The legacy of the loss might be a blessing in disguise with it being the spark for the Team to be relentless in their pursuit of the ultimate in 2012 making sure they are 100% in every moment and seize every opportunity afforded them. The one thing known as we enter this new year is that barring key injuries blighting our campaign this Team is out of excuses for not again winning the ultimate.
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Without doubt the best list for talent and match winners in the League. The benefit of the injuries we suffered last year was that new players were introduced into the 18 such as Isaac Smith, Paul Puopolo and Shane Savage that not only showed that they can be key contributors in matches, but indeed difference makers.
The only weakness that I can perceive is in the Ruck that will be under the microscope now that Max Bailey has succumbed to injury once more. Which leaves us with the choice of either relying on the unproven such as McCauley, Lowden and Grimley to be effective in a key position on the ground or conversely rob the forward line of David Hale. Who has been stellar in the pre season. Alternatively we can have Roughy in that role, which would be akin to Russian Roulette with him coming back from a major injury.
People will point to our defence and its lack of key position calibre as they always do. But I think the maturation of Ryan Shoenmakers and inclusion of Jarred Boumann will make a huge difference coupled with the possibility of Jarryd Roughed as a key defender
The Defence is a bit like a coin with two sides in my mind
In regards to it is truly elite from a running and small defender perspective, but then has a soft under belly in regards to its key big men. Which is a cause of constant consternation against our key rivals in Collingwood and Geelong who exploit this weakness with their key forwards.
The lion hearted Josh Gibson did this role admirably in 2011, but his perfect role in the Team would be that quarterback type defender that marks the third forward and zones off to double Team the key forwards. Using his top shelf spoiling ability to impact on those contests, and then setting up the forward thrust with his skilful and intelligent ball use
Making this a reality is a Plan A or plan B type scenario.
Plan A revolves around youngsters like Ryan Shoenmakers or Jarred Boumann maturing into the key defenders we so yearn and ably assisted by the returning Stephen Gilham.
Plan B would involve putting Big Roughy in the key defensive role, which would automatically give the Team that big gorilla. But on the downside would rob the Team of a potentially lethal swing man. It will be intriguing to see how Clarko goes for Roughy has been the answer to our biggest question in defence for a good long while now.
The midfield in terms of ball winning ability, skill, versatility and indeed most aspects is in the top echelon in the league.
Though the one aspect that they lack in comparison to their main rivals is a real cutting edge in terms of goal kicking ability. This becomes very apparent when you focus on our two full time midfielders in Sam Mitchell and Brad Sewell ( combined 340 games with 68 goals averaging 0.2 goals per game ) and then couple it with the fact that we are a top 4 Team without a 20+ goal midfielder.
People might pass this over as nit picking, but in key games when the real crunch is on goals from the midfield are like gold to take the pressure off the forward line. And in that regard we are very much under performing.
Especially when you look at players who have been elite in this regard in juniors such as Luke Hodge, who rarely taps into this natural part of his immense footballing make up.
Truthfully, Hodge should be a 20+ goal kicker every year.
Please explain why he is in the back line Mr Clarkson when we have many who could do this role, and his cutting edge in the midfield/forward would be decisive?
Away from this main bug bear of mine, last year showed the future of our midfield in terms of some precocious youngsters displaying their pedigree.
Liam Shiels is a gun that will smoke many in 2012, and others such as Shane Savage, Isaac Smith and even players like Paul Puopolo and Brendan Whitecross could be key factors as swing men through the midfield.
And then there is Cyril........................................injury free means him being lethal as a floater in the midfield
Throughout this article I have had a major emphasise on performance in big games, and keeping this in mind I have viewed our forward line as a nominal weakness.
For since the retirement of Mark Williams and the injury and redeployment of Jarryd Roughed it has become too Buddy conscious. With Teams like the Pies and Geelong knowing this and zoning one or even two onto Buddy in big games.
Buddy has big broad shoulders, but cannot be expected to carry this huge load so it is time that others step up.
David Hale is a key figure, who was elite in his floating forward/ruck role in 2011, but was lacking forward in the Finals as emphasised by missing shots for goals he would kick in his sleep.
He is our Xfactor, that would not only provide that key forward that Roughy was in 08, but take a huge pressure off Buddy, and then also allow Roughy to be deployed as a key back. In the knowledge that if Hale starts plucking them and slotting key goals in big games then Teams will have to pay him respect. Meaning less emphasise on Buddy
Outside of the veterans of the 2011 campaign the recruitment of Jack Gunston could prove a master stroke. For he is that smart forward with the sticky hands and laser like accuracy that Willo was. As a third forward in our Team a haul of 40 goals in 2012 would not surprise.
Away from the big and medium forwards our corps of small men are potentially lethal. Highlighted by Rioli's breathtaking brilliance, and then the maturation of a very smart small in Luke Breust. Who is a throwback to a natural forward that has such a uncanny goal sense very like Le Cras is at the Eagles.
I can see him becoming very respected in 2012.
My Star Man- Luke Hodge
One of the proudest and indeed best players to have ever donned our guernsey.
But by his lofty standards he had a down 2011 mainly due to him being nobbled by injury for which he never chose to blame.
Though as we suffered the heart ache of the Prelim, you knew that redemption in 2012 was lit in him like a blow torch.
I think he will rip the competition to shreds in 2012 with him ascending to be ranked as the best midfielder in the game. Then being a nightmare as a resting forward
A Youngster on the Rise- Liam Shiels
I think this young midfielder who now has a man's body will ascend to the true elite in midfielders in the game
XFactor- Jarryd Roughead
In truth we need 2 or 3 Roughy's
But he could be that missing link for the Team as a key defender
We have all the aces to win the Flag, and in my mind only injury can stop us