A massive round with plenty of talking points. The Giants grabbed their first win. The Cats and the Hawks both lost. Richmond all but cemented their first finals birth since 2001. The Suns and Eagles put on a show. Collingwood eviscerated Essendon, and Angus Monfries pulled out his own ball of the century.
Damn you Angus.
Port Adelaide and The Showdown in general
The thirty-fifth and final showdown at Football Park was one for the ages, with both sides coming to the party and putting on a memorable show.
Let me start with Adelaide. They played a very good game with many more bright spots than negatives, and, if not for Monfries’ miracle, would likely have won. Crouch was excellent once again, and is most unlucky to be having his debut season at the same time as Jaeger O’Meara, as he isn’t getting nearly the attention he deserves. Over the past six weeks he is averaging 26.3 possessions, a remarkable feat for an 19 year old who has only played ten games of football. David Mackay, who has struggled tremendously in 2013, had by far his best showing of the season, breaking the lines with run and carry more times on Sunday afternoon than the rest of the season combined. Lewis Johnston finally received a spot as a result of Jenkins’ injury, and was very impressive in front of goal. He made quite the error toward the end of the game when he ignored Dangerfield leading out of the square and instead had a half hearted shot that bounced across the boundary, but I’m not prepared to hang him on this. He kicked 4 goals, and I can’t begin to tell you how refreshing it is to see a Crow convert his set shots with confidence. The sub, Mitch Grigg, was electric once activated, impressing with his calm under pressure, excellent decision making, and deft left foot. He rightfully earnt the praise of the commentary crew, and placed himself amongst the finest handful of performances from a substitute since it was introduced at the beginning of last year.
There were some negatives however. Their inability to control the game toward the end was concerning, with Port Adelaide forcing them to stop and kick it long to contests. Some crucial errors, notably the Johnston decision referenced earlier, and a spilled uncontested mark from Jacobs with ninety seconds remaining, really stand out as blown moments in light of what resulted. Speaking of Jacobs, his performance, much like his season, was dire. The thing that stands out the most is how restricted he looks when moving. He appears to be a prototypical stiff tall. His complete lack of confidence, both in the ruck and around the ground, is stark. He bobbles the ball nearly every time it winds up in his hands, and his tap work is just as likely to benefit the opposition as it is the Crows. He was such a massive part of their clearance dominance last season, and as a result their success, but that player hasn’t really shown his head this campaign. I hope the explanation lies somewhere with injury, because the implications otherwise are concerning. Thompson’s disposal is becoming more costly with each passing week, and perhaps more concerning is the fact he just looks old. If he is being hampered by injury, as has been suggested, then the question as to why he is playing, particularly given Adelaide’s position on the ladder, needs to be asked. Questions should also be asked why it has taken so long for players like Johnston and Grigg to get a guernsey. It isn’t as if they’ve been kept out by stellar play from those in the senior team.
But now lets talk about the winners. Once again Port Adelaide emerged victorious having trailed at three quarter time, something that is becoming less a trend and more a formality. The Power won’t just be beaten. They are like the guy in the film whose demise is assumed, but not witnessed, which always results in a shocked villain being foiled by a man he thought dead.
There are three players I want to talk about. The first is Travis Boak. The Port Adelaide captain was herculean once again, and willed his side back into the contest in that final term. He had 13 possessions, and was the dominant clearance player. Nearly every time the Power were thrust forward it was off the boot of Boak. Adelaide’s inability to win the stoppages, or even prevent Boak from winning clean clearances, was a big factor in Port Adelaide winding up on top.
The second is Hamish Hartlett. Every team who has good sense about them is fully aware of how damaging Hartlett is. He is an exquisite kick. They would also be aware of how much he struggles when given close attention from the opposition. They would put these pieces of information together and conclude that the best course of action would be to hard tag him. Do this, and you almost certainly remove him from the contest.
Adelaide either lack good sense, or see fit to disregard it at their own cost. Hartlett was given far too much space, particularly throughout the opening three terms, and, unsurprisingly, he punished the Crows for their lack of respect. 24 touches and 3 goals, much of which could be prevented with some good sense.
The third is Chad Wingard.
Wingard is one of the best players in the league. Notice I didn’t quantify that with the word young.
He is a nineteen year old, in his second year of football, who averages 22 possessions and 2 goals a game. That is outstanding. He is ranked 8th across the competition for total inside forward fifties as well. Put simply he is an offensive force. He deservingly won the Showdown medal for best afield, and would have deserved it even had his side lost. He tore Adelaide apart, first with his drive throughout the middle of the ground, leading all comers with seven forward entries, and secondly with his own goal sense, kicking five straight, including the match winner. If Boak was the star of the final term, he was the star of the preceding three. Next time you have a conversation with someone about football, tell them about Wingard. Not enough people are talking about him, and by making others aware of his existence, you in turn enrich their lives.
Carlton’s failure to knock off the Dockers means Port Adelaide now have a two game buffer in the eight, and an appearance in the finals is looking more probable with each passing week. This would be a remarkable achievement given where the side was at this time last year. Their rise should give hope to other teams currently riding low. It can be turned around quickly. Regardless of what happens for the remainder of the season, Port Adelaide are in a seemingly infinitely better position moving forward than even seemed conceivable twelve months ago. Think on this when you go to sleep Demon fans.
Greater Western Sydney
It’s rare to encounter a situation in which a side that hasn’t won a game through 18 rounds finally wins and it isn’t entirely surprising, but that is what occurred on Saturday as the Giants claimed their first scalp in the Demons. It wasn’t even close, with the expansion side running out 37 point victors.
The difference between the two sides was evident throughout the contest, and was illustrated in several key areas:
The talent of many Giants was on show. Callan Ward was by far the best player on the ground, with 31 disposals, 6 clearances, and 4 goals. With Harbrow involved in many superb passages of play for the Suns this weekend, Bulldogs fans would no doubt be wondering what could have been, Demons defector (or escapee?) Tom Scully seems to save his best for his old side, showing why he was selected first overall back in 2009. His hard running and work as a link player was sublime, finishing with 29 disposals and 11 marks. A fellow member of the first overall club, and indeed a similar player to Scully in terms of aerobic capacity, Lachie Whitfield, was also impressive in a similar role. The young gun had 26 possessions, 10 marks, and 2 goals. Both Scully and Whitfields’ numbers exemplify a big difference between the Giants and Demons: work rate. Those two in particular worked exceptionally hard to provide a free option for team mates, whereas any Demon with the misfortune of having possession often had no obvious pass staring him in the face.
From the extensive pool of young stars in was Devon Smith, Curtly Hampton, and Adam Treloar who garnered the most attention. Smith was dangerous as the forward who floats through the middle, notching 26 disposals, 5 clearances, and 3 goals from five scoring shots. Hampton was all class with his running from the back half, leading the side in rebound 50s and slicing the Demons apart with his disposal. Treloar was his industrious self, gathering his 30 touches in all areas of the ground. He was one of the side’s leaders in both bringing the ball out of the defensive half and sending it into the forward half.
The GWS Team Song
I love it. The best part of their win was hearing it played over the PA for the first time in an age. It’s so upbeat, and the Russian vibe makes it unique. Anyone who listens to it and doesn’t crack a smile is either seriously depressed, a Melbourne fan, can’t get past the fact their salary cap is larger than the rest until 2019, or has a sneaking feeling we are going to be hearing it an awful lot in the not too distant future.
The Kangaroos can count themselves most unfortunate to not lead off the winners this week, as their ten point win over the Cats would certainly land them there most weeks. Brent Harvey delivered a performance from yesteryear, racking up 37 disposals as North’s attacking fulcrum. Lachie Hansen continued his evolution into a premier player in the back half of the ground, controlling proceedings and orchestrating much of of their movement from this area of the ground. Jack Ziebell displayed several instances of blatant disregard for his own health, imposing himself physically on the contest in a most vicious fashion. Once such moment was during the final term, where he dived forward with violent abandon for a ball in dispute on the wing, beating Joel Selwood, who had shown his similar abandon, to it. Wells, Bastinac, and Adams peppered the goal from the midfield, scoring nine goals between them.
I’m not too stunned by the result. The Roos play stunning football based on quick ball movement and working into space. Against sides that pride themselves on restricting time and space, like the Swans and Dockers, they are in trouble. If you want to beat North, you just have to be ferocious with your pressure. Finals football also typically results in less time and space, which I think would also hamper the Roos if they managed to make it. A team like Geelong, who North have obviously moulded their offensive principals on, are, or at least have been, so good with their offensive movement that they can overcome the increased pressures of finals and ultra restrictive sides. North Melbourne aren’t at that level yet, and their defensive efforts aren’t anywhere near the levels of the best sides.
I believe North typically fair quite well against the Cats (they’ve won two of their last three against them, and the four point loss earlier this year was in their hands throughout) because Geelong back themselves to do what North do better. Their last three clashes have been exceptionally high scoring, as both sides attempt to almost out-beauty one another with aggressive, all guns blazing, football. This has played into North Melbourne’s hands each time. Both sides create an obscene amount of chances, but the Kangaroos are the most accurate goal kicking side in the league and have been for two years now.
Look at the scores from their last three encounters:
Round 19 2013: North 15.6 (96) v Geelong 13.8 (86)
Round 2 2013: Geelong 16.16 (112) v North 17.6 (108)
Round 3 2012: North 20.11 (131) v Geelong 16.18 (114)
The Cats have created more, or at least the same, amount of scoring shots in each encounter. I put this down to them being better at that all guns blazing football. They simply create more opportunities. North however are incredibly accurate with their chances, and because Geelong are willing to back themselves to out-gun them, it allows North to create plenty of chances of their own. On the weekend North Melbourne had an astonishing 432 disposals, exactly one hundred more than the Cats. It’s a testament to the Cats’ efficiency with ball that they had 13 more inside fifty entries, and a nod at their inefficiency once forward that they could only manage the same amount of scoring shots as the Roos. It was a fascinatingly abnormal game statistically.
I decided to look at North’s performances against the other top four sides over the past two years (Hawthorn, Fremantle, Sydney) to see if my theory as to why they fair so well against the Cats, and not the other top sides, has some merit.
|Averages per Game Over The Past Two Seasons|
|North Disposals||Opp Disposals||North Disposal Efficiency||North Scoring Shots||Opp Scoring Shots||North Accuracy||North Wins|
|v Geelong||390.6||336.33||75.73||25||29||69.33%||2 from 3|
|v Sydney||350.5||344.5||68.3||27||29.5||42.59%||0 from 2|
|v Fremantle||337.5||374||71.1||14||24.5||57.00%||0 from 2|
|v Hawthorn||318||353.5||69.25||22.5||33||48.80%||0 from 2|
Looking at those figures, I summarise the following
- Geelong allow North FAR more time and space than the other three. This allows North’s accuracy to become a factor.
- Hawthorn control possession and deny North the ball.
- Sydney don’t necessarily mind North having possession, but they ensure everything North does is rushed (lowest disposal efficiency and goal front accuracy), which plays into their hands as a team that enjoys stoppages, and attacking from the back half.
- Fremantle do not allow North to manufacture opportunities in the forward half.
- Each side generates more scoring opportunities than North.
I think they key here is that these are things that Hawthorn, Sydney, and Fremantle attempt to do against every side they encounter. The fact they do so successfully against North Melbourne illustrates that North Melbourne simply aren’t at a level yet where they can dictate the terms of a game. Geelong’s style plays into their hands as their style is extremely similar, and as such the game is played on both team’s terms.
Oh boy howdy do the Tigers love playing the Hawks. Saturday was their second comprehensive victory over the Hawks in succession. Not even Geelong can lay such a claim. The Tigers just seem to have their measure. Think about how crazy that sentence sounds.
The Hawks had more marks than the Tigers. They laid twenty more tackles. They edged them for forward entries, and took more marks inside the forward arc. They lost though, and a big reason why was Richmond’s stoppage dominance. Led by Trent Cotchin, those wearing yellow and black won eighteen more clearances than their Hawk counterparts, including a 16 to 2 discrepancy in the opening term. The Tigers also smashed the Hawks in contested possessions. They simply wanted it more.
The performances of Rance and Chaplin in the defensive side of the ground is something to behold, both on Saturday and the year in general. In terms of average points against the Tigers rank third. Only Fremantle and Sydney concede less. This is particularly interesting considering they are below average in some of the obvious defensive measures. They are only tenth in terms of marks inside fifty conceded, and rank dead last when it comes to tackles laid per game. The explanation must lie somewhere with the number and quality of inside fifties they are conceding. They don’t give up that many (they rank sixth), and the ones they do give up don’t amount to much.
The Roar of the Richmond Fans with Every Goal in that Final Term
God it’s glorious.
The battle of the two coasts was attacking football at its finest. Thirty-seven goals were kicked, including eleven in a thrilling final quarter. The Suns kicked the opening three of the final stanza to re-ignite the contest. The Eagles re-established a gap with a quick fire double, before Aaron Hall responded in kind. That segment of football told the tale. West Coast were slightly better, but the Suns wouldn’t be put away.
Most of the game’s talking points fell to the side of the Suns. Nathan Bock returned for his first game since round six last year, and his goal at the end of the opening quarter was met with much fanfare. Harley Bennell had his best showing in quite a while, reminding everyone why he was being talked up as the best young footballer in the land at one stage.
For the Eagles it was Dean Cox who controlled the ruck, Kennedy continuing his sublime form in front of goal, and Wellingham finally showing why the Eagles sought his services. Another who deserves a mention is Bradd Dalziell, and not only because of his first name. Referred to perennially as list fodder, Dalziell has had an extremely solid fortnight, and had several impressive showings earlier in the year.
By beating Carlton they leapfrogged Essendon into a top four position, and Essendon’s subsequent dismantling at the hands of the Pies means it looks to be a more permanent move.
Good luck getting that spot back.
Now the question isn’t whether the Dockers will finish top four, but rather how high they will finish. The next four rounds look like four wins, or three in the very worst case you could imagine.
|Round||Fremantle(54 points)||Geelong(56 points)||Sydney (58 points)||Hawthorn(60 points)|
|20||GWS (PS)||Port Adelaide (SS)||Collingwood (ANZ)||St Kilda (ES)|
|21||Melbourne (MCG)||West Coast (PS)||St Kilda (SCG)||Collingwood (MCG)|
|22||Port Adelaide (PS)||Sydney (SS)||Geelong (SS)||North (ES)|
|23||St Kilda (ES)||Brisbane (SS)||Hawthorn (ANZ)||Sydney (ANZ)|
Can they snare a home final in the first week? The other three members face at least one other member over the final month, meaning there is ground to be made. The Cats have three at Skilled which bodes well for them, while Hawthorn would have to lose twice to fall behind the Dockers. Collingwood looms at the wildcard in the top four makeup, with their clashes against the Swans and Hawks having the potential to unhinge their home Qualifying Final aspirations.
It’s hard to know where to begin in explaining the Pies dominance. They had 43 more disposals, 51 more marks, 17 more forward entries, and laid 28 more tackles. My favourite though is their nineteen marks inside fifty to the Dons’ four. They made the Bombers look like a bottom eight side.
The Saints accounted for the Lions and made the gap between the two clear. The big talking points where Brown’s injury, and the play of Merrett as a forward. The no-nonsense defender was very effective up front, and, if they can find suitable replacements in the back half (Justin Clarke looks likely) then he may be a longer term option up there, particularly given the concerns over how long Brown has left. Rockliff accumulated plenty of the sherrin, as did Redden, while Hanley was left unchecked and took full advantage. Leuenberger controlled the ruck, and in these four young players the Lions have the nucleus that will lead them toward a finals push next season.
Just when you think they’ve hit rock bottom they bring out the drill and go a little further. They didn’t just lose, they were comprehensively outplayed.
Those Richmond v Melbourne List Comparisons from a Few Years Ago
One side just beat the team on top of the ladder. The other just lost to the one on bottom.
For injuring his plantar fascia and bringing into question the rest of his year, and perhaps career. Regardless of whether he gets back before the end of the year, I’m sure we all agree we’d love to see him go round again next season.
Has there been a side with a bigger “talked up versus actual production” discrepancy than the Blues these past few seasons? The amount of top four talk in the lead up to the past two seasons has wound up in absolute, unequivocal failure. Last year they were an average offensive side, and a very good defensive side in every area other than actually preventing the opposition from scoring (Sounds backward but somehow it’s true). This year they’ve inverted it. They are an above average offensive side who struggle to turn their efforts into actual goals, while their defensive output has dropped off significantly.
|2012 Rank||2013 Rank|
|Contested Possessions||tied 9th||tied 2nd|
|Marks Inside 50||tied 2nd||5th|
|Carlton 2012 Defensive|
|2012 Rank||2013 Rank|
|Inside 50s Conceded||6th||10th|
|Marks Inside 50 Conceded||3rd||9th|
Henderson is a bright spot, and the three smalls have performances that do amaze, though tellingly they are occurring less often of late. Waite makes them so much better, but when a player hasn’t played more than three quarters of a season in any of the previous five years perhaps it’s time to stop bemoaning your bad luck and start finding new ways to be so much better.
Most of the team leaves much to be desired in my humble opinion, and I’m certain this is a case of a side having to go down before it can come back up, which is disappointing considering how long they’ve spent down already. I feel like I’ve been watching the same team go around for several years now. A mediocre side, but one that is particularly good on their day, but not good enough often enough.
I don’t know how they can elevate themselves to that top four level as they are currently composed. We get enamoured by the high draft picks, but just look at the team list and count how many names evoke no feeling in you whatsoever. They need several things go their way, like the side becoming more familiar with Malthouse and kicking on next season, Henderson elevating his game to become one of the competition’s dominant forwards, and striking gold in the off-season. I guess the good news is these things are within the realm of possibility, and stranger things have happened. I, obviously, have my doubts, and I’d be interested to see what the general consensus is amongst the Carlton faithful.
The word “exhausted” comes to mind. Physically. Mentally. Just exhausted.
Angus Monfries laughs at your so called laws.