AFL Winners and Losers: Rounds 13 through 15

Three rounds worth of winners and losers here. This article is bigger than Luxembourg. You might want to stop after the winners section and make base camp. Head for the summit another day.

Winners

Port Adelaide

Record: 2 wins, 1 loss (Win against Sydney, Win against Collingwood, Loss against Essendon)

Facing Sydney, Collingwood and Essendon in three successive weeks and coming away with two wins means Port Adelaide are, by far, the biggest winners of this three round period.

The Power may not have all the bells and whistles of the very best sides, but their intensity, particularly over the past three weeks, is something to behold and admire. Everyone who dons the top plays with ferocity. They squeezed the life out of the Pies in each term, and overran them in the last. The week before they outswanned the Swans, matching their tackling rate, beating them in contested situations, and working harder to create uncontested situations. Their fitness levels are perhaps even more impressive. In nearly everyone of their victories to date this season they have swarmed over their opposition in the final term.

Boak and Schulz are the best of the experienced bunch, but it’s the younger players stealing the limelight. Chad Wingard is having an astonishing second season. To be nineteen years old and have 20 possessions and 2 goals be your standard weekly output is nothing short of incredible. Oliver Wines has shown nothing but quality in the opening thirteen games of his career. Brad Ebert is an industrious midfielder who works tirelessly to provide an uncontested option for team mates, and Matthew Broadbent might be the most unassuming good player going around. I doubt most casual football fans would recognise the name.

The story was much the same against the Dons. A disastrous second term where they were outscored by 32 points ultimately cost them, as it was the only term where those in red and black were significantly better than the Power. There was little to separate the sides in the other three quarters, and, if not for some costly inaccuracy in front of goal in the fourth, Port may have stolen this one as well.

With Adelaide, West Coast, Carlton, and North Melbourne struggling, Port Adelaide are in a tremendous position to seal a remarkable return to finals football. With their desire and fitness they are a chance in any game. Their skills and decision making has cost them at times, as is expected in a young side, so the variance between their best and worst is substantial. Their best though is super impressive, and they are hitting that mark more often than their fellow competitors for top eight placings.

North Melbourne

Record 2 wins, 1 loss (Loss against Fremantle, Win against Greater Western Sydney, Win against Richmond)

These three rounds are a microcosm for all things North Melbourne. Their commanding win over the Tigers showcased the very best of North Melbourne. It seemed as if they didn’t lose a single one on one contest, particularly in the air. Richmond were disastrous when moving the ball forward, with Riewoldt often left to contest against two or even three North talls, if Hansen hadn’t already taken an intercept mark. The times the ball was brought to ground, the Kangaroos were able to run it out exquisitely by hands, often charging right down the centre of the ground with frequent overlap. Once forward, they picked out a target and put in in their hands.  North had twelve marks in the forward arc, with nearly all of them central or on a manageable angle. Richmond meanwhile would take nine marks inside fifty, but the majority were hugging the boundary. North Melbourne play splendid attacking football, when they are allowed to.

This is where the loss to Fremantle in round 13 becomes relevant, because it represents one of North’s fundamental issues: an inability to dictate terms against the better sides. The Kangaroos rely on quick, precision disposal, and open space to win games of football. This is fine against the Giants and Tigers, but it won’t fly against the best clubs, who pride themselves on defensive pressure. It means North are going to continually come undone more often than not against the best sides, and in finals football, unless they reach that rarefied Geelong air, where a similar style can be employed despite that overwhelming pressure. Of course, the nature of pressure means this isn’t easy, and Geelong are one of the greatest sides of all time in part because of this success.

Brisbane

Record: 2 wins, 1 loss (Win against Geelong, Loss against Hawthorn, Win against the Suns)

Brisbane’s round 13 win over the Cats was one of the most astonishing things to have ever taken place on a football field. They trailed by 52 points at one stage, and were 38 down at three quarter time. Who comes back against Geelong down 38 points at the start of the final term? That is some Gandalf nonsense.

The passage of play from when Merrett took the mark deep in defence with about twenty seconds remaining, to it eventually winding up in the hands of Ash McGrath, was exceptional, excluding perhaps the few seconds Merrett took to dispose of the ball after being called to play on. Every pass was ambitious, as required by the time restraints, and the fact it culminated in a goal after the siren from a man celebrating his 200th game milestone was movie-esque. I was waiting for the words From Director Steven Spielberg to appear on my screen shortly afterwards. It was a miracle. We witnessed a miracle.

Brisbane’s rollicking re-emergence in the contest was down mainly to their work at the stoppages.  Winning clearances hasn’t ever been a strength for the Cats, but their deficiencies in that area had a bright light shone on them in that final quarter. Brisbane had Panama Canal sized gaps to work with at nearly every stoppage, with Leuenberger, who had three times the hitouts as Dawson and Blicavs combined, able to place the ball into the path of an already moving team mate, who then had his own room to move in.  While there are a litany of examples, the finest one belonged to Moloney, who received a centre tap already moving toward goal, ran another ten metres, before successfully launching for goal from sixty out.

The Lions were unable to back up that result the following week against another premiership favourite in Hawthorn, falling by 58 points. Brisbane actually managed to break even with the Hawks in many areas of the game, including clearances, inside fifties and tackles. The difference, as it often is, was the disparity in quality between the two sides in these same areas. Both sides had exactly 56 forward entries, but it was the Hawks who had 16 marks inside fifty to Brisbane’s five. With Merrett out, they had no answer for Jarryd Roughead, who had seven of those marks and kicked four goals. Franklin also had four, and Bruest and Savage kicked three each, while Brown was forced to play a lone hand at the other end. Put simply, the Lions lacked the quality and fire-power of their opposition.

Round 15 saw them host the Suns in QClash6. With Ablett out, the Lions were in the best position possible to get a win and stifle the growing suggestion that their cross-town rivals had surpassed them. Physicality was on the menu for the Lions, who registered 25 more tackles than the Suns, and controlled the skies by bullying their younger opposition in aerial battles.

Brent Staker had his best outing since his return, leading his side in contested marks and kicking three goals. He was matched on the goal front by Jonathan Brown, and by Zorko, who also set the tone through his relentless tackling. Hanley broke off from the opposition chain for the first time in a long while, and gave a good reminder to the other clubs just why it is they tag him in the first place. The Irishman was the attacking fulcrum from the back half, with 21 kicks and 8 inside fifty entries. Leuenberger continued with his impressive ruck work, and was just as influential in other areas of the ground. The ruck giant laid an impressive seven tackles, and trailed only Hanley for inside forward entries.

Geelong

Record: 2 wins, 1 loss (Loss against Brisbane, Win against Fremantle, Win against Hawthorn)

The Cats have an enviable win/loss ratio, but the hidden secret of the side is the fact they haven’t won all four quarters in any game this year. This came back to bite them in the most surprising way imaginable against the Lions in round 13. Leading by 38 at three quarter time, the Cats suffered a quarter long implosion. There was a real lack of composure throughout, and the whole thing was so distinctly un-Geelong that I contemplated if what I was witnessing was just a really vivid dream.

Geelong’s stunning loss was born out of horrendous stoppage play. Winning clearances has never been the Cats forte, and a quick look at the trophy cabinet reveals they’ve managed just fine despite this. Even if they don’t win the initial possession, their pressure around the ball carrier is such that most of the time that disposal is ineffective, or even winds up in the hands of a Cat anyway. Against the Lions though they gave up way too much space in the middle, and Brisbane took full advantage time and time again. The end result may have been an anomaly, but the symptoms that brought it about should give some small glimmer of hope to others hoping to dethrone the Geelong juggernaut. Sure, you need a near perfect brew of events to occur, but it can be done.

Round 14 and 15 saw the Cats dispatch two of their biggest combatants toward premiership glory in 2013.  They resisted the Docker’s defensive clampdown and cast further aspersions over the Western Australian outfit’s premiership legitimacy, then notched yet another win against the Hawks. The margin was only ten, but the Cats controlled the contest throughout, save a nine minute period in the last. Five goals in a row gave the Hawks a sniff and all the momentum, before Josh Caddy made what was by far his biggest contribution to his new side to date, a set shot from a difficult angle to push the margin back out to ten. Fellow youngster Jordan Murdoch sealed it two minutes later, capping off an impressive evening for the speedster, and ensuring his side drew level with their opponents atop the AFL hierarchy, and further surpassed them in the mental one.

Essendon

Record: 2 wins, 0 losses (Win against West Coast, Win against Port Adelaide)

The Bombers were the only side to escape this three week period without suffering a loss, making their inclusion into the winners circle a must. Realistically though things aren’t all rosy down at Essendon. Jobe Watson went on television and all but conceded he had taken a banned substance. The following Thursday night he was subjected to boos from a raucous Eagles fan base at Pattersons Stadium. The Channel Seven broadcast crew, led by Luke Darcy and Matthew Richardson, condemned the booing, with Richardson at one point suggesting it was disgraceful.

I, for one, find this viewpoint baffling.

We don’t seem to have a problem when crowds boo umpires for making decisions that go against the home side, even when the decisions are correct. We also don’t seem to have a problem with crowds booing players for having left the club (Essendon certainly don’t, if their booing of Angus Monfries last Sunday night is anything to go by), but when a crowd decides to boo a man who confessed to taking a banned and potentially performance enhancing drug, yet is still playing a mere handful of days after said confession, then that is a public outrage? It seems to me if the circumstances were exactly the same, except Jobe Watson was a cyclist, or an Eastern European athlete circa 1980, or a Chinese swimmer, then the likes of Richardson and Darcy would be leading the public outcry charge.

Richardson and Darcy seemed to miss the point entirely. They acted as if the crowd was booing Watson for being some sort of detestable human being, as they kept repeating how great a guy Watson was. The crowd wasn’t booing Watson because they think he is a bad person. They booed him because his admission made him the very public face of the drug scandal surrounding Essendon. He became the beacon for everyone’s Essendon, AFL, and drug related angst. If any other Essendon player had made that admission, then they would be the ones being booed, not Watson. The booing was essentially a message to that club and the AFL that this competition’s fans were not going to simply ignore the fact that there is currently a club competing, and doing quite well, despite being under a massive performance enhancing drug cloud, and despite their captain and best player conceding he has taken a banned substance. You can’t expect people to tolerate that, much less just ignore it.

(I understand Essendon are making a point of contention over whether it is performance enhancing, and are insistent they received information that declared it legal. Whether the club, or just the players, were duped into thinking it was okay to take may impact on their eventual punishment, but it doesn’t really change how the public feel about the fact a player is playing despite admitting to taking a banned substance.)

Melbourne

Record 1 win, 2 losses (Loss to St Kilda, Win against Western Bulldogs, Loss to Sydney)

They are winning games, Jack Watts is kicking goals, the AFL are paying some of their problems away, and if our friends at the Herald Sun are to be believed, then they are prepared to pay for Paul Roos to come too. Everything is about as gravy as can be when you are second from bottom and getting demolished most weekends.

Watts is just one of the on-field stories here. Since Craig took over he has been a new player. He is taking marks and kicking goals up forward, and being swung back in defence and making a difference when needed. He’s had eight goals over this three round period, including four in their victory over the Bulldogs. In fact a lot of comments regarding Melbourne could start with the phrase since Craig took over. They lost by 31 to the Swans, and anybody who saw the first eleven weeks of their season knows that is a fair effort from them. Rewind a month and you could probably chuck a 1 in front of that number. Mature age recruit Dean Terlich has also really kicked on these past few weeks. The only major downside has been Frawley doing his hamstring in the Swans game.  But overall, the sun is shining just a little bit brighter for the Demons right now.

Losers

Carlton

Record: 0 wins, 2 losses (Loss to Sydney, Loss to Collingwood)

New coach, same Carlton?

The Blues’ inabililty to claim the scalps of those above them seems to have become even more profound this year. A lot has been made of how close they’ve been in some of those games, but you can also make a lot of the fact they haven’t won any of those games.

The final few minutes of the opening term against the Pies were a disaster. They led by 28 points 26 and a half minutes into the term, and in just six minutes the siren sounded with their lead cut to 8. Waite’s injury led to Ben Reid shifting up forward, and the move paid dividends immediately for those in black and white, with the centre half back kicking two almost duplicate goals in just over a minute of time to drag the margin in. Carlton hadn’t been winning at that stage because of Waite, but they lost nearly all chances of winning when he was removed from proceedings.

Carlton are a much more effective offensively when Waite is playing up forward for them, so it’s no surprise they struggled mightily in this area against the Pies when he went down. Their forward entries, to put it bluntly, were abhorrent. They had only 38 entries, to Collingwood’s 61, and gave up 18 marks in the arc while managing just six of their own. They would have just four scoring shots throughout the second and third terms combined. Four scoring shots in half a game of football. Betts, Yarran and Garlett all had subpar showings, barely managing to pass twenty touches between them. Garlett goaled within the opening twenty seconds and was barely sighted afterwards. Betts was just plain barely sighted. Yarran was around enough to remind you he was in fact playing, but did next to nothing with the ball in his hands, so you could be forgiven for forgetting immediately.

Down back they were destroyed by size. Reid’s arrival paired him with Cloke and Witts, and left the Blues one tall defender short. This resulted in one of the trio taking advantage of a much shorter opponent time and time again, and this was understandably a big part of their inside fifty marking dominance (each of the talls took four each).

Richmond

Record: 2 wins, 1 loss (Win against Western Bulldogs, Win against St Kilda, Loss to North Melbourne)

The Tigers won two games that they were supposed to win, but it’s the loss to the Kangaroos last Saturday that was most notable. North profited on their wastefulness going forward time and time again, taking intercept marks with ease in acres of space, and swarming Jack Riewoldt each and every time it went in his general direction. Richmond’s forward pressure was non-existent, and many of North’s scoring forays began with a chain of handballs  bringing the ball out of defensive fifty. North reached a point where they weren’t  too fussed if the Tigers won the ball in the middle, because it would draw them forward, and when North inevitably gained possession in the back half a quick release kick or chain of handballs bypassed far too many of their opponents, resulting in wide open expanses for North to charge into.

The most disappointing aspect of their performance was their inability to respond after the half. Richmond kicked five behinds to North’s 8.3 in the second term, and surely received an almighty spray during the long break. Rather than claw the margin back, the Tigers instead tread water, continuing with many of the errors that saw the lead blow out in the first place.

Hawthorn

Record: 2 wins, 1 loss (Win against West Coast, Win against Brisbane, Loss against Geelong)

The Hawks have now lost eleven in a row to the Cats, not that they need reminding. I heard one Hawks fan say the felt as if they had witnessed the exact same game eleven times, and I can see their point. It’s like a Bond film at this stage. There is a good guy, and a bad guy, every time. The details may differ in their exactness for each film. Sometimes the bad guy is rich, or is jaded ex-servicemen, or has henchmen with metal teeth.  But the point is Bond always survives.

Sometimes Hawthorn establish an early lead. Sometimes they claw themselves back into the contest. Sometimes it’s even throughout. Doesn’t matter. Geelong always win. Now in truth this particular edition was a particularly poor showing from the Hawks, and the ten point scoreline flatters them. The Cats were their superior for about 85 per cent of the contest, and I guess in some respects it is compliment to acknowledge that the Hawks got mighty close to the win despite this fact. Still, the Cats represent the endgame boss that they just cannot get past, and it seems unlikely they will be as fortunate to make the Grand Final once again without having to face them. Something has to change.

Fremantle

Record: 2 wins, 1 loss (Win against North Melbourne, Loss to Geelong, Win against St Kilda)

A win against the Kangaroos where they wrapped themselves around the opposition and constricted them into defeat, and a victory over the lowly Saints that was closer than expected. But, of course, it is the game against the Cats that is the talking point here. It was a result that seemed to confirm all the flaws in Ross Lyon’s style in the eyes of his detractors, and, while I do not subscribe to the notion that Lyon’s defensive style is incapable of winning of winning flags, I do think the result illustrates how vulnerable you are if you can’t kick more than ten goals. Pavlich would help, but keeping offensive juggernauts like Geelong and Hawthorn to under ten goals, even in finals, is a tough ask.

Sydney

Record: 2 wins, 1 loss (Loss against Port Adelaide, Win against Carlton, Win against Melbourne)

I don’t have all that much to say about the Swans. The loss to Port Adelaide is obviously the reason they are on this side of the winners and loser divide. It was genuinely surprising.

The other thing to talk about is the long awaited introduction of the world’s biggest cherry on top, Kurt Tippett. These first three weeks have been quite the accurate representation of what he brings to the football field.

In his first showing he marked and goaled within the first twenty seconds. He wound up kicking two, and only having 6 disposals, in a disappointing result against Port Adelaide. The second week though featured a very impressive showing from their new big man. Tippett was more than adept in the wet and slippery conditions, bringing the ball to ground for the benefit of his smaller team mates, and even being exceptionally clean himself at ground level. But his third appearance was quintessential Tippett. He had 15 touches and seven marks against the Dees, but kicked 2 goals and four behinds, missing some gettable set shots.

The Swans youngsters also continue to impress. They also have this weird trait of all looking and almost playing in the exact same fashion. Tom Mitchell, Luke Parker, and Jed Lamb could all be the same guy for all I know.

Collingwood

Record: 1 win, 1 loss (Loss to Port Adelaide, Win against Carlton)

It may be a bit harsh to put the Pies in the losers section. Their win over Carlton was sublime, save the opening ten minutes. But their loss to the Power, and in particular the way they were overrun toward the end, is sticking point in my mind.

But lets focus on the Carlton game. Waites’ early substitution was the single biggest event in terms of influence over the contest. It forced Casboult to be the sole tall focal point for the Blues, and allowed Buckley to swing Ben Reid forward without concern about being punished for doing so. With Reid, Cloke, and Witts all occupying  space in the forward half, the Pies all but killed Carlton through sheer size. With Henderson and Jamison occupied, Walker was forced into way to many one on one marking contests against players far taller than he far too often for his liking. The trio kicked eleven goals between them, and were the obvious point of difference between the sides. Pendlebury and Swan were rampant all over the ground, and as Malthouse indicated in his post match press conference, the Blues didn’t really have a single player who definitively won their match up.

Adelaide

Record: 1 win, 1 loss (Win against Gold Coast, Loss against West Coast)

Adelaide had the bye in round 13, but followed it with a crucial fortnight against the Suns and Eagles, with wins in both required to keep their fading finals chances alive.

The Crows started the two week period with a much needed win over the similarly placed Suns, despite some familiar shortcomings once again appearing in the opening term. Adelaide had terrible ball movement forward of centre, with the Suns profiting numerous times on the rebound. Trent McKenzie played out of skin, taking several intercept and contested defensive marks. The Crows recovered in the second, and pulled away in the fourth to record a 28 point victory. A win is a win, but the Crows were still a fair way off the boil, and their efforts in the first term would have seem them trail by more than nine against a genuine finals side.

No one in particular dominated for the Crows, and on the whole the team was solid across the board, but from a big picture perspective the afternoon’s positives were more player centric. Brad Crouch had his best performance in his young career, finding the ball with ease and applying consistent tackling pressure. He even snared Ablett holding the ball, which is a rarer sight than Haley’s Comet. Sam Jacobs was another to have a year best showing, controlling the ruck against his inexperienced opponents. Dangerfield was his enigmatic self, while Porplyzia continued to show improved touch.

Brodie Smith was given a more aggressive role, with licence to push up high on the wings. The Crows benefited from his impressive disposal, particularly by foot, with his 26 disposals going at nearly 89 per cent efficiency. Long term this has to be his role, as his skill set is too valuable for the Crows to bury him deep in defence. Matthew Wright returned as the sub and benefited from Reilly’s early injury, entering the game as a forward pushing up toward the middle and kicking four goals from his 16 touches.

Adelaide’s winning form was short lived however, with a trademark throw away against the similarly desperate West Coast Eagles on Saturday night. Porplyzia’s goal with just over six minutes remaining put the Crows up by thirteen points. Despite the ball spending much of the remaining six minutes in Adelaide’s forward half, the Eagles managed to kick the three goals required to snatch victory, including two in the final two minutes from Dalziell and Kennedy. Poor decision making and poor application of pressure once again cost Adelaide four points.

Throughout the evening there was more concerning play from some of Adelaide’s key contributors. Sam Jacobs, unable to feast on an inexperienced ruck as he did in round 14, reverted to the below average level he’s been at for much of 2013. Scott Thompson continues to accrue the ball, but is doing very little with it. The fact Jaensch continues to get a game, particularly with the likes of Jarryd Lyons and Mitch Grigg delivering emphatic performances week after week in the seconds, is baffling. I don’t know what he adds to the side. I think I know what he is supposed to add, a touch of speed and a booming kick, but I’m yet to see these things actually appear consistently.

Adelaide’s problems don’t boil all boil down to individual players not performing though. The team, on the whole, has regressed across the board in nearly all areas following their impressive 2012 campaign.

Adelaide’s Competition Rankings
  2012 2013
Disposals 14th 7th
Contested Possessions 2nd 7th
Clearances tied 2nd 12th
Inside 50s 11th 8th
Marks Inside 50 tied 2nd 9th
Hitouts 3rd 9th
Goals 4th 11th
Points Against 6th 11th
Inside 50s Conceded 8th 13th
Marks Inside 50s Conceded 6th 4th
Tackles 16th 16th

 

There are some key things to take away from these rankings. Last year Adelaide played a very simple style. They won the ball at stoppages and in contested situations, they sent it forward with minimal fuss, and Walker and Tippett often profited. Jacobs’ severe drop-off in the ruck so far in 2013 has led to a massive decrease in their stoppage fortunes, plummeting from being an elite side to a below average one in this area of the game. At the same time there has been a sharp increase in the number of disposals they average per game, hinting at a problem with over possession. In fact the Crows are averaging nearly the exact same amount of kicks per game as they did last year (217.2 in 2012, 217.9 in 2013), but are moving the ball by hand nearly 12 more times per game this season.

They are also sending the ball forward more often, and this is where the absence of Walker and Tippett really shines through, with both their marks inside fifty and goals per game rankings dropping from elite levels to below average ones. The Crows are bombing the ball in, much like they did at times last year. The difference is they had those two pillars to mask how ineffective that can be, while now they are relying on the likes of Jenkins and McKernan to pluck marks from ill thought out delivery.

The Crows have also regressed in team defence. The stoppage and midfield’s struggles are again on show with an increase in how often they allow their opposition to send the ball forward, and their tackling has remained at near competition worst levels. A small silver lining is a drop in the number of marks they concede inside fifty, despite the increase in how often the football is coming in. Basically Adelaide should be counting their lucky stars they have the likes of Rutten and Talia down there. Their presence in the backhalf is keeping their defence from disastrous levels.

These statistics illustrate the reality of Adelaide’s situation. They have gone from an elite offensive side to a below average one, while simultaneously dropping from being a middling defensive outfit to a below average one. The reoccurring term here is below average. This is what they are right now.

West Coast Eagles

Record: 1 win, 2 losses (Loss against Hawthorn, Loss against Essendon, Win against Adelaide)

An interesting three week period of the Eagles, with two improved performances, but losses, against leading sides in Hawthorn and Essendon, and a sneaky win against Adelaide that was probably more down to what the Crows didn’t do. They are a clear ninth on the ladder, and a season that began with promise of a fight for the flag is now a fight for the finals. Over the next couple of weeks I’m looking at doing a more in depth look at the Eagles’ concerns, as their fall this year is so startling it warrants investigation, but this beast of an article is long enough as it is without such an investigation.

St Kilda

Record: 1 win, 2 losses (Win against Melbourne, Loss to Richmond, Loss to Fremantle)

The Saints are clearly being hurt right now as a result of their numerous years pushing for a flag. Over this period a concerted effort was made to bring in mature aged players in order to help plug holes and push the side over the line, rather than continuously integrate younger players into the twenty two. You can’t really fault this path. After all, the goal of the game is to win the flag and the Saints were so close that they were well within their rights to focus on the immediate future. Unfortunately it didn’t come off, the coach left, and the reality of their predicament came into full view. The club would be going backwards before it went back up. Watters was introduced as coach, and over the past year and a half he has made a conscientious decision to give just about everyone on the list a go at AFL level. The good news for them is, unlike the Demons a few years ago, they haven’t had a complete “everything over 28 must go” sale, meaning the likes of Riewoldt, Montagna, and Dal Santo are still around to offer support and prevent massive floggings each and every weekend.

I think the club’s approach right now is a really good one. They could have easily been content with mediocrity and hovered in that 8  to 11 period for as long as possible. Instead they are seeing what they have on their hands and what can be used moving forward. It means a low finish now, but it could potentially result in not having to wait as long for the eventual climb back up.

Gold Coast

Record: 0 wins, 2 losses (Loss against Adelaide, Loss against Brisbane)

Two winnable games dropped by the Suns. Disappointing, but I guess the silver-lining here is the Suns have reached the stage where winning is possible, and failure to win can be disappointing.

Western Bulldogs

Record: 1 win, 2 losses (Loss against Richmond, Loss against Melbourne, Win against Greater Western Sydney)

Well hopefully the Doggies form has well and truly buried Melbourne’s priority pick talk, because there is absolutely no way you could award the Demons one now, at least not without handing the Western Bulldogs one too. We could eradicate them from existence and remove this problem entirely, but hey, if AFL specialise in anything, it’s ambiguous criteria used to justify questionable decisions. The Demons are bad. So are the Bulldogs. So are St Kilda. I don’t think the average margin of defeat over the first half of one season should be used to give one struggling club a huge advantage over the others.

You see this 11 week period here? Well you guys didn’t lose by enough.

The Demons look quite a bit better already under Craig, and it’s possible they could snag another win or two before the season is out (They’ll start favourites against the Giants in round 19, and the round 23 clash with the Bulldogs looks very conflippish given the happenings of the past few weeks). I can’t fathom the idea of giving a side with a handful of wins a priority pick, particularly when they aren’t even going to be the worst side in the competition, and there are a couple of sides only a step or two in front of them. When the AFL “abolished” the old priority pick system, and established their “we will award them on a case by case basis without justifying them in known and measurable terms”, part of me at least dreamed that perhaps that meant “extended periods of time scrapping the bottom of the barrel so thoroughly that you actually emerge on the other side”, and not “oh they’ve had a poor start to the year, maybe we should pay to get rid of their coach, and pay for their new one, and hand them some priority picks. Hey remember that time North Melbourne were struggling, and we told them to relocate or die? Ha, fun times. Unlucky for them they have the word “North” in front of the word “Melbourne”. Anyway, how are we going to fix them Demons?”

Now my customary “this is dangerous territory the AFL is flirting with” message is out the way, lets talk about the Western Bulldogs. I can’t think of a poor side whose biggest problem is more clear cut.

Skills and Forwards.

The Bulldogs have a bevy of young midfielders, and most of them operate on the inside. In fact they are elite ball winners inside, ranking fourth for contested possessions, and 2nd in clearances. The problem is not getting the football, but using it effectively. Captain Matthew Boyd is great at winning the ball inside, but butchers it so badly by foot he may as well set up a shop stall and at least sell it for some sort of return. Young Clay Smith is another in this mould, though has the advantage of only being 20. Tom Liberatore is the best young inside ball winner in the competition. In fact he leads the entire competition in clearances per game. The next step for him is making them more effective, because as we all know, not all clearances are created equal, and he is prone to whacking the footy on his boot the second he grasps it. Mitch Wallis is very good in his own right, but seems to be on the outer at the moment for reasons not entirely known. The Bulldogs are all but set in this area of the game.

The outstanding Ryan Griffen aside though, the Bulldogs don’t really have a great established user of the football once they get it into space. Jackson Macrae was drafted last year with this deficiency in mind, and long term Jake Stringer should be alongside him in the middle.

Arguably the biggest problem though is the absolute dearth of forward targets. Liam Jones is basically the only thing they have resembling a key forward, and he only gets his hands on the ball about seven times a game. The Bulldogs rank 16th for marks inside fifty, and 15th for goals per game. There is no team in the league that needs Tom Boyd more than the Bulldogs, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they spend trade month hoping the Giants get Franklin, and don’t get a suitable offer on pick one. If the draft order remains as is, and if the Giants snare Franklin, then it’s unlikely they’d actually need Boyd, given they’d have Franklin, Patton and Cameron. The likes of Glenelg utility Matt Scharenberg may suit their side more. Melbourne in second would surely look to the midfield, given they have Jesse Hogan coming in next year, as well as Clark and Dawes. That leaves the Bulldogs in third, who would gleefully take Boyd.

What the Giants decided to do with the number one pick will be fascinating, if only for the ripple effects it would have across the entire competition. It’s not often a forward prospect like Boyd comes along, and the team in the box seat to take him doesn’t have a need for a key forward. There will be plenty of suitors, and the Giants will be charging an exorbitant price.

Greater Western Sydney Giants

Record: 0 wins, 2 losses (Loss against North Melbourne, Loss against Western Bulldogs)

The Giants make the losers list for squandering their best chance for a win against the Bulldogs. They face Melbourne again in round 19, but since Craig took the helm they are looking slightly better than horrendous. Brisbane in round 21 is a long shot. There is a real possibility the Giants will entire the final round of the season needing a win against fellow expansion buddies the Suns in order to avoid a dreaded zero in the wins column.

If it makes you Giants fans feel better, just picture Franklin’s unveiling ceremony.

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 Fuller says:

    Adam,
    Well worth the wait, your well-informed analysis adds considerably to my understanding of why the season is panning out as it is. You have demonstrated your detailed knowledge of even the less-publicised teams and players in each of your winners and losers contributions.
    I was particularly pleased that you identified the only ghost of an excuse for Carlton’s abject performance against Collingwood, the loss of Waite before quarter time, and the consequent freeing up of Reid.While that didn’t explain the margin, it was the pivotal influence on what subsequently happened.

  2. Adam Ritchie says:

    Cheers Peter. It’s always great to know people are getting something out of reading it.

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