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The AFL Year That Was

Taking a look back at the 2012 AFL season: the champs, the star performances, the rise of the West and the fails of the year.

As a New Year approaches and with the 2013 season still a few months off, let’s take a look back at the highest and lowest moments of what was a terrific 2012 season.

Hail the Champs

Had a few moments gone the other way Hawthorn would have completed one hell of a dominant season. Unfortunately it just wasn’t to be as the Grand Final favourites fell 10-points short and Sydney pulled off a massive upset to claim their first Premiership since 2005.

The Swans weren’t considered much of a championship favourite entering the season, but their voice was heard early as they won five straight out of the gate, eventually going 16-6 for the year. They did it with club legend Adam Goodes having an injury interrupted year and with coach John Longmire in just his second season with the team. Massive contributions from the likes of Josh Kennedy, Lewis Jetta, Rhyce Shaw, Ben McGlynn, Jarrad McVeigh and Kieren Jack helped the Swans stay among the top four and push through a tough finals campaign.

With Hawthorn and Collingwood remaining strong, Sydney again may not be considered favourites heading into the new season, but at least we now know that it’s too dangerous to write them off.

The elite performances

Luke Ball’s injury enabled Dayne Beams to finally receive the recognition he deserved and what a year he produced; 30 disposals, a goal and almost five tackles a game. Breakout partner Steele Sidebottom also looked poised for a big year, benefitting from slightly off years from Scott Pendlebury and Dane Swan, but Beams proved his season was no fluke. Collingwood’s metal in the middle are unrivalled.

The Tigers disappointed again with a final third fadeout, but not before Trent Cotchin solidified his name amongst the game’s best. Shunned former Adelaide ruck Ivan Maric also had a breakout year dominating the skies with a ridiculous 31 hit outs per contest to supplement his 15 touches per.

The west coast wasn’t devoid of star performances either. Matthew Pavlich’s second half of 2012 was truly something special and the big forward, turned occasional midfielder, almost was able to almost steal the Coleman Medal away from eventually winner Jack Riewoldt. West Coast’s Coxanui ruck combination was a game or two away from dominating the entire schedule and helped the Eagles to another successful campaign.

Brownlow medallist Jobe Watson won the heart of just about every television commentator in the land, but he couldn’t drag the sorry Bombers into the top eight. Could a declining Brendan Goddard help him there in 2013?

Finally, if Comeback Player of the Year was an actual AFL award, Lenny Hayes would have it locked up. The soon to be 33-year-old made a successful return from what was thought to be a career ending ACL injury and was back to just short of his best, still giving away candy like it was Halloween.

The West Is Rising

The good folks of Western Australia aren’t too fussed anymore when the footy ‘experts’ over east fail to give the Eagles and the (to a much lesser extent) Dockers their dues, but 2012 proved that both clubs are coming on in a strong way. Finishing fifth and seventh respectively, West Coast and Fremantle did not just enjoy big years, but it also looks like we’ve only had our first taste of what’s to come.

West Coast was a legit chance at a top four birth for most of the year despite struggling with injuries to key forwards Mark LeCras, Mark Nicoski and Josh Kennedy. Darren Glass doesn’t have the leadership reputation of imitators like Nick Maxwell, but he’s darn good in his own respect. Matt Priddis was elite in the middle overcoming iffy disposal issues and the aforementioned ruck duo of Cox and Naitanui was the league’s best.

Fremantle was also bitten by the injury bug-Sandilands, Morabito, and McPharlin included- and even Pavlich was carry some serious complications for a long stretch. Ross Lyon has the Dockers winning on the road and their second half of the season comeback was much like their spirited 2006 campaign.

Both clubs look to have a  bright years ahead of them.

The Fails

The Kurt Tippett, Adelaide fallout has been done to death and rightly so; what a poor, poor decision by both parties.

‘The Weapon’ and Essendon’s training staff were given a pretty hard go by media outlets nationwide and why not? Injuries crippled what was a 8-1 start to the season and although Dean Robinson kept his job, Athletics Australia boss Danny Corcoran has been brought in to fix the crazy number of soft-tissue problems felt around the club.

Chris Judd finally received some recognition for being a bit of dirty player and the former ‘golden boy’ of the league has not yet been able to distance himself from the negative press. A bounce back to form in 2013 would go a long ways in repairing a torn reputation.

And as we enjoy the festive time of the year with our loved ones and families, please keep in your thoughts John McCarthy’s tragic death and the loss his family and the Port Adelaide and Collingwood football clubs have suffered.

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Follow Robert White on Twitter @RobertWhitebrrr.