Monthly Archives: May 2012

Cubs Roar

By Scott Barby

Well, I didn’t see that coming. At least not to that degree. You know exactly what I’m talking about. What’s refreshing here is that I’m not alone. Everyone, including Richmond supporters both drunk with joy and other, were blindsided by that old-fashioned on-field bath. We often see upsets in the AFL, hell, we’ve seen them all year, but not like this. Hawthorn supporters have been left slack-jawed and wondering how they can rid themselves of any future flag favorite status. That label has been a curse all year. Whichever supporter base draws the premiership favorite black egg from the bookies Monday morning, feel free to drown your sorrows and plan a family trip for the weekend. Something bad is going to happen to your team.

Richmond just defeated Hawthorn by 62 points. That actually happened. I guess the only remaining question is, how did it happen? I’m too lazy to sum it up, so I’ll let the numbers do the talking. If you’re a Hawthorn supporter, look away now.

Richmond

Team Contested Possession Uncontested Possession Disposals Disposal Efficiency Clangers Contested Marks
V Hawthorn 166 260 430 73% 41 12
2012 Average 139 250 392 75% 45 11
Team Hitouts Clearances Inside 50’s Tackles One Percenters Marks Inside 50
V Hawthorn 42 42 67 77 39 14
2012 Average 39 36 55 65 43 12

Summary: Do I really need to write anything here? The Tigers exceeded their season average in every single category outside of Disposal Efficiency (still elite) and One Percenters. Richmond would have season high’s in contested possession, disposals, Inside 50’s and tackles. I’m no expert, but that looks like a fair recipe for success.

Hawthorn

Team Contested Possession Uncontested Possession Disposals Disposal Efficiency Clangers Contested Marks
V Richmond 137 203 349 72% 52 10
2012 Average 142 228 370 75% 46 10
Team Hitouts Clearances Inside 50’s Tackles One Percenters Marks Inside 50
V Richmond 40 39 52 80 39 12
2012 Average 37 38 55 71 51 13

Summary: Hawthorn would find themselves performing below their season average in every category minus contested marks, hitouts, clearances and tackles, although these disparities were only marginal. As was mentioned in the preview blog post, the key to victory was primarily based on who would dominate possession. What’s fun to note here is that in losses this year, Hawthorn had 349 total disposals against Sydney, 348 total disposals against Richmond, 343 against Geelong and 304 against West Coast. I guess the formula for defeating Hawthorn is to keep them under the 350 total disposal threshold. For the record, Richmond won 10 of the 12 statistical categories noted above.

Goal Sources

So I’m an idiot. The numbers in the preview I wrote indicated that Richmond had the experience advantage up forward, and I chose to disregard it completely. Not only did the Tigers have more experience, they had more determination, as evidenced by their ability to generate scoreboard pressure from within their own forward half. What ties in well here is Richmond’s tackle count. Their nine leading tacklers each performed well above their season average, especially evident were the tackle numbers generated by the forward line. This helps to explain why Richmond spent 41% of time in their forward half compared to 36% for Hawthorn, and thus outscored Hawthorn 12 goals to 2 when generating scoreboard pressure from within their own forward half.

Team Defensive 50 Half-Back Centre Clearance Half-Forward Forward 50
Richmond 5.1 4.2 4.4 5.3 3.1
Hawthorn 2.2 6.1 1.1 0.7 1.2

 

Player Tackles v Hawthorn Average 2012
Nathan Foley 10 6.4
Shane Tuck 10 6.3
Brett Deledio 8 5.1
Jack Riewoldt 7 3
Ivan Maric 7 3.4
Shaun Grigg 6 1.9
Daniel Jackson 5 2.6
Tyrone Vickery 5 2.7
Jake King 4 1.8

New Found Love For the Contest

Richmond were ranked 16th in the AFL for contested possession coming into Saturday’s clash. Against Hawthorn, they would finish +29 above their usual lackluster output. Just look at the following midfield numbers. Richmond are hungry for the footy, they didn’t just dominate Hawthorn at their own game, they dominated them at the contest as well;

Player Contested Possession v Hawthorn Average 2012
Shane Tuck 19 12
Brett Deledio 14 9
Dustin Martin 13 8
Nathan Foley 12 11
Trent Cotchin 11 11
Ivan Maric 11 7
Shane Edwards 10 7

A Liability?

After another poor performance in front of goal, what do Hawthorn do about Lance Franklin? Buddy’s set shot woes are officially a problem. Including out on the full’s, Franklin is travelling at a 34% conversion rate on the year. Against Richmond set shots weren’t even Buddy’s biggest problem. Only 9 of his 18 disposals hit a teammate, with six of the other wayward nine resulting in clangers, 2 of those were converted into goals by the Tigers. When your X-factor starts having a negative impact, it’s time to get creative. When  it’s been happening all year, it’s time to panic. After 9 rounds in 2011, Buddy had kicked 32-29, a far cry from his 21-36 in 2012.

Conclusion

Well done Tigers. I didn’t expect you to graduate ahead of schedule, but you’ve proven myself and many others wrong. The key now is to maintain the current level of output and not become over-confident or complacent like the many victims of hype who have come before you. This is a nice building block, it removes the “honorable loss” tag. It doesn’t guarantee finals football though, or make this season a success. There’s still work to be done. Ignore the papers and get back to the books.

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @Scottywashere

Advertisements

Round 9 AFL Preview: Hawthorn v Richmond

By Scott Barby

I’m officially a sucker for the Richmond Football Club. I’ve thrown as many people as I can off the bandwagon and climbed my way into the front seat. It’s not because they’re hilariously consistent with negative connotations, first “Ninthmond” and now “Honorable Losses”, it’s the way they’re going about it. Everyone, outside of Geelong fans for good reason, have a sweet spot for the way Hawthorn play football. They constantly hit targets with crisp passes, they have x-factor’s all over the park, a left foot fetish, they play a “cute” style that catches the eye. They’re fun to watch whether you hate them or not. This is why my recent man love for the Tigers has spawned. They’re fun to watch, they’re mirroring the Hawthorn game style like an envious baby Brother, they want to be like Hawthorn. If you don’t believe me, look at the following numbers;

Team Contested Possession Uncontested Possession Disposals Disposal Efficiency Clangers Contested Marks
Richmond 136 (16th) 249 (1st) 388 (2nd) 75% (tied 1st) 46 (9th) 12 (12th)
Hawthorn 143 (10th) 232 (3rd) 373 (5th) 75% (tied 1st) 45 (10th) 13 (16th)
Team Hitouts Clearances Inside 50’s Tackles Once Percenters Marks Inside 50
Richmond 38 (9th) 36 (16th) 53 (11th) 63 (14th) 44 (17th) 12 (tied 6th)
Hawthorn 37 (11th) 37 (14th) 56 (6th) 69 (7th) 53 (7th) 13 (tied 2nd)

Identical Twins

Like every healthy sibling rivalry, little Brother hasn’t quite perfected the art just yet. As a whole though, these teams play the same style. Both Richmond and Hawthorn have similar areas of strength and weakness. They are clearly from the same game style family tree, or at least distant cousins for the Hawks fans who wish to separate themselves from any Richmond stink as much as possible. I understand that it’s quite common for teams to have similar gameplans, but this is kind of stalker like, especially after only 8 weeks of football. There is only a significant ranking disparity between the two in one category, one percenters. In their primary focus areas both squads are essentially league leaders.

Given Hardwick was an assistant at Hawthorn prior to landing the senior coaching position at Richmond, this all makes sense and looks to be far from a coincidence. After cleaning up the shit in a sandpit efforts left behind from self-proclaimed “List Manager” Terry Wallace, through savvy trading and drafting kids with elite disposal, Hardwick has reached the point where he can see his vision take the field and experience some success. What Hardwick had to rebuild was essentially the AFL list equivalent of a footballing Hiroshima. Just a fortress of failure and mediocrity. I could bash the Wallace era for another 10,000 words, but I’ll leave that for another day. Full credit to Damien Hardwick and his recruiting staff though, the top 8 walls are now finally in sight, sooner rather than later those walls will be breached.

The Right Way

The Importance of Disposal

We’ve established that these teams are twins in terms of game styles, and that Terry Wallace is shit, but who actually possesses the advantage between the two squads from a disposal standpoint? For these two teams, the primary avenue to winning games of football relies on simply possessing more of the football, to be more accurate, a hell of a lot more football. They frustrate teams by being ball dominant and relying on patience, thus this is all about who can restrict the opponent more effectively. As the following numbers show, big Brother and little Brother are incredibly stubborn in terms of making this clear-cut as they diffuse each other’s usual dominant advantage when it comes to disposal.

Richmond Hawthorn
1st Disposals per game 1st least opponent disposals per game
2nd Handball per game 1st least opponent handballs per game
2nd least opponent kicks per game 4th kicks per game
2nd least opponent diposals per game 4th disposals per game
2nd team to opponent handball per game differential 3rd team to opponent handballs per game differential
1st in team to opponent disposal per game differential 2nd team to opponent disposals per game differential
3rd least opponent handballs per game 1st least opponent kicks per game

If you’re still not convinced that these teams mirror each others style, you’re either drunk or related to Terry Wallace. If it’s the latter, I apologise for failing to incorporate stick figure drawings as a visual aide so you can grasp the concept. The part that’s annoying for me? We still have no clear vision of who the better side is, at least statistically speaking. That means I have to continue to dig deeper. I hate sibling rivalries.

Grimes defensive work will be missed

It’s clear that both Richmond and Hawthorn are elite users of the football, and league leaders when it comes to limiting their opposition with disposal, so let’s look at other areas where they rank high and low in comparison to the rest of the league.

Richmond Hawthorn
3rd Marks per game 2nd Team to opponent Marks per game differential
14th Tackles per game 2nd Team to opponent Tackles per games differential
12th Opponent Marks per game 2nd Least opponent Marks per game
12th Opponent Points per game 4th Points per game
13th Opponent Tackles per game differential 5th Least opponent Tackles per game
4th Least opponent points per game

Now we’re getting somewhere! They key for Richmond is to possess the ball, the easiest way to maintain this advantage is via uncontested marks. Hawthorn have the league’s 2nd best record for limiting their opponents number of marks, Richmond rank 12th. If Richmond refuse to kick to a contest (they’re drilled not to) and can’t find a loose man, the only way to maintain possession is to play on at all costs. Hawthorn have the league’s 2nd best record for out-tackling their opponent, Richmond rank 13th. So Hawthorn are a better defensive and pressure team. They possess all the attributes and structure to hurt Richmond’s preffered offensive style of “safe” football. What about scoreboard pressure? Maybe there’s an advantage for Richmond there? Well Hawthorn rank 4th league wide for fewest opponent points per game, and Richmond 12th. The Hawks are clearly the better defensive unit in all facets of the game. What’s intriguing to note about these opponent differential statistical categories is that Hawthorn do not rank outside the top 10 in any area.

Tiger fans, can I get a collective long-winded *sighhh*.

I’ve pounded the desk about 35 times trying to find evidence of what I already assumed, that Hawthorn possess a clear advantage somewhere… That was rewarding.

Hawthorn’s elite pressure should trouble the Tigers

Factoring in Experience

As for Richmond fans, I’ve labelled you “Little Brother” for a reason. The defensive aspect comes with experience, and to put it bluntly, you don’t have much going for you in that department, at least not right now. The final box I’d like to tick is exactly that, experience. I’ve broken down each teams defensive, midfield, ruck and forward units as selected, and noted the difference in average games played. The results are as follows;

Position Richmond Hawthorn
Defense 51 100
Midfield 91 132
Ruck 79 157
Forward 79 73
Average 72 102

Summary: That’s a 49 game experience advantage per defensive player for Hawthorn, 41 per midfielder, 78 in the ruck (although this is largely irrelevant), and 30 games squad wise. Richmond own a slight edge in experience up forward, but I imagine this will be made obsolete given the minor difference between the two numbers and Richmond’s leaky defense (12th overall for points against).

Buddy’s inaccuracy will no doubt play a part

Who Will Win?

Big Brother has won 6 of the last 7 contests against Little Brother, and I expect that trend to continue. Richmond have proven that they are heading in the right direction, and have finally washed off the Terry Wallace stink (that brings the Wallace cheap shot count in this article to 453). I have zero doubt that the Tigers will show up and bring more hope to their long-suffering supporter base, only unlike years past, that hope is now warranted. Hardwick has the right Cattle on the park and more importantly the right leader to help the on-field aspect of the game advance forward. Speaking of which, I love watching Trent Cotchin play football. You’re in good hands Tiger supporters, any neutral has a right to be envious. You will see the signs again Saturday afternoon, but you won’t hear the war cry of “YELLOW AND BLACK” during the song after the final siren.

Hawthorn are premiership contenders. The gap between how close each team is to accomplishing that premiership goal is still widely evident. The more drilled, better defensive and highly experienced side will take the points.

The Hawks own a house (premiership), a car (finals experience) and are focused on career development (so they can own more houses).

The Tigers have just graduated from wearing diapers.

We all grow up eventually.

Tip: Hawthorn by 24 points.

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @scottywashere

Facing Your Demons

By Scott Barby

We’ve all been there. The moment your beloved club begins to resemble the remains of a train wreck. Supporting a sporting club can give you some of the greatest feelings you will ever experience. More often than not, those experiences won’t mean anything to anybody else, but they will live with you forever. The “where were you when this happened” questions will fill you with warmth, they take you to moments that remind you why you are a fan. You never choose to love the game, it just happens. Sports can be nothing and everything at the same time. To me sports are “Life with the Volume turned up”, they’re a distraction from the rest of the World, they’re my security blanket. Unfortunately they also possess the capabilities to light that blanket on fire and turn your World upside down.

Choosing to support a team means you sign your life over to a YoYo of victories and disappointments. The ecstasy of winning can be just as common as the gut punch losses. Anything can happen, and it often does. Either way as a fan, you’re stuck here forever. The team becomes part of you, it impacts your every emotion. We trust people we don’t even know and will never meet with the responsibility of upholding those emotions. I’ve lost count of the number of drunk emails I’ve sent to my teams HQ after a poor performance, the amount of times I’ve thrown the remote at a wall, or had a day completely ruined and threatened to say that I’d quit, vowed that this was the last time. Well there is no last time. If you quit on your team you were never a fan in the first place. If you quit on your team what I’m writing makes zero sense to you, and that club you left behind is better off without you. The Melbourne Football Club is better off without you.

I often enjoy seeing rival clubs suffer. Whether it be a heartbreaking loss, a bad trade or they’re in the news from committing some unsavory off-field act. First of all I am thankful it isn’t my club in question, and secondly I am contacting anyone and everyone I know who is affiliated with said club for some mild shit stirring. Melbourne’s 2012 AFL campaign provided plenty of opportunity to do so. Laying the boots into my buddies who possess a red and navy allegiance was fun for the first three weeks, still mildly amusing after six weeks, but now it’s just sad. Not only have I run out of material, I’ve run out motivation. It’s exhausting, primarily because the club has little to fall back on in terms of hope. My buddies who have been on the receiving end have now ran out of rebuttals. They’re just numb. Follower or Enemy, nobody in sport likes to see Melbourne’s 2012 Season fall to it’s knees like this.

The positive (or negative) of this, is that it’s motivated me enough to try to figure out what the hell is happening down at Demons HQ. I can no longer go to the media for an educated answer that isn’t light on fact and heavy on opinion, or without running into a road block that reads “Sign in to continue reading this article”. They’re always happy to tell me what is happening, for some reason they always refuse to tell me why.

The following won’t generate anywhere near the same level of gossip or interest, but here’s my statistical take on what exactly is happening at the Melbourne Football Club.

 

We all know the back story. Melbourne fail to reach expectation, Dean Bailey is fired, Mark Neeld comes in, Club turns into a basketcase. What better place to start than right there, the difference between the Demons key indicator output of 2011 compared to 2012, along with their league ranking.

Year Contested Possession Disposal Efficiency Clangers Clearances Inside 50’s Tackles
2011 139 (14th) 73% (5th) 46 (4th) 37 (11th) 49 (12th) 69 (10th)
2012 133 (17th) 68% (18th) 47 (11th) 36 (17th) 39 (18th) 64 (12th)
Year Marks Inside 50 One Percenters Hitouts Points For Points Against
2011 12 (9th) 53 (8th) 43.7 (3rd) 89.72 (10th) 105.22 (14th)
2012 8 (16th) 50 (10th) 47.5 (3rd) 63.12 (17th) 120.25 (18th)

Summary: At the conclusion of 2011, the Melbourne recruitment team would have been aware of their current output. Thus I assume they would have focused first and foremost on their areas of concern, particularly any ranking outside the league’s top 10.

At the end of the 2011, Melbourne’s key areas of concern should have been;

–          Contested Possession (14th)

–          Clearances (11th)

–          Inside 50’s (12th)

–          Tackles (10th)

–          Points Against (14th)

Despite having all this information, the only player of note Melbourne decided to bring in was Brisbane forward Mitch Clark. The midfield numbers were already alarming, particularly after you factor in that they’d just lost their fourth best clearance winner and third best tackler in Tom Scully. With Scully gone, it is no surprise that the numbers have tailed off, especially since the holes that the Scully departure left were never addressed. Melbourne’s ranking in those key 2011 problem areas that stood out like elevator cleavage are now resembling the contents that you’ll generally find inside a discarded diaper. They look like shit;

–          Contested Possession (17th)

–          Clearances (17th)

–          Inside 50’s (18th)

–          Tackles (12th)

–          Points Against (18th)

Not only was the 2011 midfield and a wafer thin defense a problem, every single other area of the ground, minus ruck duty, is now a complete and unfathomable disaster. How does a professional football club forget how to kick a football? Melbourne went from a top 5 disposal efficiency side league wide, to dead last? Individually, the playing group dropped 5% squad wide in just six months… The other backwards number is the difference going forward. By adding Mitch Clark, who has proven to be an elite target, Melbourne have dropped from 9th to 16th for marks inside 50, and 10th to 17th in scoring. Their scoring output per game is down more than four goals. Remarkable, or horrifying. I don’t know which. Unless the AFL starts awarding goals for each hitout won, this team is fucked.

The Experience Factor

Those opening paragraphs of analysis aren’t a great start, but maybe there’s a reason for the bad numbers? I keep hearing about how young Melbourne’s list is, that this is all going to take time. I’m not one for assumptions, so it only made sense to look for some concrete evidence. The following is a break down of Melbourne’s 2012 list. Each player is categorized according to their age and position, with each position’s associated games played experience included as well. We can’t really count any players who are yet to make an on-field contribution. So I have capped each player at a minimum of 5 games AFL experience.

Melbourne

Age (Minimum of 5 Games of AFL experience)

Position 18-21 22-25 26-29 30+
Defense 4 4 2
Midfield 5 5 3
Ruck 2 1
Forward 2 5 1
Total 11 16 6 1

Games Played

Position Average Games Played
Defense 45
Midfield 64
Ruck 56
Forward 83

Melbourne defense ranked 18th

Melbourne attack ranked 17th

Summary: There’s not a great spread, with the primary focus being on younger players as opposed to experienced bodies, although this is not necessarily a bad thing, especially for a rebuilding squad.

These numbers don’t indicate much on their own, so let’s compare them to a Richmond side in a similar position, one who in fact finished on identical points to Melbourne in 2011.

Richmond

Age (Minimum of 5 Games of AFL experience)

Position 18-21 22-25 26-29 30+
Defense 6 10 1 1
Midfield 2 4 2 1
Ruck 1 1 1
Forward 2 3 2
Total 11 18 6 2

Games Played

Position Average Games Played
Defense 33
Midfield 84
Ruck 48
Forward 68

Tiger defense ranked 11th

Tiger attack ranked 11th

Summary: The Tiger spread from an age standpoint is almost identical to that of Melbourne. What stands out is that Richmond only possess more games experience than the Demons in one area of the ground, midfield. Melbourne are +12 in the backline, +8 in the Ruck and +15 up forward in terms of average games played per player. This again highlights that Melbourne’s problem area is it’s inexperienced midfield. A problem area which the numbers already recognised at the conclusion of season 2011. If you don’t win first use of the football, your forward line productivity suffers, and your defense is put under further stress. Although inexperienced, the lack of output from the Melbourne forward line is barren, and the current efforts from the defense are inexcusable, but the midfield isn’t helping, and hasn’t been pulling it’s weight for a while. The question needs to be asked, why wasn’t the midfield problem addressed ahead of the forward line, especially when it was alarmingly obvious?

It’s only fair that we compare the level of experience that Melbourne had at their disposal under Dean Bailey in 2011.

–          Average Number of Games Played in 2011 Under Dean Bailey: 55.85

–          Average Number of Games Played in 2012 Under Mark Neeld: 68.5

So much for the “The side if just inexperienced, it needs more time” argument being the be all and end all for the lackluster start to Season 2012. As it currently stands, the simple fact is Dean Bailey did more than Mark Neeld with less experienced players.

Individual Output 

We’ve established that the numbers are bad as a whole, that’s no secret. Let’s take a look at the players individual output from Season 2011 to Season 2012 to see who has improved, who has gone backwards, and who just generally couldn’t give a shit.

I decided to analyze each player from a position standpoint, and broke them up according to their predominant role with the club. I left out the ruck position, as it hasn’t been an area of concern this season. Jamar’s output has been virtually identical across the board. Wait, what? A positive? Melbourne supporters, you may now stand and applaud.

Note: Please excuse any players who are misrepresented by position, as there are a few “tweeners” who are not designated with a specific role.

The following numbers are straight from a spreadsheet and aren’t as clean as I’d like from an aesthetic perspective. If anything, feel free to just focus on the 2011 v 2012 areas unless otherwise instructed.

Melbourne Defense

Summary: What becomes instantly evident in the following data is the lack of depth Melbourne have outside of their preferred back six. From a personnel standpoint, only Daniel Nicholson and James Strauss have been missing from Melbourne’s 2011 defense. Nicholson is yet to be selected by Neeld and Strauss is suffering from injury and due to return in the coming weeks. In their place, Tom McDonald has been introduced with varying degrees of success. If we take the output from Nicholson and Strauss and apply it to the 2012 output, we find that Melbourne are slightly worse off in one percenters, but miss their disposal efficiency, fewer clangers, and increased tackling pressure. As a whole, the Melbourne defense in 2012 is worse statistically outside of contested marks, tackles, rebounds 50’s and one percenters, which are all more than likely a result of being under siege from the opposition more than they were in 2011. The key problem area here is disposal efficiency, as it is down 3% as a whole. I have included an individual recording of each defenders output from 2011 to 2012 for those interested;

2011: Player Disposals Disposal Efficiency Clangers Contested Marks Tackles Rebound 50’s One Percenters % of Games Played
James Frawley 18.7 0.79 2 0.4 1.5 5.2 4.4 0.95
Jack Grimes 19 0.75 2.2 0.7 1.8 5.3 2.7 0.27
Clint Bartram 14.6 0.69 2.7 0.3 3.5 1.9 2.7 0.68
Joel Macdonald 17.9 0.79 2 1.6 2.2 2.1 3.8 0.45
Colin Garland 14.8 0.81 1.9 0.7 2.3 3.1 5.9 0.81
Jared Rivers 13.7 0.84 0.9 1.1 2.5 2.7 7.5 0.9
Daniel Nicholson 12.9 0.72 2.3 0.2 3.6 1.7 3.1 0.4
James Strauss 12.9 0.83 1.4 0 2.9 2.3 3 0.4
Average 15.56 0.78 1.93 0.63 2.54 3.04 4.14 0.61


















2012: Player Disposals Disposal Efficiency Clangers Contested Marks Tackles Rebound 50’s One Percenters % of Games Played
James Frawley 17 0.8 3.1 0.7 2.7 5.4 5.9 0.87
Jack Grimes 19.9 0.74 1.7 0.3 2.9 4.3 1.1 0.87
Clint Bartram 13.8 0.76 1.9 0.6 3.6 2.6 3 0.87
Joel Macdonald 16 0.66 2.3 0.5 3.5 3 4.8 0.5
Colin Garland 12.6 0.75 2.3 0.5 4 3.6 5.1 1
Jared Rivers 12.6 0.77 1.9 1.4 1.4 3.1 6 1
Tom McDonald 14.9 0.75 2.6 0.7 1.6 3.3 6 0.87
Average 15.26 0.75 2.26 0.67 2.81 3.61 4.56 0.85
With Nicholson and Strauss 14.71 0.75 2.11 0.53 3.08 3.25 4 0.73
Nicholson/Strauss Difference -0.54 0 -0.14 -0.15 0.26 -0.36 -0.56 -0.12
Season 2011 v 2012 -0.31 -0.03 0.33 0.05 0.28 0.58 0.42 0.25


-3.00%






Individual Defenders: From Season 2011 to Season 2012

Player Disposals Disposal Efficiency Clangers Contested Marks Tackles Rebound 50’s One Percenters % of Games Played (2012)
James Frawley -1.7 +1% +1.1 +0.2 +1.2 +0.2 +1.5 87%
Jack Grimes +0.9 -1% -0.5 -0.4 +1.1 -1 -1.6 87%
Clint Bartram -0.8 +7% -0.8 +0.3 +0.1 +0.7 +0.3 87%
Joel Macdonald -1.9 -13% +0.3 +1.1 +1.3 +0.9 +1 50%
Colin Garland -2.2 -6% +0.4 -0.2 +1.7 +0.5 -0.8 100%
Jared Rivers -1.1 -7% +1 +0.3 -1.1 +0.4 -1.5 100%
Total -6.6 -19% +1.5 +1.3 +5.3 +1.7 -1.1 85%

Come Back! They need you…

Melbourne Midfield

Summary: For the 2011 numbers I had a particular focus on the influence of Tom Scully compared to the average Melbourne midfielder. As you can see, Scully aided his side most with his ability to win the football and apply pressure. Scully’s clearance and tackling work were especially important. The difference in output from 2011 to 2012 is incredibly disheartening for Demon supporters. Every single statistical category is significantly worse off, with total disposals and disposal efficiency in free fall. Disposal efficiency has dropped an average of 7.1% per midfield player in just one season. To indicate just how bad this is, I decided to add a couple of A-Grade midfielders in Scott Pendlebury and Andrew Swallow to Melbourne’s 2012 numbers (as seen in the 3rd table) in order to note the difference they would make. Sure, they advanced the numbers as expected, but even with their help, Melbourne’s midfield was still behind their 2011 output in disposals, disposal efficiency, clangers and tackles. You cannot simply alleviate this problem by overpaying some talent to come in and patch it up, this runs much deeper. Melbourne’s 2012 midfield output is far beyond a complete disaster, it is embarrassing. The difference in individual midfield output from 2011 to 2012 is once again included;

2011: Player Contested Possession Disposals Disposal Efficiency Clangers Clearances Tackles % of Games Played
Brent Moloney 12.3 23.1 0.73 2.3 7 5.6 1
Colin Sylvia 9.5 20 0.68 3.1 3.1 5.3 0.86
Aaron Davey 5.8 16.1 0.73 2.1 1.6 2.8 0.5
Cale Morton 4.6 16.1 0.72 1.9 1.1 1.5 0.63
Rohan Bail 6.5 18.1 0.7 2.6 2.3 5 0.36
Nathan Jones 7.3 23 0.73 2.6 2 3.1 1
Jack Trengove 8.6 20.4 0.72 3 2.8 5.3 0.86
Jordie McKenzie 10.1 20 0.8 2.1 4.5 6.7 0.68
Tom Scully 9.2 20.8 0.65 2.2 3.6 5.4 0.45
Totals 8.21 19.73 0.72 2.43 3.11 4.52 0.7
Average Melbourne Mid 8.09 19.6 0.73 2.46 3.05 4.41 0.74
Tom Scully Difference 0.12 0.13 -0.01 -0.03 0.06 0.11 -0.03








2012: Player Contested Possession Disposals Disposal Efficiency Clangers Clearances Tackles % of Games Played
Brent Moloney 10.2 17.5 0.65 2.7 6.8 4 0.75
Colin Sylvia 5.3 10.5 0.55 2.3 0.8 2.3 0.5
Aaron Davey 6 10.1 0.75 1.6 1 4.6 0.87
Cale Morton 5 18.2 0.68 3 2.5 2.7 0.87
Rohan Bail 5.3 11.7 0.6 2.6 0.6 2.6 0.87
Nathan Jones 10 21.9 0.69 3.3 4.9 4.1 1
Jack Trengove 7.3 15.9 0.66 2.1 2.3 5.1 1
Jordie McKenzie 7.4 14.6 0.64 2.8 3.6 5.8 1
James Magner 9.4 17.5 0.59 2.6 3.9 4.8 1
Average 7.32 15.32 0.65 2.56 2.93 4 0.87
2011 v 2012 -0.89 -4.41 -0.07 0.12 -0.18 -0.52 0.17



-7%











Adding a Touch of Class






Player Contested Possession Disposals Disposal Efficiency Clangers Clearances Tackles
Brent Moloney 10.2 17.5 0.65 2.7 6.8 4
Colin Sylvia 5.3 10.5 0.55 2.3 0.8 2.3
Aaron Davey 6 10.1 0.75 1.6 1 4.6
Cale Morton 5 18.2 0.68 3 2.5 2.7
Rohan Bail 5.3 11.7 0.6 2.6 0.6 2.6
Nathan Jones 10 21.9 0.69 3.3 4.9 4.1
Jack Trengove 7.3 15.9 0.66 2.1 2.3 5.1
Jordie McKenzie 7.4 14.6 0.64 2.8 3.6 5.8
James Magner 9.4 17.5 0.59 2.6 3.9 4.8
*Scott Pendlebury 14 29.6 0.72 2.8 5.9 6
*Andrew Swallow 13.3 27.5 0.74 2.9 7.6 6.5
Average 8.47 17.73 0.66 2.61 3.63 4.41
Average Melbourne Mid 2012 7.32 15.32 0.65 2.56 2.93 4
Pendlebury/Swallow Difference 1.15 2.41 0.02 0.05 0.69 0.41



+2.00%




Individual Midfield: From Season 2011 to Season 2012

Player Contested Possession Disposals Disposal Efficiency Clangers Clearances Tackles % of Games Played
Brent Moloney -2.1 -5.6 -8% +0.4 -0.2 -1.6 75%
Colin Sylvia -4.2 -9.5 -13% -0.8 -2.3 -3 50%
Aaron Davey +0.2 -6 +2% -0.5 -0.6 +1.8 87%
Cale Morton +0.4 +2.1 -4% +1.1 -0.5 +1.1 87%
Rohan Bail -1.2 -6.4 -10% -1.7 -2.4 87%
Nathan Jones +2.7 -1.1 -4% +0.7 +2.9 +1 100%
Jack Trengove -1.3 -4.5 -6% -0.9 -0.5 -0.2 100%
Jordie McKenzie -2.7 -5.4 -16% +0.7 -0.9 -0.9 100%
Totals -8.2 -36.4 -55% +1.3 -3.8 -4.2 85%

Sorely Missed…

Melbourne Forward Line

Summary: Due to being so adamant about Mitch Clark not being a dire need for Melbourne’s forward line, I decided to include him in the 2011 Melbourne Forward Line output so I could note the difference. I assume that all clubs have a database of players from the AFL and state leagues in order to simply embed their output into their current numbers to get a bit of an idea about how their skill set would influence the club’s areas of need. Thus I believe that Melbourne performed due diligence on Clark as a statistical fit. If this is true than they must have just thought “Fuck it, key position players don’t grow on Tree’s, you can never have enough of those” and offered Clark their millions. This is in no way an attack on Clark as a footballer, he has been nothing short of superb under the circumstance. This is me questioning the Demons recruiting focus, when it was statistically evident that there were other areas of the squad needing more focus. When you embed 2011 Mitch Clark, his final season as a Lion, into the 2011 Melbourne forward line output, you find that he improves them in the areas most required from a forward line perspective: Contested Marks, Marks Inside 50, Goals and Goal Assists. Although these improvements are a welcomed sight, they are not out of this World and by no means should they have taken preference over addressing the lack of midfield class.

Just like their defense and midfield, the 2011 and 2012 Melbourne forward lines are World’s apart. As a whole, they were once again worse off in each of the noted statistical categories. I decided to dedicate a space to Mitch Clark versus the rest of his Forward line teammates. As you can see he might as well not have any, as he IS their entire forward line. Someone of you may question why I just crapped all over Melbourne recruiting Mitch Clark when his numbers are so impressive in Season 2012. There is no way that Melbourne’s recruiting staff looked at the forward line at the end of 2011 and assumed “Yep, we’re going to be 500% worse off”. They averaged over 89 points per contest. This year they are averaging 63 points per game with the addition of Clark and absence of just one cog, Liam Jurrah. This area of the ground is suffering simply due to the lack of delivery from the midfield. This is a game style/coaching problem. Not every player simply quits as one. You cannot kick a football that is not in your hands. You cannot improve your forward line when it’s Inside 50 count is -10 entries per game compared to the year prior. The question needs to be asked, where is their leading contested mark and inside 50 target from 2011, Brad Green? It seems logical he be included in as many games as possible given the current shitshow on display. Green is by no means the player he once was, but he has plenty more to offer than James Seller.

2011: Player Disposals Disposal Efficiency Clangers Contested Marks Marks Inside 50 Tackles Goals Goal Assists % of Games Played
Jack Watts 16.1 0.74 2.1 1.2 0.8 2.4 1 0.5 1
Matthew Bate 13.1 0.74 1.3 0.9 0.6 2.1 0.6 0.3 0.31
Lynden Dunn 11.2 0.73 2.1 0.6 0.7 2.8 1.5 0.5 0.5
Jeremy Howe 12.4 0.7 1.5 1.8 1.2 1.5 1.4 0.3 0.59
Brad Green 15.9 0.68 2.3 1.4 2.1 2.9 1.8 0.4 0.95
Ricky Petterd 14.9 0.66 2.4 0.9 1.5 3.9 1.2 0.5 0.68
Jamie Bennell 9.5 0.8 0.9 0 0.1 1.8 0.3 0.4 0.72
*Mitch Clark 13.9 0.66 2.2 1.2 1.6 2 1.6 0.8 0.77
Average with Clark added 13.38 0.71 1.85 1 1.08 2.43 1.18 0.46 0.69
Average without Clark 2011 13.3 0.72 1.8 0.97 1 2.48 1.11 0.41 0.68
Mitch Clark Difference 0.07 -0.01 0.05 0.03 0.07 -0.06 0.06 0.05 0.01










2012: Player Disposals Disposal Efficiency Clangers Contested Marks Marks Inside 50 Tackles Goals Goal Assists % of Games Played
Jack Watts 17.5 0.76 1.7 1.5 0.3 1.5 0.7 0.3 0.75
Matthew Bate 12.7 0.65 1.9 0.4 1.1 2.1 0.7 0.3 0.87
Lynden Dunn 7.6 0.61 1 0 0.8 1 1.2 0.4 0.62
Jeremy Howe 15.3 0.6 2.3 2.1 0.9 2.1 0.8 0.3 1
Brad Green 11.3 0.74 2.3 0.7 0.3 2.7 0.7 0 0.37
Ricky Petterd 7 0.64 2 0 0 2.5 0 0.5 0.25
Jamie Bennell 3.7 0.82 0.3 0 0.3 2 0.3 0 0.37
James Seller 7 0.6 0.8 0.4 0.6 1.6 0.2 0.4 0.62
Mitch Clark 12.4 0.63 3.1 2.1 2.3 1.7 2.4 0.4 0.87
Totals 10.5 0.67 1.71 0.8 0.73 1.91 0.78 0.29 0.64
Mitch Clark V The Rest 1.9 -0.04 1.39 1.3 1.57 -0.21 1.62 0.11 0.23
2011 v 2012 -2.8 -0.05 -0.09 -0.17 -0.27 -0.57 -0.33 -0.12 -0.04


-5.00%





Forward Line: From Season 2011 to Season 2012;

Player Disposals Disposal Efficiency Clangers Contested Marks Marks Inside 50 Tackles Goals Goal Assists % of Games Played
Jack Watts +1.4 +2% +0.4 +0.3 -0.5 -0.9 -0.3 -0.2 75%
Matthew Bate -0.4 -9% +0.6 -0.5 +0.5 +0.1 87%
Lynden Dunn -3.6 -12% -1.1 -0.6 +0.2 -1.8 -0.3 -0.1 62%
Jeremy Howe +2.9 -10% +0.8 +0.3 -0.3 +0.6 -0.6 100%
Brad Green -4.6 +6% -0.7 -1.7 -0.2 -1.1 -0.4 37%
Ricky Petterd -7.9 -2% -0.4 -0.9 -1.5 1.4 -1.2 25%
Jamie Bennell -5.8 +2% -0.3 +0.2 +0.2 -0.4 37%
Totals -18 -23% -2.1 -3.1 -1.1 -3.5 -1.1 60%

Mitch Clark: Lone Wolf

Sail Away.

The final area I felt the need to look at was the experienced bodies that Melbourne decided to shed over the previous two years. Tom Scully left due to no fault of their own (cha-ching), lesser-likes Brad Miller, Matthew Warnock, Cameron Bruce and James McDonald were shown the door. These moves were both good and bad in hindsight.

A quick Snapshot of recent departures;

Player Name

Year Left

Key Contribution

Team Rank at Melbourne

Current Team Rank

Matthew Warnock

2012

One Percenters

2nd

1st

Tom Scully

2012

Tackles

3rd

5th

Brad Miller

2010

Marks Inside 50/Goals

3rd/6th

2nd/2nd

James McDonald

2010

Tackles/Clearances/Contested Possession

1st/2nd/ 3rd

1st/2nd/ 3rd

Cameron Bruce

2010

Disposals

1st

Summary: Letting Matthew Warnock and Cam Bruce go were positive moves that didn’t really impact that club. Warnock has been serviceable as a one on one defender at Gold Coast, but hurts his current team in virtually every other facet of the game. Cam Bruce has been on a carton of milk for well over 12 months now. He hasn’t doesn’t a single thing. On the other hand, refusing to hold onto both James McDonald and Brad Miller has proved to be dumbfounding to say the least, especially once you factor in the recruitment of James Seller and the rookie elevation of James Magner.

Melbourne already had players who fill these roles on their list 12 months prior. Not only were they filling a need, they were performing so at a much higher level than the current personnel brought in to perform the same duty, whilst offering leadership. McDonald has continued to lead in tough contested areas that younger players struggle to grasp. Miller has provided Richmond with a target up forward, and has contributed much more than the irrelevant recruitment of James Seller. Sure, they may be reaching the twilight of their careers, but they wouldn’t be holding back the development of anybody in this current Melbourne side. If anything, they’d be helping to nurture the current playing group towards the right direction. They may not be as durable as they once were, but they are experienced and contributing in areas of worth, which is a far cry from the majority of the current Melbourne outfit.

 Matthew Warnock Comparison in Season 2012;

2012: Player Disposals Disposal Efficiency Clangers Contested Marks Tackles Rebound 50’s One Percenters
James Frawley 17 0.8 3.1 0.7 2.7 5.4 5.9
Jack Grimes 19.9 0.74 1.7 0.3 2.9 4.3 1.1
Clint Bartram 13.8 0.76 1.9 0.6 3.6 2.6 3
Joel Macdonald 16 0.66 2.3 0.5 3.5 3 4.8
Colin Garland 12.6 0.75 2.3 0.5 4 3.6 5.1
Jared Rivers 12.6 0.77 1.9 1.4 1.4 3.1 6
Matthew Warnock 14.3 0.79 3.4 0.3 1.6 1.6 8.1
Warnock Ranking with 2012 Melbourne 4th 2nd 7th 6th 6th 7th 1st

James McDonald Comparison in Season 2012

2012: Player Contested Possession Disposals Disposal Efficiency Clangers Clearances Tackles
Brent Moloney 10.2 17.5 0.65 2.7 6.8 4
Colin Sylvia 5.3 10.5 0.55 2.3 0.8 2.3
Aaron Davey 6 10.1 0.75 1.6 1 4.6
Cale Morton 5 18.2 0.68 3 2.5 2.7
Rohan Bail 5.3 11.7 0.6 2.6 0.6 2.6
Nathan Jones 10 21.9 0.69 3.3 4.9 4.1
Jack Trengove 7.3 15.9 0.66 2.1 2.3 5.1
Jordie McKenzie 7.4 14.6 0.64 2.8 3.6 5.8
James Magner 9.4 17.5 0.59 2.6 3.9 4.8
James McDonald 8.5 22 0.7 2.8 5 6.5
McDonald Ranking with 2012 Melbourne 3rd 1st 2nd 7th 2nd 1st

Brad Miller Comparison in Season 2012;

2012: Player Disposals Disposal Efficiency Clangers Contested Marks Marks Inside 50 Tackles Goals Goal Assists % of Games Played
Brad Miller 9.4 0.72 1.4 0.9 2.5 1.8 1.8 0.4 100%
James Seller 7 0.6 0.8 0.4 0.6 1.6 0.2 0.4 62%
Mitch Clark 12.4 0.63 3.1 2.1 2.3 1.7 2.4 0.4 87%
Miller Ranking with 2012 Melbourne 6th 4th 4th 4th 1st 6th 2nd 2nd 1st

Melbourne could do with a little more of this

It’s a Lonely Highway

So where to from here? Mark Neeld in 2012 is currently playing a more experienced side than Dean Bailey did in 2011. Neeld has a proven key position target up forward unlike Bailey, yet marks inside 50 are down -4 per game, and scoring is down over 26 points per contest. Mark Neeld inherited a list that proved to be a top 5 outfit league wide when it comes to disposal efficiency, they are now ranked dead last and the only side currently travelling at under 70% on the season (68%). I trust these numbers, and they’re all pointing to the same problem, a breakdown between player and coach. Either Mark Neeld doesn’t know what he is doing, he cannot communicate his vision to his players effectively, or the players strengths simply do not fit Neeld’s game plan. Whichever of those three scenarios proves to be correct is irrelevant, as each one falls on the coaches shoulders. Failing to develop a successful strategy is a coaches fault. Failure to communicate clearly, handle personnel, or motivate your team effectively is a coaches fault. Failure to incorporate a gameplan suited to your current playing list is the coaches fault. In saying that, failing to be in tune with the capabilities of your playing group and failing to perform due diligence when it comes to hiring the correct coach accordingly is not the coaches fault. Mark Neeld is not solely responsible.

The current Cattle that is the 2012 Melbourne Demons is by no means elite, but as Dean Bailey showed, it can be serviceable.

Yes, I purposely included the most smug photo of Dean Bailey that was possible

If the Melbourne brass believe Neeld is the right man to take them forward, fine. The disappointing aspect for Demon fans is that he was not the right choice for the list right now. Blame the players “lack of effort” all you want, I just don’t understand how a team’s numbers can fall so drastically, even right down to the basic fundamentals of hitting a target when the only thing to change in 6 months has been the man behind the wheel. Each player was recruited to this football club based on fit (I hope), and they can only perform to their capabilities. If you do not form a strategy that plays to your players strengths, then you end up with the whackjob that is the 2012 Melbourne football club.

You do not try to force a piece of a puzzle into an area that it does not fit. You do not try to park your car in a space that is not suitable to your vehicles capabilities. And you do not try to be successful at winning football games with a list you do not have.

Mark Neeld has attempted to drive an Army tank into an already filled parking space, and the Melbourne brass handed him the keys to do so. That flattened car is now the optimism of Demon fans the World over. Fair enough, Neeld hasn’t had any influence on the playing list yet, but how long can Melbourne afford to wait? It’s going to take three years for Neeld to acquire the playing squad he needs.

Melbourne supporters, this is the part where you collectively release your toasters into the bathtub.

If those pulling the strings are convinced the Neeld game plan will work, that these teething problems are a necessity, then they have to stick it out and give him a fair shot at building his vision. If there is even the smallest level of doubt, Neeld needs to be shown the door immediately.

Should I stay or Should I go

There is no stat that indicates a players true discontent with a coach or a certain playing style. There is no way to accurately measure a player’s character or mental resolve. That being said, I struggle to accept that the players are “lazy” or have “quit” given every single player on the list has seen their output nosedive since Neeld has taken over. AFL football is a cut throat business, these are professional athletes. Some are fighting for a career, others are trying to establish one. It’s too big of a risk for every player on the list to buy in to the idea of tanking performance in order to have a coach fired, especially just 8 games into a season.

Supporters have two choices. Be prepared to wait three years in order to fairly assess the Neeld vision, or hope for another reactionary coaching move and start again. Neither road is pain-free.

Whatever your preference, know that as supporters you’re stuck caring whether you like it or not. You can throw the remote against the wall as often as you like, you can threaten that “this is the last time”. There is never a “last time”. You don’t get to walk away. This is not the last time something like this will happen. You will remember Season 2012 for the rest of your life, and sink every time someone mentions “remember how bad Melbourne were in 2012?”.

The allegiance last’s forever, the results change.

When they do, this will all be worth it.

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @Scottywashere

Round 8 AFL Preview: Richmond v Essendon

By Scott Barby

Tonight’s Dreamtime at the ‘G clash serves up two teams who play polar opposite gamestyles. On one hand, we have Essendon who rely on tough contested and more direct footy, whilst Richmond play a more careful possession oriented based style which is based on dominating the ball and being accurate by foot. It’s essentially effectiveness vs efficiency, and the fun part is there’s no right or wrong way to go about it. It just comes down to who can execute their chosen platform better on the day.

If you look at the following rankings, you’ll see a clearer picture of the point  I’m trying to get across;

Category

Richmond

Essendon

Contested Possession

16th

3rd

Uncontested Possession

1st

10th

Disposal Efficiency

1st

10th

Contested Marks

16th

2nd

Clearances

15th

4th

Winning Formula

In games that Essendon have won, there has been five key areas which they have always dominated.

–          Contested Possession

–          Effective Kicks

–          Hitouts to Advantage

–          Clearances

–          Inside 50’s

The Bombers play risky football, with the end goal being success via the most direct means possible. Win first use of the football, work harder than your opponent, use possession effectively to gain the most valuable ground, move it inside the danger zone as quickly and as often as possible. Essendon are focused on creating a pressure based atmosphere.

In games that Richmond have won, there have been five key areas where they have had the clear advantage.

–          Uncontested Marks

–          Disposals

–          Disposal Efficiency

–          Kicking Efficiency

–          Clearances

The Tigers play patient football, with the end goal being success via the safest means possible. Control the pace of the game, dominate possession, avoid 50/50 contests at all costs and break the opposition down via elite ball use. Richmond are focused on creating a game that is played at their speed and on their terms.

Losing Formula

In games Richmond won, their kicking efficiency was above the 70% threshold. In games lost it falls below 66%. The key to defeating the Tigers is pressure. Man up and force them to kick to a contest, create doubt in the ball users mind. Make the Tiger players accountable and trap them into 50/50 contests.

Essendon’s singular loss for season 2012 on Anzac day saw them defeated in all five of the above mentioned key areas, unfortunately these are all areas in which Richmond generally steer away from.

Key Personnel

For the Tigers to win tonight, they need their three best contested and clearance players in Tuck, Cotchin and Foley to win the hard ball contest against Essendon’s in and under trio of Watson, Stanton and Lonergan. Richmond’s performance is heightened when they find their elite users in Houli, Deledio and Grigg as often as possible, and under as little pressure as possible. Richmond currently have 12 of their best 22 travelling at a disposal efficiency rate above 75%.

Essendon on the other hand will rely on their two game breakers in Watson and Stanton. In 5 of the Bombers 6 wins this year, the Stanton/Watson combination finished 1st and 2nd for individual disposals between all players on each occasion. When they fire, Essendon win, and win comfortably.

Conclusion

So who will win tonight? It’s essentially wide open. Richmond will rely on execution, Essendon will focus on winning the tough ball and pressure. The two styles are on opposite ends of the spectrum. If the Tigers play an identical game to last weekend, they will win. Sydney were the second best contested side in the AFL coming into last week, and number one overall in tackles. The Swans are an elite high pressured outfit and Richmond swept them aside with ease. Under lights at the MCG in front of a 85,000+ crowd, it could be a different story, the scene adds another element of pressure in itself.

Essendon have answered every challenge thus far in season 2012. The total disposal numbers against the Bombers from round to round compared to their opponents overall season output has had the following rankings;

Team

Disposal ranking against Essendon

Disposal ranking in 2012

North Melbourne

13th

4th

Port Adelaide

14th

15th

Gold Coast

12th

13th

Carlton

12th

7th

Collingwood

4th

6th

Brisbane

14th

16th

West Coast

15th

10th

Essendon have already faced three of the top 10 high disposal usage teams in season 2012. They reduced all but one to significantly less than their usual number of possessions. Only Collingwood would get close mirroring their regular output against the Bombers, which the Pies also managed to win. Richmond rank 2nd overall league wide on this list, it’s the primary focus of their gamestyle. With Essendon’s proven ability to strangle teams, I’d expect them to do so again against the Tigers.

Tip: Essendon by 22 points.

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @Scottywashere

Still Got the Blues

By Scott Barby

At the conclusion of Round 3 of the 2012 AFL season, the Carlton football club looked unbeatable. They had just completed an utter annihilation of a premiership contender in Collingwood. The Blues were playing the perfect brand of football. What followed in Round 4 was a “How the hell did this happen?” loss to fierce rival Essendon, and we were again plunged into a World of flag favorite uncertainty.

So what exactly went wrong for Carlton between Rounds 3-4? Sure, they would bounced back with wins against Fremantle and GWS a week later, but they just didn’t look like the same convincing outfit. This all became obvious this past Monday evening when an experienced, yet barely above par St. Kilda outfit belted them all over the park. How exactly can a team go from winning their first three clearance battles in a landslide (+35), to losing the next four in a row by a differential of -31? That’s like a 10 year High School Reunion level of “whoa”. It’s also a fucking huge problem, as first use of the football is paramount in today’s game.

Alarm bells should be ringing down at Visy Park because there’s one man who has been absent throughout this entire ordeal. His name is Andrew Carrazzo, and he won’t be around to grab the wheel any time soon.

The numbers indicate that Carlton’s recent lack in on-field performance is solely a midfield issue. Let’s take a look at the round by round stats from the middle part of the ground to see if we can find any reasons as to why Carlton have gone from producing at a contender output, to a bottom 8 shitshow in just a month of footy.

Inside the Numbers

Round 1 – Win

Team Contested Possession Disposal Efficiency Hitouts Hitouts to Advantage Clearances
Carlton 151 73% 26 5.2% 39
Richmond 136 72% 38 4.75% 32

Summary: No real surprises here. Andrew Carrazzo lead all comers with 17 contested possessions and 7 clearances. Both ruckman had little influence on proceedings and were seemingly colorblind as their hitouts found the opposition on most occasions. Both teams were essentially at full strength from a midfield perspective. This clash basically followed the script.

Round 2 – Win

Team Contested Possession Disposal Efficiency Hitouts Hitouts to Advantage Clearances
Carlton 165 73 51 31.37% 47
Brisbane 137 69 35 25.71% 37

Summary: A one-sided affair with Carlton bitch-slapping the Lions across all areas. The Blues would register a season high 165 contested possessions, underlining the bib-like Netball style that we’ve come to admire from Michael Voss. Marc Murphy would lead the way with 20 contested touches and 10 clearances. Close behind was Andrew Carazzo, with 16 contested possessions and 7 clearances.

Round 3 – Win

Team Contested Possession Disposal Efficiency Hitouts Hitouts to Advantage Clearances
Carlton 151 76% 56 26.78% 50
Collingwood 123 71% 44 9.09% 32

Summary: Collingwood had just two players reach double figures in contested possession, Jarryd Blair and Dane Swan. Nobody in the Pies outfit would exceed more than 4 clearances. Carazzo, for the second time in three games, would lead all players on the ground with 17 contested possessions whilst adding an equal game high 11 clearances.

At this point of the season, Andrew Carrazzo was responsible for 18.38% of Carlton’s overall clearances and 10.98% of their total contested possessions. To put these numbers into perspective, Marc Murphy accounted for 18.15% of Carlton’s overall clearances, and 9.72% of Carlton’s total contested possessions in season 2012. In comparison, Chris Judd is at 18.4% of overall clearances and 9.65% of total contested possessions.

Judging by the above numbers, I’d say that Andrew Carrazzo is a more significant contributor to Carlton’s on-field success than he is given credit for.

Round 4 – Loss

Team Contested Possession Disposal Efficiency Hitouts Hitouts to Advantage Clearances
Carlton 140 71% 36 44.44% 35
Essendon 142 72% 48 37.5% 38

Summary: With Andrew Carrazzo suffering a Shoulder injury early on, Carlton would experience their first loss in clearances for the year. Jobe Watson finished with 20 contested possessions and 13 clearances, whilst Brent Stanton was allowed to do as he pleased with 28 uncontested possessions at 83% disposal efficiency. You’d imagine that Carrazzo would have gone to one of these players at least at some point. The Blues were belted and felt the loss of not only Andrew Carrazzo’s proven tagging ability, but averages of 17 contested disposals and 8 clearances per game.

Where it all went wrong

Round 5 – Win

Team Contested Possession Disposal Efficiency Hitouts Hitouts to Advantage Clearances
Carlton 126 77% 54 9.25% 30
Fremantle 125 75% 32 18.75% 40

Summary: With no Aaron Sandilands to dominate the ruck, it was clear that Carlton’s midfield should look to assert their dominance early and win first use of the football. This failed to be the case. Despite winning 63% of the available hitouts, only 9.25% of those would be to advantage, a season low. Carlton would also lose the Clearances, but managed to hang on for an 8 point win thanks to the Dockers inaccurate kicking. Fremantle would finish with four players in double figure contested possession. The Dockers also had a spread of four players with 5 or more clearances. With no individual standout, it’s tough to designate whether or not Carrazzo’s tagging abilities would be able to impact the numerous contributors Fremantle had on the day.

Round 6 – Win

Team Contested Possession Disposal Efficiency Hitouts Hitouts to Advantage Clearances
Carlton 144 69% 47 31.91% 28
GWS 131 71% 24 33.33% 41

Summary: A lazy performance from the Blues to say the least, although somewhat acceptable given the star midfield talent that was rested. This would be Carlton’s first foray below the 70% disposal efficiency threshold for 2012, and they would register a season low in clearances despite winning 66% of the available hitouts. GWS would account for 4 of the top 5 clearance players on the day, with Marc Murphy the only Carlton player to make an appearance on this list. He would finish with a game high 9 clearances.

Round 7 – Loss

Team Contested Possession Disposal Efficiency Hitouts Hitouts to Advantage Clearances
Carlton 141 68% 60 18.33% 37
St. Kilda 136 74% 25 32% 42

Summary: With no McEvoy in the lineup for the Saints there was no excuse for Carlton to fail at dominating the midfield battle. The Blues won a whopping 70% of the hitouts for essentially zero advantage at all. It seems the trend of inefficient ruck output stems from a lack of mental pre-game preparation. If the opposing ruckman isn’t a designated first choice selection, the gameplan focus looks to be spent elsewhere. The two major standout games where clearances and hitouts to advantage have been a disaster were games in which the opposition were minus their number 1 ruckman (Sandliands and McEvoy). This is either due to the designated Carlton ruckman being lethargic and thinking that they will have an easy day at the office, or the coaches fault in failing to do the required preparation required. Whatever the reason, it coincides with poor performance and is a clear catalyst for costing Carlton games of football.

Hint: Tap it to someone wearing Blue

The Warnock Myth

In season 2011, Robbie Warnock was Carlton’s designated first choice ruckman. In 2o games for the Blues, Warnock would amass 591 hitouts, accounting for 58% of Carlton’s total hitouts for the year. At face value, it seems obvious that Warnock would be the major reason behind Carlton’s drop in clearance ability. There’s no doubting that to some degree this is true, but in the four games without Warnock in 2011 the Blues still managed to win the clearance count each time.

2011

Opponent

Clearances

Carlton

Round 10

Melbourne

36

45

Round 11

Port Adelaide

31

42

Round 12

Brisbane

33

34

Round 13

Sydney

36

40

Further to this, Carlton have won the hitout battle 5-2 against their opponents in season 2012. When you combine the fact that Carlton are winning more hitouts than their opponent his year, and were winning more clearances than their opponent despite having the same ruck duo as last year, you have to wonder about the overall impact that Robbie Warnock’s absence has had. Carlton were +25 in clearances in games without Warnock last year and broke even on hitouts. That disparity is down to +4 in 2012 despite a +102 hitout advantage over their opponent.  The Carlton midfield setup is completely out of sync.

Carlton’s clearance woes have nothing to do with this guy

Where to From Here?

So what’s the solution for Carlton, outside of fast forwarding to Round 14 when Andrew Carrazzo is expected to return? I honestly don’t know, and I think the problem runs deeper than one player’s absence. Carlton clearly have the cattle to be elite, for me it’s all in their attitude and preparation. The midfielders and their ruckman are no longer on the same page. The Blues are tied for second overall with Adelaides for Hitouts, yet are tied for ninth overall in clearances compared to the Crows who are first overall. This results in Carlton being the second least efficient hitout to clearance team in the AFL behind Melbourne. It’s evident that the clearances issue should be Brett Ratten’s number one focus, unfortunately for Blues fans, it is the injured Andrew Carrazzo’s who can help fill that hole. Clearance and contested work is his bread and butter.

Clearance king Scott Thompson could create havoc on Sunday

With a top 4 test against midfield specialist Adelaide looming this Sunday, it is paramount that Carlton are on their game, otherwise another loss beckons. The Crows will have three of the top five contested possession players on the ground, and possess the same advantage in clearances. With both teams being ranked in the top 2 for hitouts, the game will be won and lost based on who gets first use of the football. Considering Adelaide rank number one overall in that area, don’t be surprised if they run over the top the Blues just like the Saints did on Monday night.

Is this merely a form slump that will see the Blues recapture their earlier midfield dominance from rounds 1-3 as soon as this weekend, or will performance continue to plummet? Either way, it will be intriguing to see how Carlton travel over the next six weeks leading up to Carrazzo’s much needed return.

The key piece in the puzzle

Oh, and a quick warning to Essendon and Richmond fans. Hope like hell this doesn’t happen to Sam Lonergan or Shane Tuck, otherwise you too could potentially find yourself in the same boat.

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @Scottywashere

The Future of AFL Recruiting

The Future of AFL Recruiting

By Oliver Noonan

With the hysteria of Free Agency (FA) currently sweeping the masses across this great land it has become increasingly evident that the “good old days” of one club players and teams having all of the power in contract negotiations appear to be gone. However, Free Agency will not be the meat market free-for-all that many are predicting, but I will save that for another day and another article. What FA will do however, is create a bigger gulf between the well managed teams and those that struggle to show and sell a clear and succinct vision of future success to their players. FA will ultimately give players who have served eight or more seasons with the one club, a chance to get out of a bad situation that they don’t see improving.

With that in mind, the drafting and recruiting skills of clubs will be put under even more pressure and scrutiny. The ability of a club to inject their team with young and cheap talent will be paramount if they are to continue to build towards, or stay on the top. Collingwood and Geelong are two teams who have managed to stay near the top of the ladder through their ability to draft in young talent to surround their lists of stars. The debate remains about whether or not these players simply look so much better than others due to the calibre of players that they are surrounded by, but there is no doubting that the two teams who regularly spend the most on recruiting constantly do well in bringing in young players. From Geelong; Menzel, Duncan, Christensen, Motlop and Guthrie and from Collingwood; Fasolo, Blair, Keeffe and Sinclair are all regular contributors for last year’s Grand Finalists despite not a single one of them being selected in the top 10 of the draft. By recruiting these young and talented players, both of these teams have not only added to their depth, but have also softened the potential blow of losing one of their stars to the upcoming FA period.

Another team, in this case, Richmond, have taken a slightly different approach to preparing for the upcoming FA period. Richmond have drafted and traded for need. For for that don’t know, there are two main ways you can draft. You can draft for Best Player Available (Talent) or draft to fill a hole in your side (Need). An example of drafting for talent would be the West Coast Eagles selecting Nic Nat whilst at the time having the dominant ruckman of the comp in Dean Cox and an example of drafting for need would be GWS bypassing several quality mids in last year’s draft to stock up on KPPs.

In the last few years, Richmond have managed to turn picks 14, 37 and Andy Collins into Pick 15 (Brandon Ellis), Steven Morris, Bachar Houli (PSD), Shaun Grigg and Ivan Maric. Each of these players, whether traded for or drafted, has been targeted with a specific position and place in the team in mind. Morris has become the small lock down defender they needed, Houli adds skill off the backline and Grigg is having a career year being a goal kicking midfielder. Ellis, in my opinion, was not the best player left at pick 15 of last year’s draft, but his drafting and subsequent play off the half backline has allowed Brett Deledio to become a damaging midfielder. The selection of Ivan Maric, a ruckman deemed disposable by the Adelaide Crows (who do have great ruck depth) by trading pick 37 has proved an astute move as he, despite not being a world beater, is now giving the Tigers midfield an even chance at stoppages.

This system of targeting a specific player and trading for him is just another cost effective way of building a list. The Tigers have also managed to front load a lot of their contracts and will enter the FA period with a wealth of cap space and a clear team picture due to their cost effective trading strategy.

No one way of building a list is better than another because all of the aforementioned methods have been used by many clubs to varying degrees of success. But it bears noticing that teams are now being put on notice by the increased potential of player movement to improve their operating standards or they risk the chance of having to part ways with some of their senior players.

Feel free to hit me up on Twitter if you want to talk further about this or tell me how little you thought of this article at @OllyNoonan.

Thanks for your time. Another article (A Guide to Free Agency) is coming up soon.

James Harden – A Model of Consistency

By Scott Barby

The NBA seems to be lacking in your quality prototype shooting guard of old. In the current NBA landscape we have a bevy of misfits. There’s the undersized high scoring combo guard in Monta Ellis. The pure scorer in Eric Gordon or Kevin Martin. The outside threat in Ray Allen. The inefficient and unreliable Joe Johnson or Tyreke Evans. Then we have our veteran staples in Manu Ginobili, Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant. Each has their own flaw, but with the league lacking in modern-day talent at the “two” spot, they’ve become rare nuggets of gold in a landscape devoid of superstar talent. They’ve become a luxury.

Elite

What do we look for in a prototype shooting guard? A shooting assassin with extended range. The ability to handle the ball, read screens and split double teams. A great passer, and equally as determined defender. It doesn’t hurt if they can provide a little bit of point guard relief, and are quick enough to get to the rim. They need to be equipped with a high number of shots and repay that supply with reasonable shooting percentages. Above all else, they need to be consistent.

James Harden is all of these things.

After two years at Arizona State, James Harden came into the league as the 3rd overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft. With college averages of 19 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists in 31 minutes of playing time, the pro expectation bar was set rather high.

Harden would reach All American status whilst at Arizona State

In his rookie year with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Harden struggled as the majority do, and would see no more than 23 minutes per game. Over the course of his rookie campaign, Harden shot the ball at a career low percentage and was quickly branded with the “bust” tag. But looking at his advanced stats told a different story. In the 8 games where Harden played in excess of 30 minutes, he recorded season highs in every statistical category.

Season 2009/10 Points Rebounds Assists FG% FT% 3PT% Efficiency
Regular Season Average 9.9 3.2 1.8 .403 .808 .375 9.7
>30 Minutes Per Game 16 4.3 2.8 .468 .881 .436 17.3

Further to this, in games where Harden produced 13+ points, the Thunder posted a record of 16-7. In the 10 games where Harden produced his highest efficiency rating, he played over 25 minutes, and the Thunder registered an 8-2 record in this stretch. Contrary to this, Harden’s 10 least efficient outings resulted in a 6-4 record for the Thunder, he would play no more than 23 minutes in each of these games. The writing was on the wall, it made sense to get Harden more involved. During his rookie season, Harden failed to rank inside the top 50 league wide for any statistical category, and would rank inside the top 10 among shooting guards in just one category, fouls (7th overall).

“FOUL!” This was a common scene during Harden’s rookie campaign

During his second season as a pro, Harden would increase his playing time to 27 minutes per game and even managed to start on five occasions. Although his game would advance itself across all areas, there were still question marks as to why the “guy with the beard” wasn’t a more significant part of the Thunder. If we apply the same “more than 30 minutes per game” statistical breakdown as we did during his rookie tenure, we can see exactly why those questions were put forward, as his level of production improves across the board.

Season 2010/11 Points Rebounds Assists FG% FT% 3PT% Efficiency
Regular Season Average 12.2 3.1 2.1 .436 .843 .349 12.2
>30 Minutes Per Game 15.3 4.2 3 .472 .835 .362 17

In season 2010/11, there were 33 instances where Harden played 30 minutes or more. The Thunder posted a record of 22-11 in these games. Harden would not rank among the top 40 in any statistical category league wide, and again would only break the top 10 in one category amongst shooting guards, fouls (6th overall).

Stop fouling James!

The 2011/12 season would see Harden finally break the mold and register more than 30 minutes per game. To no surprise this would result in Harden’s most productive year to date. What stands out is his ability to remain sharply consistent with his production despite the added responsibility. The efficient shooting percentages are simply remarkable.

Season 2011/12 Points Rebounds Assists FG% FT% 3PT% Efficiency
Regular Season Average 16.8 4.2 3.7 .491 .846 .390 17.5

The focus must now switch to increasing the minutes even more, as the Thunder post an 11-3 record when Harden plays greater than 35 minutes. With more minutes comes more production, it’s just the natural Harden effect. When he scores 24 or more points, Oklahoma are 9-0. For those who witnessed Harden takeover against the Dallas Mavericks on the road in Game 4 of the Playoffs, making him a more vocal point of the offense is an extremely logical move. In season 2012, his first with receiving 30 minutes or more per game, Harden would rank inside the Top 50 league wide in 9 separate statistical categories. He would also rank Top 10 amongst shooting guards in these same 9 categories. More importantly, he would finish Top 3 in efficiency and field goal percentage. This is unprecedented territory given the added responsibility. For these two statistical areas to increase is a true credit to James Harden’s basketball IQ and proven consistency. His efficiency numbers are through the fucking clouds let alone the roof.

Pay this man.

A Max Contract awaits…

The basic formula for Coach Brooks is; More minutes + More touches for the Beard = More wins. If only it were all that simple. For starters, try telling that to Russell Westbrook. Math is clearly not his strong suit. If you’re not convinced, the following graph from 82games.com sums it up to perfection.

Courtesy of 82games.com

In 61% of overall game time played, Harden has a net production value far exceeding that of his opponent. From a team perspective, when he plays the Thunder are +8.2 overall, which means he has the second highest level of statistical impact on the team behind Kevin Durant. Not only does Harden impact the majority of the core minutes, he is also primarily responsible for the output of the second unit, an area where Oklahoma ranks inside the NBA’s top ten teams.

The above numbers along with Harden’s constant improvement are impressive, but does he play defense like our prototype shooting guard? The short answer? Yes. According to hoopsstats.com there were 56 occurrences this season where Harden and his direct opponent went head to head for 25 minutes or more. This is a significant enough of a sample size for us to make an educated evaluation on who won the one on one battle. In these 56 games Harden, from an overall efficiency standpoint, finished with a record of 38-18. In comparison, Kobe Bryant produced a record of 35-20 against his direct opponent.

James Harden plays defense.

Of the 38 games where Harden was more efficient than his direct opponent, the Thunder went 29-9. In the 18 matchups he lost, 11-7. Thus it’s overwhelmingly clear that the more productive Harden is against his opponent, the more successful Oklahoma are against theirs.

When Harden plays well, they win

So far we’ve ticked off that James Harden is efficient, plays defense, shoots the ball at an elite percentage and is the definition of consistency, but can he get to the rim? The following table indicates Harden’s Field Goal makes across the floor. As you will see, 48% of his made baskets are at the rim, with only 30.7% of these being assisted on. This tells us that Harden creates his own path to the cup and does so at a 70% success rate. He’s efficient because he’s smart. The man’s basketball IQ is that of a 10 year veteran. He can beat you getting to the rim, or from outside.

Shot Location Made Attempted FG% % Assisted
At Rim 2.4 3.4 70.4% 30.7%
3-9 Feet 0.3 0.8 30.8% 12.5%
10-15 Feet 0.1 0.1 62.5% 0.0%
16-23 Feet 0.4 1.0 38% 29.2%
Threes 1.8 4.7 (e) 58.5% 86%

(Note: The 3PT percentage is recorded as “effective field goal percentage”. This statistic adjusts for the fact that a 3-point field goal is worth one more point than a 2-point field goal. E.g. Player “A” goes 4/10 with two 3’s, whilst player “B” goes 5/10 with zero 3’s, each player would have 10 points, thus the same effective field goal percentage of 50%)

This brings us to our final requirement for our prototype shooting guard. Can the player in question handle the ball and provide a little bit of point guard relief? At face value, James Harden looks fairly capable of doing so. He ranks 7th overall in assists amongst shooting guards (3.7 per game) along with 2.2 turnovers, for an assist to turnover ratio of 1.67. For comparison sake, Kobe Bryant is marginally worse at 1.29, whilst Chris Paul has an elite assist to turnover ratio of 4.38. Harden still beats out teammate Russell Westbrook who comes in last amongst NBA starting point guards at a ratio of 1.52. Can I get a slow clap started for Russell please? According to 82games.com and their turnover/ball handling ratings, Harden has a “hands rating” of 14.4 which is quite pedestrian compared to fellow shooting guards with a high ball usage rating.

Player Hands Rating
Manu Ginobili 24.6
Monta Ellis 20.3
Dwyane Wade 18.3
Rodney Stuckey 16.7
Joe Johnson 16.2
Kobe Bryant 15.4
Tyreke Evans 15.3
Eric Gordon 14.7
James Harden 14.4
OJ Mayo 12.3
Kevin Martin 12.1

It’s evident that Harden still has a long way to go in terms of point guard efficiency. Although after witnessing his ability to manage Game 4 in the 4th quarter against Dallas, I’m happy to throw every stat under the bus and give him playmaking God status. Despite any shortcomings, the good news is that 64% of Harden’s assists are via two point baskets, with more than half of those being at the rim as opposed to bail out three pointers with the shot clock winding down. Can Harden effectively handle the ball full-time? No. In extended stretches? Possibly. In spurts depending on the game situation? Definitely.

Harden’s playmaking abilities still need work

There’s no doubting that James Harden still sits behind Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade on the shooting guard pecking order. That’s not the question here and at this stage of Harden’s career it isn’t even debatable. There is one comparison which has significant merit though, right down to the spooky parallels of elite efficiency, high shooting percentages, coming off the bench and being left-handed. That player in question? Manu Ginobili.

James, is that you?

Some may shrug their shoulders. Is Manu a Superstar? No. Perennial All Star? Yes. If you go the extra step and compare the numbers between Ginobili’s first year coming off the bench and Harden’s most recent regular season, things start to get a little weird.

Player Minutes Per Game Points Per Game Rebounds Assists FG% 3PT% FT%
Manu Ginobili 27.5 16.5 4.4 3.5 .464 .396 .860
James Harden 31.4 16.8 4.1 3.7 .491 .390 .846

The numbers are almost freakishly identical. If Manu Ginobili shows up on a basketball court with a giant beard any time soon, I’m heading straight for the fucking basement.

Provided James Harden continues to improve, who knows what his ceiling could be. Has there ever been another great all around super efficient shooting guard like Manu Ginobili in the league before? Comparing Harden to Manu is no insult. We’re all so quick to forget that Ginobili is a guy who joined the league at 25 years of age and was struck down at his peak by significant injury. What surprises is that James Harden is mirroring Manu’s prime output at the mere age of 22. Harden is a baby in terms of Pro basketball experience, yet he already has a hoops IQ that instantly puts him in the Basketball Mensa. The tremendous base is there, the potential still oozes, the attitude is right and the motivation seems evident. If he etched out a Manu like career? It may seem selfish but from what I’ve seen from James Harden so far, I’d call that about par.

I want to see Harden exceed the Ginobili expectation. I hope Scott Brooks and the Oklahoma City Thunder provide him that opportunity. They’re on the right path thus far, even despite what looks like the best efforts of in-house sabotage from Russell Westbrook. In saying that, if Harden’s growth stagnates and he turns into Manu part deuce, would the Thunder be disappointed? No chance in hell.

At this point it’s all just opinion. We’re still 5 years away from James Harden entering his prime. Those of us who are basketball purists that value high IQ Hoops and extreme efficiency should simultaneously wet ourselves in anticipation of that journey. All things being well, the next chapter will begin with Manu and Harden going head to head in the Western Conference Finals. Knowing the NBA’s ability to constantly let us down in these spots, there’s probably zero chance of that happening. It’s just how the league works, and why we’re yet to have LeBron v Kobe in the Finals. Stop flipping the script, NBA. Try some vanilla flavor for once.

Separated at birth, at least statistically speaking

It’s virtually impossible to determine which Russell Westbrook will show up on any given night, and whether or not Kevin Durant will lay a 5/17 stinkbomb like he did in Game 2 against the Mavs, or drop a 50 point special. With a series against the Lakers looming, who can we bookmark to show up and consistently perform? According to the current numbers, Kobe Bryant will, World Peace will, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum might. Provided Coach Brooks has him in on the floor, and World Peace keeps his elbows by his side, like he has proven at every level of competition throughout his career, James Harden will.

(Thanks to Hoopsstats.com 82games.com and hoopdata.com for the numbers)

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @Scottywashere

Round 7 AFL Preview: Gold Coast v GWS

By Scott Barby

Gold Coast vs GWS – Round 7: 2012

Manuka Oval, Saturday 12th May, 1.40pm (AEST)

LAST TIME: First Meeting

CURRENT POINT SPREAD: 24.5

CURRENT HEAD TO HEAD: Gold Coast $1.28. GWS $3.75

2011 Gold Coast ATS: 9-13. Under 24.5: 0-2. Over 24.5: 9-11

2012 Gold Coast ATS: 3-3. Under 24.5: 0-1. Over 24.5: 3-2

2012 GWS ATS: 5-1. Under 24.5: 0-0, Over 24.5: 5-1

TV:  FoxSports 1 (Live)

RADIO: SEN, ABC774

Teams:

Gold Coast Suns
B: Jared Brennan, Matthew Warnock, Seb Tape
HB: Sam Iles, Michael Coad, Joel Wilkinson
C: Michael Rischitelli, Karmichael Hunt, Trent McKenzie
HF: Harley Bennell, Tom Lynch, Josh Toy
F: Campbell Brown, Sam Day, Luke Russell
Foll: Zac Smith, Josh Caddy, Gary Ablett
I/C: Charlie Dixon, Dion Prestia, David Swallow, Kyal Horsley
Emg: Daniel Stanley, Matt Shaw, Jeremy Taylor

In: Gary Ablett, Michael Coad, Michael Rischitelli
Out: Maverick Weller, Matt Shaw, Nathan Bock (leg)

GWS GIANTS
B: Luke Power, Tim Mohr, Adam Kennedy
HB: Tomas Bugg, Phil Davis, Dylan Shiel
C: Tom Scully, Toby Greene, Chad Cornes
HF: Adam Treloar, Jeremy Cameron, Dom Tyson
F: Rhys Palmer, Israel Folau, Devon Smith
Foll: Jonathan Giles, Callan Ward, Jacob Townsend
I/C: Andrew Phillips, Stephen Coniglio, Liam Sumner, Taylor Adams
Emg: Nathan Wilson, Adam Tomlinson, Sam Reid

In: Jeremy Cameron, Israel Folau, Andrew Phillips, Jacob Townsend, Adam Treloar, Chad Cornes
Out: Curtly Hampton, Jack Hombsch (quad soreness), Dean Brogan (elbow), Setanta O’hAilpín (knee), James McDonald (rest), Sam Reid
New: Andrew Phillips (Lauderdale/Triabunna – TAS)

Introduction

Let’s cut to the chase, there was no way in hell I was letting this one through to the keeper. The battle for New Kids on the Block supremacy has me at a level just below Grand Final giddiness. I’m serious, and I cannot wait. Which of the AFL’s new pet projects has the better talent, the brighter future, the bragging rights? For Andrew Demetriou, this must be like the Sibling Rivalry episode of The Simpsons where Bart and Lisa go head to head in a game of Ice Hockey. “I LOVE GOLD COAST!” – “NO! I LOVE GWS!”. Only I’m hoping this one doesn’t end in hugs, I want these two teams to kill each other.

If Guy McKenna drops this game he could be fired immediately. This is a must win contest for the Suns, and don’t think for one second that Kevin Sheedy isn’t aware of it. There’s no doubt that “Sheeds” has plotted some shady level of in-game mind trick fuckery. The Giants would have circled this one on the calendar the second the fixture came out. This is their Grand Final. Expect curveballs from all angles. I cannot wait for the ball to bounce. Amongst a buffet of unanswerable questions lies one much welcomed certainty, Gary Ablett’s inclusion. Supercoach reasons aside, Ablett could potentially smash every statistical record that exists, and I hope he does. There’s no James McDonald named in the Giants side to even attempt to limit his influence, this could get out of hand quickly. I fully expect to piss my pants at his stat sheet once the final siren sounds. Did I mention I’m excited for this game? Well I am.

There’s essentially no comparison for a game like this. Sure, we’ve had “kind of” new clubs play newer clubs, but never like this. I don’t know what to expect. I don’t know if any of the following words are even remotely relevant. I’ve treated this like any other game with a few added areas of analysis, such as specific player impact in the categories I deem as being key. Maybe you’ll learn something about two clubs you couldn’t give a shit about, maybe it will add more incentive to watch tomorrow’s game, maybe you’re just bored and need some material whilst flushing a deuce. Whatever it may be, let’s get’s started.

Diapers and Dummy Spits.

Average Games Played

GWS

Gold Coast

Round 7 2012

35

46

Summary: Both of these sides are incredibly inexperienced, who’d have thought this? Is a 10 game disparity per player (on average) really that significant? In the big scheme of things, no. Both squads kids will play like kids. The battle here will come down to each teams more seasoned players. GWS have four players with 50 games or more experience, two of which have played over 200 games. Gold Coast have five players with 50 games or more experience, three of these players have played over 100 games, one (Ablett) has broken the 200 game barrier. Again, no real standout advantage here.

The Key Indicators of 2012

Season 2012 Averages

Gold Coast

GWS

Contested Possessions

141

136

Disposal Efficiency

71%

71%

Clangers

50

48

Contested Marks

8

11

Clearances

37

39

Inside 50’s

44

37

Tackles

58

60

1%

57

50

Contested Rating

GWS 202.35
Gold Coast 209.45

Summary: GWS win the category count four to three, although there is no element of significant dominance to be found. The Suns edge them in the aggregated contested rating number, although this is once again a minor advantage. Thus far, all elements are pointing to a somewhat even contest.

The Key Personnel

As a whole, we’ve discovered that the teams are essentially even in terms of their ability to win the contested ball, use it efficiently and apply pressure. I am convinced that this will come to who does what on the field. With injuries playing a role, it is essential to establish who will impact the contest and to what degree, and who’s absence will leave a gaping hole in each team’s ability to produce the goods.

(Note: Each player listed must have played at least 4 games in Season 2012)

(Double Note: Each Gold Coast player will be distinguished via “Maroon” font)

Player

Average Contested Possessions

Rank

Gary Ablett

19.8

1

Callan Ward

12.2

2

David Swallow

11

3

Toby Greene

9.2

4

Jared Brennan

8.8

5

Harley Bennell

8.8

6

Michael Rischitelli

8.5

7

JamesMcDonald (Out)

8.5

8

Dylan Shiel

8.2

9

Karmichael Hunt

7.8

10

Summary: Gold Coast have six out of the top ten contested possession players. The Giants third best ball winner (James McDonald) is out. Advantage: Gold Coast.

Player

Disposal Efficiency

Rank

Tom Mohr

84%

1

Michael Riscitelli

83%

2

Matthew Warnock

83%

3

Karmichael Hunt

80%

4

Maverick Weller (Out)

80%

5

Stephen Coniglio

79%

6

James Hombsch (Out)

79%

7

Adam Tomlinson (Out)

79%

8

Thomas Bugg

76%

9

Luke Power

75%

10

Summary: GWS have the majority of effective ball users, accounting for six of the top ten players, although two of these players will be absent due to injury. This leaves the Suns with the primary advantage, as they account for the upper echelon of more polished players. Advantage: Gold Coast.

Player

Average Clangers

Rank

Chad Cornes

4.8

1

Jared Brennan

4.7

2

Nathan Bock (Out)

4

3

Matthew Warnock

3.5

4

Gary Ablett

3

5

Callan Ward

3

6

Jonathon Giles

2.8

7

James McDonald

2.8

8

Toby Greene

2.8

9

Tom Lynch

2.8

10

Summary: Both teams split the clangers category, with the Gold Coast having the majority of mistake ridden individuals, although one of these players (Nathan Bock) will be absent. This is no blessing in disguise, as Bock is critical to the Suns defensive structure. Advantage: Tie.

Player

Average Clearances

Rank

Gary Ablett

9.3

1

Callan Ward

5

2

James McDonald (Out)

5

3

Dylan Shiel

3

4

David Swallow

3.7

5

Rhys Palmer

3.4

6

Zac Smith

3.3

7

Karmichael Hunt

3.3

8

Harley Bennell

3

9

Stephen Coniglio

3

10

Summary: A 5-5 split again, although the clear and obvious advantage here is in the Suns favor. Ablett simply dominates the clearances, everybody else is irrelevant. Advantage: Gold Coast.

Player

Average Tackles

Rank

James McDonald (Out)

6.5

1

Michael Rischitelli

6

2

Callan Ward

5.8

3

Gary Ablett

4.5

4

Devon Smith

4.3

5

David Swallow

4.3

6

Dion Prestia

4.3

7

Chad Cornes

3.8

8

Jared Brennan

3.7

9

Jacob Townsend

3.6

10

Summary: Again, a wash. What is alarming for the Giants is that James McDonald is starting to show up in every single category. He is clearly going to be sorely missed if these rankings are any sort of indication of what to expect. With their leading tackler out, the advantage starts to sway in the opposite direction. Advantage: Gold Coast.

Player

Average 1%

Rank

Matthew Warnock

8.3

1

Tim Mohr

7

2

Jack Hombsch (Out)

6

3

Phil Davis

5.3

4

Jared Brennan

5.0

5

Nathan Bock (Out)

4.5

6

Tom Lynch

4.5

7

Seb Tape

4.4

8

Jarrod Harbrow (Out)

3.8

9

Jonathan Giles

3.5

10

Summary: Gold Coast lead the desperation stakes six points to four, although two of these players (Bock and Harbrow) will be out due to injury. Jack Hombsch’s injury will also impact the Giants down back, thus leaving their backline even more wafer thin. Advantage: Gold Coast.

Player

Goals Kicked

Rank

Harley Bennell

11

1

Jeremy Cameron

9

2

Campbell Brown

7

3

Jonathon Giles

6

4

Gary Ablett

6

5

David Swallow

6

6

Curtly Hampton

5

7

Luke Russell

4

8

Phil Davis

3

9

Callan Ward

3

10

Summary: An even split with the Suns having the majority of the top end ranked players. I’d imagine Jeremy Cameron would be leading this table if he had played every game. The Suns clearly rely on forward penetration from the midfield to account for their scoreboard contributions. Advantage: Gold Coast.

Why the Suns will be victorious on Saturday. Also, hi Lauren…

Conclusion: I was going to break down each teams overall rankings from a league-wide perspective, but they essentially suck across the board thus making it a moot point. Between the two teams, only Gold Coast ranked inside the top 10 for a given category, which was 5th overall for handballs. With the two teams so evenly matched in regards to contested output, I am of the mindset that it’s going to come down to who’s more experienced players can have the bigger influence. As you can see via the individual personnel rankings, Gold Coast’s marquee talent is more prevalent throughout and they win the overall category count six to nil, with one category tied. What surprised me here was the omission of Tom Scully’s name across the board. Scully failed to make an appearance in the top 10 amongst each of the key indicator categories. Normally this would be of little concern, but when you factor in that the opponent is the Gold Coast, it becomes quite alarming.

Due to the Suns having the advantage when it comes to experienced heads, and their ability to influence the contest more predominately from a star power perspective, I see no reason to side with the Giants.

Tip: Gold Coast by 15 points.

I hope someone dusted off that sign for Saturday afternoon.

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @Scottywashere

Is Norwich City the Moneyball story of the EPL?

By Doc Sherrin

At the beginning of the 2009-10 season, Norwich City played their first match in the third tier of English football (League One) for 50 years. Favourite son and former Canary & Scotland goalkeeper Bryan Gunn had been permanently installed as manager during the summer and expectations were high that the club would quickly rebound from the disastrous season before that ended with relegation. After 22 minutes in the season opener vs Colchester United, the Canaries were down 4-0. The half-time whistle prompted an exodus of outraged home fans from Carrow Road, and some who stayed invaded the pitch to abuse the players before the 90 minute torture was over. Former Melbourne Victory goalkeeper Michael Theoklitos (playing his first game on English soil) was out of his depth in goal as the Canaries were on the wrong end of a 7-1 hammering.

08/08/09. What many thought was the beginning of the end was really just the beginning.

Within a week of the Colchester defeat, ‘favourite son’ Gunn had been sacked. Theoklitos was spared, but would never play another game for Norwich. Surprisingly, Norwich approached and secured the services of the manager who had just engineered that spectacular defeat in former Celtic & Scotland Captain, Paul Lambert.

Beaten 7-1 at home? Hire the opposition manager. Paul Lambert signs with Norwich.

What Lambert would have known about Norwich was the same as most football pundits. Celebrity cook and joint majority shareholder Delia Smith called the shots, a passionate and proud supporter base had been present for years – and their revenue model throughout the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s  relied heavily on a scouting methodology of looking for talented reserves at big clubs and promising youngsters with lower league experience. These were the players on whom Norwich most often profited; buying low and selling high. Steve Bruce (bought for £135,000 in 1984, sold to Manchester United for £800,000 in 1987), Mike Phelan (bought for £60,000 in 1985, sold to Man Utd for £750,000 in 1989), Chris Sutton (Norwich trainee in 1991, sold to Blackburn for £5,000,000 in 1994) and Craig Bellamy (Norwich youth team 1995, sold to Coventry for £6.5million in 2000) are all prime examples of the best survival mechanism available to clubs without a billionaire benefactor trying to stay afloat.

But like any good judge of talent will tell you – there’s an element of luck involved, and for many years Norwich City’s luck simply ran out.

Former Canary Steve Bruce. Bought for £135,000 in 1984, sold to Manchester United for £800,000 in 1987.

Paul Lambert was not inheriting a strong football side. In 2010 auditors described one of the principal business risks of the club as having “insufficient cash flow to meet its obligations for the 2010/11 season.” The seriousness of the Canaries financial plight was further exacerbated as near as the 2011 Annual General Meeting, when the Board, now including prominent actor/comedian Stephen Fry, admitted that they “couldn’t afford to pay the interest nor afford to pay the amortisation owing on the loans…” Norwich City could easily have fallen into administration if they had not managed to persuade the banks to temporarily suspend repayments of interest and capital.

Lambert’s saving grace among the misfits he convinced to come to Norwich was a striker who had just been signed to his ninth club and had made his Norwich debut in the 7-1 Colchester debacle.

Grant Holt. Only Wayne Rooney is ahead of him for most goals scored by an Englishman this season.

In 2001, Grant Holt was playing for the Sorrento Soccer Club in Perth’s State League Premier Division (yes – Perth, Australia!) Just 8 years ago, Holt was playing in a regional English football league featuring semi-professional and amateur clubs. His list of clubs, trials, false starts, loans, cuts and part-time jobs was par for the course before he joined Norwich City aged 28. Signed for just £400,000, Holt is now Captain, has scored 15 goals in the top flight this season and along with his manager was inducted into Norwich City’s Hall of Fame in early March. A more meteoric rise would be hard to find. Despite every ‘so-called’ expert insisting the Canaries were in for a long and arduous season before a return to the Championship, they are safe from relegation – and have been for a while. How wrong the ‘experts’ were.

So are Norwich the ‘Moneyball’ story emanating out of the English Premier League? Many would argue they are. But ‘Moneyball’ isn’t the concept buying young players with re-sale value. As alluded to earlier, Norwich has been doing that for years. It is also not the use of statistics. Sport has used statistics since people started keeping count of the score.

Perhaps Paul Lambert has been thinking along the same lines as former Oakland A’s manager, Billy Beane whom the ‘Moneyball’ story is based. Beane realised the baseball establishment was using the wrong stats.

If he could find the right ones, he could gain a competitive advantage in his job as general manager of the Oakland Athletics that would compensate for his small budget. That same small budget story also applied to Norwich City.

Before this season, only three players in the Norwich squad had any Premier League experience, and even that was limited. What they did have was a hunger to better themselves, a good level of football intelligence and above all, a will to win.

Throughout this season, Norwich has pressed teams, is full of energy, and has used different formations dependent on the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition. Lambert has used a 4-4-2, a 4-4-1-1, a 4-3-1-2 and a 5-3-2 this season. So far, he has proved himself to be possibly the best tactician in the Premier League. The reason Norwich achieved back-to-back promotion and have worried teams with superior talent is because of his incredible ability to negate the opposition’s strengths and expose their weaknesses. The Canaries have become difficult for other sides to figure out because the line-up and formation change so often – even within games.

They are also strong in the air. Norwich has scored more goals from headers than any other team in the league (15), and they defend deep. They don’t concede too many fouls, interceptions or tackles because of this. However this is also why they concede so many shots on goal. This is based on the theory that you let the opposition have a lot of shots but don’t allow them too many gilt-edged opportunities. The fact that they have scored the 7th most number of goals in the league despite their lack of possession show how good they are on the counter and through set pieces. Norwich also have the best cross completion rate in the Premier League this season (25%) and have seen their woodwork struck 25 times this season, the most of all teams.

The recent game against Arsenal (3-3) at Emirates Stadium was the proof in the pudding for any doubters.

While Lambert was forced to adopt the same principle’s the club was historically used to relying on – he has proved, at least this season that you don’t need to spend millions on players. He now has players throughout the Premier League realising that they may (at least for a time) be better off in teams built around them, rather than warming the bench at a ‘bigger’ club. John Ruddy, Wes Hoolahan, Jonny Howson, Elliott Bennett, Anthony Pilkington and Russell Martin are prime examples of this at Norwich.

Elliot Bennett celebrates his goal in Norwich’s 2-1 defeat of Tottenham in April.

They have by far exceeded where their player spend determined they should be finishing. Next year however, Lambert will be relying more on his tactical nous than worrying about his budget expenditure.

Being in the Premier League earns Norwich around £40 million from the TV deal, and ‘parachute payments’ of £48 million over the next four years (£16 million in each of the first two years, and £8 million in each of years three and four). In addition to that, gate receipts and commercial income will also be higher. Put it all together and the Canaries have at least £90 million more revenue. To place that into context, that is more than five times Norwich’s turnover of £17 million when they were in the Championship.

Back to back years in the top flight clears debt quickly, but also pushes up salaries and offers from rival clubs. First order of business though is to pay the man who’s led this remarkable recovery more money – before the inevitable happens – and Liverpool come knocking.

You can follow the Doc on Twitter – @Docsherrin

AFL Team of The Week – Round 6

By Scott Barby

Introduction

I’ve seen numerous “Team of The Week” Best 22 squads posted throughout numerous sources, and I always seem to find myself quickly morphing into a rage coma at some of the selections. I’m either blind (unlikely), really dumb (possible), or just see the AFL in a different light to the majority (probable). I’m not one to put much stock into an individuals sheer number of disposal, number of marks or even goals, despite them being the all important factor that can generally decide a game (maybe I am dumb). The rating formula I look to utilize stems from a player’s ability and desire to win the tough ball, to use it well with minimal skill error, to impact around the ground and do the little things that tend to go unnoticed, such as spoils and tackles. If you’re sitting at half back and simply being the link up guy in a switch of play 57 times a game, I don’t care. If the majority of your possessions are uncontested, again, I don’t care. If you’ve managed 35 touches but can’t hit the side of a Barn door, I don’t care. If your name is Simon Buckley, I don’t care.

The following players make up in my view the most valuable players from Round 6 of the AFL season. They are labelled via actual position to the best of my ability, and I have tried to limit the “He’s out of position, but we can’t leave him out” All Australian fuckery. If you disagree let me know, and we’ll discuss why I’m an idiot. Otherwise, here is my best 22 (or 25) from the past week of Football.

B: Karmichael Hunt, Luke Delaney, Beau Waters
HB: Heath Shaw, Matt Mcguire, Sam Lonergan
C: Scott Thompson, Jobe Watson, Josh Kennedy
HF: Steve Johnson, Lance Franklin, Harley Bennell
F: Steele Sidebottom, Mitch Clark, Dayne Beams
Foll: Dean Cox, Scott Pendlebury, Scott Selwood
I/C: Shane Tuck, Cyril Rioli, Justin Koschitzke, Joel Corey
Emergencies: Brad Sewell, Lenny Hayes, Ivan Maric

Honorable Mentions: First of all, put down the hammer and slowly back away so I can explain, Essendon supporters. There’s no Dyson Heppell on this list because he has hair like your average broad on Bondi and avoids the contest at every opportunity. The first part of that statement is a “borderline” lie, but if the stats are anything to go by the second half is at least debatable. 34 touches and 14 marks, that’s a nice day out. For me to add Heppell to this list I need to see more than six contested possessions and the opposite of the third highest number of clangers. Heppell simply played his role in a paddock all on his own, despite his singular contested mark being 3 vote worthy.

Secondly, there’s no Brent Stanton on this list because there were 16 other Essendon players who had more contested possession, and 9 other midfielders who had more clearances. I give Stanton credit for the 8 tackles, but 34 uncontested possessions? Spare me.

Defenders

Karmichael Hunt: Lead his team in contested possessions (14) whilst running at an elite level of disposal efficiency (86%). Karmichael was also equal first in team clearances (6), and added four tackles as well. The fact that people still cringe when he goes near the football is absurd. Hunt has found his niche and he has arrived as a quality AFL footballer. Read that sentence again, then slap yourself.

Luke Delaney: Week by week Delaney is becoming a more reliable man defender. He gave Jack Darling a bath via his team leading 12 one percenters. With the extra attention that came Darling’s way due to the West Coast forward line injury toll, it was up to Delaney to nullify any delivery, and he did so accordingly.

Beau Waters: 11 Contested Possessions and plenty of damaging run off half back. Superb user at 88% disposal efficiency. Waters should be stamped on everyone’s AA list at seasons end.

Heath Shaw: One of six Magpies with double figure contested possessions against the Bulldogs Friday night. Butchered the ball a touch with 68% disposal efficiency and 4 clangers, but his 7 tackles gets him the nod ahead of teammate Marty Clarke.

Matt Maguire: One of the few Lions players who can hold their head at least slightly high after another 67 point drubbing. If not for his twelve one percenters inside his own 50, that Voss coffin would have another nail in it. Zero free kicks against, the kicker here.

Sam Lonergan: Whether it’s taking out opposition players or winning the hard ball, Sammy Longergan doesn’t give a shit. He just gets the job done. Lead the team in contested ball, clearances and tackles, all whilst running at an efficiency of 77% by foot. Add two goals to the mix and it’s a flawless performance.

Midfielders

Scott Thompson: 16 contested possessions, 8 clearances, 10 tackles. Earned every cent of the pay cheque this week.

Jobe Watson: 36 disposals, 15 of which were contested. He’s the cock and balls to Brent Stanton’s vagina. 5 clangers hurt, but 75% disposal efficiency is more than acceptable. 6 clearances and 5 tackles further add to his selection.

Josh Kennedy: The Brownlow favorite and Contested ball king. He would be an unstoppable force as a homeless man. Kennedy goes after the Sherrin like a discarded 6-inch sub at a Red Cross shelter. Another Round, another week atop the contested possession ladder (19 in total). Add 11 clearances and 7 tackles and you’ve got a recipe for more Brownlow votes.

Forwards

Steve Johnson: Nobody feasts on the weak like Stevie J. He shits on the bottom four sides like he’s just walked out of a Mexican buffet. Finished second for the Cats in contested possessions this week and added 7 tackles. I’m glad he’s back.

Lance Franklin: Whether it’s winning the contested ball or plastering a pair of Lesbians on a shitty Ed Hardy quality T-Shirt, Buddy can’t get enough. A team leading 4 contested marks, 11 contested possessions and 5 goals to boot.

Harley Bennell: Everything I wanted Daniel Wells to be. Won the hard ball (11 contested possessions), added 6 clearances and 3 goals. Locked in 3 votes for the Brownlow and a Top 10 spot on my Man Crush list. Welcome aboard!

Steele Sidebottom: Finally found the desired level of consistency in Season 2012. Averaging 9 contested disposals on the year and had a season best 14 against the Dogs Friday night. Used the ball superbly at 83% disposal efficiency.

Mitch Clark: The one shining light in a house full of broken lightbulbs. Lead the league in Round 6 for contested marks (6), lead Melbourne in contested possessions (14), all whilst managing to kick 4 majors playing purely as a key position forward. His back must hurt.

Dayne Beams: Almost accomplished the AFL version of a Midfielders triple double. 11 contested possessions, 9 clearances and 11 tackles.

Followers

Dean Cox: Neck and neck with Maric for the top Ruck spot. His 11 contested possessions and cleaner ball use gave him the nod. I hate this pick. It’s so Vanilla, and mullet’less.

Scott Pendlebury: Finished third league wide for contested possessions in Round 6 whilst adding 5 clearances, 9 tackles and 5 one percenters. Pendles is starting to go full circle in that he was underrated, then overrated, and now underrated again. Current Captain of the “Don’t fuck up my fantasy team” All Stars.

Scott Selwood: Quack Quack Quack Quack. Hate him or love him, the ducking is in the DNA. 16 of his touches were contested on the weekend and Selwood also added a team high 9 clearances. 0, that’s ZERO, free kicks in his favor this week, for those folk on the hater bandwagon.

Interchange

Shane Tuck: Another week, another criminally underrated performance. Lead the Tigers again in contested possession and Clearances. Like an under-appreciated girlfriend, Tuck just keeps putting out whilst receiving little recognition of his existence. He’s more than just an object, Tiger supporters. Someone hug the man, for fucks sake.

Cyril Rioli: Kicked 6 and 12 of his 18 disposals came about via the tougher means. A lock for a starting sport for the best 22. This is my token “You’re an arsehole!” pick. Deal with it.

Justin Koschitzke: 5 contested marks and 5 goals among double digit contested possessions. He made Ryan Schoenmakers looks like Ryan Schoenmakers on the weekend, and you don’t see that very often.

Joel Corey: A Lifetime Member of the “When will these fuckers start declining?” Hall of Fame down at the Cattery. Lead all comers on the ground with 16 contested touches and 10 clearances.

Emergencies:

Brad Sewell: Lead the Hawks in hard ball gets and clearances. Definitely related to Shane Tuck, somehow. A career struck down by the underrated plague.

Lenny Hayes: He’ll be here every week until the day he dies, which means forever. Lenny makes love to the contest and provides at least 17 “Not Lenny!” opportunities per game. The double-digit contested numbers in possession, along with 7 tackles and 8 clearances doesn’t hurt either.

Ivan Maric: Plays exactly how he looks, and I’m not exactly sure if that’s a good thing, or a great thing. Reminds me of the “Ivan make Basket” character in Whoopi Goldberg’s “Eddie” at least 9 times a game. It was hard to leave him out of the starting Ruck spot. He’ll be here every week from here on out in some capacity.

Let’s argue.

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @Scottywashere