AFL Round 12: Winners and Losers

If you are in a rush, here is a quick synopsis. Round 12: Carlton squandered another opportunity. Everyone else got thumped.

Winners

Richmond

Winners of the most important game of the round. Adelaide needed a win to keep their already slender finals hopes alive, while failure on the Tigers’ part would cast doubt over their legitimacy.

Richmond gave a smart and ultimately comprehensive performance against the Crows. They decided to chance their luck early by playing Deledio loose behind the ball, and Adelaide foolishly allowed them to get away with it. Their backline, led by Deledio, cut apart Adelaide all game. In the first term alone they had seven intercept marks to Adelaide’s one. They were rampant on the rebound, with ball handlers running into open space before sending the football to similarly lonely team mates, while Adelaide moved about with all the grace of a sloth. Ellis, Deledio, Grigg and Houli all had scoring shots on the back of these intercept marks.

There were numerous nominees for best on ground. Deledio was excellent, but will have to settle for being this week’s poster boy for exploiting Adelaide’s poor decision making. Young Brandon Ellis returned to the side and continued his excellent run of form, preying on Adelaide’s sloppy ball movement and getting forward whenever possible, kicking 2 goals from four scoring shots. Houli profited in a similar role to Ellis, but did so in a more understated manner. Troy Chaplin was sturdy in defence, and is proving a very good free agency pick-up. Steven Morris only had six touches, but his brazen disregard for his own safety and sheer will to impact on any contest he finds himself in the general vicinity of is something to be admired.

But the winner is surely Dustin Martin, who seems to reach a special level every time he comes up against the Crows. Martin was silk on Saturday afternoon, brute, tattooed neck silk. He roasted the opposition with four goals, most of them being of the variety that draws audible sighs and groans. The last time the Tigers faced them he had three, and the time before that two. If this trend continues, 2019 is going to a horrible year for the Crows.

Joe Daniher and Jaeger O’Meara

Does anyone know where these are manufactured? I’d like to grab a few for my own side.

Travis Boak and Chad Wingard

Two of the stand-outs, amidst quite a few candidates mind you, in Port Adelaide’s 75 point win over the disappointing Giants.

Boak returned to the stand-out level we saw from him earlier in the year, collecting plenty of the football and hitting the scoreboard as well. The Power captain had 29 possessions and 3 goals. An unfortunate hand injury suffered in the final term was the only blemish on what was at one stage a perfect afternoon.

While Boak had been relatively quiet during Port’s down patch, Wingard has maintained a pretty impressive level of form despite the mounting losses. Wingard is quietly mounting a very impressive second season, averaging close to 23 possessions and 2 goals a game through his first eleven games. The young midfielder had 31 touches and a goal on the weekend, and has now kicked a goal in all but one game this year. All in all his name is not coming up often enough when people discuss the best young players going around.

Another player worthy of mention is Cameron O’Shea. Often maligned, O’Shea had a superb 30 disposals at a remarkable 90% efficiency, providing two of his side’s nineteen goals in the process.

Kane Cornes

For becoming Port Adelaide’s new games record holder, surpassing former team-mate Warren Tredrea with his 256 appearances in the teal and black.

Stars Running Riot on Sunday Night

The Pies and Doggies played in a pretty dour contest that was effectively over at half-time. The Dogs won the second half, but the Magpies had taken their foot off the pedal and sold the car. Despite this, there were several standout performers worthy of mention on both sides.

For the Dogs it was the usual suspects in Griffen and Murphy who led the way with their effectiveness with ball in hand. Jake Stringer and Jackson Macrae continued to show the class that led to their high draft selections, while fellow youngster Michael Talia racked up plenty of the pill.

But it was the Collingwood stars who shone brightest. Swan and Pendlebury did as they pleased all over the ground, and while Liam Jones struggled to see the ball at one end, Travis Cloke was proving the match winner at the other. The giant Pie had an outing reminiscent of his 2011 form, and was barely impeded on his way to twelve marks and five goals. His presence was the single biggest point of difference between the sides.

Losers

Carlton

Haven’t beaten a top eight side from five attempts so far in 2013. They’ve been close, sure, but that still tells you everything you need to know about how seriously you need to take the Blues.

Mark Neeld

For getting sacked after a weekend where the Demons didn’t lose. I’m sure you could have gotten good odds on that. The little voice in my head thinks he was sacked now because they just received confirmation that the AFL would cover his hefty payout.

Now I am eagerly awaiting Melbourne (read: AFL) to hand Paul Roos a pen and a blank cheque before leaving the room for five minutes while Roos figures out the best way to get as many zeros on that piece of paper as possible. In fairness he may run out of ink before he reaches a number big enough to convince him that conducting this derailed train is a splendid idea.

I’m not sure how I feel about this financial assistance for Melbourne situation. I don’t want to see any club die. I would be crushed if my club died, so I don’t want that for any fan. Given the money we have floating around the AFL right now, there is no reason any club should fold, or be forced to merge. We can cover that. But I am somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of being bailed out of your own ineptitude. If my or your club wants to sack their coach, why can’t we get the AFL to pay for it? Why should my club have to assume that financial burden, yet Melbourne do not? I think there is a difference between saving a club from extinction, and saving it from eighty point thumpings every week. Assisting in the payout of a coach is helping with the latter, not the former, when the former is the only thing the AFL should intervene with.

The possibility of them being awarded priority draft selections is concerning and I am vehemently opposed to it. Primarily for three reasons. The first is Demons specific. They just got done for tanking (I know they did. You know they did) in order to receive priority draft selections. They also got a hefty fine for “not tanking”. The fact the AFL could potentially pay for this fine AND bestow to them further priority draft selections is a farce. That is like successfully robbing a bank, being arrested, not giving the money back, having the arresting officers serve your jail term, and being handed additional money at the end of it all.

The second is also Demons specific. Have a peruse of their last ten years of draft day activity. They’ve had plenty of top ten draft selections, including two number one picks. Yet they are abhorrent. You can’t throw draft picks at a problem, as Melbourne have clearly illustrated. They need to shore up their recruiting and player development. Additional draft picks are not the answer.

The third is the competition-wide implications of handing them additional draft concessions. In the future why can’t my club receive additional picks if they struggle for a couple of seasons? What makes Melbourne so special? Richmond have made the finals twice in 29 years. Aren’t they entitled to a boatload of additional picks? Melbourne made a Grand Final just over ten years ago. The Western Bulldogs haven’t made one since 1961. They’ve been “worse” for longer in that sense, so why can’t they have some extra draft picks? Priority picks are a terrible idea. They were a terrible idea when we had established criteria for handing them out, and it’s an even worse idea now that they can arbitrarily be awarded without any transparency or defined, measurable reasoning.

Adelaide

It dawns on me some people may not want to read my verbose musings on all things Adelaide each week, so I am strongly considering tacking it on to the end every week to make it easier for folks to avoid this particular wardrobe to Narnia if they so desire.

And on to the emotional outpouring…

For the third consecutive week the Crows allowed their opposition to play a loose man in the backhalf, but this week’s was the most egregious, allowing Brett Deledio to sit by himself for the whole first half. Every single person who has watched any football, even those who get only a small glimpse of it on television as they walk past it on their way toward another room for a Harry Potter marathon, know that is a bad idea.  Leaving the opposition’s best ball user completely free, when we have years of evidence suggesting Deledio struggles with a hard tag, and your side has been cut apart for the past two weeks by players in the exact same role, makes absolutely no sense and leaves you questioning just what exactly the coaching staff was trying to achieve. It’s completely unsurprising to see Deledio finished with 28 disposals, with only TWO of them contested, at a near 86% efficiency.

Another negative of allowing unopposed players to float in front of your forwards leaves those forwards outnumbered. This is a real problem when most of your key forwards are not natural or experienced forwards and as a result struggle to lead and position themselves effectively. The problem is compounded when the forward delivery from your midfielders is bombed in without thought more often than not.

Adelaide is losing the game plan battle week in and week out right now, and they aren’t even executing their own poor plan effectively. The last few weeks has been filled with terrible disposal by both hand and foot, both under pressure and unforced. The number of times the Crows rush their disposal due to pressure is huge, but what is more annoying is the errors without physical pressure. Numerous times an Adelaide player would take a mark and immediately try a loopy handball to a team mate running past with an opponent practically touching his heels, rather than stop for even a handful of seconds to consider their options. There is no attempt to shepherd for one another, and there are few attempts to put the ball in an advantageous position for a team mate. There is ambitious play, and then there is stupid play. What I saw on Saturday afternoon was the latter.

The lack of pressure being applied by Adelaide when they don’t have the ball continues to frustrate, particularly considering they are witnessing first hand each week how hard it makes disposing of the football effectively. Adelaide’s ball carrier would often be swarmed with multiple opponents all over the ground, while the Crows seem to send only one player to challenge a flat footed opposition ball carrier, which often just results in a sidestep or mere brushing off of a one armed ineffective tackle. Rory Laird is only 19 years old and has played just eight games, but he should be teaching the rest of the side how to tackle. He is the only Crow who consistently tackles with his entire body, rather than just his arms, and is the only one who tries to pin his victim’s hand.

Selection has been questionable to say the least. Brent Reilly was deservingly dropped for his increasingly poor play, but the decision to drop Crouch and Kerridge, two promising young players who are improving each week, leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. A taste that is made worse by the decision not to return Lyons to the side. Instead we were treated to Wright, Jaensch, and Henderson. Three players who don’t provide any pressure of physicality, something Adelaide sorely needs. Wright has severely curtailed following a promising 2012. Jaensch hasn’t really offered any consistent sign that he is an AFL quality footballer. To bring those two in without any form anywhere that warranted their return points to a revolving door selection policy that seems to reward anything but form. Reilly will probably return to the side immediately following the bye, and this would be a poor decision given he will have played one game at most in the SANFL.

Player positioning is another concern. Brodie Smith has gone from a player who, at age 20, was perhaps the side’s best player against both Sydney and Hawthorn in last year’s final series, to someone who is devoid of confidence. He is being played predominately on the defensive half-back and it’s clear he isn’t comfortable. His two best assets are his quickness and his foot skills, two things Adelaide is in desperate need of in the middle of the park. Given their finals hopes are near extinguished, I’d like to see him in a more offensively minded role.

Henderson was a poor choice of sub, and his mish-mash of positioning so far this year, and indeed his career, have not helped he or the club. They need to find a spot for him and keep him there for an extended period of time, at least to see if they have a player. He shouldn’t be anywhere defensively. He doesn’t have the physicality or positional awareness to manage a defensive role. Given the woes of the forward line, I would like to see him feature up there more. Jenkins has had a bad patch at full-forward of late, and simply cannot be the leading man in the forward half. He is frequently trailing his opponent when the ball is sent forward, and appears reluctant to use his size to beat an opponent. Henderson has a nice combination of size and speed, and could prove troublesome leading out of the square. With Walker out and Johnston injured it makes sense to try something different. They don’t have anything to lose now. Johnston is a must when he returns from injury, purely because he is one of the few forward options they haven’t trialled yet (and he can’t be much worse than Jenkins and McKernan at the moment). If they want to persist with Jaensch, it must be as a small crumbing forward. Playing him in defence is pointless because he cannot defend and has no real physical presence (a reoccurring theme).

With that train of thought, a deliberate focus must be made to give preference to younger players over middle tier ones. Lyons, Kerridge and Crouch should feature most weeks, and players like Riley and Grigg should be given a shot at some stage. This wouldn’t even be a case of playing the kids just because they are kids. These players have had impressive form in the seconds, and in the case of Lyons and Kerridge, impressive signs at AFL level. Bringing these players in for one or two weeks before dropping them for the Jaenschs and Hendersons of the world hinders rather than helps. They need extended stays, and the Jaenschs and Hendersons should be held to the same standards as those younger players in terms of what it takes to warrant a place in the side. I have no problem with the club forcing younger players to earn their spots. I just want to see them do the same for some of the older ones.

Finally, the Crows are starting to become of those teams that relies on the same handful of players to carry them week in and week out. Dangerfield continues to shine brightly as a lone star on a sad looking brown tree, and it will be a crime if he isn’t the captain next year, and it is perhaps one that he isn’t already. It’s beginning to get to the point where he is consistently playing a lone hand to such a degree that I feel like the club is letting him down.

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. Ben Footner says:

    As an Adelaide fan I for one look forward to your weekly analysis of the side. It’s thoughtful, well considered and usually right on the money – not to mention better than anything that gets a run in the chip wrapper. Keep it up!

  2. Kerry Smith says:

    Hi Adam
    As a Power fan I appreciated hearing your thoughts on Boak and Wingard. And acknowledgement of Kane Cornes. Also agree it is good to get your thoughtful analysis of Crows situation as the local paper seems incapable of quality fooy journalism on this or any other topic.
    Kind Regards
    Kerry Smith

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