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Sackings, sadness and sensation

Date

Sam Lienert

Year in Review - AFL

The Sydney Swans defied the odds to win the 2012 AFL premiership.

The Sydney Swans defied the odds to win the 2012 AFL premiership. Photo: Getty Images

It was a season that started and ended in mourning and was marked by dramas, some that will spill into next year.

The death of Melbourne great Jim Stynes from cancer in March meant the year begun amid an outpouring of grief. It ended the same way, after the shock death of Port Adelaide and former Collingwood player John McCarthy in Las Vegas in September.

There were sackings: Richmond's Daniel Connors and St Kilda's Jason Gram. There was the forced resignation of Adelaide recruiter Matt Rendell amid hotly disputed claims of perceived racism.

Crows chief executive Steven Trigg will sit out the first six months of next year and ex-Adelaide forward Kurt Tippett, now with Sydney, the first 11 rounds, after the player, officials and the club were found guilty of draft and salary-cap breaches.

Ongoing investigations into alleged 2009 tanking by the Demons mean that club could also face heavy sanctions.

The Demons also lost forward Liam Jurrah, who was charged with assault over an alleged machete attack in March and faces court in Alice Springs next March.

Amid the dramas, there was some memorable football, most notably on the season's final two weekends, when Hawthorn survived a preliminary final near-upset from Adelaide before being rolled by Sydney in the decider.

Bold recruiting moves have the Swans and Hawks primed to challenge again, Sydney stunning many in the industry by finding the space in their salary cap to swoop on Tippett. But for some of the competition's strugglers, a new year will only bring more pain. Here's a look at what's in store for the 18 clubs:

ADELAIDE

They've been fined, lost draft picks, had officials suspended and lost Tippett for nothing. Before that, they were the season's surprise packets. Tippett was a key in their preliminary final near-triumph. With Taylor Walker still in attack and a strong midfield, led by Patrick Dangerfield and Scott Thompson, they'll remain a threat next year.

BRISBANE

Since their early 2000s golden era, the Lions have played finals once in eight years. But there are reasons for hope. They won six games in the second half of the season. Former Demon Brent Moloney will bolster a midfield boasting young guns Daniel Rich, Tom Rockliff and Jack Redden and evergreen Simon Black. And the expected return of talented young ruckman Matthew Leuenberger will help, too.

CARLTON

Huge expectation surrounds Mick Malthouse's coaching comeback. But high hopes are standard at Carlton and haven't been realised for years. Injuries to many talls, most significantly Jarrad Waite, hurt this year, as did midfield stars Marc Murphy and Chris Judd missing substantial stints. Judd has stepped down as captain and Malthouse wants Bryce Gibbs to have more midfield time.

COLLINGWOOD

Veteran ruckman Darren Jolly will shoulder enormous responsibility next season, making Ben Hudson's rookie drafting smart thinking. Injury comebacks by Luke Ball and Lachie Keeffe will be important. Travis Cloke must improve on a modest season. Ex-West Coast big man Quinten Lynch needs to be a better forward-ruckman than Chris Dawes was. Regardless, a star-studded midfield boasting Scott Pendlebury, Dane Swan, Dayne Beams and Dale Thomas means the Magpies remain premiership contenders.

ESSENDON

The jury won't judge the Bombers for a long time next year. Their first seven rounds this year were excellent, their mid-season stretch OK and their final seven rounds dire, as soft-tissue injuries galore took a toll, so it's all about staying power next season. Prize recruit Brendon Goddard will ease the heavy load on Brownlow medallist Jobe Watson.

FREMANTLE

Fremantle would have had excuses for a poor year - a new coach and two of their best players, Nathan Fyfe and Aaron Sandilands, missing for long periods. That they still notched the third finals win in their history augurs well. With more time under Ross Lyon, midfield keys David Mundy and Michael Barlow coming off strong season finishes and speedster Stephen Hill yet to fully tap his huge potential, expect a further Dockers climb.

GEELONG

It's dangerous dismissing the Cats as premiership contenders but, given their meek finals exit, fair enough. Linchpin Matthew Scarlett has retired. Key players Paul Chapman, Joel Corey, Corey Enright and James Podsiadly are over 30. The flipside is the fast-improving Tom Hawkins is already possibly the game's top power forward, while experienced recruits Hamish McIntosh, Jared Rivers and Josh Caddy will help.

GOLD COAST

Forget Suns chairman John Witheriff's wildly optimistic declaration the Suns will win the flag within three years. There's no guarantee they'll play finals by then. Gary Ablett can't do any more than this season and Harley Bennell showed he is a rising star, but there wasn't much else to inspire confidence. If Michael Rischitelli, David Swallow and Nathan Bock can have better injury runs, the natural development of youngsters should mean rapid improvement, but from a very low base.

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY

They've lost their most marketable figure in Israel Folau, but that won't hurt on field. Budding young key forward Jeremy Cameron had an excellent debut season and last year's No.1 draft pick Jonathon Patton should be ready to provide more support. Former Hawk Stephen Gilham and former Blue Bret Thornton will bolster an inexperienced defence. But while the wooden spooners added another bucketload of potential in November's draft, it's years from being realised.

HAWTHORN

The recruitment of ex-Western Bulldogs two-time All Australian key defender Brian Lake is a huge coup, fixing the Hawks' biggest weakness and setting them up to start the year as flag favourites. They would be reigning premiers already if not for inaccuracy, having had five more scoring shots than Sydney in the grand final. They still boast enormous attacking potency and a reliable midfield, but would love a bigger year from captain Luke Hodge.

MELBOURNE

A horror year on and off the field has more pain to deliver, in the form of potential severe tanking penalties. The Demons are trying to rebuild fast, recruiting Collingwood's Chris Dawes to join last year's prize recruit Mitch Clark in attack. They've added the likes of Shannon Byrnes, David Rodan and father-son pick Jack Viney to their midfield. But with Jurrah among some notable departures, another difficult year awaits.

NORTH MELBOURNE

Their first final in four years resulted in a 96-point belting from West Coast. But there were good signs late in the year with classy wins over Essendon and Collingwood. The Roos boast a nice blend of experience and youth, ball-winning ability and pace. Key forwards Robbie Tarrant and Lachie Hansen have emerged to aid Drew Petrie in attack. Much rests with No.1 ruckman Todd Goldstein.

PORT ADELAIDE

Dealing with the emotional toll of McCarthy's death is not new coach Ken Hinkley's only challenge. The Power have managed just eight wins in two years, the worst two seasons in their history. They're struggling financially and crowd-wise, and lost Troy Chaplin and Ben Jacobs to rivals, although they did snare Essendon's Angus Monfries.

RICHMOND

The Tigers have continued their successful strategy of the past two years, recruiting AFL-experienced players - Port backman Troy Chaplin, North Melbourne forward Aaron Edwards and Adelaide's Chris Knights. While Richmond faced off-field issues this year, sacking Connors and suspending Dustin Martin, in new captain Trent Cotchin they have a fine role model.

ST KILDA

Nick Riewoldt wanted this year to be his last as Saints captain. But with his most obvious successor, Brendon Goddard, gone, that might change. A worry for the Saints is that their two oldest players, Lenny Hayes and Stephen Milne, were their best and fairest and leading goal-kicker. The Saints have bolstered one problem area, recruiting young Gold Coast ruckman Tom Hickey.

SYDNEY

Tippett's signing adds ruck depth, frees star Adam Goodes for more midfield time and lifts pressure from rising star forward Sam Reid. With lightning-quick Lewis Jetta having emerged as a game-breaker, Gary Rohan to return from injury and ball-winning stalwarts Josh Kennedy, Jarrad McVeigh, Ryan O'Keefe and Jude Bolton soldiering on, the Swans can eye another flag.

WEST COAST

The Eagles deserve to be battling the Swans and Hawks for premiership favouritism. They reached a semi-final this year despite huge injury handicaps. Mark LeCras and Mark Nicoski didn't play and Josh Kennedy managed just nine games, after that trio combined for 147 goals last year. There's a rock-solid defence and excellent midfield blend. Capping that is the AFL's best ruck double act in Dean Cox and Nic Naitanui.

WESTERN BULLDOGS

It's a long haul for the Bulldogs. They lost their last 11 games this season, most by huge margins. They've recruited some discards and bright draft prospects but no one is likely to make a huge difference. Knee problems have made Adam Cooney a shadow of the 2008 Brownlow medallist. Star defender Brian Lake is gone. Dale Morris is coming off injury. Young midfielders Mitch Wallis, Tom Liberatore, Clay Smith and Luke Dahlhaus have shown promise.

2014 Home and Away

Round 1
Fri, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
COL 46 vs FRE 116 Report Stats
Sat, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
GWS 99 vs SYD 67 Report Report Stats
GCF 87 vs RIC 69 Report Stats
Sun, 16 MarTimes shown AEDT
CAR 87 vs PTA 120 Report Stats
Thu, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
GEE 119 vs ADE 81 Report Stats
Fri, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
NTH 60 vs ESS 99 Report Stats
Sat, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
HAW 139 vs BRI 91 Report Stats
STK 68 vs MEL 51 Report Stats
Sun, 23 MarTimes shown AEDT
WCE 134 vs WBU 69 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Thu, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
RIC 98 vs CAR 86 Report Stats
Fri, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
ESS 86 vs HAW 90 Report Stats
Sat, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
STK 95 vs GWS 88 Stats
PTA 127 vs ADE 73 Report Stats
FRE 87 vs GCF 39 Report Stats
SYD 69 vs COL 89 Report Stats
Sun, 30 MarTimes shown AEDT
BRI 68 vs GEE 93 Stats
MEL 30 vs WCE 123 Report Stats
WBU 54 vs NTH 83 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
HAW 137 vs FRE 79 Report Stats
Sat, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
WBU 100 vs RIC 98 Report Stats
ADE 71 vs SYD 134 Report Stats
GCF 114 vs BRI 61 Stats
WCE 83 vs STK 58 Report Stats
COL 76 vs GEE 87 Report Stats
Sun, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
GWS 79 vs MEL 47 Report Stats
NTH 97 vs PTA 90 Report Stats
ESS 138 vs CAR 57 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 72 vs COL 110 Report Stats
Sat, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 58 vs MEL 81 Report Stats
PTA 159 vs BRI 46 Report Stats
GWS 83 vs WBU 110 Report Stats
GEE 107 vs WCE 32 Report Stats
GCF 49 vs HAW 148 Report Stats
Sun, 13 AprTimes shown AEST
SYD 48 vs NTH 91 Report Stats
STK 50 vs ADE 136 Report Stats
FRE 113 vs ESS 60 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Thu, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 63 vs RIC 106 Report Stats
Sat, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 93 vs NTH 58 Report Stats
SYD 92 vs FRE 75 Report Stats
WCE 56 vs PTA 70 Report Stats
ESS 65 vs STK 81 Report Stats
Sun, 20 AprTimes shown AEST
ADE 137 vs GWS 72 Report Stats
MEL 78 vs GCF 86 Report Stats
WBU 91 vs CAR 119 Report Stats
Mon, 21 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 106 vs HAW 87 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 83 vs ESS 60 Report Stats
STK 79 vs BRI 82 Report Stats
FRE 61 vs NTH 74 Report Stats
Sat, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
GCF 134 vs GWS 94 Report Stats
CAR 92 vs WCE 89 Report Stats
MEL 38 vs SYD 69 Report Stats
Sun, 27 AprTimes shown AEST
WBU 83 vs ADE 92 Report Stats
RIC 52 vs HAW 118 Report Stats
PTA 107 vs GEE 67 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 70 vs COL 104 Report Stats
Sat, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW 175 vs STK 30 Report Stats
GWS 97 vs PTA 132 Report Stats
ADE 67 vs MEL 70 Report Stats
BRI 44 vs SYD 123 Stats
ESS 73 vs WBU 65 Report Stats
Sun, 04 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH 77 vs GCF 120 Report Stats
GEE 81 vs RIC 76 Report Stats
WCE 54 vs FRE 73 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD 107 vs HAW 88 Report Stats
Sat, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
PTA 94 vs FRE 76 Report Stats
BRI 57 vs ESS 65 Report Stats
MEL 83 vs WBU 99 Report Stats
Sun, 11 MayTimes shown AEST
WCE 188 vs GWS 77 Report Stats
Mon, 12 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 69 vs CAR 101 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Thu, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 76 vs COL 55 Report Stats
Fri, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 64 vs SYD 114 Report Stats
Sat, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC 74 vs MEL 91 Report Stats
NTH 125 vs BRI 38 Report Stats
FRE 96 vs GEE 64 Report Stats
Sun, 18 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 87 vs GCF 125 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE 111 vs NTH 91 Report Stats
Sat, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
GWS 41 vs RIC 154 Report Stats
COL 109 vs WCE 101 Report Stats
PTA 100 vs HAW 86 Report Stats
Sun, 25 MayTimes shown AEST
GCF 119 vs WBU 74 Report Stats
CAR 81 vs ADE 76 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Thu, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD 148 vs GEE 38 Report Stats
Fri, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 54 vs COL 140 Report Stats
Sat, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL 75 vs PTA 95 Report Stats
BRI 98 vs CAR 91 Report Stats
ESS 104 vs RIC 54 Report Stats
Sun, 01 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE 109 vs GCF 77 Report Stats
WBU 51 vs FRE 89 Report Stats
HAW 94 vs GWS 87 Report Stats
WCE 44 vs NTH 82 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE 107 vs CAR 102 Report Stats
Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW 123 vs WCE 79 Report Stats
PTA 129 vs STK 59 Report Stats
WBU 87 vs BRI 95 Report Stats
GWS 66 vs ESS 81 Report Stats
Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF 74 vs SYD 109 Report Stats
FRE 90 vs ADE 50 Report Stats
NTH 116 vs RIC 88 Report Stats
Mon, 09 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL 28 vs COL 61 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 90 vs HAW 118 Report Stats
Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC 85 vs FRE 105 Report Stats
SYD 98 vs PTA 94 Report Stats
WCE 103 vs GCF 100 Report Stats
BRI 80 vs GWS 125 Report Stats
ADE 109 vs NTH 73 Report Stats
Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE 133 vs STK 37 Report Stats
COL 98 vs WBU 106 Report Stats
ESS 77 vs MEL 78 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Fri, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC 51 vs SYD 62 Report Stats
Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA 128 vs WBU 56 Report Stats
HAW 115 vs COL 86 Report Stats
GCF 118 vs GEE 78 Report Stats
FRE 105 vs BRI 22 Report Stats
ESS 101 vs ADE 92 Report Stats
Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS 100 vs CAR 92 Report Stats
STK 70 vs WCE 103 Report Stats
MEL 66 vs NTH 107 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Fri, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE 89 vs ESS 80 Report Stats
Sat, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW 116 vs GCF 63 Report Stats
STK 73 vs RIC 117 Report Stats
FRE 88 vs WCE 81 Report Stats
SYD 106 vs GWS 60 Stats
BRI 70 vs NTH 66 Report Stats
Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
WBU 91 vs MEL 85 Report Stats
ADE 99 vs PTA 76 Report Stats
COL 91 vs CAR 76 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH 108 vs HAW 88 Report Stats
Sat, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 79 vs BRI 54 Stats
GWS 72 vs ADE 140 Report Stats
GCF 80 vs COL 75 Report Stats
MEL 34 vs FRE 97 Report Stats
PTA 60 vs ESS 62 Report Stats
Sun, 06 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR 151 vs STK 66 Report Stats
WCE 51 vs SYD 79 Report Stats
GEE 69 vs WBU 56 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ADE 92 vs HAW 104 Report Stats
Sat, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL 36 vs GEE 102 Report Stats
NTH 92 vs STK 33 Report Stats
WBU 94 vs GCF 66 Report Stats
BRI 64 vs WCE 76 Report Stats
SYD 122 vs CAR 51 Report Stats
Sun, 13 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 126 vs PTA 106 Report Stats
ESS 103 vs COL 39 Report Stats
FRE 136 vs GWS 60 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR 109 vs NTH 86 Report Stats
Sat, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
STK 118 vs FRE 60 Report Stats
GWS 87 vs GEE 94 Report Stats
Sun, 20 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA 72 vs MEL 69 Report Stats
WBU 94 vs ESS 101 Report Stats
Fri, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
WCE 42 vs RIC 59 Report Stats
Sat, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
BRI 110 vs GCF 56 Report Stats
HAW 104 vs SYD 94 Report Stats
Sun, 27 JulTimes shown AEST
COL 82 vs ADE 98 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Thu, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
FRE 83 vs CAR 78 Report Stats
Fri, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD 79 vs ESS 57 Report Stats
Sat, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 105 vs WCE 136 Report Stats
RIC 89 vs GWS 62 Report Stats
GCF 117 vs STK 64 Report Stats
NTH 79 vs GEE 111 Report Stats
Sun, 03 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL 51 vs BRI 74 Stats
HAW 107 vs WBU 45 Report Stats
COL 76 vs PTA 70 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC 95 vs ESS 77 Report Stats
Sat, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS 51 vs NTH 126 Report Stats
CAR 97 vs GCF 58 Report Stats
HAW 115 vs MEL 65 Report Stats
PTA 58 vs SYD 84 Report Stats
GEE 81 vs FRE 79 Report Stats
Sun, 10 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI 63 vs ADE 168 Report Stats
STK 99 vs WBU 122 Report Stats
WCE 126 vs COL 66 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
CAR 76 vs GEE 82 Report Stats
Sat, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD 127 vs STK 56 Stats
GCF 47 vs PTA 56 Report Stats
ESS 77 vs WCE 74 Report Stats
COL 56 vs BRI 123 Report Stats
ADE 69 vs RIC 79 Report Stats
Sun, 17 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH 111 vs WBU 61 Report Stats
MEL 34 vs GWS 98 Report Stats
FRE 110 vs HAW 91 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA 140 vs CAR 37 Report Stats
Sat, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH 101 vs ADE 94 Report Stats
ESS 108 vs GCF 89 Report Stats
GWS 67 vs COL 75 Report Stats
WCE 119 vs MEL 53 Report Stats
HAW 94 vs GEE 71 Report Stats
Sun, 24 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI 48 vs FRE 106 Report Stats
WBU 67 vs SYD 130 Report Stats
RIC 98 vs STK 72 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 56 vs HAW 121 Stats
Sat, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
CAR 90 vs ESS 90 Stats
FRE 105 vs PTA 97 Stats
SYD 65 vs RIC 68 Stats
NTH 123 vs MEL 93 Stats
GEE 143 vs BRI 81 Stats
Sun, 31 AugTimes shown AEST
GCF 99 vs WCE 151 Stats
ADE 141 vs STK 62 Stats
WBU 109 vs GWS 115 Stats
View All Fixtures
AFL Finals Round 1
Fri, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
HAW 104 vs GEE 68 Report Stats
Sat, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
SYD 93 vs FRE 69 Stats
NTH 93 vs ESS 81 Report Stats
Sun, 07 SepTimes shown AEST
PTA 132 vs RIC 75 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
AFL Finals Round 2
Fri, 12 SepTimes shown AEST
GEE 92 vs NTH 98 Stats
Sat, 13 SepTimes shown AEST
FRE 83 vs PTA 105 Stats
View All Fixtures
AFL Finals Round 3
Fri, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
SYD 136 vs NTH 65 Report Stats
Sat, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
HAW 97 vs PTA 94 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
AFL Finals Round 4
Sat, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SYD 74 vs HAW 137 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
AFL Home and Away
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Sydney Swans 22 17 5 0 142.88 68
Hawthorn 22 17 5 0 140.78 68
Geelong Cats 22 17 5 0 113.77 68
Fremantle 22 16 6 0 130.40 64
Port Adelaide 22 14 8 0 129.92 56
North Melbourne 22 14 8 0 117.04 56
Essendon 22 12 9 1 106.34 50
Richmond 22 12 10 0 105.77 48
View all
 
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