Adrian Caruso - AFL Analyst

Worked as a statistician/analyst for Champion Data 2001-2008. Was then the Opposition & Recruitment Analyst for the Western Bulldogs from 2009-2011. Currently taking some time away from football but still keeping a close eye on what's going on in the AFL world.

I am against Fantasy Footy and Footy Tipping as they are a pointless way for people to follow football.

As an exercise though, I am going to make my picks each week, but rather than tipping a winner, I am going to do it against the betting the line. I realise it’s very American but it is so much more interesting. Every game counts - there is no better example than this week when all the people doing regular tipping are picking Sydney without thinking about it and they know they got it right. How boring. 

With nine games per week now, if I get 5 correct each round I’ll be happy. 

Sydney (-90.5) over GWS

The Swans should win well, especially considering the inexperienced side GWS put in. Can’t see any records being broken though. 

Who are the hottest players in the competition heading into the season? Here is my top-15. I will update weekly based on form of players. 

1 Lance Franklin – His pre-season form is scary. Easily the hottest player in the competition currently.

2 Gary Ablett – Still the premier midfielder. 

3 Adam Goodes - Can do it all and is almost impossible to stop. Super pre-season. 

4 Chris Judd - Can’t drop him down the order just yet. Still a match-winner. 

5 Dale Thomas - Game-breaker. Stats underrate his importance and influence. He’s not far behind Judd, mainly because he is desperate on defence as well as offence. 

6 Luke Hodge - Versatile leader. No weakness. 

7 Marc Murphy - Ball magnet who had a superb 2011. Set for another big season. 

8 Joel Selwood - Don’t think the captaincy responsibility will affect him. 

9 Matthew Pavlich - Could kick 70+ goals this year if he’s a permanent forward.  

10 Scott Pendlebury - Averaged 34 disposals in the 2011 finals series, the most of any player since Robert Harvey in 1997. Pure class. 

11 Dean Cox - Still the best ruckman in the game. Dominated the pre-season. 

12 Travis Cloke - Hard to argue his importance given his 2011 numbers. Key to Collingwood’s success. 

13 Cyril Rioli - Ready to set the competition alight in 2012 if he gets more midfield time. Again, stats don’t tell the full story. Uses the ball well, kicks and sets up goals, and applies pressure. 

14 Steve Johnson - Will be interesting to see how he starts the season but still one of the best forwards going around. 

15 Brendon Goddard - Mightn’t have had the best season in 2011 but still one of the toughest players to match up on. 

This is not where I think each team will finish. It’s more of a ladder based on buzz of each team heading into the H&A season based on form, injuries etc and how I think they will begin the season.    

1 Geelong (1st in 2011) - Haven’t done enough wrong to justify a drop just yet.

2 Hawthorn (3) - Could possibly have been number 1 before the Bailey injury. The buzz team of the competition, with their best player Franklin putting up one of the most impressive pre-seasons of recent times.

3 Collingwood (2) - Drop a spot because of their injury list and overall underwhelming pre-season. Nothing to be alarmed by but the Round 1 clash with Hawthorn will be telling.

4 West Coast (4) - Still unknown how much the LeCras injury will be felt. Nicoski and Masten out too will test their depth. Not many other worries at the moment and soft early season schedule.

5 Sydney (6) - Jump Carlton because they have an easy Round 1 game coming up, lack of injuries and solid pre-season with some impressive performances from youngsters.

6 Carlton (5) - With some confirmed outs for Round 1 and a tricky opener against Richmond, the Blues have lost a bit of their swag. Poor pre-season results are not at important as the injury list. All they need is to win enough games to make top-4 and will hope to peak at the right time of the year.

7 Adelaide (14) - Strong pre-season bumps them up more than any other side. Their talent level, new coach, new game plan, off-season acquisitions and no injuries are all relevant. Should aim to win 4 of first 5 games.

8 Essendon (8) - No significant improvement or drop-off compared to last year evident yet.

9 Fremantle (11) - New coach, good pre-season form and a list with a top-6 talent level bumps them up.

10 St Kilda (6) - Under the radar at the moment. Hard to know what to make of them just yet under new coach. No injuries and still possess enough superstars to be a contender.

11 North Melbourne (9) - Not a lot of buzz but signs are OK.

12 Western Bulldogs (10) - Morris out first part of season is huge. Question marks on Lake, Cooney, Griffen. Tricky early season draw.

13 Richmond (12) - Yes they beat Geelong last week but let’s not get carried away. Let’s see if they can get some early season wins for a change. Super tough start to the season, playing four of last year’s top five early.

14 Melbourne (13) - Sylvia, Jurrah and Grimes will miss the start of the season. Jurrah distraction. Will take a while to get going under new coach.

15 Brisbane Lions (15) - No Brown will make it tough to get early wins.

16 Port Adelaide (16) - Will be interesting to see their early season form. They have inconsistent written all over them.

17 Gold Coast (17) - A bit of an unknown. WIll improve, but by how much? Likely to climb as the season goes on.

18 GWS - Going to be up against it to get off the bottom of the ladder at any stage. Scully injury is a blow too. No-one expects much from them so can only exceed expectations.

Predicting specific ladder positions or a Premier prior to the season is rather pointless as there are so many factors involved.

Rather than doing so, I have analysed each team and assessed each team relative to their 2011 win tally, broken into three categories:

MOVER - Will win more games than in 2011 and will generally improve

STAYER - Will win around the same amount of games as in 2011 and be generally at the same level

SLIDER - Will win fewer games than in 2011 and will generally decline

I have taken into account a number of factors, both objective and subjective, and have also included who I believe is each team’s main candidate to have a breakout season and establish themselves as a regular contributor at AFL level. 

Seeing as they play the season-opener this weekend, I will start with Sydney and GWS (who obviously have nothing to improve on).

SYDNEY (12 wins and a draw in 2011 H&A season, Lost in Semi Finals)



·      John Longmire hasn’t changed the game plan much from the dour days of Roosy. With the modern game heading back in recent seasons to more contests, the Swans are suited because their strength is around the stoppages and in not over-possessing, just getting the ball going forward. They have a good mix of players who excel in tight, and now possess a number of players who can run-and-carry on the outside and deliver the ball effectively forward. They beat up on the poor sides, meaning they will rarely if ever be a candidate to bottom out. 

·      Goodes is showing no signs of slowing up. Still one of the most influential players of the competition at age 32.

·      Sam Reid could be anything. Along with Tom Lynch (Gold Coast) and Nathan Vardy, he is the best young key forward in the game. His hands are elite, and has presence up forward. A 40-goal season should be a target in his third season.

·      Gary Rohan and Lewis Jetta, in their third season, should be ready to explode

·      Luke Parker was a revelation in his first season and was a huge bargain at pick 40 in the 2010 Draft.

·      The midfield post-Goodes and Jude Bolton looks healthy with Jack, Kennedy, Hannebury, Parker and Bird all under 25.

·      Alex Johnson played 20 games in his debut season, extremely rare for a key defender coming straight out of the TAC Cup. An excellent acquisition, he will only get better. Not a potential A-grader, but the early signs are good regardless.

·      Jed Lamb rarely gets spoken of – could be a surprise packet this year and provide even more X-factor to their forwardline.

·      Of their 12 games in Sydney this year, only three are against last year’s top five sides. They should win at least eight of those, including two potential percentage boosters against GWS. Their road games aren’t too difficult either.

·      Josh Kennedy has been an outstanding acquisition. Elite stoppage player suited perfectly to the Sydney style of play and plays well in big games.

·      Mumford became one of the competition’s best ruckmen in 2011 and has been a great pickup. He gives them a contest 100% of the time at stoppages, which can’t be understated in the modern game. 

·      Jarrad McVeigh, Jude Bolton and Ryan O’Keefe are showing no signs of deteriorating just yet and all are key players who have had great careers.

·      Nick Smith is underrated as a defensive stopper and makes good decisions with the ball. Every team needs a player like him, similar to an Alan Toovey at Collingwood.


·      Their home record in 2011 wasn’t great (7 wins, 5 losses). The best sides (Coll, Geel, Haw, Carl, Frem before injuries hit) all defeated them in Sydney. All of their home wins came against the poor sides. There are queries on whether they can mix it with the best, and they meet both Hawthorn and Geelong twice. 

·      There are still a few question marks over their forward setup. For all the hype, Reid only kicked 22 goals last year and was their third-leading goalkicker. This puts a lot of pressure on Goodes to reproduce his tallies from the previous three seasons (38, 44, 41). The jury is out on Walsh, Morton, White etc.

·      Goodes has missed three games in the past 12 seasons. At 32, can he remain so freakishly durable? 

·      They lack a small forward tackling machine ala Banfield, Garlett, Dahlhaus type. I will be interested to see if Harry Cunningham can play that role this year. We know they can tackle in tight and around stoppages, but in open play I wonder if they can stop the opposition from going coast to coast.  

·      Their backs still struggles one-on-one. Shaw, Mattner and Malceski especially are all good at attacking, but when planning against the Swans the message was always to get it in quickly to make them defend because it is clearly their weakness. It is easy to exploit by teams who getting first hands on the ball and move it forward quickly against them, which the best sides did in 2011.  

·      While the top end of their list is strong, they don’t have much depth. They only have 21 players I consider to be ‘core’ players who can be relied upon weekly, so if injuries hit they will be forced to put in players who are unknown quantities such as Armstrong, Meredith, Everitt, Morton, Moore, Spangher etc. 

·      They were 4.5 wins behind West Coast last year, who finished 4th. While I think they can improve on their win tally, it will need to be rather significant to get them a top-4 spot, which they need to be any chance of making it to a Prelim. 


Luke Parker - as soon as he was selected in the 2010 Draft it was obvious the Swans had someone who would play 200 games on their hands. He fits their game plan perfectly and showed plenty last year. Is considered the replacement for Jude Bolton but I say he has more class and upside than Jude.



·      People keep talking about how bad they will be this year. The expectations are so low they have nothing to lose. Worst case scenario – they fail to win a game and have a percentage of 40. They lose games by 200 points and become the first team to be goalless in a game since 1961. In the bigger picture – does it really matter? What people don’t realise is that if they finish last (which they will), the reward is the No.1 Draft pick which will be Lachie Whitfield – a superstar in the making. Add him to their current list and they will be a powerhouse in five years. 1-2 years of pain will be forgotten when they are challenging for Premierships in 2015 and beyond. 

·      As with Gold Coast last year, they will have exciting moments and will get on runs that will last a quarter or half. It’s more about the process than the result.

·      I don’t expect them to have a distinguishable style of play like a Hawthorn, Geelong or Collingwood. They will most likely want to get the ball moving forward as quickly as possible. Like Gold Coast in 2011 their main mode of scoring will be from stoppages and they will struggle on the turnover with their youngsters unable to apply pressure consistently.

·      Cornes, Brogan, Power, McDonald might all be well past their prime but don’t underestimate how much they will help the young side. O’hAilpin will also fill a hole wherever needed, I think he’s a handy pickup.

·      The argument that Callan Ward will struggle because he’ll have little support compared to the Bulldogs is weak.  He wins 47% of his ball in disputed situations and it’s hard to tag a player who is so good at winning his own ball. I don’t expect Ward to be fazed by the added pressure and think he will be as prominent as he was at the Bulldogs despite he and Scully being the two main mids there.

·      Phil Davis is a huge signing. Will lead the backline for the next 10 years. There aren’t many young key defenders I see with more potential than him. 

·      In Patton, Cameron and Davis they have the best young spine in the competition. However, they lack depth of talented talls, opting more for midfield types which is the opposite of what Gold Coast did. Players like Bruce, Golds, Hombsch and Tomlinson all have potential so the Giants will be hoping a few of those can make the grade.

·      Each of these players are under 21 and potential A-grade midfielders – Scully, Miles, Shiel, Smith, Tyson, Greene, Coniglio, Treloar and Adams. They could be unstoppable once they all hit their mid-20s.

·      Aylett, Haynes, Golds, Bugg, Buntine, Bruce and Darley are all potential future A-graders as well, and all can play multiple positions.

·      Hoskin-Elliott and Sumner will take time to develop but have X-factor and will if they reach their potential it will be scary in a few years.

·      Devon Smith could be the next Brent Harvey.

·      Izzy Folau will be better than people think. I saw him kick four goals against AFL-standard players in the Lions reserves last year. He will continue to learn. This time last year everyone was laughing at Karmichael Hunt and he turned out OK.

·      Curtly Hampton is an excitement machine. He is GWS’s answer to Harley Bennell.

·      Adam Kennedy will be a good player. Makes excellent decisions and uses the ball well. Handy and reliable utility player to complement their talent.

Every year in the AFL, there are a number of factors which contribute to team success which are unsustainable, mainly because they are a result of pure luck or factors outside of anyone’s control.

The three main ones are:

  • Record in close games (games decided by 12 points or fewer)
  • Strength of schedule
  • Scoring accuracy for and against

Injury is another, but analysing which teams have the best or worst luck when it comes to availability of key players is more subjective than the above measures.

When looking ahead to the upcoming season, it’s worthwhile taking into account the teams which ‘got lucky’ in 2011 and can’t expect that same fortune in 2012.

To see how these factors will affect each team for season 2012, I’ll be rolling out my season previews/predictions in the coming days.

RECORD IN CLOSE GAMES (12 points or fewer)

After analysing competition trends over the past decade, it’s clear that winning tight contests comes down to luck more than anything. There has never been a team to be perenially considered a good team in close games - results of these games are simply random.


In the last 10 years, 10 teams have been +4 or better in games decided by 12 points or fewer in one season. They have combined for 58-12-1 (84% win rate) in that season.

In the following season, their record is a combined 24-32-2 (42% win rate).

  • Only three of those 10 teams have followed up with a winning record in close games the following season.
  • For example, Port Adelaide went 6-2 in close games in 2010 and followed up with a 1-3 record in those games in 2011.

On the flip side, in the past decade there has been 10 teams who have had a -4 or worse record in close games in a season. In those games those teams went 4-44-3 (11% win rate). The following year they followed with a 20-11 record (65% win rate).

  • For example, Fremantle went 0-8 in close games in 2008; in 2009 they won 2 of 3 close games.


Who got lucky last year and can expect a regression?

  • West Coast (6-1 in games decided by 12 or fewer points)
  • Geelong (6-2)
  • Essendon (4-1-1)

Who was unlucky last year and can expect better fortune in 2012?

  1. Brisbane (1-5)
  2. North Melbourne (0-4)
  3. Western Bulldogs (0-3)


When the AFL draw for the following season comes out, each club releases a statement regarding what they are pleased about or disappointed in. Usually, this comes from a CEO or President who looks at it from a financial point of view and thinks about membership sales, ‘blockbusters’ and the bottom line.

Let me assure you, when the draw came out last October, coaches and football staff were only concerned with the following questions:

  1. Do we double up on any of the top- or bottom-4 from last year?
  2. How many times do we play GWS and Gold Coast?
  3. How many six-day breaks do we have?
  4. Do we have back to back interstate trips?
  5. How many times do we go to Perth?
  6. What do the first few rounds look like?

It is hard to judge a team’s draw difficulty based on these factors, especially considering we don’t know which teams are going to be the ones you want to face twice, or which interstate trips are going to be the toughest etc.

Immediately though, we know that non-Victorian teams are disadvantaged because they travel twice as much as the Victorian sides. (Note: ‘away’ trips are only those where there is a home-ground advantage, so not including, Tasmania, Hobart, Darwin, Cairns)

(Note: I consider the effect of six-day breaks to be overrated. There is no evidence to prove that playing on a six-day break against a team with a seven-day break is disadvantaged in any way. It is a crux.)


There isn’t a lot of post-season analysis done on how the fixturing affected the season’s results. I did a quick comparison of the 2011 fixture based on travel and opponent strength and here’s what I found:

In 2011 there were a clear top-5 sides in the AFL (Geelong, Collingwood, Hawthorn, West Coast and Carlton) and a clear bottom-3 (Gold Coast, Port Adelaide, Brisbane Lions).

  • Port Adelaide played two total games against the bottom-3 sides, and eight total games against the top-5. Played 10 ‘away’ games. 
  • Hawthorn played five total games against the bottom-3 sides, and five total games against the top-5. Played five ‘away’ games. 

Obviously Port being in the bottom-3 and Hawthorn in the top-5 is a factor as they miss a chance to play themselves, but the point I am making is that by pure luck, the difficulty of their draws is completely different. 


There are a number of formulas to determine which sides have the hardest and easiest draw for 2012. Main factors that these take into account are the combined ladder positions from previous season of each opponent, and amount of travel.

Without going into it too much and acknowledging that there is no perfect formula for determining exactly how much it impacts the season, there seems to be some sort of consensus on the 2012 strength of schedule:


  • Adelaide (Double up on GWS, GC and Port)
  • Melbourne (Double up on GWS and Bris, play five away games)
  • North Melbourne (Double up on GWS & GC)
  • Gold Coast (Double up on GWS & Bris)
  • Fremantle (of last year’s top-5 they only double up on WC, have 10 ‘home’ games)
  • Hawthorn (play three ‘away’ games - two fewer than any other team - one of which is v Port)


  • Collingwood (Double up on Geel, Haw, Carl & WCE, play the bottom-4 once each)
  • Port Adelaide (Don’t double up on GWS, GC or Bris, play ‘away’ nine times)
  • Sydney (Double up on Haw & Geel)
  • Essendon (Double up on Coll & Carl, play GWS & GC once)

The difficulty in analysing this is obvious when considering that this time last year playing West Coast twice would have been considered a blessing, when in the end it clearly wasn’t. We don’t know which sides are going to be good, but we can assume mostly because such a dramatic rise like the Eagles’ in 2011 is extremely rare. 

SCORING ACCURACY (For and Against)

I have always been a believer that scoring accuracy from week-to-week, season-to-season, whether it be team or player, is largely random.

It is extremely rare for a team or player to be perenially accurate in front of goal - it is just unsustainable. I can show numerous examples to prove my point, here are one each for team and player:


TEAM ACCURACY - Collingwood

  • 2008: 64% accuracy - ranked 1st
  • 2009: 58% accuracy - ranked 11th
  • 2010: 59% accuracy - ranked 13th
  • 2011: 62% accuracy - ranked 3rd

While their game plan hasn’t changed at all, their scoring accuracy has fluctutated considerably. In the past ten years, no team has even come remotely close to being the most- or least-accurate in the competition in successive seasons.

PLAYER ACCURACY - Jarryd Roughead

  • 2008: Scored 75.51 @ 59.5%, better than 23% of the competition
  • 2009: Scored 51.27 @65.3%, better than 77% of the competition
  • 2010: Scored 53.46 @ 53.5%, better than 25% of the competition
  • 2011: Scored 16.6 @ 72.7%, better than 94% of the competition

Is Jarryd Roughead a good kick for goal or a poor one? His numbers have fluctuated considerably across his career. In truth, some weeks he is a good kick, some he isn’t. As with anything, there are exceptions, but history says it’s unlikely any player will be the competition’s most- or least- accurate in successive seasons.



The most accurate teams in 2011 who can expect regression in 2012?

  1. Port Adelaide 63.4%
  2. Western Bulldogs 63.1%
  3. Essendon 61.8%

The most inaccurate teams in 2011 who can expect better in 2012?

  1. Gold Coast 50.5%
  2. Sydney 53.2%
  3. Fremantle 54.3%


Most accurate

  1. Gold Coast 62.3%
  2. Melbourne 61.2%
  3. West Coast 61.1%

Least accurate

  1. Sydney 52.8%
  2. St Kilda 55.7%
  3. Carlton 56.0%

The most obvious candidate for better luck is the Gold Coast, who can expect the most improvement based on these numbers. Their accuracy was the worst of any team in the modern era, while their opponents scored at the highest rate in the league. If the accuracy in Suns games (both for and against) for 2012 heads back to the competition average (58%), there is an immediate swing of 297 points across the season, or 13 points per game.

One final factor related to scoring that I have always believed to be unsustainable is a reliance on scoring from outside the 50m arc. Much like an NBA team (Orlando Magic) with three-point shooting, it is not something that can be relied upon to succeed. The Magic throw up considerably more three-pointers than any team, and when it comes off it looks great as they are able to beat any team if the shots drop. They have days however when they can look awful because they keep missing them.  

Relating this to AFL, I recall a game in the mid-2000s when Melbourne upset St. Kilda due largely to them scoring an AFL-record number of goals from outside 50m (from memory they kicked 9.2 or something similar - the AFL average is around 2 goals per game at an accuracy of 40% for shots from >50m). Everyone got carried away with Melbourne’s ability to do this, not realising that the Saints weren’t really outplayed, just on the wrong end of a flukey performance from the Demons. 

Looking at the 2011 stats in terms of shots from >50m, the only team that will struggle to reproduce their scoring from long range is Essendon. They scored a competition-high 50.49, while their opponents kicked 29.46 from outside 50m. 

Fremantle, on the other hand, were unlucky, kicking just 23.36 and conceding 42.41 from >50m. 


Wikipedia tells me (and it sounds about right):

1993 - Priority Pick Rule is first introduced for teams with less than 20.5 Premiership Points. The pick is at start of the draft 

2006 - PP rule changed to teams with fewer than 16.5 Premiership Points in that season, and moved it to the end of the first round of the draft. Consecutive seasons of fewer than 16.5 Premiership Points would mean the PP would be at the start of the draft. 

So which club benefitted most from the Priority Pick Rule in the past 19 years?

Keep in mind that when judging the benefit from the rule for a specific club, it can’t just be by looking at the player taken with the actual PP (which is what a lot of people do). For example, in 2004 Carlton took Marc Murphy with its PP No.1, and Josh Kennedy with its first-round pick No.4. If the PP rule didn’t exist, they still would have got Murphy, so technically Kennedy is the benefit from the rule. I have taken this into account when rating each team. 



- Never got access to a priority pick

- Closest the Crows got was 2011 when they won 7 games. 

How much did Adelaide benefit from the PP rule? 0/10




Won 4 games (16 Premiership Points)

Received PP at start of first round (pick 2 overall). Drafted Nigel Lappin.

* Brisbane traded its first round selection (pick 7 overall) with David Bain and Nigel Palfreyman to Fitzroy for Alastair Lynch.  


Won 4 games (16 Premiership Points)

Received PP at end of first round (pick 29 overall). Traded it to Hawthorn for Jordan Lisle. 

* Brisbane traded its second round selection (pick 34 overall) to Gold Coast in return for Dayne Zorko and pick 47. 

How much did Brisbane benefit from the PP rule? 4/10

Lynch was a huge get but they could probably have got the deal done another way, pick 7 wasn’t valued too highly back then. Jury is out on Lisle/Zorko. 




Won 3 games (12 Premiership Points)

Received PP at start of first round (pick 1 overall). Pick was forfeited due to salary cap breaches. 

* Carlton also lost its first round selection (pick 2 overall) due to the breaches. 



Won 4 games (16 Premiership Points)

Received PP at start of first round (pick 2 overall). Drafted Andrew Walker. 

* Carlton’s first round selection (pick 5 overall) was forfeited as part of the 2002 salary cap breaches. 



Won 4 games and drew another (18 Premiership Points)

Received PP at start of first round (pick 1 overall). Drafted Marc Murphy. 

* With its first round selection (pick 4 overall), Carlton drafted Josh Kennedy. 



Won 3 games and drew another (14 Premiership Points)

Received PP at end of first round (pick 17 overall). Drafted Shaun Hampson. 

* With its second round selection (pick 19 overall), Carlton drafted Shaun Grigg. 



Won 4 games (16 Premiership Points), second season in succession with fewer than 16.5 Premiership Points)

Received PP at start of first round (pick 1 overall). Drafted Matthew Kreuzer. 

* Carlton’s first round selection (pick 3 overall) was traded to West Coast as part of the Chris Judd deal. 


How much did Carlton benefit from the rule? 8/10

If they win a Premiership with Judd and Walker in the team, it’s a 10/10. Also, if the salary cap breach doesn’t occur, they get Goddard and Wells in the ‘02 Draft (one of which would be the benefit of the PP rule), which changes everything. Slightly unlucky the rule changed in 2006 otherwise they would have got pick 3 instead of 17 in that draft. 




Won 4 games (16 Premiership Points)

Received PP at start of first round (pick 1 overall). Drafted Josh Fraser. 

* Collingwood’s first round selection (pick 3 overall) was traded to Richmond along with Clinton King, in exchange for Steven McKee and pick 7.  



Won 5 games (20 Premiership Points)

Received PP at start of first round (pick 2 overall. Drafted Dale Thomas. 

* With its first round selection (pick 5 overall), Collingwood drafted Scott Pendlebury. 


How much did Collingwood benefit from the rule? 10/10

They would have got Fraser in ‘99 even if the PP rule didn’t exist. Their entire benefit from the rule is Scott Pendlebury, and we all know how good he is. The Pies are extremely lucky though with how it panned out in 2005. It was a one-off bad year (they made GF in 2002-03 remember), they scraped in (5 wins, lost their last 8 games), and it was the last year before the rule changed to become an end of first round pick. 





Won 3 games and drew another (14 Premiership Points)

Received PP at end of first round (pick 18 overall). Drafted Leroy Jetta. 

* With its second round selection (pick 20 overall), Essendon drafted Tom Hislop.


How much did Essendon benefit from the rule? 1/10

Hislop amounted to nothing. It should be mentioned how unlucky Essendon were that the rule changed in 2006. They won fewer games than Collingwood in 2005 yet the Magpies got Pendlebury (pick 5) and the Bombers got Hislop (pick 20). If the rule didn’t change, the Bombers would have had pick 4 and a chance to nab Boak or Selwood. 




Won 5 games (20 Premiership Points)

Received PP at start of first round (pick 2 overall. Drafted Paul Hasleby. 

* With its first round selection (pick 4 overall), Fremantle drafted Matthew Pavlich. 



Won 2 games (8 Premiership Points)

Received PP at start of first round (pick 1 overall. Traded that pick to Hawthorn along with picks 20 & 36 in return for Trent Croad and Luke McPharlin. Hawthorn used the pick to select Luke Hodge. 

* With its first round selection (pick 4 overall), Fremantle drafted Graham Polak.


How much did Fremantle benefit from the rule? 7/10

Polak amounted to nothing but Pavlich wouldn’t be a Docker if not for the PP rule. He is their best ever player. 





Won 3 games (12 Premiership Points)

Received PP at end of first round (pick 27 overall). Traded that pick to Adelaide along with its second and fourth round picks for selection 24, where it took Henry Schade. 


How much did Gold Coast benefit from the rule? 1/10


- Since the rule was introduced, Geelong’s fewest wins in a season was 7, in 2003. 


How much did Geelong benefit from the rule? 0/10





Won 4 games (16 Premiership Points)

Received PP at start of first round (pick 2 overall). Drafted Jarryd Roughead. 

* With its first round selection (pick 5 overall), Hawthorn drafted Lance Franklin.



Won 5 games (20 Premiership Points)

Received PP at start of first round (pick 3 overall). Drafted Xavier Ellis 

* With its first round selection (pick 6 overall), Hawthorn drafted Beau Dowler.


How much did Hawthorn benefit from the rule? 10/10

The big winners. Without the rule, they wouldn’t have Buddy. Or the 2008 Premiership. It could also be argued that without the PP rule, Fremantle would have had only pick 1 (and not picks 1 & 4) in the 2001 Draft, and therefore been reluctant to part with it to secure Croad. If so, the Hawks wouldn’t have Hodge either. 





Won 4 games (16 Premiership Points)

Received PP at start of first round (pick 1 overall). Drafted Travis Johnstone. 

* Melbourne traded its first round selection (pick 2 overall) in a complicated deal that basically netted them Jeff White from Fremantle. The Dockers on-traded that pick to Richmond, who selected Brad Ottens with the pick. 



Won 5 games (20 Premiership Points)

Received PP at start of first round (pick 3 overall). Drafted Colin Sylvia. 

* With its first round selection (pick 5 overall), Melbourne drafted Brock McLean. 



Won 3 games (12 Premiership Points)

Received PP at end of first round (pick 17 overall). Drafted Sam Blease.. 

* With its second round selection (pick 19 overall), they drafted James Strauss. 



Won 4 games (16 Premiership Points), second season in succession with fewer than 16.5 Premiership Points)

Received PP at start of draft (pick 1 overall). Drafted Tom Scully. 

With its first round selection (pick 2 overall), they drafted Jack Trengove. 

How much did Melbourne benefit from the rule? 8/10

Trengove is skipper now and has a long future ahead of him. Jury still out on Strauss. While McLean didn’t turn out, they effectively got Jordan Gysberts for him which is another promising player. White was one of the game’s best ruckmen for a long time, however if they kept the pick and took Ottens, it may have turned out a little different (in a good way). 




- Since the rule was introduced, North Melbourne’s fewest wins in a season was 7, in 2006 and 2009. 


How much did North Melbourne benefit from the rule? 0/10





Won 3 games (12 Premiership Points)

Received PP at end of first round (pick 28 overall). Traded that pick to West Coast for Bradley Ebert. 

* Port Adelaide traded its second round selection (pick 33 overall), to Hawthorn for Brent Renouf. 


How much did Port Adelaide benefit from the rule? 3/10

Hard to say if they would have still got both Ebert AND Renouf if not for the rule. Either way, neither are world beaters. If the Power win fewer than 4 games again this year and miss out on a PP because of the rule change, it would be extremely unlucky. They need all the help they can get at the minute, and it might be a case where the AFL gives them one if they are as bad as they were last year.  






Won 3 games (12 Premiership Points)

Received PP at start of first round (pick 3 overall). Drafted Justin Murphy. 

* Richmond traded its first round selection (pick 6 overall) with Jeff Hogg to Fitzroy for Paul Broderick, Matthew Dundas, Michael Gale and pick 26 (Steven Jurica). 


Won 4 games (16 Premiership Points)

Received PP at start of first round (pick 1 overall). Drafted Brett Deledio.  

* With its first round selection (pick 4 overall), Richmond drafted Richard Tambling.



Won 3 games and drew another (14 Premiership Points)

Received PP at end of first round (pick 18 overall). Drafted Alex Rance. 

* Richmond traded its second round selection (pick 19 overall), to the Western Bulldogs for Jordan McMahon. The Bulldogs used the pick to select Callan Ward.  


How much did Richmond benefit from the rule? 5/10

The haul for the 1993 PP was handy in the end. Gale, Broderick and Jurica played in the ‘95 Finals and Hogg did nothing. After that it gets ugly. We all know that Tambling could have been Franklin, but he wasn’t. Tambling has since been traded in return for a compensation pick (likely to be utilised in 2012 Draft around pick 19-22, as well as the selection that netted them Brad Helbig). That pick could turn out handy. Their benefit would have been a totally different story if Plough didn’t get sucked into McMahon. If they take Buddy and get Callan Ward, it’s a 10/10. Think about how different everything would be. 




Won 2 games and drew another (10 Premiership Points)

Received PP at start of first round (pick 1 overall). Drafted Nick Riewoldt. 

* With its first round selection (pick 2 overall), St. Kilda drafted Justin Koschitzke. 



Won 4 games (16 Premiership Points)

Received PP at start of first round (pick 2 overall). Drafted Luke Ball.  

* With its first round selection (pick 5 overall), St. Kilda drafted Xavier Clarke.


How much did St. Kilda benefit from the rule? 4/10

Neither Koschitzke or Clarke lived up to their potential. I know it’s all hypothetical but the Saints could have ended with Didak in 2000 (went pick 3) and Jimmy Bartel in 2001 (went pick 8). 




Won 1 game (4 Premiership Points)

Received PP at start of first round (pick 1 overall). Drafted Darren Gaspar.  

* With its first round selection (pick 4 overall), Sydney drafted Glenn Gorman.


Won 4 games (16 Premiership Points)

Received PP at start of first round (pick 2 overall). Drafted Anthony Rocca.  

* With its first round selection (pick 3 overall), Sydney drafted Shannon Grant.


How much did Sydney benefit from the rule? 5/10

Grant gave the Swans three good seasons and was a handy player when they made the GF in 1996. He was then traded for Wayne Schwass who had four decent seasons at Sydney including a B&F and All-Australian in 1999. 





Won 5 games (20 Premiership Points)

Received PP at start of first round (pick 3 overall). Drafted Chris Judd. 

* With its first round selection (pick 6 overall), West Coast drafted Ashley Sampi. 



Won 4 games (16 Premiership Points)

Received PP at end of first round (pick 18 overall). Drafted Luke Shuey.. 

* With its second round selection (pick 20 overall), West Coast drafted Tom Swift. 



Won 4 games (16 Premiership Points)

Received PP at end of first round (pick 26 overall). Drafted Jack Darling. 

* With its second round selection (pick 29 overall), West Coast drafted Scott Lycett. 


How much did West Coast benefit from the rule? 4/10

They basically netted Sampi, Swift and Lycett. The jury is out on the latter two (I am confident Lycett will be a long-term player), but apart from his hanger against Melbourne at the ‘G in 2004, Sampi was a disappointment. 





Won 3 games and drew one (14 Premiership Points)

Received PP at start of first round (pick 1 overall). Drafted Adam Cooney. 

* With their first round selection (pick 4 overall), the Bulldogs drafted Farren Ray.



Won 5 games (20 Premiership Points)

Received PP at start of first round (pick 3 overall). Drafted Ryan Griffen. 

* With their first round selection (pick 6 overall), the Bulldogs drafted Tom Williams.


How much did the Western Bulldogs benefit from the rule? 5/10

Ray gave the Bulldogs 75 games in five seasons before being traded for pick 31 in the 2008 Draft (the Dogs selected Jordan Roughead). Ultimately the Dogs gained Williams and Roughead, two players important to their fortunes in the coming years.  




The big winners have to be Collingwood and Hawthorn, who respectively drafted Pendlebury and Franklin with their extra pick - two of the AFL’s biggest stars and major contributors in two of the past four Premierships. I give the nod to Hawthorn though because Buddy is more important to Hawthorn, slightly.

Carlton could turn out to be the major beneficiaries but we’ll have to wait and see. They were really bad for so long and got the most cracks at it so it wouldn’t surprise. Melbourne could also win a flag with Trengove, Gysberts and Strauss in the side in the coming years. 

Richmond and Essendon are the hard luck stories. The Tigers can blame poor recruiting and list management for that, Essendon was just bad luck. 

I’ve watched all the NAB Cup games on delay so far. Without looking at stats, here are my observations from the 9 games, taking into account no serious predictions can be made for any team based on their pre-season form. 


  • Kieran Harper is their most talented youngster. Has speed, uses the ball well, makes good decisions and is super-exciting to watch. 
  • Liam Anthony may have peaked in his debut season in 2009. Just doesn’t have an impact anymore. I don’t think the backline is right for him., he’s a midfielder or nothing.  
  • Between Petrie, McIntosh, Tarrant, Edwards and McKinley, they have a lot of height up forward. Any by a lot I mean too much. Can’t play them all together. 



  • Richmond’s ability to take the ball out of the backline is still a major worry. 
  • Jake King has done a great job to turn his career around. 
  • Addam Maric might still make it. 
  • Ivan Maric and Angus Graham should never play in the same team together. 
  • I am a big Brandon Ellis fan. A really good pickup who will have an impact in 2012. 
  • Dustin Martin is going to be a hard player to match up on over the next 10 years. Can win his own ball but is also a great finisher. Will get better. 



  • I am convinced that barring injury the Hawks will be top-four again. 
  • Have more players with A-grade natural talent than any other team (excluding GWS or GC). 
  • No change in game style, not that there would be any need to be. 
  • Max Bailey was worth the wait.
  • Shane Savage (pick 75) highlights what’s on offer late in the Draft.
  • Liam Shiels is only 20 but is already an important part of the Hawks’ lineup. He’s tough and has good skills. Potential A-grader. 
  • Prying Jack Gunston away from Adelaide was a great move. 
  • Isaac Smith is a rare mix of speed and good skills. I’m a huge fan. 
  • The re-addition of Ben Stratton to the backline just makes them that little bit better. 



  • Ryan Hargrave was sorely missed last year. Versatile defenders who use the ball well are under-rated. 
  • Jordan Roughead is one of the best young tap ruckmen in the game. I thought he played well. 
  • Pat Veszpremi looks good at half-back. Will be a Josh Hunt/Leon Davis 2011 type. Uses the ball well and provides run. Knows how to find the ball. 
  • Matthew Boyd just gets it done. Ideal skipper. 
  • Hard to judge Bulldogs’ style of play based on small sample size but seems like they value ball control more than in the past. More security, less risk. A lot slower ball movement too. 



  • They have some genuine speed, which should’t surprise given the amount of talent they possess.
  • Can and will move the ball quickly. Will play similar to Gold Coast last year - quick movement, get the ball forward as quickly as possible and avoid turnovers in the defensive half. Will be good at stoppages. 
  • Cornes, Power, McDonald actually slow them up. But they are obviously needed. 
  • Phil Davis is the best key defender in the AFL under 22 years of age.
  • Josh Bruce super impressive in the final game. Long-term prospect. 
  • Tomas Bugg and Dom Tyson add some class with their ability to win the ball and use it effectively. 
  • Folau will get caned for his performance. But it’s one game, settle down. He will get better. 
  • Liam Sumner doesn’t need to get a lot of the ball to be an impact player. WIll be similar to Dale Thomas early in his career. 
  • Overall GWS won’t be that far behind Gold Coast in terms of how long it will take them to be good. 2-3 years they’ll be pushing for finals. A completely irrelevant discussion about how many games they’ll win this year/how competitive they’ll be - it’s about developing for the future. Plenty of wins will come soon enough. 



  • Continue to develop their players better than anyone.
  • Not the most talented but always get the most out of their inexperienced players.
  • Dale Thomas is the most pure natural wingman in the game, yet can still serve a purpose across half-back or forward. Absolute A-grader. 
  • Every team would love an Alan Toovey .
  • Jarrod Witts is a giant. That he is rated a chance to play senior football in 2012 is surprising considering how long guys that tall take to develop. Sign of how good he is. 
  • Dane Swan still runs hard forward as well as anyone. 
  • Lachlan Keeffe and Tom Young are two of Collingwood’s best youngsters and should play plenty in 2012. 
  • Heath Shaw has no flaws in his game any longer. Once vulnerable under a high ball or unable to handle a tag, he is now a large reason why the Pies have been successful over the last 2 years. Based on Saturday night, it seems like 2012 will be another big year. 



  • Andrew Gaff is all class. Ready to become a permanent fixture in the Eagles’ midfield in 2012. 
  • Luke Shuey could be one of the competittion’s A-grade mids as soon as this season. Has no flaws in his game. 
  • Mark LeCras will be a big loss but you can’t write off the Eagles based on that, it’s too early. They still have an enormous amount of talent and more importantly their game plan and structures are what made them successful last year. LeCras has nothing to do with that. 
  • Brad Sheppard does a lot right but is still inexperienced. Yet to gain courage under a high ball, and can make some bad decisions, both traits that we didn’t see too much at junior level. He’ll get there.
  • The Eagles’ forward press was in full flight. I’d love to know the ‘Time in Forward Half’ stat from these games. 



  • Myers on a wing is less of a risk than down back. Can use his attributes (running, long kicking) without the worry of his mistakes costing goals. 
  • If I was Essendon, I would have traded Paddy Ryder at the end of last season. The three-ruck experiment didn’t work, and he’s third in line. When he plays up forward he doesn’t offer enough and they already have more than enough talls. They would have got a first-round pick and a player for him. 
  • Angus Monfries looks set for a big season. 
  • Jake Carlisle is one of the best young talls in the game. Considering they already have Pears & Hooker down back, I’d leave him forward where he should team up with Hurley well. 
  • Corey Dell’Olio showed a bit. Could be an early upgrade to the senior list if Alwyn Davey’s form isn’t great. 



  • The Dockers are my tip as the competition’s big improvers in 2012. 
  • Nick Suban is going to be a good AFL player. 
  • Jack Anthony is trying really hard. Not sure if it’ll amount to anything, but at least the effort is there. Bad players don’t kick 50+ goals in a season. 
  • Jayden Pitt is all class and once his body is ready, he’ll be another addition to Freo’s young brigade of stars. 
  • Hayden Ballantyne in the midfield is good but not permanently. His best work is done around goals. He and the impressive Lachie Neale should work well together. 
  • Zac Dawson gets a bad rap from media and the public. He holds down a key defensive post, and rarely gets embarrassed. Not sure why he’s so hated, he really has done nothing wrong.