.
1. Start with Hawthorn, how can we not. They lost three of their last four last year; their only win in that stretch was against Collingwood with that last-minute Jack Fitzpatrick bomb. Sure, they had a kick after the siren in the Qualifying Final to get into a Prelim, but the game against the Dogs, and now this year thus far, suggests they have become quite beatable.
2. At the start of the year we identified issues with their underbelly, it is being exposed more than ever now. Other than Jarryd Roughead or Cyril Rioli they seem to be lacking the real matchwinners we all thought they had as late as last year.
3. And lastly on the Hawks, the big problem is now how to get out of this hole. Should they lose to Geelong on the weekend and their season is properly cactus, their ability to rebuild or renovate their list is done with. Here’s what Hawthorn did last trade period, which will impact them big time going forward:
OUT: Sam Mitchell, Jordan Lewis, Bradley Hill, Picks 10, 14, 23, 36, 48, 52, 54,57, 66, 68, 70, 72, 2017 1st (currently Pick 1), 2017 2nd (currently pick 19).
IN: Jaeger O’Meara, Tom Mitchell, Pick 88, 2017 2nd (Currently pick 32).
4. Their opponents in the Suns woke up and showed their list is still formidable. But the Gold Coast will still be flimsy in 2017 until they can show some consistency which you just feel isn’t that close. But make no mistake, that list is good enough, not sure if Rodney Eade needs to be let go to trigger success but they’ll be a finals player sooner rather than later.
5. Gary Ablett still comes home in 2017. There are some health concerns with his sister and he personally is keen to build a family in Victoria so every discussion around this for the rest of the season is just semantics, he is coming home one way or another. His contract will be torn up; it’ll be a Sam Mitchell-esque transaction most likely.
6. A team who is also zero and three, Sydney, they look to be ok. Not only are they still able to make the eight I feel once they get going, they are blooding a bunch of talented kids that when their veteran players fall of the cliff, perhaps like we’re seeing at Hawthorn, we’re seeing their replacements getting games already, a luxury the Hawks just haven’t got.
7. Another big loser from the weekend was Melbourne. Had Geelong on toast and should have won that game easily, they were by far the better side. Had they had gotten up they would be three from three and destined for September. But, especially with three months without Max Gawn, they could just miss the finals now. I think Jake Spencer will be serviceable, and I still think the Demons make the eight, but they’ve gone from certainties to questionable.
8. Port Adelaide had another great week and we must start thinking they can make the finals. Adelaide flexed their muscles and showed why they are up there with the GWS as the form sides of the competition and rightly in premiership contention, but make no mistake, the Power were good and will lose very few games at Adelaide Oval; if they were on the exchange they would most certainly be a ‘buy’.
9. Some teams to ‘sell’ on – Geelong and Richmond. The Cats first; they got over a listless Fremantle in the first week, did everything but lose to the rebuilding North Melbourne and somehow ended up in front of a Melbourne side who should have buried them by three-quarter time. They are playing Harry Taylor as a forward who is showing no signs of being better than Shane Kersten, their reliance on Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood is far too great, and whilst they take on the flailing Hawthorn this Monday, it wouldn’t shock to see them get done. There will be eight sides better by Spring.
10. A team who is doing better thus far, three from three, but won’t make the finals is Richmond. This team is better than they were last year, sure, and they are better than we might have expected this year as well, but they’re not finals material just yet. We love Daniel Rioli and for the next ten years if you’re a Tigers fan why you would get any number on your back other than #17 I’d be staggered, but Richmond still have some way to go. Their last two wins have been over opponents who performed way below their abilities, particularly the Eagles. A dry track in Perth and Richmond don’t get anywhere near West Coast.
11. What do North Melbourne do with Todd Goldstein? Suddenly Brayden Preuss has come in and looks a million bucks at 21 years of age. If North Melbourne weren’t in a rebuild I’d suggest they keep Goldstein but perhaps because they are, they should look to trade him. And who should target him? I’d say the Western Bulldogs. Cap space may be an issue, but Goldstein into that side, allowing Tom Boyd to be a mainstay forward, allowing Jordan Roughead to settle into a key position role, with that midfield, it could be fantastic.
12. Nathan Buckley coached very well on the weekend, and almost lost the game. Funny game, isn’t it?
13. Fremantle went with the kids and they are getting a lot of the credit for their resurgence. And some say that the Bulldogs were off a bit and let the Dockers in. But at the end of the day it was the usual suspects, Ross Lyon, Aaron Sandilands, Nat Fyfe, David Mundy, Lachie Neale and Stephen Hill who successfully contributed to that win. Chuck in Bradley Hill who looks fantastic on the Subiaco open expanses, and this side will do just fine, finals are still a massive chance.
14. The next time West Coast have a Melbourne game, Hawthorn at the MCG in two weeks, they need to come down a couple days earlier than usual and break the usual routine. This is getting ridiculous and perhaps they had big heads and thought they could roll the Tigers too easily, but regardless it’s a stigma they must break now before it impacts yet another season.
15. Usually in a good side players take Brownlow votes off each other, which makes sense. However, how many votes would Rory Sloane’s teammates be taking off him thus far? Still at $15, consider that a ‘buy’. Do so responsibly.
16. Sam Powell-Pepper into low $3s now, probably still value. Again, be responsible.
17. This week, some big games. West Coast and Sydney tonight, the Eagles must win, home games are everything to their year’s success, but the Swans will show something. Got an itch that Sydney pinches this week or next week’s against GWS, so watch out for them.
18. Melbourne take on Fremantle Saturday, a big game for both sides. The Dees, first time out with Max Gawn, need to just take the four points and move on as they look to get back on track. The Dockers don’t usually travel too well but after last week we want to see them back it up, prove it wasn’t a flash in the pan. Without Gawn the Dockers loom large.
19. Richmond might end up winning, and they are rightfully favourites. But they haven’t been playing that well, they are not yet that good, and the Lions have been playing some ok footy. Up there at the Gabba, with an ounce of luck, Brisbane could surprise a few.
20. And finally, Easter Monday. On one hand the Cats have used all of their nine lives the last two weeks, on the other hand Hawthorn have endured a week of eulogies. Can we get a draw?