Damien Little got me thinking with his brilliant series of graphs plotting the attacking/defensive performance of all teams over the 5 years. Most teams oscillate between the top right box (when they have a successful season) and the bottom left (when they are crap).
This just means that your attacking and defensive performance are broadly inter-related. Good at one in a season – you are likely to be good at the other; and vice versa. Bad at one, bad at the other.
Looking at the graphs the biggest outlier to this theme was Fremantle last year, and St Kilda in the years 07-11. I wondered what the common factor could be?
DJLitsa kindly plotted the graph for the Swans (senior assistant coach), Saints and Dockers in the 10 years of Ross Lyon as a major influence on a club from 2004 to 2013. (Click on graph to enlarge.)
Apart from 2006 (marginally) and 2009 when the Scarlett toe-poke got the Cats over the line in a tight GF, Lyon teams are always in the top left box. In the good years they are at the very top left (brilliant defensively; poor attacking). In the bad years they are lower top left – average defensively and poor attacking.
There are losing GF’s in seasons 06 (Swans), 09, 10 (Saints) and 13 (Dockers). And the Swans premiership win over the Eagles in 05. I was at that game and apart from the closeness of the scores, it was as bad a game of footy as you would see – until the 2013 GF (is there a theme developing here?)
Chris Judd played one of the greatest games of footy I have seen in a losing side in 05. The rest of the Eagles got stage fright so bad they couldn’t scratch themselves. The Swans weren’t much better but managed to fall over the line (last man standing).
As the graph indicates – 06 was a better season for both teams and the repeat GF was a better spectacle as a result. The Eagles midfield was brilliant in that game and that season, and that gave the forwards an armchair ride in the first half. That is the only way you could win a flag with Ash Hansen and Quinten Lynch as your key forwards. It is often said that “you only have to be the better team on the day”, but I have always thought that some teams/flags are better than others. The 92/94 Eagles teams would have beaten the 06 team by 8 goals.
Lleyton Hewitt won Wimbledon (against Nalbandian in 2002) when Sampras was waning and Federer had not yet arrived. Green Moon won a Melbourne Cup when they crawled for a mile and a half, and he just had to get a smother and then a clear opening to dash up the straight.
As Orwell said – all pigs are equal, but some are more equal than others.
This made me wonder how much the tight losses in 06 (Chick smother and Armstrong scrambled goal); 09 (Scarlett toe poke); 10 (draw and get thrashed in the replay); and 13 (kick your few scoring chances out on the full) – were matters of misfortune or statistical inevitability?
I remember hearing Ric Charlesworth talk about why he pushed the Hockeyroos so hard in preparation for Olympics and World Cups when they were clearly the best team in the world. He said that hockey (like soccer) was a low scoring game and that 20% of the time the better side with more possession and scoring opportunities would lose. So he pushed the Hockeyroos hard to be 20% better than the second best side in the world, to ensure that ‘bad luck’, chance and statistical inevitability would not beat them on the big stage.
“20% better” does not seem credible in a competition as even as AFL with salary caps, talent drafts and extensive football department spending on coaching, analysis and sports science.
Lyon’s defensive rolling maul reduces time and space for opponents in attacking positions, but as a consequence there are limited scoring resources available when his teams go forward against good opposition. Games are low scoring like soccer or hockey.
When a Ross Lyon team turns up against an equally talented, fit and well-coached team at the end of September – it has no room for error. Every shot has to be converted. Every forward entry locked-in. Because there will be so few of them. Its not that the forwards are not competent, it is that the game plan often commits most of them far down the ground against strong opponents.
Its an approach that crushes lesser teams, and makes Lyon’s teams ruthlessly competitive against the best.
They never lose by much in the big games against the best opponents. Or win many.
As it should be.
Hit it Ray:
Oh, it’s Lyon time again, you’re gonna leave me
I can see that far away flag in your eyes
I can tell by the way you hold me darlin’. Yeah now
That it won’t be long before it’s cryin’ time