AFL Round 21 – Review: Winners and Losers

A strong emphasis on goal kicking midfielders, the struggles of the Tigers and the Eagles, and in-game and post game nonsense this week.

Winners

Joel Selwood and his Goal Scoring Form

The Cat’s captain is in a rich vein of form in front of the big sticks. Selwood had never kicked more than fifteen goals in any season prior, but to date has twenty-five in 2013, including fourteen over the past five weeks. His new found goal kicking prowess has been centre stage over the past fortnight, kicking four goals in each encounter, whilst maintaining near thirty possession levels.

 

Joel Selwood’s 2013 Season Splits
Avg Disposals Total Goals
First Ten Games 22.4 8
Last Ten Games 27.1 17

 

Come Brownlow night we are often talking about players potentially coming home with a wet sail. Selwood is almost certainly the stand-out nominee for the “wet sail” title. The second half of his year has been remarkable, with eight games where his play warrants votes.

Carlton

The Blues kept their slim finals hopes alive with a surprising come from behind win over the Tigers, and for a period of time it looked set to be a tremendous weekend as the Suns got out in front of the Power. Alas for them Port Adelaide triumphed with yet another dazzling fourth quarter showing, but the finals aren’t yet out of the question.

With two games remaining the Power hold a two win advantage, which obviously places them in the box seat (They would have been in the box seat even had they lost, but don’t tell Dwayne Russell, who seemed insistent that Port Adelaide’s finals chances would be in “disarray” had they not won). Their percentage is just about dead even though, with Carlton holding a .61% advantage. This is important.

Next week Port Adelaide travel to Patersons to face the Dockers. While Port Adelaide are no easy beats, Fremantle are another beast entirely, and would head in comfortable favourites. Carlton meanwhile face the Dons at the G, and given Essendon’s late form, they would no doubt be favourites. If results go as planned (mistake one in this little hypothetical), then we are looking at a massive round 23 fixture.

As you’ve no doubt heard, Port Adelaide and Carlton play each other in the final round at AAMI Stadium. It could very much be a winner takes all scenario, with the Blues holding the all important percentage lead. Nothing against you Power and Bombers fans, but I’m hoping results go against you this weekend to set up this show piece in the final week.

(Fully expect Carlton to blow it against Essendon)

Travis Boak

I’m officially moving Boak into the “criminally underrated” category of players. Every time I read or hear people talk All-Australian, his name rarely, if ever, comes up. I think he should be in. He delivered yet another brilliant performance against the Suns, racking up 35 disposals and 3 three goals. It was his third game this year with at least 29 possessions and 3 goals.

The first point in his favour is his importance to his team. Not only does he lead them in the strict captaincy sense, he also leads them through example. He is their best clearance player by a considerable margin, and leads the side for forward entries by a similar margin. In fact only Ryan Griffen has sent the ball inside fifty as many times this year as Boak. This is the second point in his favour. His output more than stands up across the rest of the competition. He is amongst the top twenty for disposals and contested possessions, and amongst the top ten for clearances. He doesn’t really have a weak aspect of his game, and his meteoric rise has coincided with that of Ports. He isn’t solely responsible, but he has been a big part of it. His best games are of the “won the game off my own boot variety”. Three weeks ago in the Showdown it was Wingard who deservedly captured all the plaudits, but it was Boak’s work out of the centre in the final term that dragged Port Adelaide back into the game. It was a similar tale in the round three Showdown as well. He notably plays better the bigger the game or opposition. Port Adelaide haven’t beaten Geelong or Hawthorn, but in the three matches against them he’s had 29, 34 and 30 disposals, and was clearly amongst their best on each occasion.

Sunday Night Shootout

Sunday night’s Western Bulldogs and Adelaide clash was an exciting, high octane game that was besmirched by the fact it was perhaps the most over-umpired game of the year. The Crows had the game within their grasp with minutes to play in the final term, but they, as they have so often this season, let their opposition back in with goals in red time. In the final quarter the Bulldogs were frenetic, putting a monopoly on possession and taking it personally when they didn’t have it. They swarmed over the Crows, and ran out comprehensive winners.

It really was a tale of two halves, with the Bulldogs dominating the first and the final quarters and Adelaide controlling it in the middle. The Crows put up some gaudy clearance and inside fifty numbers throughout this portion of the game, but, again, they failed to fully capitalise.  Lazy play in front of goal and toward the end of terms gave the Bulldogs hope, and they snatched it with both hands in the final stanza.

The Bulldogs had no shortage of contributors. In the first term it was the Tom Campbell show. The giant ruckman turned forward eviscerated the much more experienced Ben Rutten, earning the later a much deserved spray from the coach at quarter time. Tory Dickson had a career day in front of goal, booting six straight. Cooney gave a vintage performance in his 200th, and Liberatore was dominant as usual in the trenches. Boyd and Griffen had “quiet” 27 and 26 possession games respectively. Cross played like a man who didn’t want his career to end, Murphy was class, and Minson won the ruck battle with ease.

Adelaide didn’t have as many stand-out contributors. Douglas led the way with an intensity most of his team mates lacked, but his waywardness in front of goal (1.3) was indicative of their afternoon and season. Tom Lynch continued to add to his “most improved player” resume (an award that probably goes to Geelong’s Steven Motlop). Ian Callinan returned to the side, a move that drew criticism from many Crow fans (the old “we suck, he isn’t going to be part of our next premiership tilt, why don’t we play someone who will be instead?” complaint), but he did more than enough to retain his spot. It’s enjoyable having a small inside the forward fifty who is skilled on both sides of the body and intelligent in terms of positioning himself on the lead and in crumbing situations. I just wish he was 24 and not 30. Crouch was excellent again, at least in the first three quarters, and as far as I’m concerned he isn’t that far behind O’Meara in the “best first year player” discussion. In fact I think he is one of Adelaide’s best players already. He is certainly a smarter footballer than most of them, positions himself better than most, uses it better than most, even tackles better than most. One of the few bright spots in a turgid year for Adelaide.

Nathan Grima’s Goal and Post Match Interview

Made me feel warmer and fuzzier than a Disney flick. Good on him and good on his team mates for matching his enthusiasm.

Josh Kennedy, Kurt Tippett, and Jack Steven

The three points of intrigue in what was a largely predictable and uneventful game between two sides currently occupying opposite ends of the spectrum.

Kennedy was the most influential player on the field, delivering a truly dominant show in the middle of the ground.  The Swans’ inside bull led all comers with 38 possessions. 22 were contested, nine more than the next best afield, and he had 12 clearances, a figure more than double that of any Saint. He didn’t just win it and feed it out to others either, as the ball entered the forward fifty seven times from his efforts alone. In terms of midfield work, it was about as pure a performance as you could ask for. It doesn’t catch the eye like the other stars in the middle, but it does the job and gets results.

Speaking of stellar play in the middle, Steven is becoming a more important cog in the St Kilda midfield engine with each passing week, and is proving to be remarkably adept at getting his hands on the footy. The young Saint had 35 disposals Sunday, his sixth 30 plus game of the year. He trails only Montagna for total possessions and effective disposals, and is their number one clearance winner. With many of the other leaders in a more advanced age bracket, Steven looks poised to assume the mantle of number one Saint in the middle sooner rather than later.

But now onto key position talk. Kurt Tippett is in read hot form for his new side, and it burns the very fabric of my soul. He’s already notched 32 goals in his opening nine games in red and white, kicking at least two in every outing. Over the past three games he’s kicked 17. The most alarming thing, or tremendous thing if you’re a Swans supporter, is the ease with which he’s getting them. Between Tippett, Reid, Goodes, White, Mumford and Pyke, the Swans have a lot of tall timber they have to squeeze in, but as far as “problems” go it’s right up there with “I have too much money” and “this day almost feels too glorious”.

Jack Viney

With Nathan Jones having a rare quiet game young Jack Viney filled the daunting role of “lone Demon to put up a fight” against the Dockers. Okay it wasn’t quite that bad, but Viney had a real crack, and I feel he deserved a mention for it.  Jack Watts went on The Footy Show and all but put himself in a shop window, acting as if the Demons need to impress him if they want him to stay, and carrying himself with an “I’m not part of the problem here” vibe. In contrast Viney is someone who seems to place a lot of responsibility upon himself, and for that he is someone the Demons faithful can look to for some hope.

Tom Rockliff’s Mid-Game Contract Negotiation With Toby Greene

This was easily the best thing to ever come out of any of these “mic’d up” player segments. These things are nearly universally useless, filled with cliches and players yelling “yeahyeahyeahyeahyeah” as they call for the ball, so to hear a bit of humour between players was great. It got a chuckle out of me. Between this and Zorko’s goal celebration antics, the Lions were really delivering the funnies this week. You wouldn’t have known their coach just got sacked.

Losers

John Worsfold’s Post Game Mangling of the “Tree Falls in the Woods” Conundrum

Nothing like watching a man dig himself a hole, realise he has dug himself a hole, yet not quite grasp how he has ended up in the hole.

That Free Kick To Dickson Against Talia in The Final Term

Shocker, and if that is what constitutes a free kick then we need not bother with defenders any more. About as textbook a spoil you can get. On the flip side, Tory Dickson gave a performance Daniel Day-Lewis would be envious of, the height of which was the unabashed celebratory fist pump he gave once he realised he’d suckered the umpire in.

Essendon

Looking like a bottom four side over the past four weeks.

West Coast

Easily the most disappointing team of the year (apologies to Carlton, North Melbourne and Adelaide).

 

West Coast Offensive
  2012 2013
Disposals 7th 15th
Contested Possessions 11th 7th
Uncontested Possessions 7th 16th
Clearances tied 6th 3rd
Inside 50s 8th 14th
Marks Inside 50 7th 4th
Hitouts 1st 2nd
Goals tied 5th 6th
West Coast Defensive
2012 2013
Points Against 4th 12th
Inside 50s Conceded 4th 12th
Marks Inside 50 Conceded 2nd 2nd
Tackles 15th 2nd

 

They are nothing short of bizarre. Their rankings indicate they are either good at something, or bad at it. No middle ground in 2013. Despite Naitanui’s prolonged absences, they’ve still maintained a control in the hitouts, and they’ve actually improved in terms of the sheer number of clearances they win. They aren’t turning it into anything substantial though, only ranking 14th for inside fifties. The number one benefit of winning clearances, most particularly out of the centre, is the potential for a quick, clean entry into your forward fifty. The Eagles have a severe inability to utilise what it their number one strength. This is perhaps made even more disastrous by the fact that they excel at taking marks inside fifty thanks to Kennedy, Le Cras and Darling (and Cox when he is up there).

Once the ball hits the outside the Eagles are getting decimated. They’ve plunged from 7th to 15th in total disposals as a direct result of falling to 16th in uncontested possessions. Ability to create uncontested possessions is increasingly becoming an indicator of good sides. The top seven uncontested ball winners are all finals sides, with the only top eight side failing to make it being the Swans (and I’m willing to attribute part of this to playing at the SCG. That ground is so small and congested it takes some effort to make space).

Indeed they aren’t working hard enough both ways, as their elite team defence has dropped firmly into below average territory. They were a top four side last year in terms of points against and inside fifties conceded, yet this year they rank twelfth in both. A big tick must go to their key defenders, particularly Darren Glass and Eric McKenzie, who have maintained their superb ability to minimise marks inside fifty to the opposition despite the ball coming in substantially more in 2013. The big head puzzler though is the tackles, they’ve gone from one of the worst to one of the best, which paints a work rate picture that contradicts nearly all the other work rate areas. If it’s in tight the Eagles are fine, but if it breaks out they are in a world of hurt, and on Subiaco, where they have struggled tremendously this year, there is plenty of outside space.

Collingwood

An impressive win over the Swans last week had given the Pies a sneaky shot at a top four position, but the loss to the Hawks Friday night poured water on those barely glowing embers.

Richmond

The Tigers have been in a rough patch since half time of their clash with the Lions last week, winning only one of the six quarters played since. They are starting games with a colossal bang, kicking six and eight goals in the opening terms in those games, but are going into their shell almost immediately afterwards.

 

Round 21: Richmond v Carlton
     
  Tigers Blues
Disposals 332 343
Marks 59 70
Tackles 65 81
Hitouts 47 47
Clearances 35 45
Inside 50s 51 61
Marks Inside 50 11 16

 

They were beaten in nearly every facet of the game against Carlton. The biggest thing that stood out watching the game is Richmond’s inability to deal with tags. Carlton, under Mick Malthouse, like to tag more than any other side, and they were utilised to devastating effect on Saturday. Trent Cotchin, who has had a disappointing year, at least relative to what we witnessed from him last year, was again extremely ineffective after receiving some strict attention from Edward Curnow. Cotchin had been dramatically improved in the five weeks prior to the Carlton clash, and the Blues decided to clamp down on him from the opening bounce. The Tiger’s captain would have only 14 touches, 2 clearances, and 3 inside fifty entries.

 

Trent Cotchin Season Splits
2012 2013
Disposals 27.5 26.4
Marks 4.2 3.8
Tackles 4.9 3.6
Clearances 5.14 5.42
Inside 50s 5.28 3.58
Goals 21 4

 

The thing that stands out the most about Cotchin this year against last year is the significant drop-off in his work forward of centre. Last year he was one of the very best players in terms of sending the ball inside forward fifty, finishing 5th across the competition. Currently in 2013 he sits in 68th position.

He was also a genuine goal kicking midfielder who could go forward and take marks. Last season he had nineteen marks inside fifty and kicked 21 goals. This year he has only three marks inside fifty, and four goals.

The next step in his career is learning to overcome the close attention he warrants. However he isn’t unique in this regard at Punt Road. The Tigers like to generate a lot of run out of the back-half through the likes of Deledio, Ellis, Houli and Grigg, and given how devastating it can, and has been for the Tigers, opposition teams want to restrict this. Deledio and Ellis are the two best ball users of this group, and as a result are the ones who receive the brunt of the opposition’s attention.

Deledio is notorious for his reputation as someone who struggles mightily with a tag, however the Blues gambled and decided to place their efforts elsewhere. Ellis too was given freedom in the opening term, and was the standout player alongside Riewoldt, collecting eight disposals and two goals. At the break the Blues shifted Armfield to him, nullifying him entirely, as he had only seven more disposals. Deledio, Grigg and Houli would get their share of the footy, but none were even as close to being as damaging as Ellis was in the opener. Martin meanwhile had a textbook “I want more money and because of this I will play terribly and give people ammunition to suggest I don’t deserve what I’m asking for” game. He appeared genuinely lost at times.

In all likelihood Deledio is what he is in terms of dealing with taggers, but the likes of Cotchin and Ellis are receiving extremely strict attention for the first time at AFL level, and given their talent you’d back them to overcome it with time. It’s worth pointing out the Tigers are finals bound despite the drop in Cotchin’s production. He is only going to get better at dealing with attention, and inserting 2012 Cotchin into this current Tiger outfit is a scary prospect for the rest of the competition.

Their presence in the side together makes their lives easier as well, as having three dedicated shut down roles simultaneously is an expensive process for the opposition to undertake, one that can restrict what you want to do offensively. With the way Richmond are currently operating, and the evidence we have regarding how they handle tags, it may be worth going down that route though in an attempt to force Richmond into relying more on the likes of Houli, Grigg and Foley instead. Those three are good players, but are a clear step below the Cotchin, Deledio, Ellis tier.

Brad Crouch’s Shaved Head Look

He looked like he was going to a themed dress party as ‘The Moon’

Adelaide

I’ll keep this short:

David Mackay

Jared Petrenko

Matthew Jaensch

Nathan van Berlo

These guys have had five good games between them all season. They keep getting games. I don’t know why. I don’t know why guys like Kerridge, Grigg, and Lyons struggle to get games, or get dropped on a whim, when these players are not held to the same standard (I’d settle for the same standard, even though they should be held to a higher standard than sub fifteen game players). As a supporter it is frustrating to watch. To be frank Scott Thompson belongs on the list as well, but he gets a “not placed on a dot point list of despair” reprieve thanks to previous services rendered.

I’d add Sam Jacobs to the list, as he has been dire this year, but the answer with him is obvious. The only other established ruck on the list is Angus Graham, and the Adelaide hierarchy have obviously decided they’d rather watch Jacobs struggle nearly every week in the hope he remembers how to play football well, rather than cast their lot the a below average player in Graham. Makes you wonder why they even acquired Graham in the first place, because if he can’t get a game with Jacobs in the form he’s been in all year, then it’s hard to see him ever getting one.

The same players, or group of players, are playing well for Adelaide most weeks. The same group is playing bad. The same mistakes are being made, and their games follow a familiar script as a result. It’s like those cookie cutter movies some actors make again and again. The names change, but the film is effectively the same thing each time. Well this movie isn’t very good and I’ve seen it enough for my liking. I’d say the end of the season can’t come quick enough, but that means summer, and summer means cricket, and that is basically the same film. Maybe I can put myself in a statis chamber with instructions not to wake me up until Taylor Walker is back.

 

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. Another insightful & entertaining read Adam. The clubhouse leader for compulsive Almanac reading.

    Loved your “lone Demon to put up a fight” Do you think they take it in turns or draw the names out of a hat?

    Not sure what’s happening at The Mighty Adelaide Crows. I’m guessing there’s more than their pre-season disruption that’s put them in a tail spin. I’ve never been able to get a handle on the Tippett Affair – how he was transferred in a secret deal etc. Something’s clearly got the Playing Group off side. Would that be it? Or was the Tippett deal just symptomatic of a deeper malaise at West Lakes? Adelaide’s such a close-knit community it’s more difficult to get a straight answer out of the City of Light than it is to get one out of Windy Hill.

  2. Peter Schumacher says:

    Another great read!

  3. Ben Footner says:

    Ah Adam, you must be my brother from another Adelaide supporting mother, your weekly thoughts on our plight echo mine almost word for word.

    I knew with certainty 5 mins into that last term that we would lose, so brittle are we mentally at the moment. Some hard work to be done in the pre-season.

  4. Terrific stuff as usual Adam. You are a beacon of rationality and analysis in the maelstrom of crazy rants that make the Almanac always entertaining and occasionally relevant (though you do get close to the edge when writing about the Crows).
    I can’t make much sense of the Eagles numbers either. To me they come down to 2 things:
    – An old-fashioned game plan that other teams easily demolish;
    – Very poor skill levels by hand and foot so that possessions rarely result in positive results.
    I don’t watch or listen to Woosha. He is the blind singing to the deaf.

  5. Kerry Smith says:

    Hi Adam. What a fantastic phrase- “criminally underrated” ! Travis Boak has had a great year. It has been a highlight of our season to see him mature as a leader. As a Power supporter I rather hope Essendon might yet rally and beat Carlton. But as Ken Hinkley has been keen to remind us, we will get what we deserve.
    Kind Regards
    Kerry Smith

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