The Summer Slog

All 18 AFL clubs are busy slogging it out under the summer sun in preparation for the 2012 season. Justin Cooper looks at your club.

Adelaide

Ins: Luke Brown, Tom Lynch, Lewis Johnston and Josh Jenkins landed in Adelaide during trade week. Sam Kerridge, Mitchell Grigg, Nicholas Joyce, Cameron Ellis-Yolmen, Aiden Riley and Matthew Wright all joined the senior list in the national draft. Rory Laird, Dylan Orval, Tim McIntyre, Will Young, James Craig and Ben Dowdell have been added to the rookie list.

Outs: Chris Schmidt, Jack Gunston (Hawthorn), Jake von Bertouch, James Craig, James Sellar, Lachlan Roach, Myke Cook, Phil Davis (GWS), Ivan Maric (Richmond), Scott Stevens (retired), Will Young.

In the coaches box: Brenton Sanderson will coach the Crows in 2012 after winning the race to replace Neil Craig. Sanderson’s offsiders will include former Melbourne coach Dean Bailey and his ex-teammate at Geelong Darren Milburn.

From the track: The Crows have got physical in the pre-season so far with boxing and grappling sessions now part of their weekly routine. Nathan Van Berlo and Andy Otten are a couple of the more competitive types when the gloves are on. Tall defender Daniel Talia – who will be vital given the recent losses of Nathan Bock (Gold Coast) and Phil Davis (GWS) – is still struggling with a damaged Achilles.

The burning question: Has rookie coach Sanderson overestimated the quality at his disposal in Adelaide? It’s understood the new man in charge was very bullish about the Crows’ prospects and that may have helped him win the position. Sanderson said none of the jobs on offer at the end of last season appealed to him as much as the one he landed. The Crows finished 14th in 2011 and have some real holes. Rebuild or rebound; next year will be intriguing.

Brisbane Lions

Ins: Jordan Lisle was nabbed from the Hawks and Ben Hudson came from the Bulldogs in trade week. Billy Longer, Sam Docherty, Elliot Yeo, Patrick Weardon, Mitch Golby were picked in the national draft. Justin Clarke, Stephen Wrigley, Jack Crisp, Richard Newell and Sam Michael are rookies for 2012.

Outs: Bart McCulloch, Broc McCauley, Donald Barry, Jamie Charman (retired), Matt Austin, Luke Power (GWS), Mitch Clark (Melbourne), Xavier Clarke.

In the coaches box: Sacked Fremantle coach Mark Harvey brings some experience to Michael Voss’s team while retired big man Jamie Charman will be the ruck coach next season.

From the track: Skinny forward Patrick Karnezis is changing his body shape in the summer months. The talented teenager has bulked up to 87kg from the 80kg he arrived at. Jonathan Brown, meanwhile, is super fit and leading from the front. Brown and senior players Simon Black, Daniel Merrett, Jed Adcock and Tom Rockliff spent two weeks training at altitude in a trial for the club in November.

The burning question: How much pressure is Michael Voss under? The Lions handed the coach a two-year contract extension at the end of their four-win season in 2011 after a lengthy review. Another poor season may result in Voss’ dismissal, one year early into a 2-year deal.

Carlton

Ins: The Blues had only three selections in the national draft and went with Josh Bootsma, Sam Row and Dylan Buckley. In the rookie draft they opted for Tom Bell, Nick Heyne, Matthew Lodge and Frazer Dale.

Outs: Jaryd Cachia, Joe Dare, Mark Austin, Ryan Houlihan (retired), Setanta O’hAilpin, Wade Twomey.

In the coaches box: After missing out on the top job at Western Bulldogs, Paul Williams has made the move to the Blues to help with the midfield. Brett Ratten had his contract extended until the end of 2013.

From the track: Not for the first time, all eyes have been on Chris Judd at Princes Park. The skipper underwent shoulder surgery in early December but was back running within days. He is expected to be fully operational in January. Many young leaders – including Bryce Gibbs and Mitch Robinson – impressed on Carlton’s pre-season with a camp in Qatar and Abu Dhabi.

The burning question: Can they take the next step? The form line suggests Carlton should be on the verge of challenging for a premiership next season but that doesn’t mean they will. They’ll need improvement from beneath the likes of Judd, Gibbs, Marc Murphy and Co. A fit Matthew Kreuzer will be a good start, but they’ll need all guns blazing to make the top four.

Collingwood

Ins: Irishman Marty Clarke returned to the club during trade week and Jamie Elliot and Peter Yagmoor were also introduced. Collingwood didn’t get a pick in the national draft until No.50 and went with Jackson Paine, followed by Corey Gault and Jarrod Witts. Lachlan Smith, Marley Williams, Trent Stubbs, Daniel Farmer, Caolan Mooney (Ireland) and Michael Hartley are rookies.

Outs: Brad Dick (West Coast Eagles), Declan Reilly, Jack Perham, Jye Bolton, Leigh Brown (retired), Leon Davis (retired), John McCarthy (Port Adelaide), Scott Reed, Tom Hunter (retired), Tom Gordon.

In the coaches box: Mick Malthouse has moved out and Nathan Buckley takes his place in the hot seat. Rodney Eade takes over the role created for Malthouse, which he opted not to take, while Adelaide premiership player Ben Hart will take on the role of defensive coach. Robert Harvey has also joined after missing the senior gig at St Kilda. Former Western Bulldog Mitch Hahn and ex-Magpies forward Anthony Rocca is the new defensive development coach.

From the track: Skipper Nick Maxwell hit the track earlier than most in a sign he’s desperate for redemption. Another clearly stung by his stuttering 2011 campaign was Darren Jolly. He has returned in excellent shape, along with comeback kid Marty Clarke.

The burning question: How good will Nathan Buckley be as a coach? The Magpies moved on the wily Malthouse to give untried Buckley the keys. Well, what if he can’t keep Collingwood at the top? The pressure is on one of the club’s greatest ever players.

Essendon

Ins: Highly rated midfielder Elliott Kavanagh was their first pick at No.19 in the national draft, followed by Jackson Merrett, Nick O’Brien and rookie upgrade Stewart Crameri. The Bombers went with Lauchlan Dalgleish, Corey Dell’olio, Mark Baguley, Hal Hunter, Brendan Lee and Anthony Long in the rookie draft.

Outs: Darcy Daniher (retired), Josh Jenkins (Adelaide), Jay Neagle, Michael Quinn, Taite Silverlock, Tyson Slattery, James Webster, Andrew Welsh (retired), Mark Williams (retired).

In the coaches box: The big spenders on the coaching front at the end of 2010 have been more circumspect this time around. Matthew Egan, the Geelong defender cut down by a serious foot issue, has moved from the Cats to Essendon as an assistant coach.

From the track: Pleasingly for James Hird is the progress of dashers Jason Winderlich and Courtenay Dempsey. The pair were cut down by ACL injuries in 2010 but are on track for a round-one return. High-performance manager Dean Robinson has put the players through a punishing program before Christmas designed to bulk up the Bombers.

The burning question: Was their appearance in the finals in 2011 a fluke in a weak season or a sign of things to come? The Bombers played finals in 2009 before things fell apart and they slumped to 14th the following year. Can Hird and his much-vaunted panel oversee another September showing or will they slide?

Fremantle

Ins: Tom Sheridan, Hayden Crozier, Alex Forster, Lachlan Neale, Cameron Sutcliffe and Nick Lower (from the rookie list) were selected in the national draft while Zac Dawson was nabbed with a pre-season selection. Lee Spur, Haiden Schlothe, Jordan King and Clancee Pearce are on the rookie list.

Outs: Ben Bucovaz, Byron Schammer (retired), Casey Sibosado, Clayton Hinkley, Hamish Shepheard, Joel Houghton, Justin Bollenhagen, Rhys Palmer (GWS), Roger Hayden (retired), Tim Ruffles.

In the coaches box: New coach Ross Lyon isn’t the only big-name addition. Peter Sumich will join him in purple after 11 years working at West Coast, where he won two flags as a player. Mark Stone from Sydney is another inclusion.

From the track: The injury crisis which hindered Fremantle in 2011 shouldn’t be an issue come round one in the new season. The Dockers are expecting 95 per cent of their list on the training track after Christmas. Track burners in the early stages of proceedings have included Ryan Crowley, Hayden Ballantyne and the skilled Stephen Hill.

The burning question: Will Ross Lyon take Fremantle from flaky to fair-dinkum? The decision to headhunt Lyon was as decisive as they’ve been in their AFL history. They identified what they wanted and went hard for their man. Now the no-nonsense coach will be entrusted to steel the Dockers and make them genuine contenders.

Geelong

Ins: Took 29-year-old VFL ruckman Orren Stephenson in the national draft, along with teens Joel Hamling, Shane Kersten, Jordan Murdoch, Lincoln McCarthy and Jed Bews (father-son). Their new rookies next season will be Cam Eardley, Jackson Sheringham, Mark Blicavs.

Outs: Brad Ottens (retired), Cameron Mooney (retired), Cameron Ling (retired), Darren Milburn (retired), Mark Blake (retired), Marcus Drum (retired).

In the coaches box: Former Essendon coach Matthew Knights will take the reins of Geelong’s VFL team next year. Former Cats hardman Max Rooke will also join Chris Scott’s panel as a development coach.

From the track: The bad news first – Nathan Vardy is struggling with his hip issue and there’s no date been put on his return. The Cats didn’t start training until November 28 – almost six weeks after the league’s early risers – but all have reported for duty in impressive shape.

The burning question: How hungry are they? The retirements of Ottens, Ling, Mooney and Milburn suggests they’d had enough but what of their teammates? Are they still driven after such a successful era? Going back to back has been tough in recent times but you wouldn’t rule this lot out.

Gold Coast Suns

Ins: They went for experienced Melbourne defender Matthew Warnock in trade week. After scooping the draft pool 12 months ago, the Suns had to sit back and wait like everyone else (GWS aside) this time around. Selection No.24 netted tall defender Henry Schade, then came Alik Magin (rookie upgrade) Jackson Allen and Alex Sexton. Aaron Hall made it onto their senior list at the pre-season draft. Kyal Horsley, former Saint Andrew McQualter, delisted Sun Michael Coad and Josh Hall are new rookies.

Outs: Daniel Harris (retired), Jack Stanlake, Jack Stanley, Jake Crawford, Joel Tippett, Marc Lock, Nathan Ablett, Roland Ah Chee, Rex Liddy, Nathan Krakouer (retired).

In the coaches box: There’s been no changes in the off-season to Guy McKenna’s panel.

From the track: The Suns followed the lead of the likes of Collingwood and headed abroad for an altitude training camp. The 16-day altitude training camp in Arizona brought the players closer together and now the club expect results in their second season. Senior players Gary Ablett, Nathan Bock and Campbell Brown were inspirational on the trip as they dragged their young teammates through.

The burning question: From three wins to how many? Life in year one was pretty carefree for the Suns. Their victories over Port Adelaide, Brisbane and Richmond were hailed while beltings – and there were plenty – didn’t really matter. That’s not going to be the case for long and McKenna will welcome the new challenge. Can they double their victory count in 2012?

Greater Western Sydney

In the coaches box: Kevin Sheedy is in charge, closely assisted by Mark Williams. Between them the off-beat duo have five premierships as coaches and almost 1000 games of experience. Luke Power and James McDonald will both play and act as assistant coaches.

From the track: If looks are worth anything then Israel Folau is ready for his AFL debut. The 22-year-old has dropped six kilograms and re-shaped his body since crossing from the NRL 12 months ago. John Quinn, the Giants chief of fitness, likes what he sees. Tom Scully has had to be reined in as he tries to put a difficult and injury-riddled season at Melbourne behind him.

The burning question: Can they win a game? It was asked of the Suns after their less-than-impressive first few weeks in the AFL and it will be posed about the Giants until they break through. They haven’t got the quality of Gary Ablett and co so it wouldn’t surprise if they failed to register a win in year one.

Hawthorn

Ins: Jack Gunston took a fair bit of time to get across the line but the young Crow will be at the Hawks next year. The speedy Brad Hill, brother of Fremantle’s Stephen, was the Hawks’ first addition at No.33 in the national draft. Jordan Kelly, Alex Woodward and rookie Luke Breust also got the nod. Ex-Lion ruckman Broc McCauley, ex-Saint and Tiger tall Adam Pattison, Amos Frank and Andrew Boseley are the new rookies.

Outs: Brent Renouf (Port Adelaide), Jack Mahony, Jarryd Morton, Jordan Lisle (Brisbane Lions), Jordan Williams, Paul Johnson, Rick Ladson, Riley Milne, Sam Menegola, Will Sierakowski (North Melbourne).

In the coaches box: Former Melbourne, Footscray and St Kilda player Luke Beveridge arrived as an assistant to Alastair Clarkson, while defence coach Ross Smith left for Richmond after six years behind the scenes at Waverley.

From the track: Jarryd Roughead has commenced running activities after his season-ending Achilles injury last season. But it’s a slow process which hasn’t got a comeback date on it just yet. Xavier Ellis is training hard in a bid to kick-start his career again.

The burning question: What are we going to do without Jeff Kennett for a quote? The Hawthorn president has ended his tenure on December 14 after six years in the post. The Hawks go forward as one of the teams to beat for the flag but can the Josh Gibson-led defence stand up again?

Melbourne

Ins: Mitch Clark joined from Brisbane when the Dees landed the talented big man with a last-ditch bid late in trade week. Their three national draft selections netted Rory Taggert, Josh Tynan and former Adelaide big man James Sellar. The new rookies are Jai Sheahan, Tom Couch, James Magner and Leigh Williams.

Outs: Addam Maric (Richmond), Cameron Johnston, Robert Campbell (retired), Tom McNamara, Tom Scully (GWS), Michael Newton, Austin Wonaeamirri, Matthew Warnock (Gold Coast).

In the coaches box: Mark Neeld takes the reins in a new-look coaching set-up at the Demons. Ex-Adelaide coach Neil Craig adds experience, Todd Viney has been retained, while Jade Rawlings and Leigh Brown are fresh faces.

From the track: Big man Tom McDonald was recruited as a forward/ruckman in 2010. He’s beating most of the midfielders home in the endurance events this pre-season. Jack Trengove has also caught the eye in the early going while Jack Watts has had the acid put on him by new coach Mark Neeld.

The burning question: Can Mark Neeld give Melbourne the harder edge they so desperately require? The new coach has impressed in his first few months in the job but there will be testing times when the real stuff starts. A talented young group carrying the potential tag needs to produce more regularly next season.

North Melbourne

Ins: Hawthorn rookie Will Sierakowski was an interesting acquisition in trade week. The Kangaroos went for a quality user of the football at the draft with Brad McKenzie and also selected Tom Curran, along with 2011 rookies Luke Delaney and Cameron Pedersen. Max Warren, Brad Mangan, VFL pair Malcolm Lynch and Sam Gibson along with the delisted Gavin Urquhart all joined the rookie list.

Outs: Ed Lower, Brayden Norris, Daniel Pratt, Brady Rawlings (retired), Ben Ross, Matthew Scott, Marcus White.

In the coaches box: Brad Scott will have the same support team around him in 2011 that was in place last season.

From the track: Daniel Wells is the major absentee from training and his 2012 season will be delayed due to a blood clot scare. Possible future captain Nathan Grima is fit again and the 100kg key defender is a leader in the running component at North. He won the two-kilometre time trial after an injury-disrupted season in 2011. Recruit Sierakowski is an athlete.

The burning question: Can North Melbourne match it with the big boys? Two ninth-place finishes under Brad Scott have been fair but the Roos have failed miserably against top-four teams. If they can get over a couple of the pacesetters they might just join them in the top four and backup the big talk that they’re better then what they produce onfield.

Port Adelaide

Ins: Experienced pair Brent Renouf (Hawthorn) and Brad Ebert (West Coast Eagles) got to Alberton in trade week. Then came Chad Wingard, Brendon Ah Chee and Nathan Blee in the draft, followed by ex-Collingwood midfielder John McCarthy in December’s pre-season draft. Darren Pfeiffer and Danny Butcher are additions to the rookie list.

Outs: Callum Hay, Chad Cornes (GWS), Daniel Motlop, Danny Meyer (retired), Dean Brogan (GWS), Jason Davenport, Marlon Motlop, Matthew Westhoff, Michael Pettigrew (retired).

In the coaches box: Shaun Rehn, who had a distinguished career at the Crows, joins the local rivals as an assistant. Brad Gotch comes across from Melbourne as well as former player Josh Carr.

From the track: You’ll have caught up with the heavyweight battle between Jay Schulz and Jackson Trengove by now. The pair have patched things up and there’s a real spirit among the humiliated playing group since the training mishap. Daniel Stewart, John Butcher, Matthew Broadbent, Matt Lobbe, Jarrad Redden, Travis Boak and Trengove went on a gruelling camp in November. It was organised by Trengove and Boak and showed they’re commitment to redemption following a disastrous 2011.

The burning question: Are they capable of turning things around? The club’s dire predicament was confirmed with another multi-million dollar loss in 2011. Without the financial support for the footy department the Power are fighting with one hand behind their back. Getting things on track off the field is almost a greater priority than winning games in 2012.

Richmond

Ins: The ruck issue was addressed in trade week with the capture of Ivan Maric. Steven Morris was also added before Brandon Ellis, Todd Elton and Matthew Arnot came in the national draft and Brett O’Hanlon joined in the pre-season draft. Addam Maric, Ben Darrou, Steven Verrier, Gibson Turner, Piva Wright and John Heslin got their chance on the rookie list.

Outs: Pat Contin, Mitch Farmer, Robbie Hicks, Tom Hislop, Ben Jakobi, Mitch Morton (Sydney Swans), Ben Nason, Jamie O’Reilly, Troy Taylor, Will Thursfield (retired), Nick Westhoff.

In the coaches box: Highly-regarded assistant coach Ross Smith left Hawthorn to resume a successful partnership with Damien Hardwick. Former Melbourne assistant and 3-time VFL premiership winning coach at Sandringham, Mark Williams, also joins.

From the track: Dustin Martin has learned the lessons of last year’s difficult pre-season. Twelve months ago he turned up in less-than-impressive shape and took time to get going in summer. At November’s time trial he slashed a minute off his best time around Melbourne’s famous Tan running track.

The burning question: When will development translate into finals footy? Success-starved Richmond fans can rightly head into 2012 expecting to be in the top half of the ladder. Two years of development under Damien Hardwick is done and even the coach says it’s time to deliver. Can they?

St Kilda

Ins: Terry Milera and Ahmed Saad joined in trade week and Seb Ross, Daniel Markworth, Jack Newnes, Jimmy Webster, Jay Lever, Beau Wilkes were added in the draft, along with veteran Jason Blake. Rookie additions were Sam Dunnell, Cameron Shenton, Jordan Staley and Darren Minchington.

Outs: Steven Baker (retired), Paul Cahill, Robert Eddy, Ryan Gamble, Michael Gardiner (retired), Nick Heyne, Will Johnson, Andrew McQualter, Tom Lynch (Adelaide), Alistair Smith, Tom Walsh (Sydney).

In the coaches box: Former North Melbourne coach Dean Laidley has joined following a two-year stint at Port Adelaide. Former player Troy Schwarze joined his old teammates Aaron Hamill and Max Hudghton as specialist coaches.

From the track: After a breakout season this year, ex-Docker Brett Peake has been the clear standout on the track. The raft of draftees has also invigorated the playing group’s finals aspirations for 2012.

The burning question: Is the premiership window still ajar or did it close when Ross Lyon left the building? It’s hard to know how good the Saints can be given their gutsy effort to scrape into the finals in 2011 after a horrible opening to the campaign. Scott Watters should freshen things up but it won’t necessarily equate to results.

Sydney Swans

Ins: The Swans, experts in recycling, netted Mitch Morton, Tony Armstrong and Tommy Walsh in trade week. Father-son selection Tom Mitchell, tall defender Jordan Lockyer, Alex Brown and Nathan Gordon were taken in the national draft. Shane Biggs, Campbell Heath, Harry Cunningham and Jack Lynch are on the rookie list.

Outs: Paul Bevan, Craig Bolton (retired), Daniel Bradshaw (retired), Heath Campbell, Daniel Currie, Ben Haren, Tadhg Kennelly (retired), Lewis Johnston (Adelaide), Chris McKaigue, Max Otten, Tadhg Kennelly (retired).

In the coaches box: John Longmire will take the same back-up crew into his second year in charge of the Swans.

From the track: Recruit Tommy Walsh has surprised – even intimidated – some of his new teammates since crossing from St Kilda. The athletic big man is in impressive shape. Trent Dennis-Lane has returned fitter than previous pre-seasons while Craig Bird is building on a run without injury.

The burning question: Can Adam Goodes produce again? Surely he couldn’t turn in another blinding season. More importantly, can the Swans go from finals pests to premiers again, seven years after their drought-breaking triumph. If Sam Reid can get better again and they unearth another key forward then the Swans can be right in the mix.

West Coast Eagles

Ins: Josh Hill (Western Bulldogs) was a surprise recruit in trade week. The national draft saw them select skinny local midfielder Murray Newman, tall forward Fraser McInnes and Ashton Hames (from the rookie list). Michael Mascoulis, Callum Papertalk, Simon Tunbridge and ex-Collingwood small forward Brad Dick are new rookies for 2012.

Outs: Lewis Broome, Brad Ebert (Port Adelaide), Brett Jones (retired), Jarrad Oakley-Nicholls, Tim Houlihan.

In the coaches box: Peter Sumich departed to join local rivals Fremantle but the addition of football strategist Phil Walsh has been celebrated by the Eagles. Scott Burns stayed after not landing the senior position at Adelaide, a job he was favourite for. Former Geelong and Carlton hardnut Adrian Hickmott is another new face.

From the track: The players slogged it out at Eco Beach in Broome during early December. Before that, Luke Shuey, Brad Sheppard and Shannon Hurn turned in impressive times in their two-kilometre trial.

The burning question: Was last year’s meteoric rise built on a foundation solid enough that they’re capable of staying in the top four? The evidence says yes. West Coast’s improvement came on the back of fit-again veterans and a host of improving youngsters. If the likes of Cox, Kerr and Glass play 20 games in 2012 and the kids can keep growing then they ought to be hunting the double chance again.

Western Bulldogs

Ins: Clay Smith, Michael Talia, Daniel Pearce and VFL recruit Tory Dickson arrived via the national draft, while Fletcher Roberts was their pre-season pick. Tom Campbell, Fletcher Roberts, Lin Jong, Alex Greenwood, Jack Redpath and Carlton discard Mark Austin joined the rookie list.

Outs: Mitch Hahn (retired), Barry Hall (retired), Josh Hill (West Coast), Ben Hudson (Brisbane), Callan Ward (GWS).

In the coaches box: Long-time AFL assistant Brendan McCartney has pulled no punches since arriving as senior coach in September. Other new additions to the panel include former Kangaroos and Swans star Shannon Grant and recently retired ruckman Steven King as assistants and Dogs’ great Rohan Smith as skills development coach.

From the track: If anyone can catch Daniel Cross in the distance running then they should join Australia’s Olympic team for London. The bloke just loves to grind his teammates into the dirt in the time trials. Most pleasingly, however, has been the work of Brian Lake after injury cruelled him last season.

The burning question: Where to from here? Captain Matthew Boyd says they’re planning to compete for a flag next season but there are surely too many gaps in this team. It will be new-look and exciting but can McCartney make them top-four material?

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