Fri, Mar 11, 9:34am by Kevin Pitstock
There are six genuine contenders for the 2011 AFL premiership and they all have their own reasons why they could win this year’s flag.
Let’s preview each team with the season now less than two weeks away:
Collingwood – The 2010 premiers have carried their outstanding and ominous form from the past year into this year’s NAB Cup. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect about the Pies’ flag victory last season was how they won the flag without a handful of very experienced players. Players like Shane O’Bree, Leon Davis, Paul Medhurst, Josh Fraser and Simon Prestigiacomo all missed out on a premiership medallion. While lesser likes such as Brent Macaffer, Jarryd Blair, Nathan Brown and Chris Dawes can now all claim they were part of a successful Magpie premiership side. Collingwood’s current balance between youth and experience is perfect and it will once again be tough to beat in 2011.
St Kilda – No matter what AFL team you support, you must surely feel some sympathy for the Saints. In the past two years, they have failed to capitalise on dominant home-and-away seasons with agonisingly close losses in September. If you include the infamous drawn match, St Kilda has lost three grand finals in two years. Will it be third – or fourth – time lucky for the Saints this year? They have been able to maintain all of their star players on the list and all of them should be extremely motivated to go one step better in 2011. Expect the Saints to be up there for another one to two years.
Geelong – The Cats will arguably be the most interesting team to watch in 2011. After an embarrassing preliminary final loss to the Pies in 2010, they lost Brownlow medallist Gary Ablett to Gold Coast and premiership coach Mark Thompson to Essendon in the offseason. And with president Frank Costa recently departing, the Cats have an enormous amount to prove to the AFL world this season. They didn’t win the 2007 and 2009 flags by just relying solely on Ablett and Thompson, so they still have a high calibre and quality of players. Whether they can overcome mental demons and prove their critics wrong will be fascinating. With an ageing list, this year could be Geelong’s last shot at a premiership for a while.
Western Bulldogs – Like the Saints, the boys from the Whitten Oval suffered a fair bit of bad luck in 2010. Heading into the finals series, the Dogs were the walking wounded, with up to 10 players unavailable or not 100 per cent due to injury. After a gusty three-point semi-final win against Sydney, a depleted Dogs line-up struggled against the Saints and were bundled out in a preliminary final for the third consecutive season. With veterans Brad Johnson, Jason Akermanis and Nathan Eagleton all retiring at the end of the past season, it opens the door for some younger players to shine. With Barry Hall up forward and Brian Lake down back, the Dogs should go deep into September once again.
Hawthorn – The Hawks have been the ultimate enigma of the competition over the past two years but have every right to be considered a genuine ‘smokey’ for the premiership this season. After surprising the seemingly unbeatable Cats in the 2008 grand final, the Hawks have struggled to recapture the form and menacing attack on the footy that won them their last premioership. Surprisingly, the majority of the team that participated in that premiership win are still on the Hawks’ list for this season. Shaun Burgoyne and Cameron Bruce will add a touch of class to the midfield, while the forward line of Lance Franklin, Jarryd Roughead and David Hale will be sure to cause opposition defences plenty of headaches. Watch out, because the Hawks are set for a big 2011.
Collingwood Premiers ($2.90 – Sportingbet)
Geelong Top 4 ($2.50 – Centrebet)
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