The first weekend of the pre-season has been and gone, with only four matches played due to the staggered first round of the JLT Community Series.
Most serious watchers will tell you there’s little you can take from the first pre-season game. And they’re probably right. But that’s not much fun is it? I’d much rather start jumping to conclusions.
Seriously though, if nothing else it doesn’t hurt to take a proper look at the players each club actually used and what they have in reserve. It offers context to what you might have seen on the weekend.
And while it’s easy to see who isn’t in the match day squad at all, it can really help to take a closer look at those who do pull on the jumper but only play limited minutes.
At this stage of the year players are at different stages of their preparations and some will have plenty of improvement to come. Luckily for us, ToG% (percentage of the total game spent on the ground) is available and illustrates this for us.
Senior players missing: Jed Anderson, Taylor Garner, Jy Simpkin, Sam Wright, Daniel Nielson, Brayden Preuss, Mason Wood, Jamie Macmillan, Josh Williams, Declan Mountford.
Others missing: Paul Ahern, Will Walker, Declan Watson, Kyron Hayden, Tristan Xerri
Lower ToG%: Nick Larkey (40%), Mitchell Hibberd (41%), Cameron Zurharr (42%), Ben Jacobs (59%), Ben McKay (60%), Robbie Tarrant (60%), Sam Durdin (62%), Ben Cunnington (65%)
North are tipped to have another poor season this year, and were comprehensively beaten by Melbourne. On top of that, there’s not a lot to speak of in terms of who they went without… though they will get more out of key players like Jacobs, Tarrant and Cunnington.
Senior players missing: Jack Viney, Dom Tyson, Dean Kent, Sam Frost, Aaron vandenBerg, Jay Kennedy-Harris, Sam Weideman, Harley Balic, Jeff Garlett, Neville Jetta, Joel Smith
Others missing: Charlie Spargo, Oskar Baker, Mitch King, Harrison Petty, Dion Johnstone, Pat McKenna
Lower ToG%: Jordan Lewis (24%), Cameron Pederson (41%), Christian Salem (64%, Nathan Jones (66%).
Many think the Dees are one of the clubs who could make large strides this year, and they looked efficient against a weak North Melbourne side. They have a decent amount of grunt in the middle to return: Jack Viney was out and Jordan Lewis and Nathan Jones will feature a lot more come the season proper. Will improve.
Senior players missing: Tom Bellchambers, Aaron Francis, Orazio Fantasia, James Stewart, Michael Hurley, David Myers, Cale Hooker, Mason Redman, Travis Colyer, Jayden Laverde.
Others missing: Jordan Ridley, Kobe Mutch, Jordan Houlahan, Brandon Zerk-Thatcher, Matt Guelfi, Dylan Clarke
Lower ToG%: Zach Merrett (15%), Kyle Langford (42%), Jake Long (46%), Jake Stringer (46%), Sam Draper (51%), Dyson Heppell (57%), Josh Green (59%), Joe Daniher (63%)
The Bombers stunk up Wangaratta badly amid rumours of a virus having shot through the club in the lead-up to the match. Still, even if the players were at less than 100%, the team looked disorganised and struggled with Richmond’s trademark frantic pressure. Having said that, the list of players either absent or playing less minutes is telling: Bellchambers, Fantasia, Stewart, Hurley, Hooker, Merrett, Stringer, Heppell and Daniher. Pretty hard to get a read on the Dons from that match only.
Senior players missing: Dion Prestia, Shaun Hampson, Daniel Rioli, Anthony Miles, Sam Lloyd, Oleg Markov, Nathan Broad, Connor Menadue, Nathan Drummond, Ivan Soldo.
Others missing: Noah Balta, Callum Coleman-Jones, Patrick Naish, Ben Miller
Lower ToG%: Toby Nankervis (11%), David Astbury (39%), Bachar Houli (40%), Jack Higgins (44%), Jayden Short (47%), Trent Cotchin (54%), Maboir Chol (60%), Dustin Martin (61%)
They say early in the year is a good time to face the reigning premiers… after a full four-week finals campaign and plenty of celebrating, the premiers are usually a few weeks behind everybody else.
That certainly can’t be said of Richmond on the weekend. While Essendon offered limited resistance, the Tigers looked slick and just as manic without the ball as last year. Prestia and Rioli headline whose missing, while a few of the names in the ToG% group look ominous. Cotchin and Martin, probably the best 1-2 midfield punch in the land, have plenty more to offer. Nankervis is an important player structurally, and barely featured. Based on the weekend, Damien Hardwick has used the pre-season to thoroughly kick any sign of a premiership hangover out of the Tigers.
Senior players missing: Hugh Greenwood, Brad Crouch, Riley Knight, Jordan Gallucci, Rory Sloane, Daniel Talia, Taylor Walker, Kyle Hartigan, Eddie Betts, Richard Douglas, Wayne Milera, Brodie Smith.
Others missing: Elliott Himmelberg, Andrew McPherson, Ben Davis
Lower ToG%: Darcy Fogarty (37%), Reilly O’Brien (37%), Matthew Signorello (52%), Sam Jacobs (52%), Paul Hunter (57%)
The Crows did enough to take care of a Fremantle team not expected to achieve big things this year. Last year’s runners-up are sure to be smarting after their poor showing in the grand final, and have huge firepower to return in Sloane, Talia, Walker, Betts and Douglas.
Senior players missing: Hayden Ballantyne, Griffin Logue, Sean Darcy, Harley Bennell, Ethan Hughes, Hugh Dixon, Joel Hamling, Shane Kersten, Stephen Hill, Lee Spurr, Michael Apeness.
Others missing: Adam Cerra, Mitchell Crowden, Tom North, Sam Switkowski, Scott Jones
Lower ToG%: Cameron Sutcliffe (17%), Lloyd Meek (36%), Bailey Banfield (39%), Stefan Giro (39%), Brady Grey (57%), Aaron Sandilands (61%), Bradley Hill (63%), Ed Langdon (63%)
It looks like another year of re-stumping and re-wiring (but not ‘rebuilding’) at Freo. They put up a brave showing on the weekend, and have a few senior players still to return.
Senior players missing: Chris Masten, Nic Naitanui, Eric Mackenzie, Josh Kennedy, Luke Partington, Jackson Nelson, Kurt Mutimer, Malcolm Karpany.
Others missing: Jarrod Brander, Oscar Allen, Jack Petrucelle, Hamish Brayshaw, Josh Rotham, Matthew Allen, Willie Rioli
Lower ToG%: Jeremy McGovern (18%), Mark Hutchings (43%), Brayden Ainsworth (44%), Francis Watson (48%), Brandon Ah Chee (58%), Liam Duggan (58%)
Port are expected by many to be in the hunt this year, and West Coast managed to knock them over without a large chunk of their spine in the returning Naitanui, Mackenzie, Kennedy and McGovern, who left the ground very early. Definitely a side to watch after the weekend.
Senior players missing: Matthew Broadbent, Tom Rockliff, Trent McKenzie, Todd Marshall, Jimmy Toumpas, Chad Wingard, Jared Polec, Aidyn Johnson, Will Snelling, Jake Patmore, Sam Gray
Others missing: Billy Frampton, Kane Farrell, Sam Hayes, Joel Garner, Willem Drew, Jarrod Lienert, Cameron Hewett, Emmanuel Irra
Lower ToG%: Peter Ladhams (42%), Brad Ebert (44%), Jack Trengove (52%), Lindsay Thomas (52%), Steven Motlop (52%), Dan Houston (60%), Joe Atley (60%), Karl Amon (60%)
Port were very, very active in building their list in trade week, and debuted a lot of their new additions on the weekend – but still fell short of a weakened Eagles outfit. Rockliff and Wingard headline those missing… but the Power could almost be called the most disappointing performers on the weekend considering the high-profile off season moves and the strength of the side they put out. For a team in single-figures in the premiership market, they have a fair bit of improving to do.
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