AFL Round 10: Winners and Losers

Brent Harvey played his 350th, Fremantle won on the road, the Bombers fell to the Swans, and Ablett shone brighter than Geelong’s new lighting. All really irrelevant though. Richmond are going to win the flag. Haven’t you heard?

Winners

Richmond

After their 41 point win over the Eagles in Perth, I think it is pretty clear everybody else is merely playing for second place.

Seriously though, was this the best Tiger win in recent memory? I can’t recall a more rounded team effort from those wearing yellow and black. Normally the cream in Cotchin, Martin and Riewoldt are the biggest forces behind their significant wins, but on Monday night it felt as if the entire side just outworked their opposition.

Nick Vlastuin continued his lightning start to his AFL career, leading the side in both tackles and goals this week. Despite having only played six games at this level, he is already one of the club leaders in terms of intensity and work rate, which he backs up with sound decision making.

The really good news for Tiger’s faithful, and news they are well aware of, is the fact the likes of Ellis, Conca, Grimes and Tuck are still to come back into the twenty-two, and for the first time in a long while, it would be harsh on the players making way. The key over the coming weeks is to back up this effort and make this the standard and not the exception. Monday night was an indication of how well Richmond can play, and their fans have good cause to be excited (and, you know, scared. It is Richmond after all.)

Brent Harvey

Game 350 was a memorable one for the Kangaroos stalwart. Boomer ran rings up, down, and around the Saints, kicking 4.4 to go alongside his 23 disposals in what was a trademark performance.

North Melbourne as a team decided the best way to avoid disastrous last minute capitulations was to simply put the game beyond doubt at quarter time.  Still, that nine goal to one opening term didn’t wipe our memories. The few times the Saints managed to string two goals together, everyone starting nudging and winking at each other.

It didn’t matter though and operation 61 point lead at quarter time was a rousing success.  They maintained that distance for most of the evening, with their opening quarter torching allowing them to remove their foot from the pedal. Despite the margin not increasing greatly, the Roos would still finish the game with 124 more disposals, 67 more marks, and 23 more scoring shots. A crushing in every sense.

Ryan Griffen

I feel a little sorry for Griffen. Every man and his dog was watching Ablett’s return to Geelong, meaning none of the neutrals saw his overpowering performance against the Power. He mauled them with 40 disposals, 9 tackles, 8 clearances, and 8 inside fifty entries. Griffen’s best is simply incredible. Like, deserves 4 votes instead of the usual 3 levels of incredibleness. I can’t think of any other midfielder who I would consider more underrated. People know who he is, and know he is good, but I don’t think some realise how good.

Ablett’s Goal

I predict that by the end of his career he will have fundamentally altered Australia’s physics curriculum.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?&v=3QWzPH328M0

I’m not sure what the best part is, but I love how the ball practically bounces smack bang in the middle of the goals. If the goal umpire didn’t move then that one would have hit him on the head. I also love the Geelong fan behind the goals who breaks into worship as the result becomes apparent.

Tom Mitchell

Mitchell’s success, and the performances of the many younger players Geelong have introduced over the past couple of years, are a glowing endorsement of the benefits that come from slowly integrating new players into an already experienced and successful side. Learning about physics would be much easier if the guy sitting next to you in class is Albert Einstein, rather than some guy named Colin who had been taking the same class for years but had never really grasped the concepts. Football is no different. If the people you are working and learning with are experienced and knowledgeable, then you are going to pick things up a whole lot quicker, and with a much greater degree of accuracy.

To use another analogy, player development throughout clubs is like teaching people how to swim. Different clubs are using different techniques with varying degrees of success. Melbourne’s young players are thrown straight into the deep end without ever having seen water before. It’s no wonder half of them drown. The likes of Sydney and Geelong do it differently. Mitchell has been taught about water, water safety, and swimming techniques for several weeks before he even goes near the water. When it finally comes time to swim for the first time, he has got a bunch of experienced swimmers alongside showing him the ropes. He has some mental understanding of what to expect, and better still, knows he is ready to swim because the teachers held him back until he was. They didn’t just chuck him in the second he arrived while simultaneously telling anyone who would listen how good a swimmer he is, and how he is going to lead the rest of the class moving forward.

Simon Black

Carried the Lions on Friday night like Jordan carried the ToonSquad in Space Jam.

Losers

Essendon

James Hird said after the game that his side is a step below the likes of Sydney and Geelong. He is right.

Adelaide

I was surprised during the week to find Adelaide were the favourites with the bookmakers for their contest with the Dockers. Fremantle are a thoroughly professional outfit who maintain a pretty high standard of play they rarely dip below, whereas Adelaide alternate exclusively between really good and really bad patches of play.

And this proved true on Saturday afternoon, as the Dockers basically outsmarted their opposition. Adelaide outperformed Fremantle in a lot of the major stats like clearances and inside fifties, but were very inefficient with their chances. More importantly, they allowed the Dockers to do what they wanted to do. Throughout much of the game Fremantle played a loose man, and at times two loose men, on the half-back flank. They were able to repeatedly cut off Adelaide’s attacking movement, and that situation, when combined with the slippery conditions, made it exceptionally difficult for the Crows to to pick out a forward.

Two loose Dockers meant there had to be some Crows running around without an opponent. I’m not sure who they are or where they were, which is my point. Adelaide didn’t maximise any advantage from Fremantle’s loose men decision, and in hindsight it would have been better to simply put an opponent on those two rather than try to forge an advantage elsewhere.

One positive for the Crows was the improved performance of Sam Jacobs in the ruck, notching 50 hitouts in a stoppage laden affair. It is difficult to read too much into the performance though, as it was primarily against the talented but inexperienced Zac Clarke. Another hightlight was the play of Rory Laird, whose aggressive and effort based approach was tailor made for the sloppy conditions. His fellow backmen fared much worse though. Reilly, Otten and Brown had error filled afternoons, and the Dockers profited several times as a result.

Score Reviews

I wish I had better video editing skills, because I would make the following:

Start with footage of player kicking a goal. Ball goes smack bang through the middle, clear as day. I then cut to the goal umpire doing that little scamper off his line as the field umpire calls him in for a chat. The field umpire asks the goal umpire his thoughts. The goal umpire says he believes it’s a goal. The field umpire then calls over the boundary umpires. From here I take the footage from the Adelaide v Fremantle game Saturday afternoon, in which the boundary umpire says he heard the ball hit the post, and that he is 100% sure of this. The field umpire then signals for the review, and says “we believe it has hit the post, but we just want to check”. I then replay the footage of the clear cut goal. Showing the ball flying straight down the middle again and again. I then play the audio from any single review that has taken place: “review inconclusive: goal umpire’s decision”. The goal umpire then smacks his hand against the post and signals a behind. I then cut to the footage of Liberatore emphatically celebrating with his team mates in the 1997 Preliminary Final, and the subsequent look of confusion and disappointment as they realise it has been ruled a behind.

I am actually considering teaching myself the requisite editing skills to make this video.

Port Adelaide

Has anyone else seen the terrible (or brilliant) movie Face/Off, with Travolta and Cage? I’m suggesting that when Hinkley went to hospital a few weeks back, perhaps Primus took his face and returned to Port Adelaide to reclaim his old job.

The best of this joke is Port Adelaide fans would actually prefer this to be true, as it is much more comforting than reality. Maybe they ain’t that much better than last year. Their performance against the Western Bulldogs, and over the past five weeks, would lend credence to that hypothesis. They only lost by nine, but they were horrid, and I think most Port fans would agree with that assessment of the night.

Next time you Port fans head down to Alberton for training, just call out MATT! when you see Hinkley, you know, just to see if he turns around.

Melbourne

I was a bit too young to fully appreciate what was happening with Fitzroy toward the end, but I find it hard to believe they were worse than this current Melbourne side. You’re surprised if the margin is less than sixty at some stage in the final term. They’ve become a euphemism for exceptionally bad play when discussing games that didn’t involve them (team x was Melbourne-like), and commentators spend their games trying their hardest to give them credit for any little thing they can.

West Coast

A 41 point loss to the Tigers leaves them sitting precariously on five wins and five losses heading into round 11. Their home form is torrid. They can’t kick straight. And all in all one of the pre-season favourites for the flag now has its finals credentials being questioned. More concerning is the fact coach John Worsfold openly stated that he cannot explain why his side is playing so poorly. Normally you at least get the customary “well we have a few ideas that we will be looking at during the week”. We didn’t even get that. I almost felt  he was hoping for suggestions from the media scrum and general public.

Pedestrian would be a good way of describing the Eagles on Monday night. The players fumbled when in possession and made poor decisions, but lets cut straight to the most egregious thing. The Eagles won 81 hitouts. In maths terminology this is what is known as “a huge amount”. Yet the Eagles lost the clearances despite this. This is unfathomable. 81 times your player touched the ball first. 81 times your ruckmen chose where that ball was going. To have such an advantage in a particular facet of the game and squander it entirely is gravely concerning. It’s like playing pin the tail on the donkey against somebody who is blindfolded and losing. The Eagles average the second most clearances per game in the competition, but this is slightly misleading. They win the clearance battle most weeks, but it is often quite close.

Round Opponent Total Hitouts v Opponents Total Total Clearances v Opponents Total
1 Fremantle 12 7
2 Hawthorn 1 10
3 Melbourne -13 12
4 Carlton 5 1
5 Port 4 -2
6 Bulldogs 17 -9
7 Brisbane 18 1
8 North 19 -4
9 Giants 33 18
10 Richmond 54 -4

In fact it is downright peculiar. As their dominance of the hitouts has increased, their fortunes in the clearances has fallen. In fact they seem to do better the worse their ruck dominance. They had their second most accomplished clearance victory, at least in terms of pure numbers, the one week they failed to have more hitouts than their opponent. Winning the hitouts by such astronomical margins like 54, 19, 18 and 17, and then losing the clearance battle, or winning by a mere one, speaks to some issues in the relationship between the rucks and those at their feet. Naitanui has only recently returned, so perhaps this will amend itself once the side becomes more attuned to working with both he and Cox, but it’s a troubling trend for the time being.

Of course one or two stats doesn’t paint a complete picture. As the Eagles have illustrated, there is no point winning more hit-outs if you don’t turn that into a win in the clearances. There is nothing really gained in winning the clearances if you don’t turn them into inside fifty entries, and those forward entries are borderline useless if you don’t turn them into marks and scoring shots (they can even be harmful if you just turn it over). All these aspects of the game are entwined, and there are plenty more to consider. Winning the ball at stoppages isn’t the only way to win the ball after all. The concern in this situation is the fact the Eagles are failing to take advantage of their advantages.

About Adam Ritchie

My name is Adam. I started watching football with two fellow parapsychologists in an abandoned firehouse. When we’re not watching footy, we’re running our own pest control business. What do you mean I stole that from Ghostbusters?

Comments

  1. Kerry Smith says:

    Hi Adam
    Interesting work as usual. EspecIally the notes on Ryan Griffen. That was quality footy commentary. Not so impressed by the cheap shots about the Power.
    Kind Regards
    Kerry Smith

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