AFL 2012 Season Preview – GWS, Gold Coast and Port Adelaide

Filed in AFL, AFL Lines by on March 14, 2012

The 2012 AFL season looms large on the horizon – new coaches, new structures and once again this year, a new entrant to the competition. How will it all shake out? In part one of our season preview, Greg Oberscheidt and Cliff Bingham look at the new boys of Greater Western Sydney and the 2011 cellar dwellers Gold Coast and Port Adelaide.




For those of you who have been fans of Making The Nut for long enough to remember my snakes and ladders-based 2011 season preview, bless you and your families. For those newer to the site, here’s a synopsis of the key issues brought up in last year’s preview:

“… fortunes swing drastically for at least a handful of AFL clubs every season. In the past 10 years, 33 sides have increased their win totals by at least four from the previous season, while 34 sides have seen their win totals decrease by at least four. Of the teams that improved, 28 won fewer than 11 games in the previous season, while six teams won 11 or more games. Of the teams that hit the skids, only six won fewer than 11 games in the previous season, while 27 teams won more than 11 games. “


After allowing for the inclusion of the Gold Coast Suns, I came up with the following overarching predictions:

“Four teams will have a 'ladder' season and increase their win tally by at least four, with only three of these teams having won less than 11 games in 2010.

Three teams will have a 'snake' season and increase their loss tally by at least four, with only two of these teams having won 11 or more games in 2010.”


Fitting teams to these predictions led to the following assessment for 2011:

“Predicted 2011 ‘ladder’ teams: Hawthorn, Adelaide, Melbourne, Essendon.

Predicted 2011 ‘snake’ teams: Geelong, Western Bulldogs, Port Adelaide.”


So, how did they go? Well when you compare them to the actual ‘ladder’ and ‘snake’ teams of 2011 (set out below), I got four of the seven correct.

Actual 2011 ‘ladder’ teams: Hawthorn, West Coast (who pulled off the rarely seen ‘triple ladder, improving by 13 wins!) and Essendon

Actual 2011 ‘snake’ teams: Fremantle, Western Bulldogs and Port Adelaide.


Whilst respectable enough, there remains plenty of scope for improvement. 

Enter Greg Oberscheidt, who you may remember giving me a lesson in AFL betting over the course of the 2011 season, culminating in a successful two unit bet in the AFL Grand Final that took his overall record to 80 selections, 101 units bet, a return of $115.90 and a Profit on Turnover (POT) of +15% to my contempt-worthy -9%. Adding his superior tipping nous to my ‘snakes and ladders’ methodology must surely lead to untold riches in 2012, right Greg? 



You’d imagine so Cliffo. 2011 did see a dramatic improvement to my account balance. Let’s be thankful Isaac Newton wasn’t referring to punting accounts when he wrote the First…I’m glad we’re back to an even number competition, albeit, the most teams in the history of the competition.  Nine games of footy a week…YOU BEAUTY!!!

A quick glance across the club lists shows that pretty much everyone is looking as strong or stronger than last year, which should see plenty of mixed results in the middle section of the ladder. Realistically there are only three teams that can’t challenge for a finals berth so competition is going to be pretty hot with a dozen clubs vying for perhaps five spots in the top eight. The first six weeks is going to be pretty tough for the tipsters.

GWS should provide some headaches for the bookmakers with some massive lines set to be drawn against the top tier sides.

Every year there is a team that the bookies hate, last year it was West Coast and for those of us who jumped on them early it was a ‘Loot Bovine’. Make sure you check in on our weekly ‘AFL Lines’ column again this season to enjoy the spoils.



The retention of a 22-match (23 rounds once a bye around mid-season for each team is taken into account) season means that there are now 198 home and away matches, compared to 187 such games in 2011 and 176 such games in 2010.

I don’t think it requires a pre-emptive ‘spoiler alert’ to suggest ahead of their preview section that neither Greg nor I think GWS will both the premiership points scorers too often in 2012. As a consequence, the remaining 17 teams will get to divide up more than 187 wins between them in 2012.

As was the case last year, it also means that the balance between 'snakes' and 'ladders' would become slightly skewed, with the prospect of more 'ladder' teams than 'snake' teams in 2012. Although with the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ as far apart as I can remember them in recent history, the scenery may not change quite as much as it has in previous years. Some predictions on this front:

•             Three teams will have a 'ladder' season and increase their win tally by at least four, with all of these teams having won less than 11 games in 2011.

•             Two teams will have a 'snake' season and increase their loss tally by at least four, with both of these teams having won 11 or more games in 2011.

So the question now becomes, which teams are most likely to fall into these categories? Let’s start with the new boys and the teams at the bottom end of the 2011 ladder, gradually working our way up towards last year’s alpha dogs and eventually the defending premiers Geelong.



2011 record: N/A

Teams played twice in 2012: Sydney, Adelaide, Gold Coast, Melbourne, North Melbourne (combined 2011 record of 40 wins-68 losses-2 draws)


GO – It’s very hard to see where the Giants are going to steal a win. Gold Coast did snatch three last year, but that was largely on the back of their senior players and their mature age rookies. There is plenty of upside to the Giants long term but given their lack of out and out stars I can’t see them troubling the scorers this year.

Ward is easily their best player and will lead from the front.  Davis will be a gun but still needs time to mature and it will be interesting to see how he copes being the number one defender.  Scully missed most of last year and looks like he is struggling to cope with the hard tag. Their ruck division is pretty skinny with Giles largely untested and Brogan being a battler at best. McDonald and Cornes will add very little on field but that is not why they were taken in the first place so there’s no news there.

Patton is ready made but will miss the first half of the season at least and as such will be largely underdone. Coniglio is a jet and is a deserved early favourite for the Rising Star. Mohr won the best and fairest for Casey last year as well so they have the beginnings of a solid unit, but the AFL is cut throat and no one will be doing them any favours (except for perhaps the AFL administrators). 2012 outlook – 0 wins.


I think the 2011 record of the Gold Coast Suns is very instructive here. Granted, the Suns won three games, but had Alistair Clarkson taken a full-strength Hawthorn side to Metricon Stadium in Round 24 last year, you could argue those were the only three games in which the Suns had a legitimate chance to win. Bearing that in mind, it’s fair to suggest that three wins was really the ceiling for the Suns in their first year.

GWS don’t have a Gary Ablett, or indeed anything resembling him. In my mind Nathan Bock was a superior signing to Chad Cornes. Dean Brogan v Josh Fraser is probably a chop out. While Davis, Ward and Scully have great futures ahead of them, in season one I’d rather have Rischitelli, Brennan and Brown. And finally, the Suns played their 2010 season in the VFL, which in my mind is a better preparation than playing in the NEAFL (admittedly, a vastly improved product for northern states since its introduction).

It’s hard to see GWS going through without a win, but it’s equally hard to see them matching the results of the 2011 Suns. 2012 outlook – 1 win.




2011 record: 3-19 (17th place)

Home and away season – average points for/ against: 69.7 points for, 123.9 points against (56.3 per cent)

Home and away season – record against top-8 teams: 0-10 (played two teams twice)

Home and away season – record against bottom-8 teams: 3-9 (played four teams twice)

Home and away season – record in games decided by two goals or less: 2-1

Teams played twice in 2012: St Kilda, North Melbourne, Brisbane, GWS, Adelaide (combined 2011 record of 33-54-1)



There’ll be some improvement at the Gold Coast this year. There pre-season this year will have been vastly improved from last time given that the kids now know what it takes to compete at AFL level. There is so much to like about their group and I think Bluey McKenna would be pretty happy with the balance of senior and junior players at this disposal.

Ablett will lead from the front as always and with a bit more support in the middle will have a massive season. Swallow looked the goods last year and should progress nicely. Zac Smith is already a star in the Dean Cox mould and will elevate his game further this year.

It would be great to see the Suns snag half a dozen wins this year but I think they will still struggle to close out games. They’ll have a lot less hidings than last year but until 2014 I don’t think they’ll be climbing out of the cellar. 2012 outlook – 4 wins.


As touched upon earlier, to my mind the Suns could not have won more than three games in 2011 (their appearance against Box Hill…. Hawthorn … Box Hill notwithstanding), but they could certainly have won less. 15 losses by 30 points or more and 10 losses by 60 points or more really tell the tale of some growing pains north of the Tweed.

I like a lot of their kids and think they have the potential to be a quality side in four or five years’ time, but if you’re picking a side with ‘Fitzroy circa mid-1990s’ percentage to make leaps and bounds the following season, you’re taking on a lot of historical precedent.

To my mind their win tally will not move markedly from last year, but the number of matches in which they are legitimately competitive will. 2012 outlook – 4 wins.



2011 record: 3-19 (16th place)

Home and away season – average points for/ against: 78.1 points for, 121.0 points against (64.5 per cent)

Home and away season – record against top-8 teams: 0-11 (played three teams twice)

Home and away season – record against bottom-8 teams: 3-8 (played three teams twice)

Home and away season – record in games decided by two goals or less: 1-3

Teams played twice in 2012: Adelaide, Essendon, Fremantle, Hawthorn, Richmond (combined 2011 record of 53-55-2)



Port were an absolute basket case last year and deserved to be the wooden spooners. Their senior players went missing for too long, too often. With the exception of Hartlett and Boak, their engine room lacked grunt and their outside runners just weren’t working hard enough.

Luckily they managed to resign the majority of their key players, most notably Jackson Trengove and Alipate Carlisle. This will give their defence a solid cornerstone for the next couple of seasons. Hopefully Chaplin can remain fit and Westhoff lives up to the hype. Rodan, Pearce and Salopek all have plenty to offer but one has to question their desire. Expect them to perform or be shown the door this year.

The emergence of John Butcher towards the end of last year is a massive bonus as he is a genuine 60-plus goal forward. Together with Jay Schultz and Robbie Gray, they have the ability to kick a score if their midfield ever wins the seed. Chad Wingard also looks like a very good prospect.

If Port can play to their potential then they will upset a few sides but the smart money says that they’ll struggle again this year. They’ve got a pretty stiff draw as well given their pitiful 2011 and thus significant improvement will be a big ask. 2012 outlook – 6 wins.


Port Adelaide were flattered by their record in 2010 and the chickens certainly came home to roost last year.

In the last decade, their percentage of 64.5 was only ‘beaten’ by the 2011 Suns (56.3) and the 2008 Demons (62.6), who only improved from three wins that year to four in 2009. They lost 14 games by 30 points or more, including nine complete hidings by 60 points or more. And with the cream of the most recent draft pick crop going to GWS, they could not have picked a worse time to be mired at the foot of the ladder.

While the loss of Chad Cornes and Dean Brogan to GWS will provide a chance to regenerate and develop some young talent, they lack the star power necessary to compete with a significant number of teams once again in 2012, and thus can be expected to maintain a fairly lowly ladder position. 2012 outlook – 5 wins.


Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images AsiaPac


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