2011 Pre-Season Power Rankings – After NAB Cup

Welcome to another edition of the AFL Club Power Rankings at AFL Space. This is a follow-up to my previous set of rankings – as I’ve since had a chance to look at a couple of NAB Cup games not to mention reading many of the reports from the NAB Challenge series from around the web.

These rankings are meant to be a snap-shot of what teams are in the best shape, considering both their current form but also with an eye on their finals and premiership chances in 2011.

My intention is to release a fresh set of Power Rankings each fortnight throughout the 2011 AFL Season, or even more regularly if possible.

Please let me know if you agree, or disagree, with my rankings by leaving a comment below.

1st Collingwood (no movement)

Summary: Easily the benchmark of the competition.

Despite a long-term injury suffered by defender Nathan Brown, in addition to the injury to skipper Nick Maxwell, the Pies have no major reason for concern. They won the NAB Cup (convincingly), but the word is they’re focused on round 1 of the season proper. Tarrant should be able to fill the hole left by Brown, whilst Maxwell shouldn’t miss more than their opening home-and-away game against the lowly Power.

2nd Western Bulldogs (up 5 places)

Summary: The #1 challenger to the Pies?

Fair to say the position of 7th in my last Power Rankings article was a bit harsh, so I’ve bumped the Bulldogs up this time around. Their pre-season form has been adequate, but I feel they might well be the main challenger to the Pies in 2011 – with no other team seemingly capable given the Saints well documented issues and the Cats getting older by the day.

3rd St Kilda (no movement)

Summary: An old list, but they’re still in contention.

Finally, there appears to be an end in sight to the St Kilda saga that seems to have occupied the entire off-season. Personally, I don’t rate the Saints list as highly as some others – especially outside of their best 5-10 players. At full strength, the Saints will be thereabouts, but the reliance on Riewoldt, Hayes & co remains too strong.

4th Geelong (down 2 places)

Summary: Barring injuries, should be top 4.

Like the Saints, the Cats should be right in contention come finals, but I don’t believe they have it in them to go all the way. They have the oldest list in the competition, and also the most experienced list in terms of games played. Will their age and experience work in their favour, or could they fall away and allow a rebuild to finally take place?

5th Hawthorn (no movement)

Summary: No reason they can’t contend strongly in 2011.

No change for the Hawks. I ranked them 3rd in the last set of power rankings, and with few major injury concerns – I would not be surprised to see them climb the rankings next time around. The Hawks appear well positioned to make a real push in 2011, deep into September.

6th Carlton (no movement)

Summary: Carlton’s best list since the late 1990’s?

Being a Carlton supporter – I’d love to rank the Blues higher, as I believe the list is as strong as its been since the late 1990’s. They seem settled in all areas of the ground, in the midfield especially. They need great seasons from their defenders Jamison and Bower, as it’s too early to rely on newcomer Mathew Watson. Chris Yarran is likely to play across half back in 2011, whilst Waite and Henderson need to fire up forward. I’m bullish about the Blues chances, but we’ll find out a lot more once the season kicks off.

7th Fremantle (down 3 places)

Summary: Being hurt by injuries, but will be thereabouts.

The Dockers have been hit hard by injury throughout the pre-season, seriously hampering their tilt at a deep finals run this year. Their key players, including Pavlich and Sandilands, should be there in round 1, but it feels like their start to the season may be a slow one – even though they face the Lions first up (at the Gabba).

8th Sydney (up 1 place)

Summary: Good enough to make finals, not sure after that.

I’ve bumped the Swans back up into the finals picture, as I figure that several of the key players that were so impressive last year – Kieran Jack, Hannebery, McVeigh, Mumford and Kennedy – should be even better in 2011 with great seasons under their belt. With no apparent drop-off looming for the ageless Adam Goodes, this Sydney team should be strong enough to at least get back to finals, just not as high on the ladder this year.

9th Melbourne (up 1 place)

Summary: Please make the Tom Scully saga end.

The Demons have not had a good pre-season, but I still expect them to fight their way into finals contention throughout 2011. Besides, we should be careful about judging teams based on their pre-season form (the prime example being the Blues winning pre-season silverware in 2005 & 2007, but were not competitive in the season proper). The “Tom Scully to GWS” debacle is sure to drag on throughout 2011 much like the Gary Ablett saga of 2010, which will be a drain on their footy department.

10th Adelaide (down 2 places)

Summary: Reliant on Kurt Tippett to kick goals. Enough said.

The Crows remain a mystery, though their pre-season has been solid from all reports. I actually like the Crows list; it’s much younger than it was in 2010 following the retirements of McLeod, Goodwin, Edwards and Burton to name a few – but there is enough quality on the list to ensure they wont bottom out anytime soon. I had the Crows ranked 8th in my previous rankings, but have dropped them to 10th this time around.

11th Essendon (up 1 place)

Summary: One week at a time boys, one week at a time..

Call me crazy, but I’m just not a believer in the James Hird-led revival at Windy Hill. They have essentially the very same list they had in 2010, yet suddenly some experts are predicting finals for the Bombers this season, on the back of them wining a few NAB Cup games. By the way, Essendon fielded a relatively strong side throughout the NAB Cup, compared to other teams. Sure, they’ve looked better so far in 2011 – but can Hird and Thompson really extract at least a 50% improvement from the same playing list that so ordinary in patches last season? Nope, I don’t see it happening – but their first 5 matches this season will tell us a lot.

12th Kangaroos (down 1 places)

Summary: Hurt by injury this pre-season, but are they good enough?

The Kangaroos are a team I would have rated a couple of notches higher if it wasn’t for a pre-season interrupted by injuries to a number of key players. I liked the Roos coming into 2010 and technically; they do have potential to be better this season – with more games into Liam Anthony, Ziebell, Hansen & co. If Drew Petrie, Brent Harvey and Daniel Wells can stay on the park and enjoy good seasons, the Roos will climb higher than 13th – but I just don’t see them making finals at this point.

13th Richmond (up 2 places)

Summary: Good young list, hoping for continued improvement.

I have no real justification for slotting the Tigers this high, especially on the back of a disastrous final outing in the NAB Challenge (they were humiliated by the Crows). Let’s remember that the Tigers have nearly had a full turnover of their playing list in recent years – and what’s left is comprised of good, developing kids and a decent core of experienced players. Again, it’s hard to rank a team like the Tigers before the season, but I currently see 12th as a realistic target for the club.

14th Port Power (down 1 place)

Summary: Who would know but I’m not impressed yet.

The Power are always such a difficult team to analyse given they keep such a low profile or otherwise just don’t receive any attention from the media these days. I actually gave strong consideration to moving the Lions and Eagles ahead of them in the rankings, but thought better of it. For the sake of their footy club, I really hope Matthew Primus can get them up and going again – but looking at their list, top to bottom, there is not a lot to get excited about.

15th Brisbane (down 1 place)

Summary: Life without Fevola begins now.

The Brendan Fevola saga rolled on this week – culminating in a “tell-all” interview on the Footy Show, in which he revealed (among other things) he would love to return to the Blues. As romantic a notion as that is, it just won’t happen. Fevola simply needs to focus on getting his mind and body right throughout 2011. The Lions meanwhile, need to keep all their best players on the park this season for them to have any chance of being in finals contention.

16th West Coast (no movement)

Summary: Need to show something early in 2011.

Whilst I can see the Eagles stringing a few games together this season, they will need their youngsters to take a massive step forward in terms of skill and class to provide support to the older, more experienced group. Daniel Kerr remains a mystery – where is his body at; and will he be able to give anything back to the club this season to warrant the money he is receiving? On the plus side for the Eagles, Dean Cox is said to be in good shape entering the season, after a solid pre-season campaign.

17th Gold Coast (no movement)

Summary: Let’s remember, they’re mostly still just kids for now.

I don’t think we’ve seen enough from the Gold Coast just yet to expect them to finish anywhere other than last place this season. There is no question the kids they have coming through look promising, but for right now – they are just kids. They’ll win 1-2, or even a handful of games, but it wont be enough to lift them off the bottom of the ladder. Having said this, I am as excited as just about anyone to see them in action come round 2 of the season (their inaugural AFL game).

Thanks for reading once again everyone. Please feel free to leave a comment below, including what changes you would make to the above rankings!

You can also find me on Twitter, @luke2177.

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