So we finished 8 out of 16 with 10 wins and a draw (the worst eight place of the final eight era).
Well Hille will be back to team with Ryder which kind of makes it irrelevant whether Laycock comes back at all. Bellchambers is clearly on the outs (exhibit A: they chose to play zero ruckmen in the final rather than play bellchambers). That's actually a pretty good ruck combo though and both are effective when going forward. Of course this relies on Hille making a full recovery, otherwise its more of the Laycock show we saw in 2008. Wouldn't mind seeing Christian Bock at some point too. He's listed as the tallest on the list.
The midfield has potential- I hope. Lovett has opted out and its a good time. He had a good year so his value is higher than last year but faded badly in the last few weeks so, depending on trades, can be replaced. Watson is the club's best shot at a champion right now and was great all year. Games without him exposed the lack of hardness around packs from the rest. Prismall has no problem getting the ball loose but lacks commitment and his disposal was shakey. A full preseason will make a difference. Lucky he cost us nothing to get. Winderlich was hot until he got hurt and never really got his run going again. Stanton struggled when McVeigh and Welsh were out but recovered much better once the midfield was full as there was less pressure on him. We missed Welsh and McVeigh early but they never really recovered and played with the sort of fire seen in 2008. That hurt the win column, but we did get to see Zarahakis, who looks good when he matures. The real problem, and it has been all decade, is getting good players to have a few great years and actually become champions. Watson should captain next year but the rest of the midfield was inconsistent. This is the theme of 2009. Moments of brilliance and then .... nothing really.
The backs are the strength right now, lots of depth. Hooker was great, though inexperienced, and was missed when he had to ruck more and more. Pears has earnt the full back slot and played well on the big name forwards. Hurley started back but is surely a forward with Lloyd and Lucas gone. Fletcher had some injuries but dominated rebounds when healthy. The freedom he was allowed due to the good form of Pears (and to an extent Hooker) was important. Hocking had a great year, playing most games as a tagger and generally doing fairly well. Slattery was inconsistent but capable when the opponent was right. Myers and Danaher are waiting in the wings. The backline looked great when it was loaded enough that Houli didn't need to play. Ditto Lovett-Murray who just went around wacking people.
The forward line has talent but the structure is a mess. Hurley was excellent against Hawthorn and should be first picked next year. Neagle looked good for quarters but never contributed over a full game. Monfries looked All Australian when he really went bananas but was ineffective far too often. He will be the key in 2010. Three goals a game should be minimum as a mid-size forward who can lead up and crumb is a great asset (see the grand final for good and bad examples). Gumbleton should (hopefully) surface and will probably have the same growing pains others have since it would effectively be his first year. The loss of Lloyd hurts a lot, since the three main forwards are largely unproven. Alwyn Davey needs to do something more constructive than just tackle (although he does this well) and must be the key small forward. Quinn was hilarious but never looked like he had a clue. Reimers had an interrupted year but still showed potential at times and surely more games will help him establish himself. Jetta disappeared after it was established he had nothing to offer. I still think McPhee could be of best service up forward. He marks well and his clangers are less damaging away from the opponent's goal. Lonergan did OK when he strung games together but I don't find him convincing yet.
Really that is the great part about 2009. We played shit and made finals. We only won 10 games but beat the Saints, Pies, Hawks (twice!), and Blues (twice!). We also dropped North, Richmond and Freo. Importantly, we played as many players as possible and got a good look at what they can do. Hooker, Pears, Hurley, Hocking and Zarahakis are great and should improve. Stanton, Winderlich, Monfries, Prismall, Neagle, Reimers and Skipworth can contribute but MUST contribute more, more often. The veterns- Welsh, McVeigh, McPhee and Fletcher- still have a lot to offer as long as they are fit and healthy. All in all, with Watson, Monfires, Pears and Ryder pushing for All Australian (nothing else should be the goal) and the return of Hille, the Bombers should do well next year. Those big versatile players- Hooker, Hille, Ryder, Hurley- are really the keys. Key position players are hard to find and they all have great hands and foot skills. Provided they can find some consistency.
B: Slattery, Pears, Fletcher
HB: McPhee, Hooker, Dempsey
C: Winderlich, Stanton, Lovett
R: Ryder, Watson, Welsh
HF: Davey, Hurley, Lucas
F: Lloyd, Neagle, Monfries
I/C: McVeigh, Zarahakis, Prismall, Hocking
Omitted: Hille (injured)
Out in 2010: Lovett, Lloyd, Lucas
In? Reimers, Gumbleton, Myers, Dyson, Danaher?