Turbulence, twists and turns
THIS season has already had as many twists and turns as a M. Night Shyamalan film.
But, while we still don't know if Carlton, Fremantle, Richmond and North Melbourne have a touch of the Bruce Willis' from The Sixth Sense - they think they're still alive when they really aren't - there will be no big surprise when it comes to Melbourne and the Gold Coast.
Both were expected to transform into such powerhouses they would vie for the 2014 premiership.
They still might, stranger things have happened, but right now all they are battling for is the wooden spoon.
The Demons stocked up on draft picks after presumably 'bottoming out' in 2008 and 2009, nabbing seven of the best 36 kids from those two years, while the Suns got their hands on nine of the first 13 draft selections in 2010, before entering the AFL.
Melbourne won eight games in 2011, Gold Coast three, and there was plenty like about both.
But they have just one victory between them in 2012.
What's the old saying? Two steps forward, one step back.
It appears they've gotten it wrong, and taken a step forward, and then another two back.
According to Champion Data statistics (which form the basis of Supercoach points) the 12 players who have experienced the biggest drop in performance this season, six are from Melbourne - Brad Green, Lynden Dunn, Colin Sylvia, Rohan Bail, Jordie McKenzie and Brent Moloney. It says a lot.
For instance, Sylvia's average disposals have halved from 2011 - dropping from 20.0 to 10.7 - while Moloney's has slipped from 23.1 to 17.2. And this is from two supposed leaders at Demonland.
One of the official skippers, Jack Trengove, meanwhile, appears to be struggling under the weight of responsibility.
Maybe it wasn't such a good idea having a 20-year-old in his third season take on the co-captaincy.
Nathan Jones is a rare commodity, having picked up his work-rate in the middle, while jumpin' Jeremy Howe and high-priced recruit Mitch Clarke (25 goals) have been more than serviceable in attack - the ball just doesn't get there enough or with any fluency.
The Demons are ranked clear last in two main areas - average disposals (314) and efficiency rate (69%).
They don't get the ball enough and butcher it when they do.
Gold Coast sits 15th for average disposals (349), propped up by Gary Ablett's competition-high haul, but it's when its players don't have the ball that is most worrying for the club - the Suns are ranked last for tackles (59).
They are simply not applying enough pressure to opponents.
While the jury is still out on the kids they collected, the Suns might be rueing some of the choices they made when it came to selecting experience.
Gary Ablett can obviously hold his bald head high, but Josh Fraser and Jared Brennan have been languishing in the reserves, and Campbell Brown and Michael Rischitelli probably need to be.
Rischitelli's disposal average has slumped from 24.0 in his Brisbane best-and-fairest season of 2010 and 23.7 in his first with Gold Coast in 2011 to just 14 in 2012 - a startling decline.
It's unfortunate for the Suns that the two experienced campaigners who could be counted on - backmen Nathan Bock and Jarrod Harbrow - are sidelined with long-term injuries.
Unfortunately Melbourne and the Gold Coast don't clash until round 19 when they take centre stage at the 'G'.
Don't expect any record-breaking crowds for that one, but expect plenty of intrigue.
Meanwhile, GWS Giants, who sit between the Demons and Suns on the ladder having upstaged their fellow newbies in round 7, have impressed with an endeavour that has left their fellow cellar dwellers for dead.
And we get a glimpse of what just might end up being a premiership attack this Saturday when 2011 No.1 draft pick Jonathan Patton makes his long-awaited debut for the Giants.
The big fella will ease into the forwardline that has been dominated so far by fellow teen Jeremy Cameron.
Giants they will be.