One positive for every AFL club in 2022

AFL, featured

My goodness, sports media can head down a really negative path on a whim and a bad day so I thought after an exhausting campaign of home-and-away football, I’d go through something I loved about every side in 2022.

This relates to on-field trends, player performance and coaching and there will be a “what I didn’t like” piece as well so the “yeah but” comments can wait.

*Note: the Sam Docherty and Ben Cunnington returns will feature in a different piece, which is why they’re not mentioned here.

Adelaide: Darcy Fogarty’s back-end of the season

From Round 11 onwards, Fogarty’s kicked 29 goals, which would rank him fourth in the competition, behind Charlie Curnow, Jeremy Cameron and Tom Lynch.

Pretty good company to be a part of for a guy who was dropped earlier in the year and had his career doubted by everyone externally.

As to what happens next, who knows?

The base he’s got to build from, though, is huge and 50-plus needs to be the benchmark from internally at Adelaide, as the mantle from Tex Walker to Fog needs to be passed on.

Brisbane: A Hugh(ge) leap

Compared to his career averages, McClugagge has gone up in terms of disposals, contested ball, metres gained, clearances and score involvements.

He has kicked 16.16 and that ability to hit the scoreboard can take him to a Brownlow Medal-calibre player but the 24-year-old has been outstanding in 2022.

Carlton: The spine is complete

As much as this spiel can be about Lewis Young, the Blues’ spine as a whole is set for when they push for a premiership.

Jacob Weitering, Lewis Young, Sam Walsh, Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay are the spine of the next long while, and when you add Patrick Cripps, George Hewett, Sam Docherty and Adam Saad, the Blues are in good shape.

Patrick Cripps celebrates.

(Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

In Young’s last seven games, he’s lost just 7 per cent of one-on-one contests.

Collingwood: A calming chaos

What a run! With all of the close game throughout 2022, the Pies under Craig McRae are one of the tightest groups in the AFL.

Whilst I have some doubts about Dan McStay, if they draft a Matthew Jefferson in the first round in November, they’re flying.

Pies’ fans could do without the cardiac issues though!

Essendon: The Red-Man

No one could’ve predicted that the man favoured to take out Essendon’s best and fairest would be their plucky centre half back, when a reasonable punter would’ve said Darcy Parish or Zach Merrett (someone I know went with Sam Draper).

However, Mason Redman’s ability to rebound, take a grab and use the ball well has been exemplary.

With 13 games of 19-plus disposals for the year and 15 games of five-plus marks, the new coach has a beauty to work with.

Fremantle: The midfield mantle has been passed

A two-time Brownlow Medallist didn’t play midfield all season, and Fremantle are a good side in contested possession (eighth), clearances (fifth) and 1 per cent acts (fourth).

The midfield now belongs to Andrew Brayshaw, who should feature prominently on Brownlow night, and with David Mundy retiring, it’s firmly on Brayshaw, Caleb Serong, Will Brodie and youngsters Neil Erasmus and Matthew Johnson.

Caleb Serong and Andrew Brayshaw of the Dockers celebrate.

Caleb Serong and Andrew Brayshaw of the Dockers celebrate. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Geelong: Youth and depth

Geelong are just a retirement home, right?

Well, tell that to Brandon Parfitt (23 years old), Max Holmes (19), Sam De Koning (21), Tyson Stengle (23), Gryan Miers (23), Jack Henry (23), Zach Guthrie (23) and Brad Close (23), who have all had prominent roles throughout the year.

The top end will fall out in three years but it won’t necessarily be a massive drop, if they keep drafting well, especially a tall forward or a key back partner for SDK.

Gold Coast: The other 2019 draftee

“Matt Rowell +1” was the attitude going into the 2019 draft as Rowell and Noah Anderson departed the Oakleigh Chargers to go to the Suns and now, Anderson is the king.

In his 20 games this season, he’s averaging 26 disposals (11 contested), six clearances, six inside 50s and five score involvements.

Way too early call but can be an All-Australian wingman next year, based on his current career projection.

GWS: Vindication for Sam Taylor

Finally, more people other than Xavier Ellis and myself have taken note of this guy.

He has only taken less than four marks twice and he’s played every game, hasn’t conceded four goals to his opponent in any game this year and averages six marks amongst 15 touches at 82 per cent.

Take note, kids, he is one of the best key backs in the sport.

Hawthorn: The Duke of Waverley

Hawthorn’s midfield is a genuine train wreck, that is bad at clearance, arc-to-arc contested possession and generating scores from the middle of the ground.

However, the answer begins with Jai Newcombe.

The Prince of Poowong is averaging 23 touches, nine contested possessions, five score involvements, five tackles, four clearances and four inside 50s.

Future superstar.

Melbourne: 100 per cent Aussie Angus

Andy Brayshaw will steal the limelight on Brownlow night in terms of the Brayshaw name, but Angus’ year cannot afford to go under the radar.

Needs 28 touches to beat his disposal output of 2018 (21 games in 2022 and 22 in 2018) but with an average of 26 touches, eight marks and four rebounds, he’s been unreal.

Melbourne’s “Big 3” will get all the credit in media but not here. All Angus.

North Melbourne: Luke Davies-Uniacke

If he doesn’t win the best and fairest, North should fold.

Since Round 11, he’s had a disposal output of (in order) 25, 33, 17, 36, 33, 28, 30, 23, 30 and 37 and still had seven games of 20-plus before Round 11.

Since Round 8, he’s only had fewer than five clearances twice and is North’s best midfielder. Been a much-maligned player but to deny how good he is at this point is ridiculous.

Port Adelaide: Marshalling the forward line

In the three seasons before 2022, Marshall had kicked 45 goals combined.

This year, that number is 41 from 20 games, including a couple of four goal hauls and a couple of three.

If Charlie Dixon continues to be the big bull in 2023, it’s exciting to see Todd’s output and if he continues the upward trajectory.

Charlie Dixon of the Power and Max Gawn of the Demons

(Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

Richmond: Showtime Shai

This guy’s a freak; plain and simple.

There’s only three guys in the competition who are averaging 20 disposals and a goal and although Bolton doesn’t quite fit the mould (1.9 goals & 18.1 disposals), none of those averaging more touches have kicked more goals.

That 40.39 needs some fixing because if he’s the best player in the competition without debate, needs to convert to a 50.30 standard or above.

No one in the competition averages more clearances per centre bounce either.

St Kilda: The best draft of 2021

It’s been another mid-table, mediocre season by the Saints and in a time of not many positives, their youth have been unreal.

The class of Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera, the work-rate of Mitch Owens and the well-rounded competitiveness of Marcus Windhager have all been welcome additions and if the Saints can draft well again, it’s a start towards flag No.2.

Sydney: Next-generation Chad

“The Chad” used to be Wingard, especially when he was a dual All-Australian at Port Adelaide and lighting up South Australia.

However, the mantle has been passed and Chad Warner is the new star Chad in town. The hair, the pace, the class and add in 23 touches, seven score involvements, six inside 50s, four clearances and tackles a game, this kid is a star.

16.21 is a point that needs to be improved but that will come and until then; enjoy his performances.

West Coast: Tommy B

West Coast have needed some stability in a very unstable season and Tom Barras has provided it in spades.

An All-Australian squad lock, one of the best defenders in the league, eight marks and four rebounds a game has read his season and could be the catalyst behind the Eagles trading Jeremy McGovern and developing Rhett Bazzo.

Western Bulldogs: Rhylee West

It’s been a midfield-dominated year, sprinkled with some Jamara, Darcy and Tim English, but the son of a legend has taken some considerable steps forward.

West has shown his footy IQ to be at a great level up forward, kicking 11.9 and averaging five score involvements a game.

Is there a role for him further up the ground or do the Dogs let him naturally develop? Who knows, but the talent is absolutely there.

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