Football and Sports News

Brutal reviews for bottom 10 clubs, trade targets, whispers, rumours, what went wrong, grades

Some teams entered the 2022 AFL season with little to no expectations, while others had high hopes and slumped to become major disappointments.

All 10 clubs that missed out on the finals can take at least something out of the year, but clearly none of them are happy to be on holiday.

Here’s how they all got here — and what they need to do in the off-season to ensure it doesn’t happen next year.

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Carlton press conference | 12:21

9. CARLTON (12-10, 108.3%)

Three word analysis

Voss’ resurrection ruined.

What went right

Frustratingly, so much, especially at the start of the year. Michael Voss has turned out to be an inspired choice as coach, uniting a talented playing group on paper and getting them playing a tough, brutal brand of footy, particularly at the coalface where they ranked second for contested possession and clearance differential. They showed terrific maturity under Voss, who helped implement an effective defensive system. Charlie Curnow couldn’t have had a better return after missing two-and-a-bit seasons with knee injuries, winning the Coleman Medal with 64 goals. Just as importantly, he worked superbly in tandem with Harry McKay, who also booted 45 goals. Superstar duo Patrick Cripps and Sam Walsh led from the front as they repaid the faith the Blues placed in them after they signed bumper extensions, while the moves to sign George Hewett and Lewis Young were shrewd ones. Adam Saad will be an All-Australian contender after a career-best season, while Sam Docherty’s resurgence – primarily as a rebounding defender then a midfielder later in the season – was one of the best footy stories of the season.

What went wrong

The final month. More specifically, the two final quarters of the final two games of the season. When the Blues twice had the chance to secure a finals berth and break a nine-year September drought, they conceded last-gasp goals to Demon Kysaiah Pickett and Magpie Jamie Elliott, leading to consecutive weeks of heartbreaking scenes. But the Blues will look back on that ugly 29-point loss to 15th-placed Adelaide in Round 20 and cringe. Win that game and the Blues would’ve been playing finals. Instead they had to find an upset win over top-six sides Brisbane, Melbourne and Collingwood in the final three rounds – a task they couldn’t complete. Injuries didn’t help, with George Hewett, Matt Kennedy and Nic Newman all significant absentees in the final few games. Harry McKay, Mitch McGovern, Marc Pittonet, Oscar McDonald, Zac Williams, Jack Martin and Caleb Marchbank also missed various chunks of time during the season. Overall, the fact the Blues missed finals with 12 wins and a percentage of 108 proved how tough the competition was this season, but also how big an opportunity that went begging.

What they need

Luckily not too much, which is why they should attack the draft – as has been reported throughout the year – and focus on re-signing players after years of being active at the trade table. Yet the Blues have the salary cap space to add talent to their well-set list – both via the free agency and trade periods – after this season. Some speed and class through the midfield might be handy.

What time is it on the premiership clock?

8pm: There’s a lot of ‘what if’ about Carlton’s 2022 season, so the natural reaction for Blues fans will be to lament another wasted season. They should’ve played finals, but the Blues still took significant strides this year under Voss. If it wasn’t for the in-season expectations they’d built up then the dramatic drop-off in the final month, you would’ve given the Blues a pass mark for this year without hesitation, considering the disarray and turmoil they were in 12 months ago.

Season grade

B

— Ben Waterworth

St Kilda press conference | 08:33

10. ST KILDA (11-11, 99.3%)

Three word analysis

A rollercoaster ride

What went right

The start to their season was brilliant, with the Saints sitting at 8-3 heading into their mid-season bye. Jack Sinclair had a career-best season as a half-back, while Marcus Windhager became a shutdown midfielder as the season progressed. Max King kicked 57 goals despite some at-times wayward set shots. Brad Crouch performed pretty well in his second season at St Kilda, while Brad Hill came good after some fluctuating form early. Mitch Owens was one of the youngsters who showed promise, as did mature-age recruit Jack Hayes before injury struck. Wins over Fremantle, Richmond and Geelong were notable highlights.

What went wrong

They were just far, far too inconsistent after the mid-season bye, spluttering to the finish line having won just three of their final 11 games. Their lack of pressure in some matches was unbelievable, perhaps none more so than during the 51-point loss to Sydney in Round 15. Paddy Ryder just couldn’t stay out on the park for long enough, which hurt given his impact when he did play. Max King imploded in front of goal at times when the pressure was on, which is something he’ll no doubt work on during the off-season and pre-season. Ultimately, the highs and lows were way too far apart for the side to end up in finals contention.

What they need

Some list turnover is required in order to bring some more young talent in and that appears to be what’s happening, with the likes of Dan Hannebery and Paddy Ryder hanging up the boots. They’ll need far more consistency in order to play finals and contend in them, which may require a change in game style given they can at times be all or nothing when it comes to offence. Clearly there’s a view that change is needed given the football review taking place. If the Saints can get good returns at the trade table for players like Brad Hill, why not take it?

What time is it on the premiership clock?

7pm: The Saints in recent years traded with a view towards contending for a flag, but it hasn’t worked. There’s enough talent there to make for a good side, but they need to keep getting games into good prospects and hope that their current crop of players aged 27-30 are still playing good enough footy to contend once that younger group have established themselves.

Season grade

C

— David Zita

Port Adelaide Power press conference | 16:38

11. PORT ADELAIDE (10-12, 110.3%)

Three word analysis

Well below par

What went right

Connor Rozee was thrown into the midfield more consistently in the second half of the season and thrived, while Zak Butters also showed a lot in the final few rounds. Both should be ready to take the next step in 2023. Jeremy Finlayson was fantastic when given the keys to the ruck. Brynn Teakle looks a good pick-up, Aliir Aliir worked his way back into All-Australian form and Travis Boak was a rock. Robbie Gray’s farewell game was as good as you could hope for, while dead-eye kick Todd Marshall is developing nicely as a key forward. Wins over Sydney and the Western Bulldogs were impressive. Sam Powell-Pepper had a very good season.

What went wrong

It all fell apart at the starting line. Dropping five straight matches was always going to make finals a stretch. At the end of the day they’ve missed the finals after appearing in back-to-back preliminary finals. It’s a considerable misfire. Injury hampered them for large parts of the season, with Scott Lycett missing for most of the year. Where Port Adelaide was so good in the close games last year, it was poor this time around. There were some own goals as well near the end of the year via president David Koch’s comments, which heaped pressure on Ken Hinkley and required rectification.

What they need

Starting season 2023 well is a must. Failure to do so and the pressure will be heaped on Hinkley, who is entering the final year of his contract and coming off a disappointing season. They also need a better run with injury, with several of their stars and key role players battling niggles and more significant injuries throughout the season. Xavier Duursma is not developing at the same rate as Rozee and Butters, so hopefully a reset helps him.

What time is it on the premiership clock?

10pm: Port Adelaide will be keen to look at this season as a mulligan and go again in 2023. The list still looks half-decent and, at their best, they can contend with the best, as shown by their close finishes against Melbourne, Geelong, Fremantle and Collingwood in the back-end of the year. They need a good start to the season more than any other side because, make no mistake, it’s finals or bust in 2023.

Season grade

D-

— David Zita

Gold Coast Suns Press Conference | 11:11

12. GOLD COAST SUNS (10-12, 102.8%)

Three word analysis

Best ever season

What went right

The Suns recorded 10 wins in 2022 to finish 12th on the ladder – their equal-best return in club history in both areas. It matched their efforts in 2014 when Gold Coast sacked then coach Guy McKenna, whereas this year, it extended Stuart Dew’s tenure. There was a different feel about the Suns in a season where they were in the finals race until very late in the home and away campaign. No longer is a trip to Metricon Stadium to face the Suns a walkover as the club is starting to build a fortress and bona fide home ground advantage. Their promising young core went from strength-to-strength, with Noah Anderson in particular taking his game to greater heights, while Mabior Chol proved to be one of the recruits of the year, booting 44 goals to help fill the void of Ben King. Touk Miller continued his form as one of the game’s elite midfielders, further boosted by the ruck service of Jarrod Witts, who enjoyed a great return season after his ACL injury.

What went wrong

The Suns copped a hammer blow right on the eve of the season in Ben King’s ACL injury, with the star forward one of their most important players. It was always going to be tough for Gold Coast to make finals from there — and who knows how much it genuinely affected their prospects. Of course, Chol and Levi Casboult did flourish in King’s absence in a silver lining. The Suns also struggled against the best teams, going 3-7 in games against top-eight sides.

What they need

The Suns have a bright nucleus and better depth than ever before, with no obvious holes in their list. Therefore retaining players is arguably more important than bringing them in at this stage. The possibility of losing Izak Rankine would therefore hurt given they’re also light on by the way of goalkicking small forwards. Another key defender would be handy, and they should otherwise look to be aggressive in trade and free agency for any gun mature players who can help fast-track this young side’s development. If Dustin Martin really is gettable and willing to join the Suns, he’d be the absolute dream pick-up. But at this stage, the No. 1 priority for Gold Coast is continuing to build a winning culture to help take the club to its first ever finals series in the coming seasons.

What time is it on the premiership clock?

6pm:The Suns took a big step forwards this year and could well be even closer to flag contention than what most think. We’ve seen how quickly things can click for teams looking to climb the ladder. Even this year they weren’t that far off the finals. The top eight is a realistic possibility next year, and beyond that, the sky’s the limit.

Season grade

B

— Ben Cotton

Hawthorn press conference | 08:16

13. HAWTHORN (8-14, 89.8%)

Three word analysis

Promising start Mitchell

What went right

The Hawks started their season 2-0 – and were a kick away against Carlton in Round 3 from being 3-0 – despite being widely tipped to finish in the bottom three. So an eight-win season was ultimately a good return for Sam Mitchell in his first year in charge, with the team more advanced than it was given credit and no walkover. There was a clear directive to play the youngsters and expose them to bigger roles. Mitch Lewis, Dylan Moore and Jai Newcombe enjoyed breakout seasons, while the likes of Josh Ward, Connor MacDonald and Finn Maginness showed promising signs. The Hawks unearthed six debutants in 2022 – the second most of any club — so fans would be overall bullish about the future under Mitchell’s direction.

What went wrong

The midfield remains an area of concern for the Hawks – ranked 11th in the competition in contested possessions and 18th in clearances. Tom Mitchell was even marginalised at times instead of being allowed to play his natural ball-winning game as the Hawks threw youngsters in the deep-end on the ball to develop them — arguably at times to the detriment of the team. As good as it was to add Newcombe into the on-ball mix, Hawthorn still has too many inside-like-types and lacks the class and polish of other teams. So it was no surprise that Moore was moved into the guts late in the season.

What they need

Following on from the last point, the Hawks could use more class around the ball to complement their inside midfielders, but it’s more likely to come from internal improvement over trying to acquire a gun on-baller from a rival club. If anything they’ll likely again shop a Tom Mitchell or Jaeger O’Meara on the trade market, with Hawthorn’s main priority for now adding more young talent through the draft so it can develop its current young crop together and aim to make genuine strides up the ladder in the coming seasons. Like most teams though, they could use another key forward, while the potential addition of Karl Amon will help add class and depth.

What time is it on the premiership clock?

3pm:The Hawks are on the right track and have a clear vision moving forward, but remain some ways off competing for a premiership. The current list probably isn’t quite yet the one that’ll take the club to its next flag, but its core should no longer be underestimated. The club will want to continue to add more early picks before it gets aggressive on the trade and free agency front.

Season grade

C+

— Ben Cotton

Adelaide Crows press conference | 12:58

14. ADELAIDE CROWS (8-14, 86.7%)

Three word analysis

Glimpses of promise

What went right

The have uncovered a talent in young Josh Rachele, quickly becoming a fan favourite with five goals on debut. He kicked goals in all but three of his 13 games for the Crows before his season ended early through injury. The biggest highlight in Adelaide’s season was undoubtedly the after-the-siren victory over cross-town rivals Port Adelaide, with recruit Jordan Dawson calmly slotting the match-winner in just his third game for the club. Taylor Walker’s 500-goal milestone in Round 6 was another moment for Crows fans to savour. After missing the opening three rounds as part of his 2021 suspension for racial abuse, Walker finished with goals in all 17 of his matches this season to lead the way in Adelaide’s attack. The Crows registered a remarkable away-from-home victory to spoil Eagle Josh Kennedy’s retirement farewell. The 16-point win at Optus Stadium, despite Kennedy’s eight goals, was team lifting and something to carry into 2023.

What went wrong

It started with the Round 1 loss to Fremantle, with only a remarkable spoil on the goal-line keeping the Crows from the perfect start to the season. They were 3-3 after six games before the season fell apart. Five straight losses – by an average of more than 41 points per game – cruelled any finals hopes the club may have had. The rearing of the ugly pre-season camp details rocked the club late in 2022. After club great Eddie Betts opened up about his “brainwash” experience, a host of former teammates came forward to share their torment. New club CEO Tim Silvers publicly apologised as details of the infamous 2018 camp shocked the nation. Former coach Don Pyke, who was at the helm at the time, also issued an apology for what happened at that camp. The Crows need to spend the summer working on their accuracy. They would have beaten St Kilda in Round 10 had they kicked better than their 9.15, and they just couldn’t put teams away when they dominated quarters during the season.

What they need

Getting Jordan Dawson in 2021 was a good coup for a club that has struggled recently to attract top talent. Now they need to get busy this trade period. Matt Crouch is all but gone after playing out the season in the SANFL, while top-10 draft pick Fischer McAsey looms as potential out for a return home to Victoria. Landing Izak Rankine would help boost a forward line that has relied too heavily on Taylor Walker at times. Adelaide will surely be in the ear of Jason Horne-Francis, too.

What time is it on the premiership clock?

3pm: The Crows made progress in 2022, but they still need to get more games into their young talent like Rachele, Nick Murray, Lachlan Gollant and Riley Thilthorpe. Matthew Nicks is implementing a game style focused on contested ball, but it’s that final kick inside 50 that has let them down in games. Some more experience in the back and front ends will help the Crows make a move north on the ladder in 2023. Another year with Walker steering the ship in the front half – potentially with Rankine looming – will help the development of the young forwards.

Season grade

D

— Catherine Healey

Bombers sack Rutten: Press conference | 18:48

15. ESSENDON (7-15, 83.2%)

Three word analysis

Crisis mode activated.

What went right

There were little glimpses to keep Essendon fans optimistic, particularly from key forward Peter Wright. Despite playing in a bottom-five team, the deadly-accurate Wright played a lone-hand in attack and kicked a career-high 53 goals to finish fifth on the Coleman Medal table. Dashing defender Mason Redman was a standout, while vice-captain Zach Merrett was metronomic and consistent, averaging 30 disposals per game. Dylan Shiel and Sam Draper also improved as the season went on. There were some terrific wins in the back-half of the season, namely the 35-point win over St Kilda and the shock nine-point victory over Sydney. But they were few and far between.

What went wrong

It was a mess on and off the field, with the latter leaving a bitter taste in the mouth of most fans. The 11th-hour bid to secure Alastair Clarkson – which came about after board upheaval that saw David Barham replace Paul Brasher – was bold but ultimately failed. But it was the lack of communication to, and respect for, coach Ben Rutten that was widely condemned. Rutten coached his final game against the Tigers on a Saturday night and was brutally sacked early afternoon the next day. You sense Barham and the board have now got a fair bit of trust to win back from members and fans. As for on-field, the Bombers were uncompetitive too often, which ultimately led to Rutten’s downfall. They were 2-8 after Round 10 after conceding at least 80 points in all 10 matches. While the Bombers had a trickier draw this year compared to 2021, it was the way they lost many of their games, punctuated by their lack of defensive accountability, that left AFL pundits and Dons fans frustrated. They were thumped by the Cats (66 points), Dockers (48), Swans (58), Power (84) and Tigers (66), while losses to the Bulldogs (32) and Giants (27) felt worse than what the final margins reflected. Overall, they ranked 16th for points conceded this season and 18th for tackles applied. Fox Footy’s David King multiple times throughout the year lamented the Bombers’ lack of on-field standards. Star forward Jake Stringer struggled for continuity and consistency, while Darcy Parish and Will Snelling both missed significant chunks of the season.

What they need

While the Bombers’ list lacks star factor, it’s a list still multiple years ahead of most other bottom-10 clubs, which should give fans hope of a quick-ish bounce. Football boss Josh Mahoney said two months ago the Bombers’ main focus post-season would be holding its first pick but targeting a decent fish on the free agency market as they have well over $2 million in cap space. They could launch another bid for Bulldogs on-baller Josh Dunkley two years after a deal fell through. But they really need to bolster their forward line. Another tall would help, but there’s a chasm in the pressure smalls department. Father-son prospect Alwyn Davey Jnr should help in that space via the draft, but he’ll need time to develop. The Bombers could also look to add some key-position depth in defence

What time is it on the premiership clock?

5pm: The nature of this season and the ultimate sacking of the coach, which will prompt a fresh face for 2023, means the clock has been wound back from 12 months ago. But as president Barham has pointed out over the past week, the Bombers’ list is in good shape. If they can get the right coach on board that can implement the right system for this group, the Bombers are more than capable of returning to the top eight next season.

Season grade

F

— Ben Waterworth

GWS Giants Press Conference | 13:20

16. GWS GIANTS (6-16, 84.6%)

Three word analysis

Ripped Band-Aid early

What went right

Key defender Sam Taylor was a shining light, to the point where many pundits believe he’s a lock for the All-Australian side. Taylor was dominant both one-on-one and when intercepting the ball, shutting down some of the best forwards in the league. It was pleasing to see Stephen Coniglio return to his blistering best form too, while Josh Kelly had another consistent season and Jesse Hogan finished strong. Harry Himmelberg’s move to defence in the second half of the season was a genius move by interim coach Mark McVeigh, whose honesty in the public eye was a breath of fresh air.

What went wrong

That was the Giants’ worst season since 2014. Ultimately both the club and Leon Cameron saw the writing on the wall early, with the two parties parting ways after nine rounds. The chasm between the Giants’ best and worst footy was alarming, especially because they played at their worst more often. The losses to Sydney (-73 points), Melbourne (-67), Port Adelaide (-55), Geelong (-53) and Brisbane (-40) were horrendous, failing to score above 59 points in all five of those matches. The Giants lost all three games at Manuka Oval to make it seven straight losses at their ‘home away from home’. But more fans rocked up to the Canberra venue compared to Giants Stadium. They played six games at Giants Stadium this year for an average attendance of 6103 – the lowest average since the club came in the competition, outside of the Covid-affected 2020 season. Many individuals were below their best, particularly Lachie Whitifield and Nick Haynes – two players that take up a fair portion of the club’s salary cap.

What they need

A hybrid defender with the ability to shut down small forwards would be handy, considering the Giants conceded a lot of goals to small forwards this season. But perhaps it’ll be better to answer this question at the end of the trade period, for the Giants are facing a mini exodus for the third time in four seasons. The Giants are set to be active during the upcoming AFL exchange period, with Tim Taranto, Jacob Hopper, Tanner Bruhn and Bobby Hill all linked to rival clubs. Salary cap issues and a willingness from the club to “reset” amid a mini-rebuild should reportedly see all four leave. Of the quartet, midfielders Taranto and Hopper are the most valuable and could attract first-round picks – although Richmond and Collingwood, who’ve been linked to the players, will have selections now deeper into the opening round.

What time is it on the premiership clock?

4pm: The clock could be wound forward a little if they somehow managed to retain Taranto or Hopper, but that seems unlikely. The likely departures of the aforementioned four players, coupled with the appointment of a new coach, means it’s hard to see the Giants returning to September next year, even though there’s still an array of A-grade players on their list.

Season grade

F

— Ben Waterworth

West Coast Eagles press conference | 06:15

17. WEST COAST EAGLES (2-20, 59.8%)

Three word analysis

Flop to forget

What went right

Not a lot went West Coast’s way in 2022, but no one will ever forget the fairytale ending for Eagles great Josh Kennedy against the Crows in Round 21. More than 50,000 West Aussies turned out to the beloved Eagle put on an absolute clinic, kicking eight goals in a heroic effort to almost single-handedly drag his team to victory. It was the perfect ending for a player who has been at the heart and soul of the club since he arrived via the famous Chris Judd trade back in 2007. Tom Barrass had an outstanding season and looms large for All-Australian contention. Even his coach was publicly appealing for the defender’s inclusion. One of West Coast’s two wins came against now finalist Collingwood in a shock result away from home. Perhaps the biggest positive from 2022 is the fact the Eagles will now get a bottom six draw next season.

What went wrong

Where to begin? Jack Darling was banished from the club after failing to adhere to the AFL’s vaccination mandate and missed the pre-season before his final minute backflip. The Darling troubles just snowballed into the season as injuries and Covid wreaked havoc on the club. They lost 14 players to injury before the season even began, with Campbell Chesser and Tom Cole placed on the inactive list and Oscar Allen unable to play all year. By Round 2, the club had to turn to its top-up list and made a record 14 changes for the side to face North Melbourne. Three players made their debuts in that match from the six new faces in West Coast’s line up — coach Adam Simpson admitted he had players turning up to play he had never met before game day. The team’s revolving door ensured there would be no synergy for games — and it showed as the seven straight losses from Round’s 5 to 11 were by an average of 79.7 points. Among all that, the Eagles had to deal with the fallout from seven players opting to flout club rules and head out nightclubbing – after everything the club went through trying to keep their roster healthy. The forward line just did not function early in 2022, with the Eagles kicking more than two goals in the opening quarter just four times in their first 16 games. They were scoreless in three quarters and goalless in a further five quarters.

What they need

A clean out. Simpson spoke openly about how his coaching staff were able to get a really good look at exactly what they had on their list in 2022. And sadly, the depth was lacking. The ageing list is an issue the club needs to address, with players like Shannon Hurn, Nic Naitanui, Luke Shuey, Jack Redden, Jeremy McGovern and Jamie Cripps all in their 30s. They need to find a proven ball-winner who can get it done in the middle – in the past, Shuey has been that player but his body is letting him down — and after letting go players like Scott Lycett and Tom Hickey, they need to find a ruck replacement for Naitanui. The draft is going to be crucial for West Coast’s hopes for the future. Unfortunately for the Eagles, they don’t have a lot to offer at the trade table.

What time is it on the premiership clock?

1pm: West Coast officially tumbled out of its premiership window in 2022 and now face the mammoth task of a rebuild. Josh Kennedy has departed, so young Oscar Allen – who we didn’t see in 2022 – must step up next season. But with an ageing midfield and a backline being held up solely by Tom Barrass and veteran Shannon Hurn, a big task looms for Simpson and his coaching staff. The Eagles need to go to the draft, get kids who will commit long-term to the club and be part of their next finals push years from now.

Season grade

F

— Catherine Healey

North Melbourne press conference | 09:55

18. NORTH MELBOURNE (2-20, 55.8%)

Three word analysis

Very, very bad

What went right

It speaks to the struggles of North Melbourne in 2022 that an off-field signing is their best bit of good news, but that was exactly the case with Alastair Clarkson putting pen to paper on a five-year deal. It’s an enormous signing and one that surely gives Roos fans the hope they’ve been crying out for in recent years. Luke Davies-Uniacke had a brilliant season and looks primed to explode in 2023. Ben Cunnington’s return just in time for the end of the season was great to see and one of the feel-good stories of the year. The win over Richmond was hard-fought but a great release for a club that has endured so much.

What went wrong

The numbers were confronting. Not only did many key metrics fail to improve, they were actually worse than l2021 despite incremental improvement forecast by the club heading into 2022. Cutting ties with David Noble after just 38 games was a shambles any way you look at it. Jason Horne-Francis was meant to be a shining light for the Roos amid a bleak season, but instead he became a sideshow of sorts for his on-field outbursts and off-field misdemeanours when it came to preparation. Seven losses were by at least 60 points, with two of them hitting triple digits. The side’s recruiting staff leaving in the middle of the year was just one of many own goals.

What they need

Quite simply, they need to get a hell of a lot better. This year was inexcusable given the progress they were supposed to have made — and the club admitted that given it sacked its coach and went after Clarkson. They need to get their recruiting department sorted out ahead of the draft. Jaidyn Stephenson simply didn’t play well enough often enough for the player he can be. Callum Coleman-Jones showed some encouraging signs in the back-end of the season but needs to improve in order to help soften the loss of Todd Goldstein whenever it eventuates. They’ve been linked to Brad Hill, so he could offer some dash out of defence, while one of Clarkson’s former charges in Jack Gunston could offer invaluable guidance on and off-field if he were to come across.

What time is it on the premiership clock?

1pm: Clubs don’t get much further away from a premiership as North Melbourne is right now. Alastair Clarkson will buy them time and hopefully give them some direction, but he’s got a lot of work to do.

Season grade

F

— David Zita

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