IT IS an impossible task but that’s why SPORTSHOUNDS has chosen to ask its team of football specialists to dissect the contenders for glory in 2018 and list them in finishing order on the AFL Ladder. Editor COLIN DUCK looks at the odds and the tough task ahead for one high-profile coach:
IF THE oddsmakers at Sportsbet are to be believed, Gold Coast, Brisbane, North Melbourne and Carlton are merely making up the numbers at the bottom of the ladder for the 2018 season.
The Kangaroos, Lions and Suns were all being offered at odds of $151 this week to win the flag, while the Blues were a little more respectable $101.
Richmond, who have been so impressive in the pre-season tryouts are on $7, still behind the equal favourites Adelaide and Sydney on $6. The punters must have their reasons and the inconsistency of the Tigers in the past has to be a consideration. However, Richmond’s work in the 2017 finals was superb and it is difficult to overlook the damning performances of the Crows on Grand Final day and the Swans in their meek submission to Geelong in their last finals appearance.
In the latest market GWS are strongly favoured at $8, Geelong with their all-star on-ball trio are $9 and Port Adelaide, who recruited so successfully in the trade period, are on the same line. The Demons and the Bombers are on $14, odds that surely reflect their potential rather than results under pressure last season.
It doesn’t take long for punters to drop off unreliable sides and the Bulldogs have been abandoned at $23, just one year after their magnificent premiership. The Hawks, too, have lost favour along with their departed stars, being offered at $26 along with the disappointing Magpies.
Making up the rest of the field are Saints ($34), West Coast ($41) and Fremantle ($51).
As usual, the club under the fiercest spotlight will be Collingwood. With all eyes upon them, the Magpies will be expected to start making significant improvement under Nathan Buckley, “safely” installed for another two years as coach.
Buckley’s reappointment shocked many Magpie fans, weary of the long trail of failure that has accompanied his assumption of the coach’s role from Mick Malthouse in 2012. Malthouse had delivered a flag in 2010 but Buckley’s coaching record runs backwards, from losing a preliminary final in his first year, 2012, to 6th in 2013, 11th in 2014, 12th in 2015, 12th again in 2016 and 13th in 2017, with just nine wins for the season.
When Eddie McGuire announced his reappointment last year it was not greeted with roars of approval from the Magpie army but Buckley certainly has his supporters among the media, most notably SEN’s new host Gerard Whateley, who urged the club to publicly reinstall him and ease the speculation about his future.
An Internet poll failed to produce the same vote of confidence with nearly 58 per cent of Magpie fans saying they did not expect to see a Buckley-led Collingwood make progress to the finals.
Commentators assessed the draw as being kind to the Magpies, a benefit gained from slipping into the bottom six last season. That may be so, but they have a testing start to the season with the Hawks for openers on the MCG followed by GWS and Carlton at the same ground in rounds two and three, then the Crows in Adelaide and the Bombers in the Anzac Day shootout.
This week Sportshounds has asked its team of writers to list their predictions for 2018: the final Ladder, the Premiers and the Brownlow Medallist. Their views offer little comfort for the Magpies with no support for a finals berth and some predicting a finish as low as 16th.
There is one notable exception: our prime provocateur TERRY BROWN is providing his own partisan prophecies and given his lifetime of blindly backing the Magpie band you will earn no prize for picking his premiers!
The Sportshounds selections will be appearing on the website throughout the week. We welcome your furious feedback.
Colin Duck was the last Editor of The Sun before it merged with The Herald. Before that he was Editor of the Sunday Press and Deputy Editor of The Herald. After the Herald Sun merger Duck moved into newspaper and magazine management.