AFL Round 11: Winners and Losers

Round 11 was the first of three successive weeks featuring byes. In the words of Moe Szyslak, bye weeks? Bronko Nagurski didn’t get no bye weeks!

And now he’s dead.

…. maybe they’re not such a bad thing.

Winners

Sydney

Last year’s premiers are playing better football than they did at any stage of last year.

And now they are just showing off really. Watching Tom Mitchell slot into the side is like watching the richest kid in the playground get a shiny new toy. Thank God Daniher picked Essendon, otherwise they’d be rubbing that in our faces too. They are officially at the “look at what we can do” stage of success. Can we take the son of a successful rugby league player and turn him into a dangerous aussie rules footballer? Yep. Can we take a quintessential physical workhorse in Hannebery and turn him into a forty possession silk machine? Sure thing. Can we poach key forwards from other clubs with a giant bucket of money, even though we just won the flag? I don’t see why not. Can we continue to remain relatively anonymous even though we are reigning premiers? Haha too easy.

In perfect Sydney fashion they have this week off, so everyone else can conveniently forget how successfully they eviscerated the Crows. Carlton will probably beat Hawthorn this Friday (they are due for one of their twice yearly “look at who we beat, aren’t we special?” wins), and everyone will be falling over themselves to talk about how they are finally coming together and that Malthouse’s influence is beginning to show, even though we all know the Blues are somewhere between The Proclaimers and their musical namesake Vanessa away from a flag. Sorry I’m getting off track. My point is while people are talking about Carlton and other sides merely making up the numbers, the Swans will be there, in the shadows, lurking, watching, and winning.

The Suns

I imagine Guy McKenna felt like a child taking two treats from the lolly bowl when he tried to make Trent McKenzie the loose player in the defensive half of the ground.

There is no way I get away with this. They’ll notice and make me put it back. I know I can’t really do this, but the reward is ever so great… wait… they’re not doing anything…

Seriously North, how do you let a player like McKenzie stand by himself for four quarters? It’s like they are the only ones who didn’t know he is a great kick.

Jeremy Cameron

Big call time. I predict in twenty years time we will look on the careers of Cameron and Franklin and think Cameron was the better player.

Franklin is an athletic freak, but so is Cameron in his own right. He isn’t as fast or agile, but he still faster than most key forwards. He has two advantages over Franklin. The first is marking ability. Franklin is a poor contested mark, and really relies on taking advantage with his superior athleticism and taking marks on the lead. Cameron excels both on the lead and contest situations. The second is accuracy. Franklin has always been wasteful in front of goal. His ability to generate scoring opportunities is incredible, but for every seven plus goal haul there are a dozen 4.4 showings. Cameron had that very tally against the Cats, but on the whole he kicks truly more often than not, and it is a surprise when he misses a set shot. He has kicked 31.9 so far this year.

He is a twenty year old key forward, on one of the poorest sides in the competition, and he is on track for a 60 goal season. Franklin kicked 63 in the home and away season as a twenty year old. Watch this space.

Podsiadly’s Third Quarter

Podsiadly kicked five goals against the Giants, and four of them came during the third term. With Hawkins looking decidedly average, Podsiadly was their most consistent avenue to goal, and was one of the few bright spots in what was about as uninspiring a 59 point victory you are likely to see.

It seems the bye couldn’t have come quick enough for the Cats. Hawkins has looked severely restricted, and it was somewhat surprising that he wasn’t rested considering the opposition. During the final term Steve Johnson and Allen Christensen were involved in a brutal clash of heads, and neither would return for the remainder of the contest. Christensen in particular has endured a fair share of high impacts, which would almost certainly be cause for concern down at Kardinia.

Geelong head into the bye atop the ladder, with a solitary loss to their names. You can’t really argue with that. However it would be a stretch to say the Cats have broken away from the field. While we are only halfway through the year, the Cats rank 10th in average points conceded per game. This is obviously impacted somewhat by who has played who to date, but this is regardless a far cry from their usual top four ranking during the 2007 – 2011 period. As we will see later on in the losers section, there is a very strong correlation between Grand Final appearances and defence, so the Cats would want to tighten theirs up in the second half of the year.

Essendon’s Comeback

The Bombers didn’t play particularly well on Friday night, but coming away with the four points despite struggling is a hallmark of good sides. I remain sceptical of how good Essendon can be in 2013, but it’s becoming increasingly less likely they will suffer a catastrophic collapse like last year, and that is positive progress.

P.S I much prefer Hurley in defence. He has had some success up forward, but it never really felt as if the position came naturally to him from my vantage point.

Jarrad Waite 

One of the few bright spots for Carlton at the end of the night was the play of their number one key forward, who accounted for 70 per cent of the team’s goals. The Blues forward had a Carey-esque line on the stat sheet, with 19 possessions, 14 marks, and 7 goals. Casboult played well as a lead up option, but the Blues really suffered as a result of Betts, Yarran and Garlett’s inability to hit the scoreboard.

Losers

Carlton

The Blues seem to be stuck smack bang in the middle of the competition, and it’s hard to see where the elevation to the next level is going to come. For years they’ve been a side who beats up on poor sides, drops one or two inexcusable games a year, snares one or two tremendous wins over superior opposition, and is generally uninspiring beyond those two weeks. It’s rinse and repeat year after year. Malthouse was meant to change this, but this Carlton side seems all too familiar through eleven rounds.

St Kilda

For throwing that one away. Montagna’s miss when running into open goal minutes from time stands out in the mind (and in those of Saints fans, and I imagine Montagna’s as well).

West Coast

I don’t even care that they won. They are a shadow of the side we saw last year, and needed an exorbitant amount of good fortune to stumble over the line against the Saints.

Lindsay Thomas

For his abhorrent miss in the opening term. When he immediately grabbed for his head I thought he might be playing for another free, but then I realised it was just the instinctive reaction of someone who had a colossal brain fade.

North Melbourne

Another game, another five goal lead relinquished. I have a red texta here that is just dying to cross them off the finals contender list. I’ve taken the cap off and everything.

They failed to handled the difficult conditions as well as the Suns, and took an almighty gamble by allowing Trent McKenzie to play without an opponent for much of the contest. They busted and McKenzie punished them time after time, picking off North’s infrequent and often lazy forward thrusts. In fact they were comprehensively outdone by the Suns. In the final three terms they managed only five scoring shots to the Suns’ twenty. That is atrocious, and the whispers regarding the coach are getting louder. They extended his contract to the end of 2016 at the beginning of the year, a move that raised eyebrows as during his tenure they’ve achieved the grand sum of an eighth place finish and a 96 point thumping in the first week of the finals. Their defence has consistently leaked goals, and most weeks they are relying on scoring a significant amount if they want to win because of this. Such a plan is not sustainable. The most successful sides of the past half decade have all been built on defence first principles.  It is the first and probably most important step toward genuine success.

Competition Rankings in Key Defensive Areas
Tackles Inside  50s Conceded Marks Inside 50 Conceded Points Against
2012 Sydney 1st 9th 4th 1st
2012 Hawthorn 5th 1st tied 8th 3rd
2011 Geelong tied 8th 2nd 2nd 2nd
2011 Collingwood 3rd 4th tied 4th 1st
2010 Collingwood 1st 1st 1st 2nd
2010 St Kilda 6th 3rd 5th 1st

 

Each Grand Finalist of the past three years has been elite (top four in the competition) in at least two key defensive areas. In fact, we have to go all the way back to 2001 to find a Premier who didn’t finish in the top four for average points against per game.

Points Against
2012 Sydney 1st
2012 Hawthorn 3rd
2011 Geelong 2nd
2011 Collingwood 1st
2010 Collingwood 2nd
2010 St Kilda 1st
2009 Geelong 2nd
2009 St Kilda 1st
2008 Hawthorn 4th
2008 Geelong 1st
2007 Geelong 1st
2007 Port Adelaide 8th
2006 West Coast 4th
2006 Sydney 2nd
2005 Sydney 2nd
2005 West Coast 3rd
2004 Port Adelaide 4th
2004 Brisbane 3rd
2003 Brisbane 3rd
2003 Collingwood 4th
2002 Brisbane 1st
2002 Collingwood 4th
2001 Brisbane 5th
2001 Essendon 2nd

 

And they still finished 5th in that area. The only other team to even make the Grand Final during that time without a top four points against average was the 2007 Port Adelaide side.

Defence is important, and evidence suggests you need to be elite in this area to make the Grand Final. North Melbourne don’t have one, and perhaps that isn’t important this year as nobody really picked them as a flag chance. What is important though is the fact they don’t even seem interested in improving their defensive efforts. Observe their rankings since Brad Scott took over as coach.

Competition Rankings in Key Defensive Areas
Tackles Inside  50s Conceded Marks Inside 50 Conceded Points Against
2013 North Melbourne 14th 10th 11th 12th
2012 North Melbourne 14th 12th 12th 14th
2011 North Melbourne 13th 11th 12th 8th
2010 North Melbourne 13th 10th 14th 13th

 

It’s all well and good trying to play aggressive, attacking footy, but you can’t neglect the defensive aspect of the game.

Adelaide

Where do I begin with my beloved but frustrating Crows…

Out-thought and outclassed, with the Swans making all too clear some of the gaping holes that have existed in the side for a while. Holes that have been slightly obscured by paper-thin wins over the likes of the Saints and Giants, and glossed over due to miracle comebacks against the Roos.

The first problem is tackling and pressure. Adelaide have been one of the bottom four sides in these areas for as long as I can remember, while the Swans are the very best. They were relentless on Saturday, and made the Crows look third rate. It was infuriating watching how hard the Swans worked in this regard. Tackling is 10% technique and 90% effort and determination. There is no reason why any club shouldn’t be able to tackle and get numbers to the ball the way the Swans do. It’s all desire. Adelaide have been lacking in this facet for far too long.

The second is just downright stupidity. The Crows lost their heads and got absurdly handball happy against the Swans. They racked up over 400 disposals, which is reserved exclusively for teams who either overwhelm their opposition or over-possess dramatically. Look at the margin, then guess which one Adelaide was. The amount of times an Adelaide player received possession and stopped moving because red and white jumpers were enclosing on all sides, before hesitantly shipping the ball to someone in a similar or worse position,  is a number roughly similar to the length of Pi. Over possession plays into Sydney’s hands to such a degree that you may as well give them a ten goal head start beforehand.

Another act of stupidity was the Crows willingly replicating the proceedings of last years Qualifying Final. In fact the only difference between the two games was the fact Adelaide were even worse on this occasion. The Swans would drop everyone back, kill Adelaide’s space, win the ball, and run it out in waves into an often empty forward fifty. Once again their work rate, both ways, was on show. Everyone filtered down back, and when the ball was won, they streamed out of defence and killed the home team on the rebound. At best they are slow learners, and at worst they aren’t good enough to prevent teams from dictating terms.

The third significant issue is mediocrity, and Adelaide’s embracing of it. Too few players are carrying the side each and every week. Richard Douglas. Patrick Dangerfield. Rory Sloane. Ben Rutten. Daniel Talia. There is your five Crows you can rely on to provide something positive each week. Everyone else is a lucky dip. The young and inexperienced players can be excused for not delivering each and every week. That is an unrealistic expectation. Senior players cannot be excused however, and they are the primary culprits at the moment. Brent Reilly is 29 years old and has played 192 games. He has been average for more than half of them. He had a stellar season in 2012,  playing as a loose man in defence and initiating much of their attacking movement out of the back half. However so far in 2013 he has reverted to the form of all the years prior, and it’s because the rest of the competition has once again realised what they already knew and seemed to have forgotten last year. They realised they just need to put someone on him. Reilly is a defender who cannot defend, and is perhaps the poster boy of a trait many Crows possess, inability to dispose of the football in a beneficial manner when there is any pressure, real or perceived. If you make him accountable for something, he will go to water.

The club’s captain, Nathan van Berlo, is a tremendous leader on the training track and a consummate professional, but he is struggling to have an impact right now. He has no real strengths beyond endurance (though he has been an effective set shot on the rare occasions he has one), and has no obvious position. He is sometimes used as a tagger. He should always be used as a tagger. This is the only role he is suited to, due to his running ability. It’s baffling that he isn’t put on an opposition midfielder and told to stick to him like glue for the next four quarters. Despite this, I don’t really recall him ever shutting someone out of the contest. People don’t like to talk about his flaws because it is generally considered to be in bad taste to put the magnifying glass on the club captain, but it is accurate and anyone with the ability to detach emotion from their analysis would acknowledge these problems. Not everyone in the side needs to be a star, but they do need to contribute. I don’t know what van Berlo contributes at the moment.

But it is the off-field embracing of mediocrity, or indeed ineptitude, that is most frustrating, as this sets the tone for the entire club. Clubs don’t succeed despite being run poorly. Never happens. So Adelaide’s decision to retain everyone involved in the off-season trainwreck sets a horrible precedent that runs through the entire club. You are not accountable for the mistakes you make. It is hard to hold players to a certain standard if those setting the standards tolerate cheating and ineptitude. They cheated to retain Tippett, then they lost him for absolutely nothing, and cost the club four draft picks in the process. Any halfway decently run club dismisses people for that level of failure. Any halfway decently run club doesn’t get themselves in that situation to begin with. Instead the Crows seem to carrying on as if the problems will be resolved once these people return from their AFL imposed suspensions. How am I supposed to have faith in these people leading the club to its next flag if they were responsible for that atrocity? They turned a million dollar forward and asset into negative four draft picks. I wouldn’t trust them with a pet rock, so forgive me for not feeling tremendous about the fact the team I love is in their clumsy hands.

Of course, there is plenty of positives at the Crows. It isn’t all doom and gloom. Melbourne would give both arms to touch a player like Dangerfield, let alone actually have him wearing their jumper. Adelaide’s young players are carrying the team, and there are plenty running around in the SANFL who deserve a shot at AFL level. Adelaide though have shown a real reluctance to make the tough but necessary changes of late, and necessary changes are what is needed. Senior players who don’t deserve to be in the team based on form should be dropped and told to earn their return, rather than be gifted games each week because “that’s how we’ve always done it”. Players in the SANFL banging down the AFL door with their form shouldn’t be ignored, or picked for two weeks then dropped to make way for an experienced player returning after just one week in the twos. Pick the twenty-two on merit please.

Oh and learn how to tackle effectively.

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. Peter Schumacher says:

    Once again a really detailed and knowledgeable analysis.

    Certainly brought me some insight and perspective into the Crows situation. Really liked your observation about losing a one million dollar asset for nothing and then four draft picks. In terms of sheer ineptitude could not be much more stark than that.

    On another matter entirely I wish that our Aussie selectors would show the sort of balls that the Crows administrators seem not to be able to do and send that drip Warner home.

  2. Ben Footner says:

    Great analysis of Adelaide’s plight Adam. At least the selectors have shown some stones and dropped Reilly.

    He has been that poor this year that I haven’t even noticed him out there some games.

Add Comment Register

Leave a Comment

*