It’s a great time to be an AFL footy fan. Your team is flying high. Doing great. New recruits are valuable additions to the side. Things couldn’t be better. Just don’t let the small matter of the season having not kicked off yet interrupt the wondrous reverie as you think about your club’s glory days just around the corner.
It’s that time of year again. The time when sports reporters (and coaches) breathlessly report that players are performing magnificently pre-season. Here’s a wrap of all 16 AFL clubs’ pre-season preparations. There’s no bad news here. Everybody is fantastic. Remember the current good times once the realisation dawns mid-season (or after round one if you’re a Richmond fan) that your team is going to let you down. Again.
BANG! Big, bad Barry Hall is the missing link. The missing link in the Western Bulldogs push for a Premiership, that is. The Herald Sun’s Jackie Epstein reports Bazza is an ‘instant smash’ in the Doggies’ first hit out of the pre-season, with a show of ‘controlled show of aggression’, kicking two goals from five marks. Flag drought be damned. It’ll be raining ticker tape round Footscray way in 2010 according to ex-Hawk Shane Crawford who predicts a Bulldogs Premiership – their first since 1954.
Collingwood fans are salivating (no change there then) over new Magpies’ ruckman Darren Jolly’s ‘jolly good’ dominant performance in the ruck and going forward. Jolly will give Collingwood ‘a valuable target’ up forward at times, with Jolly booting two goals in an intra-club match. Could this and Travis Cloke putting an awful 2009 behind him mean 2010 is Collingwood’s year?
Be afraid rival teams. Be very afraid. Port Adelaide ‘has appointed a new, mean-looking leadership group’ according to the Adelaide Advertiser’s Andrew Capel. And Justin ‘The Hoff’ Westhoff is looking hot. And former Richmond utility Jay Schulz is ‘looking good’. Looks like the Power could be the best team this season. In Adelaide, at least.
Or will they? Coach Neil Craig believes the Adelaide Crows third AFL flag is within reach. So does Crows CEO Steven Trigg. Shaggy haired forward Trent Hentschel is ‘flying’ and ‘training the house down’, adding to an already impressive‘ multi-pronged attack’. The Crows can score from anywhere it seems. Unstoppable this season?
Let the Fevolution begin with a Premiership! Well, that’s what Brisbane Lions recruit Brendan Fevola reckons. Fev has wasted no time playing the interstate rivalry card now he’s left Carlton for sunny Queensland, claiming ‘arrogant’ Victorian AFL clubs don’t rate the Lions. Coach Michael Voss predicts the new forward partnership of Jonathan Brown and Brendan Fevola can kick 170 goals between them in 2010. Flag winning form?
Forget season after season of underachievement. Explosive Fremantle Dockers forward Chris Mayne strongly believes the club’s first Premiership ‘is not far away’. ‘FFS’ will mean ‘fear Freo’s strength’ in 2010 instead of the FFS expletive shouted and muttered by their long suffering fans as the Dockers slump to yet another lacklustre defeat. Bigger, better bodies will ensure that won’t happen this season. Won’t it?
Hope is important. And Essendon Bombers‘ coach Matthews Knights hopes ruckman David Hille’s return from injury and strong showing in an intra-club match “gives us all great hope”. Hope of a successful 2010 and a march to finals footy. ‘A mostly healthy squad’ is cause for optimism down Windy Hill way.
Hawthorn superstar Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin has slimmed down pre-season ‘and is ready to repeat his 2008 feats’. Another Hawks’ flag is a distinct possibility. Especially since ‘several teammates’ have also slimmed down and pre-season training intensity is ‘well up’ lifting a weight of expectation off players’ shoulders. And waistlines.
Finishing bottom of last season’s ladder hasn’t dampened the Melbourne Demon‘s enthusiasm for the season ahead. The AFL draft pick system that sees the last be first when it comes to choosing new recruits means Demons recruiting chief Barry Prendergast is ‘confident the club has the talent to soon become a finals force’. Club president Jim Stynes says “We just know, this year, we’re going to get better”. Coach Dean Bailey described pre-season as ‘exceptional’. Exciting times?
Watch out for….’the Z factor’! North Melbourne‘s Jack Ziebell is ‘ready to face best’. He’ll have to wait a little longer since the Kangaroos are playing Port Adelaide in round one but a ‘young and aggressive’ Roos team guided by new coach Brad Scott’s stewardship is sure to give opponents a hard time. And being the new ‘no-booze Roos’ will give rivals sober cause for concern.
Adam Goodes is confident he can come up with the goods in 2010 by reinventing himself as a centre half-forward to solve the Sydney Swans‘ forward structure woes. Returning Irish prodigal son Tadhg Kennelly ‘has astonished’ coach Paul Roos and the club’s medical staff with his fitness in an intra-club match. Time for the Swans to soar again?
Refreshingly, there was a negative comment from the West Coast Eagles camp. Assistant coach Peter Sumich admitted towering 19-year-old Nic Naitanui “looked a little bit lost” playing as a target man in a pre-season practice match instead of his usual position in the ruck. However, there is ‘the belief growing around the Eagles that they are ready to re-emerge as an AFL heavyweight on the field’ according to WA Today’s Tim Clarke. Several star performances in an intra-club match add to that belief.
Despite falling short at the Grand Final hurdle in 2009, St Kilda coach Ross Lyon and top gun Nick Riewoldt are oozing confidence. Lyon declares the Saints are better than last season. Considering St Kilda only lost two regular home and away games last year before losing to Geelong in the Grand Final, it’s an ominous warning to the rest of the competition.
As defending Premiers, Geelong don’t need to play the positive spin game as hard as the other teams to meet fans’ expectations and sell season tickets. Matthew Stokes shaving off his Mexican drug lord style moustache is a positive development though. Especially since he’s charged with trafficking and possessing cocaine.
I feel sorry for Richmond fans. I really do. It pains me to note new coach Damien Hardwick likens the Tigers to the Hawthorn class of 2004 who went on to win a Premiership in 2008. This raises their supporters’ hopes once again. Perhaps such worry is misplaced. After all, Richmond ‘are set to forge a power forward line’ and Ben Cousins is the leader of a new Tiger pack. What could possibly go wrong?
And last but not least, Carlton – the exception that proves the rule. There haven’t been many positive vibes emanating from the Blues. They traded top goalkicker Brendan Fevola to Brisbane due to his off field behaviour. There was an infamous end of season booze cruise. A virus affecting several players meant an intra-club match was cancelled. They’ll probably have a great season. Unfortunately.