FIVE LESSONS FROM THE AFL PRE-SEASON COMPETITION
ESSENDON EQUAL PERCENTAGE BOOST
They lost to West Coast by 105 points and Geelong by 87 points. So don’t be fooled by a first-up 10-goal win against a second-string Carlton. The Bombers, hit by suspensions to key personnel from the club’s 2012 supplements saga, will be a percentage boost for opponents in the premiership season – great news for Carlton, Geelong, Gold Coast, Richmond and St Kilda, who all play Essendon twice.
CLUBS ARE NEVER HAPPY
No matter the format of the glorified practice game circuit, all clubs will never be happy. Coaches unashamedly put a priority on round one of the premiership season, none more so than Richmond’s Damien Hardwick who fielded just 15 players at a stage when hit by injuries in his club’s third pre-season game. The AFL says it’s open to reviewing the format as some coaches want one match, others two, yet others still are content with three.
WHAT’S A WIN WORTH?
Plenty, if you’re Fremantle, Melbourne and Collingwood – the only undefeated clubs in the pre-season. Being unbeaten means most to Melbourne, who showed genuine improvement, and Collingwood, who are being hyped for a return to the finals, as both served up healthy doses of hope for their fans. For the record, Carlton, St Kilda and Brisbane didn’t win a game – but the latter two clubs had one game abandoned due to torrential rain.
IF THE CAP FITS
The third pre-season round was played under premiership-season conditions including the new cap on interchange rotations. And the restriction to 90 interchanges largely had little impact – apart from an obvious tiring of players late in games, which is hardly new in pre-season fixtures. But the AFL’s constant tinkering with the rules frustrates many, with Eagles coach Adam Simpson summing up the sentiment: “What’s the reasoning … it’s hard to keep up sometimes.”
Lance Franklin is still a force to be reckoned with. Making a successful return from mental health issues which prematurely ended his 2015 season, the Sydney star capped his pre-season campaign with an ominous display against Carlton: 20 disposals, seven marks, three goals, five goal assists and five inside 50s.