No love for puppies: 2011 round 1 projections (3/4)

Bulldog father-son picks Mitch Wallis and Tom Liberatore will find it very tough to break into the top four midfield at Whitten Oval.

A reminder on the structure of these posts: they are intended as a guide to the players who are in consideration for the first game of the season for each team. Please note that the “iffy” and “waiting” lists are always four names long – thus some players are named who you would think are locks in the 21 just to fill out the numbers – and they are not listed in order of likelihood. Also, the “injured” list sometimes includes players who are not still injured, technically, but will not be considered for selection because they have not yet recovered sufficient fitness in rehab from a previous injury.

Brisbane
FB: Joel Patfull, Daniel Merrett, Brent Staker
HB: Jed Adcock, Matt Maguire, Pearce Hanley
C: Jack Redden, Daniel Rich, Jared Polec
HF: Ashley McGrath, Jonathan Brown, James Polkinghorne
FF: Rohan Bewick, Mitchell Clark, Todd Banfield
Fol: Matthew Leuenberger, Tom Rockliff, Simon Black
Int: Luke Power, Ryan Harwood, Amon Buchanan
Sub: Cheynee Stiller

Iffy: Polkinghorne, Buchanan, Stiller, Harwood
Waiting: Bryce Retzlaff, Ryan Lester, Andrew Raines
Injured: Josh Drummond, Xavier Clarke, Callum Bartlett, Jamie Charman, Mitchell Golby

Geez, there’s not much in the way of competition for those last half dozen spots. Most fan 21s include Raines, but I couldn’t stomach it. Please, no! If Raines is a best 22 player for an AFL club, that’s a sign that expansion has made lists too shallow.

The most pressing concern is what is in Michael Voss’s head. How soon does he give the season up for dead and play the kids? Judging from preseason form, the earlier the better. Young players like Beams, Green, Retzlaff and Lester are not ready, but is it better for the club long-term for Voss to officially give up on the experiment that brought the likes of Raines, Buchanan and Staker to Brisbane in favour of getting games into the future of the franchise?

My initial judgment is that he’ll try to manage his way to a win or two early to keep fans at least moderately interested, thus Buchanan and Stiller will play their roles. The sub position at Brisbane this year will increasingly be used to blood youth, though.

Fremantle
FB: Nick Lower, Antoni Grover, Alex Silvagni
HB: Greg Broughton, Luke McPharlin, Nick Suban
C: Stephen Hill, Paul Duffield, Adam McPhee
HF: Chris Mayne, Matthew Pavlich, Nathan Fyfe
FF: Michael Johnson, Jack Anthony, Hayden Ballantyne
Fol: Aaron Sandilands, Rhys Palmer, David Mundy
Int: Viv Michie, Dylan Roberton, Ryan Crowley
Sub: Kepler Bradley

Iffy: Lower, Michie, Roberton, Crowley
Waiting: Jonathan Griffin, Michael Walters, Jay Van Berlo, Peter Faulks
Injured: Michael Barlow, Tendai Mzungu, Roger Hayden, Matthew de Boer, Clayton Hinkley, Joel Houghton, Garrick Ibbotson, Tim Ruffles, Byron Schammer
LTI: Anthony Morabito

It’s a sign of the strength of Fremantle these days that even with that shockingly long injury list, there’s still a decent amount of competition for spots.

Lower is a monty to be elevated after an eye-catching NAB. Michie I’m not so sure about with regards to JS (job security), because as a small forward he has a lot of similar players to contend with. Under normal circumstances he’d be playing WAFL as depth for Fyfe and Mayne, but with both of those two in fine fettle I’m not sure he’ll get a consistent run. Faulks is still behind Silvagni and Roberton at this stage, despite Roberton not appearing in the NAB.

The subs position at Fremantle will be used to support 211, I think. Bradley is the sort of player who could platoon with Johnson, or even Silvagni, who was tried in the ruck in the NAB Challenge on the weekend.

Essendon
FB: Mark McVeigh, Dustin Fletcher, David Myers
HB: Michael Hibberd, Cale Hooker, Dyson Heppell
C: Courtenay Dempsey, Heath Hocking, Jake Melksham
HF: David Zaharakis, Michael Hurley, Angus Monfries
FF: Patrick Ryder, Mark Williams, Leroy Jetta
Fol: David Hille, Jobe Watson, Brent Stanton
Int: Brent Prismall, Ben Howlett, Jason Winderlich
Sub: Kyle Hardingham

Iffy: Prismall, Melksham, Howlett, Jetta
Waiting: Kyle Reimers, Tom Bellchambers, Stewart Crameri, Scott Gumbleton
Injured: Darcy Daniher, Alwyn Davey, Tayte Pears, Henry Slattery, Andrew Welsh
LTI: Anthony Long

There are a lot of question marks about Essendon’s personnel for me. Not about their structure, just on which players will fill which positions. Same as last year, it’s hard to fit Monfries, Zaharakis, Jetta, Davey and Reimers into three small forward spots.

Crameri is currently still on the rookie list, but there are one or two LTI propects in Walsh and Daniher who could open the elevator door. Gumby’s form in yet another interrupted preseason has been average, while Williams has not been consistent either.

The most glaring weakness in that side is a lack of height, which is why Hardingham is probably the weakest pick of mine because Nathan Lovett-Murray is probably a better player of that versatile switch hitter sub role. But Hardingham’s NAB form is undeniable, while NLM played two underwhelming half-games in the first round.

Western Bulldogs
FB: Dale Morris, Brian Lake, Easton Wood
HB: Robert Murphy, Tom Williams, Lindsay Gilbee
C: Daniel Cross, Matthew Boyd, Callan Ward
HF: Justin Sherman, Jarrad Grant, Patrick Veszpremi
FF: Shaun Higgins, Barry Hall, Daniel Giansiracusa
Fol: Ben Hudson, Adam Cooney, Ryan Griffen
Int: Will Minson, Liam Picken, Josh Hill
Sub: Brodie Moles

Iffy: Hill, Moles, Sherman, Lake (knee/hip/shoulder)
Waiting: Nathan Djerrkura, Brennan Stack, Zephaniah Skinner, Lukas Markovic
Injured: Ryan Hargrave
Suspended: Dylan Addison

You will no doubt notice the absence of Mitch Wallis and Tom Liberatore from the waiting list. That’s because I just can’t see how the Dogs name them if they are picking their best 22 each week, particularly after the recruitment of Djerrkura and Sherman. There are probably only two full spots and two half-spots (sub and to-be-subbed) for Ward, Hill, Moles, Wallis, Liberatore, Sherman and Djerrkura to fight over, given the stability of the rest of the structure.

Stack and Skinner are contending for back and forward spots respectively, where competition is a teensy bit less fierce than the midfield. This forward line is a little small – as is traditional for the Bulldogs – but that will suit against Essendon where Fletcher has trouble with zippy opponents exploiting him on fast breaks. Markovic is the logical replacement for Lake if he doesn’t get up.

Let me know in the comments what you disagree with in these projections. How much does Hanley on a HBF interest you? Can Essendon afford to play both Hibberd and Heppell? What is Michie’s JS like? Who would you tip out for Wallis and/or Libba Jnr?

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