At the halfway point of the year, Zero Hanger looks at every club’s best player of the year so far, most improved and the player or area that needs to lift in the second half of the season.
In part two, we look at Geelong, Gold Coast, GWS, Hawthorn, Melbourne and North Melbourne.
Blicavs has been both the best player and the most improved at Geelong this season. Who would have thought 12 months ago that Blicavs could turn into such a dominant player at times. The former steeple chaser has shown that he now not only has a big tank, but also an ever increasing knowledge of the game. He is averaging 105 Champion Data ranking points per game. Since round six he has averaged 19 disposals, 12 contested possessions, five clearances and seven tackles per game.
What needs to improve:
The Cats used to be the stoppage kings in their prime, with the likes of Ablett, Bartel, Kelly and Selwood sharing the ball around wonderfully, streaming out of clearance after clearance. However, this season, as has been the case for the last few years, Geelong is lagging behind when it comes to contested possessions and clearances. The Cats are ranked 17th in the completion for contested possessions, recording a differential of -12.9 per game. They have lost the contested possession count in all bar two matches this season.
Rischitelli has led well without Gary Ablett in a difficult season for the Suns. He is averaging 24 disposals per game, ranked No.1 at the Suns, six higher than his career average. He is also averaging six tackles per game and has kicked seven goals in the first 11 games of the season.
Kolodjashnij has been in great form this year in defence for the Suns. He is starting to show why he was taken at pick No. 5 in the 2013 National Draft. He is averaging 21 disposals this season off half back, 5.3 marks per game, 4.7 rebound 50s and 5.5 intercept possessions per game.
Who needs to lift:
Malceski was one of the highest profile recruits of the off season and one of the club’s biggest recruits in their short history. However, Malceski has failed to live up to the hype since arriving on the Gold Coast. He is a premiership player and an All-Australian, who had another brilliant season last year, averaging 23 disposals a game and he had a season high 128 rebound 50s while playing every game for the Swans. He was dropped from the Suns line up after round 5 after a horrid start to the year, averaging just 15 possessions a game and making countless defensive blunders. Will want to improve dramatically in the second half of the year to prove his high salary is worth while.
Mumford’s season ending injury is a massive blow to the Giants’ chances of playing finals. Before he went down he was tearing teams apart with his tap work and sheer brute force in the middle of the ground. He was averaging 38.5 hit-outs per game and a brilliant 6.5 tackles per game, which is no mean feat for a man of Mummy’s size.
Shiel has taken his game to a whole new level this season. He is proving why he was a pre-selection by the Giants as a 17-year-old. He is ranked equal first for average disposals at the Giants this season, averaging 28 per game. He also is reaping the rewards of enjoying his first full pre-season since starting his AFL career.
Who needs to lift:
Griffin is another star who made a much publicised move. The former Bulldogs captain abandoned the Kennel and headed north. However, he too as failed to deliver. Has averaged 19 disposals this year, three down on last year and nine down on 2013, arguably his best year in the competition. He has spent more time up forward than expected, resulting in smaller possession counts, however, he was barely sighted early in the year. With the Giants now hit by several injuries, they will look to Griffin for leadership and experience on the field.
Many pundits began to question whether Hawthorn’s aging list could withstand the rigors of another tough season to take out another premiership. But someone forgot to tell Sam Mitchell. The 30-year-old is having one the best seasons of his career, averaging 29 disposals and five tackles a game.
Hartung managed just seven games in his debut season last year, as he struggled to break into the premiership side. However he has played nine games this seasons as he looks to cement himself in the Hawks senior side. He is averaging 19 disposals a game, compared with 11 last year. He has a great burst of speed and slick skills.
What needs to improve:
Hawthorn has lost four games so far this season, all by under 10 points, and all due to poor starts. They have been outscored by 33 points in the first 10 minutes of the four matches that they have lost. If Hawthorn can eliminate their lapses at the beginning of games, then they will once again be very hard to stop come finals time.
Vince has gone to a new level this season. When he moved across from Adelaide two years ago, we all knew he was a good player, but in this current Melbourne side with fewer star players around him, he has shown just how brilliant he is. This season he has also demonstrated an ability to play a variety of roles, whether it be as a tagger or an out and out ball winner, as he showed on the weekend with 38 disposals. He is averaging 24.5 disposals a game, and has collected over 30 touches three times this season.
McDonald showed last year that he is capable of playing on the best defenders in the league, with a solid start to the year. But this year he has improved even further. He is sixth in the league for intercept possessions and fifth for intercept marks, with 26.
Hard to call Jesse Hogan one of the most improved when he didn’t play a game in the seniors last season due to injury, but he deserves a mention somewhere on this list, so here he is. Hogan will be an absolute star of the competition. He has shown skill, strength and maturity well beyond his years on the footy field. The 20-year-old has kicked 22 goals in 10 games this year, averaging a whopping seven marks per game. He will be one of the men to lead Melbourne back to the upper echelon of the AFL.
Who needs to lift:
Jamar has long been one of Melbourne’s more consistent players. However, he has fallen out of favour and out of form of late, managing just five games this season before being dropped. The 32-year-old’s career’s could well be over, with not many clubs likely to look at the veteran at the end of the season. If he wants to remain in the AFL, he needs to stand up and earn a place back in the side to create another big, experienced body for the Demons, and possibly earn a new contract, with his existing contract expiring at seasons’ end.
Goldstein has established himself as one of the best ruckmen in the competition over the past few years, and this season has just reaffirmed that belief. He is the No.1 ranked ruckman in Supercoach this season, averaging 114 points a game. He is averaging a whopping 43.6 hit-outs per game, ranked No.1 in the competition, thanks to a record 80 hit-outs against GWS on the weekend.
Wright has become an important rebounding player for the Roos this year, leading North’s rebound 50s with four per game. He is averaging a career high five marks and 20 disposals per game this season.
Who needs to lift:
Waite was recruited from Carlton for one purpose. To help North Melbourne push for a premiership. While the Roos may have overestimated their list, the simply fact of the matter is, Waite is not performing well enough, kicking just 19 goals in 11 games. He was perhaps a bizarre pick up by North given he was very inconsistent at Carlton. Regardless, he needs to start performing to try to resurrect North’s season and his own career, before both fall by the wayside.