The positives of the 10 AFL teams who didn't make it
THE curtain comes down on 10 teams this weekend. And with them all knowing exactly who they are, despite one round still to be played out, we bid them farewell with a couple of positives - their surprise packets of 2015, and what they can look forward to in 2016.
The Lions need to initiate 'Operation Homegrown'. Down back they've got the sure hands of Harris Andrews - described as Dustin Fletcher reincarnated, the 18-year-old has taken more contested marks (20) than Nick Riewoldt. Now the focus should be on getting Jono Freeman fit and firing up forward and signing fellow banana benders, including out-of-contract pair Tom Bell (Carlton) and Brendan Whitecross (Hawthorn) and young Eric Hipwood.
Patrick Cripps will win the Rising Star award next week ...and maybe the Blues B&F too. He is the club leader for clearances and contested disposals and second for tackles. The Blues will hope to have Lions wantaway James Aish join him, while incoming coach Brendon Bolton may be keen to bring fringe Hawks such as Whitecross and forward Sam Grimley with him.
Another Lion that got away, Jack Crisp is second for forward-50m entries and tackles, third for disposals and fourth for clearances. Former teammate Aish may also come into the Magpies' calculations at trade time, but star GWS midfielder Adam Treloar is the big fish they want to hook.
During a disastrous season, Zach Merrett, 19, is a Bomber who has flown under the radar, sitting fifth for average disposals (22.41) and third for tackles at the club. The Bombers may look to find a positive out of the negativity of Jake Carlisle by stocking up on a high draft pick or two after trading out the key defender.
Mark Blicavs took his own game to a new level in 2015. Leads both hit-outs and tackles at the Cats, and is third for clearances and fourth for marks. Get their paws on Paddy Dangerfield, Scott Selwood and Lachie Henderson and get a full season out of Daniel Menzel, Nathan Vardy and Rhys Stanley, the Cats will be back in finals contention.
Last year's Vic Metro U18 captain, Touk Miller is first for goal assists at the Suns, second for tackles, third for disposals, and fourth for i50ms and clearances. How about the Suns' midfield depth next year when Gary Ablett, Jaeger O'Meara, David Swallow and Dion Prestia return, and Miller and Aaron Hall are part of the 'second wave'?
Cam McCarthy jumped out of nowhere, kicking 28 goals in the first 11 games, but onballer Josh Kelly had Gerard Healy labelling him a future Brownlow medallist. The attack still lacks leadership and creativity. Who better to provide those than Steve Johnson?
If 41 goals in his first season aren't enough to convince you Jesse Hogan will be a goliath, how about the 43 contested marks, ranking him fourth in the comp? Throw in Angus Brayshaw and Christian Petracca, who is yet to debut, and the Dees' foundation is strong. Of course, it's been said before.
It's not just Robbie Gray anymore. Port has two shades of Gray with midfielder Sam Gray gathering consecutive hauls of 20, 21, 25, 34, and 37 touches. The Power appears they'll get their man again. Paddy Ryder last year. Charlie Dixon this year. He will bring power.
Journeyman Josh Bruce became the Saints' new spearhead, and only needs two goals in the final round to crack 50 for the year. The Saints have won their last wooden spoon for a while, bookends Patrick McCartin and Hugh Goddard the headline acts of a promising list.