With two months left in the 2022 AFL home and away season, we’ve got a rough idea of which teams will extend their campaign into the finals and who is destined for an early offseason. Amongst the remaining fixtures are plenty of noteworthy storylines, with some of the popular headlines set to be main talking points as we reach the home straight of fixtures.
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Hellish times for Melbourne
The sky is hardly falling for the reigning premiers, but losing three consecutive games rolling into their bye round isn’t ideal. Max Gawn’s injury setback mixed in with Steven may’s off-field antics have seen an immortal Melbourne outfit come back to reality and a matchup with the now top-of-the-table Lions suddenly looms as an important must-win affair. Their fixture doesn’t get much easier with pesky teams like Collingwood, Port Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs on the horizon as well as games against top-4 contenders Geelong, Fremantle and Brisbane again to close out the year. I still view Melbourne as the team to beat come finals time, although they seem to be trending in the wrong direction right now.
Collingwood’s ruck dilemma
Make no mistake, when Brodie Grundy is healthy it’s expected that he’ll slot back into the lead ruck role for Collingwood as they make a finals push. However, Darcy Cameron has proved that he’s no longer a list clogger with impressive averages of 16.3 disposals, 21.1 hit-outs and 5.6 marks in his last seven matches without Grundy by his side. Couple that with strong performances from Mason Cox and it appears as though the Magpies have a difficult decision on their hands. None of the trio are best utilised as a key forward and I can’t see a scenario where they regularly play all three big men in their weekly lineup. It’s a good problem for Collingwood to have, but it’s a problem nonetheless.
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David Noble fighting for his job
The writing is on the wall for the North Melbourne Kangaroos and David Noble to go their separate ways at the end of the season. Whether it’s fair on Noble or not is another question entirely, but registering a 5-29-1 record in nearly two seasons at the helm is the reason why North’s main man finds himself in the hot seat. Their list is somewhat of a dumpster fire at the moment with the Roos still well and truly stuck in a rebuilding phase despite strong seasons from the likes of Luke Davies-Uniacke and Jy Simpkin. A lot has to go right before the end of the season if Noble still wants to be employed as the head coach of this football club and the next month or so of games will go a long way to determining his fate.
West Coast still have a pulse
With a loss in Round 14 against Geelong, the Eagles registered their 9th straight L which set a club record for the most consecutive defeats. While it’s fair to say no one at West Coast will be happy with that much sustained failure, their loss at the hands of the Cats wasn’t all doom and gloom, with returning stars boosting the lineup and the Eagles displaying a lot more hunger and desire to compete than in recent matches. Currently anchored in 18th position, I won’t be surprised if this West Coast team shocks a few sides before the season is out and climbs a few spots higher on the ladder.
Tyson Stengle’s All-Aus bid
There are plenty of players in the mix for their first All-Australian selection this season, one of which is born-again Geelong forward Tyson Stengle. There aren’t many players who can stand out in a forward line that boasts Jeremy Cameron and Tom Hawkins, and yet, that’s what Stengle has been able to do in 2022. Emerging as an impressive threat in front of goal, the Cats small has breathed life into his AFL career after managing just 16 games in three seasons across two different clubs before arriving at Kardinia Park. Charlie Cameron probably has his name pencilled into one of the forward pockets in the AA side after kicking 31 goals from his 13 games, but Stengle is only five goals behind the prestigious Lion with 26 majors to his name thus far.
The squeeze at the bottom of the top-8
Are the Dogs done? Will St Kilda and Sydney hang on? Can Gold Coast make the finals for the first time in their history? All these questions and more are on the lips of AFL fans and as we prepare for the run home to end the season the squeeze for top-8 spots is only going to get tighter. Four sides are fighting for three spots at the bottom of the finals qualifiers right now with a pair of teams just one win behind that pack. To close the year the majority of those teams will have to play each other and hitting their straps at the right time to end the 2022 season could see a surprise team vault into finals contention.
Back-to-back Coleman winning Blues?
We all know about their issues at the other end of the ground, but Carlton’s forward line still boasts plenty of talent. Injuries have seen Harry McKay slide down the Coleman Medal order, paving the way for his teammate Charlie Curnow to lead the league for total goals after 14 weeks of the season. His 40 majors have him sitting atop the pecking order and if Curnow is able to hold onto the No. 1 rung, it will be the first time in 121 years that two players from the same club would win the Coleman Medal in consecutive years! There’s a long way to go yet, but Carlton’s premier threat in front of goal has hardly put a foot wrong so far.
As David Mundy prepares for the 366th game of his career, the ageless wonder will enter the top-10 for most VFL/AFL games played. Everyone assumes that Mundy will call time on his playing days when 2022 comes to a close and there are a bunch of other veterans expected to follow suit. Crosstown rivals Shannon Hurn and Josh Kennedy find themselves in the same position, while the likes of Shane Edwards, Robbie Gray and Paddy Ryder could also be nearing the end of their playing days. It appears as though champions like Buddy Franklin, Scott Pendlebury, Trent Cotchin and Joel Selwood will go on again in 2023, but don’t be shocked if we’re watching the final chapter of their careers and they announce in the coming months they’re hanging up the boots.
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