Risers & Sliders
Analysis by: Matt McGrath – @McRathDT
If the 2016 Season plays out to be as tough as it was to predict a possible final ladder, then let me tell you – it’s going to be a cracker. All things going to script, there should be plenty of returning to finals action next year – with the likes of Fremantle, Hawthorn and West Coast sure things to retain their place.
The surest ‘riser’ of those pushing up is undoubtedly Geelong, who is in a great position to return to top four calculations should their new recruits adapt quickly – one simply cannot underestimate the influence of Dangerfield here. Whilst there are quite a few that will be ‘moving on up’, the other of note will be Gold Coast – a team who was forced to play, quite literally, their second-string midfield for much of season 2015. Add Ablett Jnr, O’Meara, Prestia and Swallow to their line-up and all of a sudden the Suns look like a side challenging for finals. Port Adelaide, too have the best chance of those who finished outside the eight to mount a challenge – having gained Charlie Dixon in the off-season and the likes of Travis Boak re-signing for the long-term.
It’s almost impossible to pick the sliders in any given year given the amount of luck that can swing a season. Injuries and suspension alone are enough to derail even the best sides – with injuries in particular destroying any chance the Suns, Lions and Blues had of anything more than a bottom four finish.
Based purely on the pressure coming from teams below, there will always be a few teams that played finals the previous year who make way. Whilst they absolutely have the ability to retain their spot or improve, Adelaide are the move most vulnerable having lost Dangerfield to Geelong. You could also mount a case for the Bulldogs and Richmond as well, although with more youth on their side it’s likely that they will maintain their spots at this stage through natural improvement.
It must be stressed that the following ladder is a conservative look based largely on 2015 results and off-season movements. Season 2016 is a new year and each side has every opportunity to write their own story and decide their own fate. That could mean the likes of Carlton or Melbourne surprise and push for finals; West Coast or North could crash down to earth after sizzling 2015 campaigns – anything could happen, and if history has shown us anything: this is the common theme.
Who do you think will be the biggest riser or slider in 2016?