The finals are upon us, with six teams advancing into August in State Championship men and leaving seven teams to look ahead to next year. Did those teams live up to pre-season expectations or fall short of the mark?
Record: 10-14 (seventh)
The Pacers started 2015 off poorly before recovering and putting themselves in the finals race mid-season. However, an injury to Jason Dirkx derailed their season in many respects, and despite Bulleen faltering in the second half of the campaign, the Pacers couldn’t make up ground and eventually finished a win out of the top six. It is their second straight season where they have looked ominous with a healthy side before falling away with injuries, which probably says their depth is still lacking after two seasons in the top flight. Nonetheless, ten wins is nothing to sneeze at.
Record: 9-15 (eighth)
The Wildcats were expected to struggle in 2015 after some big roster changes, and the loss of star recruit Justin Aver to a broken leg mid-season only made it harder. Yet, the Wildcats were in with a chance of making the finals on the final weekend of the regular season, which is a remarkable effort considering the circumstances. While nine wins and eighth spot doesn’t stand out by any stretch, they probably exceeded pre-season expectations of them, and their campaign has to be seen as a relatively successful one overall.
Record: 9-15 (ninth)
The Suns enjoyed an immensely successful 2014 season, winning a final on the back of superstar import Grant Johnson and trusty sidekick Titus Robinson. Replacements were always going to be tough to find for that duo, but the signing of Troy Snyder was, at first glance, a good get. Yet mid-season, the Suns languished in the bottom four with a couple of wins to their name before coming home better in the second half of the year, even as Snyder made a swift exit from the club. Nine W’s is a solid effort given the circumstances, even if that’s what was expected of them pre-season.
Record: 8-16 (tenth)
The Magic looked to be exceeding all expectations early in the season as they stormed to some big early season wins, particularly over Waverley and Bulleen. But the young squad couldn’t keep it going and ultimately fell in a rather large hole in the second half of the campaign. Pre-season, eight wins was probably around the mark of expectation, and despite their fast start, it was always going to be tough for a side as young as the Magic to sustain that level of play. Regardless, there are some very bright years ahead of Hawthorn if they can keep the roster together.
Record: 7-17 (eleventh)
Melbourne is a tough one. At the start of the season, their roster was bare aside from Dillon Stith, and their measly record reflected that. Then, as their young stars began to filter in from their overseas commitments, the improvement came in droves and suddenly the Tigers were a competitive unit, falling to Bulleen (twice) and Ringwood by less than five points in the latter stages of the season. A stretch of eight-straight losses mid-season can’t be ignored, but given where the club has been at in recent years, they will probably take seven wins and a bright future.
Diamond Valley Eagles
Record: 7-17 (twelfth)
The Eagles were always going to miss the finals in 2015, and while they gathered seven wins, finishing second-last in the league is not where they wanted to be. Recruits Brad Bridgewater and Nikola Kuga failed to live up to any sort of hype, and the Eagles’ offense was left wanting for much of the season. Their 2-10 away record was tied for worst in the league and they looked out of their depth at various times throughout the campaign, albeit after losing some firepower over the off-season. 2015 is probably a year the Eagles are happy is now behind them.
Record: 5-19 (thirteenth)
The Devils were expected to be a mid-table proposition in 2015, with the loss of import Rustin Dowd meaning they would do very well to make the finals. Unfortunately, five wins for the entire campaign meant that Dowd’s loss left an even bigger hole than expected. Their 5-19 record is even worse when you consider they won their first two games and their last one as well, leaving two wins from 21 starts in between. Put simply, the season was a write-off.
To find your local club’s fixtures and results, and to keep up to date with all the league news and information over the season, head to www.bigv.com.au or click here.