AFL Round 9: Winners and Losers

Is Winners and Losers this week just a thinly veiled way for an Adelaide fan to talk about Adelaide?

Perhaps…

North fans probably shouldn’t read this.

Winners

Adelaide

True story. I had written about five hundred words on the Crows for the Losers section. As a fan of the team I had plenty I wanted to talk about. They were 24 points down with six minutes to go, and hadn’t been able to close on North all day. They had taken the start of every term off. The performance of the small defenders and some of the senior players had been disastrous. Sam Jacobs was continuing to struggle, and Adelaide were doomed in 2013 unless he returned to his 2012 form.

AND THEY DAMN WELL WON.

And it was glorious.

Here is a list of people I love:

Richard Douglas: Beautiful bastard. Pretty much the only established Crow playing better this year than last. So far and away the best player on the ground (All North players ineligible because they forget how to play football the second the end is in sight). 28 touches, 2 goals, and constant attacking drive out of the middle, even when the rest of the team was struggling. What a grand human being.

Sam Kerridge: Majestic stead of a footballer. Just a handy 24 touches and six goals in just his seventh game. Led the round with fourteen score involvements. Clearly not human.

Patrick Dangerfield: Possibly Jesus returned. Will investigate further.

Jared Petrenko: I don’t care if you are usually below average, you deserve a lifetime supply of anything you desire.

Josh Jenkins: Plays a lot like Kurt Tippett did. Added bonus of not being entirely detestable.

Brenton Sanderson: Grand and faultless leader. A 200 foot solid gold statue in his likeness is being commissioned as we speak.

For the record, here is everything I had written when the Crows were looking like going down. In reality it all still holds as true and relevant for the rest of their season, but right now I’m prepared to ignore the many problems in order to continue savouring the sweet nectar of victory.

***

Another Jekyll and Hyde performance from Adelaide, with a little too much Hyde. At times they had exquisite passages of play, particularly in the few short segments they gained the ascendancy in the middle, but they ultimately had far less than their opposition. They also took the first five minutes of every quarter off, which is not a winning strategy.There was horrendous defending by Adelaide’s small defenders and much of side in general, as they frequently allowed North players to run into an open goal, or be left unmarked in the forward fifty.

2013 is an odd year for Adelaide. With such a young side and Walker’s absence they cannot realistically compete for the flag, and without any draft selections in the opening two rounds there is nothing to be gained by nuking the squad and “playing all the youngsters”. Besides, most of them are already playing. It leaves me in a weird position each week. There is nothing really tangible at stake for the end of the year, good or bad. So now each game can be enjoyed on its own merits, rather than in the context of the season proper. In fact everything is viewed through a 2014 lens. Each win gives the players confidence… which helps for next year. Each loss can be a valuable learning experience… which helps for next year. What did we do poorly? And how can this be improved in time for next year?

The game against North Melbourne, and indeed several games this year, have been littered with poor areas of play. One re-occurring problem is the poor play from many of the senior players. Douglas was by far their best, both on the weekend and the proceeding weeks. Most other senior players have been well below par.

Adelaide fielded the fourth youngest, and fourth most inexperienced side, in the competition on the weekend (only the expansion clubs and Port Adelaide were younger). They are getting a lot of game time into the younger players, and in most instances have been rewarded. The bad news, at least from a 2013 only perspective, is that some of them are among the better players in the side. Kerridge has taken advantage of his opportunities and looks a player. Lyons is only seven games into his career and is already one of their better clearance players. Talia is their best defender by some margin, in both contests and at ground level. Lynch plays an important workman role on the half-forward flank. Dangerfield and Sloane need no explanation.

Young sides generally have massive fluctuations between good play and poor play, and Adelaide is no different. In most instances though, it is the senior players who offer a sense of consistency throughout these times. However it is Adelaide’s more experienced players who seem to be having the biggest fluctuations of all. The likes of Reilly and Van Berlo should be leading the way through example, but instead against North it felt like they were getting in the way.

But the biggest issue facing the Crows on a week by week basis is the play of Sam Jacobs in the ruck. Jacobs led the league in hitouts to advantage last season, and was a significant part of their clearance excellence, which fuelled their high octane, get it forward quickly and often game plan. To date he looks a shadow of his former self, even being subbed out in the third term against North Melbourne. They’ve plunged to 12th in terms of clearances per game, when they were second in that statistic the year before. It’s no surprise Adelaide’s best play on Sunday came during the periods in which they won clean ball out of the centre square. They struggle without it. It wouldn’t matter if they had Walker and Tippett up there, or Lockett and Carey, those guys aren’t getting the ball if Adelaide’s midfielders aren’t winning at the stoppages. Other teams like Geelong don’t need to dominate stoppages to get the ball forward. Their pressure on the ball carrier wins possession back soon enough in many instances, and their skills by hand and foot are such that they can work the ball forward from the backhalf with success. Adelaide doesn’t yet  apply the defensive pressure nor possess the skills by hand and foot to work the ball forward with the same degree of success. At the moment, it’s win in the middle, or don’t win at all for the Crows, and they are struggling to win in the middle.

Sydney 

Why do we do this every year? The Swans are chugging along and nobody except Paul Roos is talking about them. I for one am sick of it. Never again should Sydney just be some side in our peripheral vision that just happens to spontaneously appear on the premier’s dais.

The most remarkable thing about the Swans is the fact they don’t do anything different from year to year. Other sides develop styles of play that work for them, and the competition sets about emulating it or countering it. Sydney marches to the beat of its own drum, and that drum is stoppage dominance. The Swans rank 14th for centre clearances per game, but are a clear first for total clearances per game. They also rank first for stoppages per game, and first in tackles. They lock down space and create immense pressure around the ball carrier. They force stoppages, and then they beat you at them.

Also a special note for Adam Goodes. A vintage 30 touch, 11 mark, and 3 goal showing has been relegated to footnote status because of what occurred in the stands.

Fremantle

Have found themselves residing in the top four thanks to a percentage boosting win over the Demons, and look a good bet to make it a more permanent home. Their performances in spite of a fearsome injury list are something to behold. While Lyon’s style may receive criticism for being unattractive on the eye, and for failing to put opposition to the sword on occasion, it also goes a long way to ensuring they are in the contest no matter the opponent, and no matter which twenty-two are wearing purple that week.

Western Bulldogs

Inspired win off the back of week long criticism following the Suns game. It may only be the Saints, but it is an important win for a young side under the hammer, and should do their confidence a world of good.

The Doggies won the game in the middle. Minson owned the ruck battle, and his team mates had the advantage as a result. They had 11 more clearances out of the middle, and fifteen more forward entries on the back of this dominance.

A big thumbs up for Koby Stevens. The former Eagle had the game of his career with 31 possessions and three goals. Griffen was terrific as he often is, and Hrovat was very promising on debut.

Geelong

Yawn. I didn’t even manage to watch the entirety of this game, yet I’m confident I could tell you the basic gist.

Basically Geelong are really good and Port Adelaide are not good.

The Gold Coast’s First Half

The entire first half was the first time we had a glimpse of what the AFL has created. When the idea of expansion was broached and concessions announced, we knew these teams were being put in an almighty position long term. But on Sunday we witnessed the very tip of the iceberg. The Suns, in game 53 of their existence, were leading the premiership favourites at half time. It wasn’t a fluke. It wasn’t some accident. They were playing better than the premiership favourites, and Harley Bennell wasn’t in the side.

Order was restored not long after the break, but the message had been received. The Suns have transitioned from “expansion easy-beats” to “genuine football side”, and if that rate of progression continues, then finals could be a realistic proposition as early as next year.

Clarkson’s Halftime Team Talk

Now I don’t know what was said, but I’m sure it involved many threats and possible loss of life. The Hawks came out after halftime and torched the Suns. They had 26 inside fifties to the Gold Coast’s 4 in the third quarter. Doesn’t matter how good your defence is (and Rory Thompson is surely an early nominee for most improved player), you are going to leak goals if the ball is incoming nearly every minute.

Losers

Collingwood

What are we to make of the Magpies? They slay Geelong one week, then are crushed by the Swans the next. They have a litany of outs, but were outsmarted by their opponents. The Pies had more inside fifty entries, but they were poor, often heading in the direction of a double teamed Cloke. Malceski spent much of the contest as a loose man in defence, picking off Collingwood’s forward thrusts. They were able to work through the Magpies’ press, and took advantage of the open space once they broke through.

Richmond

I’m not angry. Just disappointed. 

That about sums it up. A very poor showing from the Tigers. Simply outdone in every facet, and Essendon didn’t even play all that well.

Melbourne

I think the worst thing about the whole Melbourne situation is seeing a handful of names listed as omissions one week, and in their place comes the omissions from the week before. It has gotten to the stage where people would be surprised if the margin was less than fifty, and credit is given to the Demons for “trying” and “not being out of it midway through the second term”. The situation is terrible, and I feel sorry for the fans.

NORTH MELBOURNE

Clearly have problems. They could put Einstein, Newton, Da Vinci and Hawking in a room and they would not be able to figure out how North Melbourne managed to lose. I was impressed Brad Scott managed to avoid curling into the foetal position once the final siren sounded.

They play some stunning football, but defence was the big problem last year and they don’t seem to have improved all that much in that area of the game. They’ve conceded 90 points or more in all but two games, and over 100 in four. People will argue this isn’t necessarily the reason they find themselves at 3 and 6, but it’s a worrying trend regardless. They head into any given game knowing they’re probably going to have to kick at least 15 goals to win. It’s pretty hard to win shoot-outs week after week.

But they weren’t out-gunned against Adelaide. They collapsed mentally. That is the only explanation. If you have possession of the ball with thirty seconds remaining, and you can’t prevent the opposition from scoring a goal, then you don’t deserve to win, and no one will take you seriously until you can. Same holds true if you lead by thirty points midway through the final term and end up losing. Great teams don’t do that.

People Not Thinking Before They Speak

Come on folks.

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:

    As usual, a fantastic analysis as to where things are at in AFL land.

  2. Ben Footner says:

    “Richard Douglas: Beautiful bastard.”

    “Sam Kerridge: Majestic stead of a footballer.”

    “Patrick Dangerfield: Possibly Jesus returned. Will investigate further.”

    These had me laughing out loud Adam. Great work.

    PS – How good is Kerridge?? We just keep finding them, marvellous stuff!

  3. Tasman Hughes says:

    Every single week us Swans are underestimated
    I’m glad Adam has realised his and everyone else’s mistake but its to late.
    There’s is no point in hiding or cowering, the red-and-white monster has already been unleashed. The mighty Swans are coming.
    Watch out.

  4. Tasman Hughes says:

    Great article, by the way. I can really see Clarkosn making death threats.

  5. Ben Footner says:

    Tippett is a tidy little ace up the sleeve for the Swanies yet too Tasman.

  6. mickey randall says:

    Your weekly reviews are always a highlight with great insights and witty asides. They’re extra good when Adelaide win like they did!

  7. Tasman Hughes says:

    It’ll be great having a forward like Tippett. I was so glad when we got him.

    P.S I LOVE TINTIN! Great Avatar.

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