A Floreat Pica Society mid-season Pies review

By Steve Fahey

 

After listening to Buck’s mid-season review and finding it the least enlightening of his weekly briefs, I thought I would have a go at writing my own.   It is implicit that I am assessing players and the team against my expectations, which pretty clearly have nothing to do with that of the coaching staff.

Some key statistics comparing 2011, 2012 and rounds 1-13 2013

(Sources – AFL website and Adam Ritchie’s superb Pies season preview at https://www.footyalmanac.com.au/the-way-too-early-2013-preview-collingwood/ )

2011

2012

2013 Rounds 1-13
H&A Finishing Spot

1st

4th

7th

Disposals

2nd

5th

3rd

Effective Disposal

tied 7th

tied 7th

tied 5th

Contested Possessions

1st

3rd

13th

Clearances

2nd

tied 6th

14th

Tackles

3rd

8th

7th

Hitouts

15th

13th

18th

Inside 50s

1st

10th

4th

Marks Inside 50

tied 4th

6th

5th

Goals

2nd

tied 9th

10th

Goal Assists

tied 3rd

10th

5th

Points Against (1st = lowest)

1st

5th

8th

 

Make of these what you wish. There are some key stats missing, especially about when the other team has the ball, and where your and the opposition’s goals come from.  Also you want to see your stats against the best teams to see where you really need to improve.

Having said that, my brief summary would be that we are having plenty of the ball, through effecting turnovers and using it reasonably well when we have it as we are not winning contested possessions or clearances.  We are getting it inside 50 OK, but not scoring efficiently, due to our one-dimensional forward structure.

Overall

8-4 is probably only a game off what you would have accepted as a good position at this stage, particularly given the run of injuries we have endured for the second successive season.  However 8-4 with a crap percentage and having been highly uncompetitive for critical periods against four of the top five sides puts a different light on those numbers.  We have looked bottom half of the eight for most of the season – good enough to beat the ordinary teams, experienced enough to beat the up and coming teams around us but nowhere near the top five teams.

 

Backs

It has been well-documented that we have been heavily scored against, with the good teams kicking cricket scores against us.  This hasn’t been entirely the fault of the backs, with the equally well-documented failure of the mids to push back in the early games.  This has improved in recent weeks, especially since the return of Ball, although the quality of our recent opposition hasn’t fully tested that improvement.

Our much-vaunted pre-season focus on quicker transition from defence has not been a screaming success.  We have moved it OK on occasions, but have still too often looked stilted.  We haven’t had the spread of leg speed and precision disposal to achieve this objective.  Seedsman has been a real positive, possessing both of these qualities and benefitting from getting a regular role in the back half.

The talls have been solid.  Reid has been good and opposition teams have regularly taken to playing a “decoy” forward who has attempted to drag him up the ground and/or keep him away from the main forward targets, learning from what the Swans did in last year’s preliminary final.  Nathan Brown has had some average moments but overall been a reasonable contributor.  As largely a reincarnation of Presti, he is more of an asset against a quality opponent than when he has the scope to take on a more attacking role, but he can be relied upon for an honest effort. The skipper has had a patchy start to the season.

Once again we have struggled to contain quality small forwards, especially those with a bit of toe.  The loss of Toovey and Heater missing three games (as he pointed out on Before the Game through the bizarre combination of food poisoning, hitting a bloke in the balls and excessive skinfolds) has hurt us.  Benny J has struggled to get on the park, and has looked in his footy dotage when he has, and Jordy has not made the grade, albeit that he looks a little more settled after a horror first few weeks.  Marley has been good since he has come up and has the one-on-one skills and pace to play a role here, assuming he is not in jail.  His disposal skills have been OK, but he is yet to be tested against the pressure of the good teams.  Acknowledging the need for speed In our back half, and that he won’t get a game as a small forward  given our relative riches there, Sinkers has been re-invented as a backman, but has had two very ordinary games at senior level.

Looking forward a season or two, Oxley looks a chance to play a regular role as a midsize good reader of the play and decent user of the ball, Lachie Keeffe has returned and is a very good player, but will take some time in the twos, and my whipping boy Yags has improved markedly in recent weeks in the twos and is some chance of staying on the list, having both speed and good kicking ability.  Frost, Hartley and Gault, in that order, are all some chance of making the grade to be regular senior tall defenders to complement the key men Reid and Brown.

Overall a very shaky start but improving and very dependent on Reid and Heater, the latter having been excellent, especially in recent weeks.

 

Mids

Also hard hit by injury, with Beams and to a lesser extent Young not playing at all, Thomas having had only a few games, in which he had to play as a backman, and Ball recently returning and making a difference.

Pendles and Swanny have both had reasonable seasons given the very high standards we have been conditioned to expect.  Pendles has had some outstanding games, turning a couple of games against lesser opponents (North and the Saints) but has been less prominent against the big guns.  Swanny has had his usual big numbers but with less impact due to average kicking efficiency.  Hopefully both can take a step up in the second half of the season with the regular presence of Ball.

Three big positives in the mids. Harry has been a revelation playing mostly as a winger, pushing hard back and forward and Josh Thomas continues to improve.  He is industrious, hard at it and also works hard both ways.  His disposal needs to improve for him to take the next step and that may do so as he settles into the pace of senior footy.  Caff has been a surprise packet as a run-with, adding another dimension to our mids.

Steelo has had some excellent games and a couple of shockers when tagged.  He has been very consistent until this season and needs to get used to being tagged.  It should also be noted that it wouldn’t be happening if we had a full complement in there. Blair has worked hard and leads the tackle stats for the club decisively but doesn’t have the pace or skill to be a quality midfielder against the best opposition.  Perhaps he might be OK as a top-up mid if/when Beams and The Mop are added to the mix, but he has struggled.  Marty Clarke started well as a winger but has trailed off.  He looked terrible as a small backman isolated one-out against Brisbane and has looked like a draught horse in recent weeks.  As with Sinkers, he is in deep trouble.

Broomhead has been fantastic in the few games he has played in the twos. He is a silky mover and nice user of the ball.  He missed a lot of work due to his glandular fever but might get some senior action before the season is over.  I’m very bullish on him going forward.

Overall we have lacked depth in the mids, needing both a bit more class and leg speed, being very workman-like but rarely looking like 2010 and 2011.

Rucks

Big Jolls has been patchy – he has looked OK and with a bit of life in the old body a couple of times, notably coming off breaks, but generally it has looked like this year will be his swansong.  Huddo was really good as an aggressive back-up against the Hawks and Tigers and will continue to play that role for the rest of the season.

Witts hasn’t shown much, but has improved since going back to the twos, rucking well and being dangerous as a forward target who is a decent kick for goal.  The jury is still out on him, but we do need to be patient.    Grundy was very impressive in the twos in their most recent match against Coburg – he’s mobile, aggressive and has reasonable skills, especially kicking.  We’d be throwing him to the wolves to play him this year given the amount of footy he missed, but he looks a good long-term prospect.

Forwards

Travis has been very good.  Like Hawthorn has with Buddy, we just have to accept that he’ll never be much more than a 50% converter overall but he’s good enough to get enough opportunities to hurt the opposition as much as he frustrates us.  He has played manfully against multiple opponents and our ability to regularly sit the ball on his head.

The Q-Stick has been interesting.  He started the season well and has been clearly more comfortable in the ruck than as a key forward, raising the frequently voiced possibility that we could have done with him and Dawes.  His kicking has been a big issue, together with the fact that too often he and Travis have occupied the same space, dragging multiple defenders with them.  A disappointment to date, but there was a reason he was struggling to get a game at the Eagles.  His lack of forward impact and the combination of the Sack’s continued absence and Paine’s ordinary form in the twos has left us looking very one-dimensional.

Elliott has also been very good.  19 goals at a much improved conversion rate and 8 goal assists adds up to a very solid contribution for a 20 year-old 175cms forward.  Dwyer (10 goals, 13 goal assists in 9 games) and Martin (6 goals in 3 games) have also been real positives, hitting the scoreboard and Dwyer in particular injecting some hard running and spark.  Kennedy has also been a lively addition.

Krak has had a few moments but not enough of them, Fas is gone for the year and Dids will struggle to get back in any role other than a super sub.  Mooney continues to improve in the twos and just needs to continue to learn to read the game.  He is a real chance next year as he has phenomenal speed, his tackling and pressure is excellent and his finishing is reasonable.

Overall our forward problems are largely structural – not enough quality tall targets so we are too predictable in going to Travis.  The best we can hope for this season is for Lynch to improve and the Sack to return as a hardworking body-crashing defensive forward.  I’m still confident that Paine will develop into a good key forward, but he has just turned 20, we need to be patient.

Coaching, selection and injury management

It’s very hard to get a handle on Bucks’ ability as a coach – he has endured a horrendous run of injuries and other adverse circumstances (the Mick circus, the ongoing Swanny discussion and issues, the racism debacle).  I can say unequivocally that he has displayed himself to be a remarkably resilient individual.  I’m not sure what to make of him as coach, other than he is still a work in progress. We are miles away from where we were in 2010 and 2011 but that is not entirely his fault.

He has tried to address both the way we play and also apparently the playing group culture.  His success on the first issue is partial, although not being able to get anywhere near our best team on the park makes it very difficult.  His success on the second front can’t be assessed yet.  It is inevitable that Bucks will be under some pressure if we don’t make it to the preliminary final week, especially with only one year to go on his contract.   We all want him to be successful, and I’d just like him to get a run with something like our best team on the park.  My biggest concern is how easily the good teams have cut through us getting through our defensive zone and or behind our defence.  I have got resigned to seeing opposition mids and forwards sprinting towards their goal with a Pie defender chasing in vain.

I am critical of selection on at least a couple of occasions this year when we have saddled up with largely the same side as the week before against very different opponents.  After mooting that we would make multiple changes with the short break to Anzac Day against Essendon, we didn’t and paid the price for it.  Whoever thought that big Huddo could back up in 5 days as a 34 year-old was an extreme optimist.  Similarly against Sydney we dropped Josh Thomas against the toughest inside midfield in the competition.  Hard to work out.

The other area where questions have to be asked is injury management.  There is a bit of science and a lot of luck in injuries but when you get hit hard two seasons in a row you have to look at your systems and processes.     The Mop and the Sack were assessed at the end of the 2012 season to not require operations for their respective injuries but both required operations by Christmas.  Both therefore had very restricted pre-seasons, and have only managed 5 games each before getting further injuries. You’d have to think that their restricted pre-seasons didn’t help their bodies to be ready.  Throw in the injury to Ball last year after he was allowed back on the ground and a similar but less serious incident in which Jordy was allowed to return in the last quarter of a game against the Swans which was long gone, and then missed the next two weeks, and you have a few questions.

 

The big questions –where will we finish and what is our notional best 22?

As stated at the beginning (which seems a long time ago !) we have looked bottom half of the eight for most of the season.  Why ? We have been largely one-dimensional inside 50, solid rather than spectacular going forward, with less foot speed and disposal precision than others and vulnerable upon transition.  We have been at our best when we have moved the ball quickly and applied manic pressure to the opposition e.g. most of Geelong game, most of first half against Hawks, first halves versus Lions and Dogs – a bit of a theme developing here !   If we were to get Beams, The Mop and Young back and firing, that might change, but you’d have to be an extreme optimist.

 

We have winnable games against the Power, Carlton, Adelaide and the two development teams before a tough run home against Essendon, the Swans (away), Hawthorn, West Coast (home) and North .  If we can get to 13-4 we give ourselves a chance, but I suspect we’ll stay in the bottom half of the eight, with our crap percentage hurting us.

 

Given that Fas and Toovs are gone for the year, and allowing big Lachie the rest of the season to regain form and confidence, I am going to nominate our best team possible for some time later this season  as:

 

 

Dale Thomas Brown Maxwell

Seedsman Reid Shaw

O’Brien Ball Sidebottom

Beams Lynch Elliott

Dwyer Cloke Goldsack

Jolly Swan Pendlebury

Josh Thomas, Young, Krakouer, Macaffer

Emergs : Blair, Williams, Martin

 

I would love to hear your thoughts.

 

Floreat Pica

Steve

Comments

  1. Luke Reynolds says:

    Fantastic review Steve. Can’t disagree with anything you have written.

    There was definitely a spot still for Dawes, I saw Lynch as filling the Leigh Brown role which in 2010 saw Dawes play his best footy. We are short a big forward, not a second ruckman.

    Still have some optimism for the remainder of the season with players coming back and more games into others who have had interrupted seasons so far.

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