For the teams who don’t make the AFL Finals, it can be a frustrating and miserable time waiting for the off-season. There’s the draft to look forward to, the free agency period and the excitement and surprises that occur at the trade table.
Every AFL fan wants their team to improve in 2016. So while we patiently wait for the finals to get underway, here are a few points of interest and key questions your club has to consider in the off-season, as they look towards their 2016 campaigns.
Imagine for a day, you are in the inner sanctum of an AFL Club. You have big decisions to make. Who are you going to delist, resign, trade and take a risk on?
Starting with Collingwood, here are five questions for your club to consider in the off-season.
1) Midfield Depth – A good headache for Nathan Buckley to have?
As is well documented by now, Collingwood’s season ended in disappointment after missing out of the finals and finishing with a mediocre record of 10-12.
Like most of the other teams that sit between the 9-13 spots on the ladder, Collingwood has its problems, but, their midfield depth is not one of them. Or is it?
Here are a few names for your discretion: Pendlebury, Swan, Adams, Sidebottom, Crisp, Varcoe, Greenwood, Adams, DeGoey, Macaffer, Kennedy, Blair, Treloar (?), Freeman and possibly Aish. The Dayne Beams deal from a year ago isn’t looking so bad now.
Pendlebury and Swan had wonderfully consistent years, and were rewarded with nominations in the initial 40-man All Australian squad.
Varcoe and Crisp should be up for recruits of the year. Macaffer is coming off a knee reconstruction and will be raring to go next year. Freeman hasn’t played a game yet but the club has high expectations. Greenwood looked in great shape in his limited appearances to round out the season and Jordan DeGoey showed why he will be a 200-game player for the black and white in his debut season.
Having midfield depth is a major advantage once the realities of a 22 round AFL season hits an AFL club. Injuries and suspensions means clubs have to be flexible and ready to replace one player with another with limited effect on the rest of the team.
With the sub rule on the way out, the likes of Ben Kennedy and Jarryd Blair will see more time in the midfield. But with limited spots (6-8) in the middle of the ground, will all of these players get a chance to represent the black and white next year?
It’s a great problem for the coaching staff to have. But will it lead to players seeking more opportunities elsewhere in the future? Are the Pies too deep in the midfield and lacking in other areas?
The Pies toyed with playing two ruckmen all year. There were a few combinations that were experimented.
First we say Grundy and Witts play together. Then it was just Witts when Grundy went down with a neck injury. We then saw Witts drop down to the VFL and Grundy shoulder the load. We saw glimpses of Darcy Moore and Jesse White as the second ruckman as well. But with rumours swirling of Collingwood’s pursue of Carlton’s Matthew Kreuzer, and the possible departure of Jarrod Witts to GWS in the trade for Treloar, are the Pies going into 2016 a little too top heavy?
In defense, they have Nathan Brown, Jack Frost, Ben Reid (swingman), as well as medium sized defenders in Marsh, Toovey and Goldsack. Up forward, there is Travis Cloke, Darcy Moore and Jesse White. And in the ruck, they have Brodie Grundy and a TBA in the off-season as his back-up.
With the sub rule gone, the days of playing two ruckmen and subbing one out to inject more run and energy are done.
With transition football dominating the league, are the Pies going to be too tall and perhaps, too slow when it comes to footy in 2016?
On paper, Jesse White is your prototype AFL forward. 102 kg’s and 196cm, he’s light on his feet, he’s incredibly athletic, he has speed to burn and he is a solid contested mark.
There’s only one problem. Okay, no, there are a few problems. His accuracy, his consistency and his desire to play AFL football have been questioned for years, but the scrutiny on Jesse White intensified this year (deservedly), when he had his moments to shine, and in all honesty, he disappointed.
So does Jesse White get another chance in 2016? After crossing from Sydney in 2014, he has played as the second forward target to Travis Cloke for Collingwood. In 2014 he kicked 20 goals, and in 2015, he kicked a career high of 27 goals for the season.
White provides an important chop out for Grundy in the ruck, but with the possible inclusion of Matthew Kreuzer (who can play as a marking forward target), will Jesse White become redundant to Nathan Buckley’s plans for an attack on the finals in 2016?
Selected with pick 6 in the 2013 AFL Draft, Matthew Scharenberg’s start to his AFL career hasn’t been the brightest. After foot injuries and an ACL last season, he finally made his debut in 2015 and finished with four games to his name.
Experts are saying that Scharenberg’s potential is limitless. His poise and ability to read the play for a teenager has Collingwood fans salivating. However, Scharenberg’s football isn’t making headlines in the papers. It’s his contract. And for a 19-year-old interstate footballer, that isn’t a great sign.
Collingwood have wanted to resign ‘Shaz’ all year, but with the youngster saying his contract "will just take care of itself", and reportedly asking for $350-400k a year, could the homesick South Australian be on the move?
There’s no doubt both the Crows and the Power would be interested in Scharenberg, but should the Pies engage in trade talks or move to sign and keep the young utility prospect?
With Treloar and possibly another big name coming to the club on big money, what should the Pies do? Scharenberg for a first rounder? Or do you see him in Collingwood’s future?
5) Is it finals of bust for the Pies in 2016?
Honourable loss after honourable loss, the Pies were unable to claim any major scalps in 2015 and failed to land a spot in the final eight.
As we look towards 2016, the question marks over Nathan Buckley’s contract linger. Will his contract be extended? Is it finals or bust for Buckley’s Pies in 2016?
The strategy is clear: get games into the youth and continue to recruit players within the 21-27 year old age bracket
Other than the Bulldogs and the Saints, the Pies could have one of the most exciting young lists in the competition. Malthouse’s ratpack are long gone and Buckley’s boys look determined to return to the finals with an exciting brand of football.
But with the competition looking healthier than it has in some time, and with ladder positions fiercely competitive (especially from 5th-14th) the Pies find themselves on the outer.
Next year, experts will go in having the Pies finishing anywhere from 6th to 12th, as true to form, they are capable of just about anything. Their best can compete with anyone, but catch them on a bad day, and you could be looking at a 40 point victory.
The expectations and pressure on Buckley will be heavier next year, but will we see some black and white deep into September?
Five important questions. What are your answers?