Monthly Archives: June 2012

Round 13 AFL Preview – Melbourne v GWS

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This weeks Round 12 AFL preview can be found here:

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Round 11 AFL Review: Richmond v Fremantle

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Round 11 AFL Review: Carlton v Geelong

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Round 11 AFL Preview: Carlton v Geelong

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Yellow and BACK

By Scott Barby

The lid has officially been frisbee’d off the balcony down at Punt Road. The Tigers are finally relevant again, and they’re here to stay. The term “honorable loss” has been replaced with “expectation” in just the span of 2 weeks. Richmond fans are now at a point where they should expect to win every game they play in. This isn’t just new ground for their supporters, it’s new territory for all of us. For the best part of the past decade the Tigers have been the league’s laughing-stock, now they’re tend setters. For those few who were still in doubt and labelled last week’s 3 hour beat-down of Hawthorn as a flash in the pan, you’re now forced to take notice. Richmond will play Finals football in 2012, and the reason why is pretty straight forward;

Damien Hardwick.

Hardwick has managed to implement a game plan which can be consistently tweaked to limit specific opposition output. Against Hawthorn last week, Richmond were required to dominate the contested ball whilst negating the Hawks league leading ability to restrict output. The Tigers edged away from their usual norm and went in hard from the get go, all the while still executing their usual possession reliant game plan. Their pressure was immense, registering season high’s in contested possession (not a Hawthorn strong point) and tackles inside their Forward 50 (21), again prying on Hawthorn’s shaky backline.

Tonight against St. Kilda it wasn’t so much about limiting the Saints in certain areas, but more about about incorporating their own style of play into the game. By dominating possession and moving the ball with rapid fire handball the Tigers were able to take the Saints out of the play and limit one of their primary strengths, tackling. If you keep the ball moving, you eventually find time and space whilst gaining valuable territory. Richmond sold themselves into trouble on a few occasions and paid the ultimate price. All in all it worked to perfection though, as evidenced by St. Kilda’s 2nd lowest tackle count for Season 2012 (55). Richmond only had 40 tackles themselves, although this was largely irrelevant due to the Saints low numbers in contested ball (139 to Richmond’s 145). If you play a laid back uncontested style against Richmond, you play into their hands. You need to force the Tigers to be accountable, instead it rained goals tonight. Neither team focused on limiting the other, it was an all out offensive barn burner. Great for the fan, Hell on Earth for Ross Lyon.

The Midfield Battle

In the preview article, I noted that Richmond needed to limit St. Kilda’s number of tackles, which they would eventually do via their handball heavy style. They did so accordingly (+52 in handballs). The other focus was on Richmond’s ability to match the Saints at the stoppages. The key indicators for these two areas are contested possession and clearances. Richmond won the contested possession count +6, and were only -1 in clearances (35-34), thus negating St. Kilda’s most damaging avenue to goal (dominating stoppage work). Who exactly limited the Saints in these areas? Let’s take a look at the individual numbers, firstly St. Kilda’s most prevalent ball winners followed by their standout clearance personnel;

St. Kilda Contested Possessions

Player 2012 Average V Richmond Difference
L. Hayes 11.7 10 -1.7
N. Dal Santo 11.5 5 -6.5
J. Steven 9.6 8 -1.6
B. Goddard 8.3 6 -2.3
D. Armitage 8.3 12 +3.7

Summary: Of the Saints most prolific ball winners in the season to date, only David Armitage would exceed his season average against the Tigers.

St. Kilda Clearances

Player 2012 Average V Richmond Difference
L. Hayes 6.7 6 -0.7
N. Dal Santo 4.8 1 -3.8
D. Armitage 4 7 +3
J. Steven 3.9 3 -0.9
C. Jones 2.8 4 +1.2

Summary: Outside of Dal Santo having zero influence, things don’t look too bad here for the Saints. Armitage managed to counteract any clearance influence that’s usually generated by Dal Santo.

Richmond Contested Possessions

Player 2012 Average V St. Kilda Difference
S. Tuck 12.3 8 -4.3
T. Cotchin 10.7 11 +0.3
N. Foley 10.6 4 -6.6
B. Deledio 9.3 10 +0.7
D. Martin 8.8 15 +6.2

Summary: Similar to the Saints, with Dustin Martin simply dominating tonight. Nathan Foley stands out as the only player who had their usual impact severly limited, although he was subbed out during the 3rd term.

Richmond Clearances

Player 2012 Average V St. Kilda Difference
S. Tuck 5.4 3 -2.4
T. Cotchin 4.9 7 +3.1
N. Foley 4.4 2 -2.2
B. Deledio 3 3
D. Martin 3 5 +2

Summary: Again, an even spread in comparison to season output. The key here wasn’t to beat St. Kilda, it was to match them in order to limit the Saints advantage in terms of scoring punch from stoppages. Richmond accomplished exactly that, and actually managed to outpoint the Saints in this area of scoring generation (32 to 30).

Speaking of goal origin’s, the final point of note in the preview was centered upon Richmond’s ability to hurt team’s who are turnover prone. St. Kilda would finish on 46 clangers, four below their season average of 50, but that didn’t halt Richmond’s ability to transfer those blunders into scoreboard pressure.

Goal Sources

Team Turnovers Stoppages Kick-Ins
Richmond 13-2-80 4-8-32 1-3-9
St. Kilda 10-8-68 4-6-30 2-3-15

Summary: Richmond would not only have the scoring advantage when it came to stoppages, they also made the Saints pay for their mistakes. As noted in the preview, in games where St. Kilda win they’re +90 in point differential compared to their opponent for the year. Richmond do most of their damage from turnovers, registestering a differential of +164 compared to their opponent. Richmond would win both categories this evening.

So there you have it. Richmond not only stuck to their game plan and executed it successfully, they restricted the Saints in the areas where they are most damaging. With Fremantle at the MCG on deck next Saturday afternoon, it’s time for the Tigers to exert their fan friendly style upon the Chinese water torture Ross Lyon infected Dockers. Lose next week and the past fortnight becomes largely irrelevant. Richmond must win their next two games and go into the bye with a 7-5 record. You’ve shown us all that you’re capable of Finals football, that you belong. The challenge now is to prove it. Anything else is a disappointment.

The expectation for the Tigers has now switched from showing improvement to winning games of football. With the current game style, on-field cattle, coach and belief. There’s really no excuse. Season 2012 for the Richmond football club is on the cusp of Finals or failure. That expectation isn’t just new ground for the current squad, it’s new territory for the entire Club. Until it’s accomplished, you’re still Ninthmond to the rest of us.

How long that tag remains is up to you.

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @Scottywashere

Round 10 AFL Preview: Richmond v St. Kilda

By Scott Barby

Well here we are again, firmly entrenched upon the Richmond analysis bandwagon. Featuring the Tigers on back to back to back occasions is going against the grain, but with a seemingly lopsided Round 10 card there’s no other option but to include them once again. St. Kilda v Richmond is the feature matchup of the AFL weekend and will take place on my favorite stage, Friday night Football. One thing these two teams have in common is that they’re exceeding pre-season expectation, at least in the eyes of the neutral. Richmond were looking at another year of growth, yet they’ve fast tracked their development after the opening fortnight of fixtures and have begun to decipher the do’s and don’t’s of Hardwick’s game style. The Saints on the other hand were fleeced by their Senior coach and left in a world full of “wonder”. Who would have thought that Ross Lyon’s snake in the grass antics would have been a blessing in disguise? Watters has come in and transformed their attacking game style from one which relied on suffocating the opposition with boredom, to actually being proactive and utilizing a more offensive friendly approach. Their fans are loving it, the players look to have bought in. The Saints have their spiritual leader in Lenny Hayes to set the tone and have been reignited with the introduction of much-needed youth. St. Kilda looked refreshed, Richmond look hungry. Who will have the advantage Friday night? Let’s see where the numbers take us…

Team Contested Possession Uncontested Possession Disposals Disposal Efficiency Clangers
Richmond 139 (15th) 250 (1st) 392 (2nd) 75% (tied 1st) 45 (8h)
St. Kilda 141 (11th) 209 (14th) 354 (13th) 73% (tied 4th) 50 (17th)
Team Hitouts Clearances Inside 50’s Tackles Once Percenters Marks Inside 50
Richmond 39 (9th) 36 (17th) 55 (tied 8th) 65 (11th) 43 (18th) 12 (6th)
St. Kilda 34 (16th) 38 (tied 8th) 52 (12th) 71 (tied 4th) 53 (5th) 12 (5th)

Turnovers Be Damned

The above numbers don’t really tell us anything definitive about St. Kilda. At first glance they look like a middle of the road side who rely on effective use of the football in a direct manner. The Saints apply plenty of pressure to the opposition, but they don’t rely on the usual key indicators that most teams do. They are rather pedestrian when it comes to winning the contested ball, but at the same time they aren’t reliant on playing a more patient keeping off approach like Richmond do. Like Richmond, St. Kilda use the ball at an elite level, but at the same time they are much more turnover prone when missing a target. The Saints don’t have an advantage in the centre, as they are just borderline above average in clearance work, although I imagine in recent weeks this is primarily due to the lack of their first choice ruckman. At face value Richmond have the more obvious game style. When they have the ball, they rely on accuracy and sticking to the game plan of possession dependent football. The Tigers aren’t focused on winning the football, they’re all about maintaining control the football once it does come their way. Then they go about the process of attacking via the safest and least turnover avenue possible.

We’re still yet to decipher what exactly St. Kilda does in order to win games of football. It’s only natural to take a look at exactly what took place in their wins and losses and see if there are any significant statistical trends which stand out.

The following numbers are rather inconsistent in the general areas which point to an AFL team being successful against their opponent. St. Kilda obviously aren’t generally reliant upon contested possession, as in two of their four losses they won the count, or have broken even. In two of their five wins, they lost the contested battle. The same holds true with Clearances, the Saints won the clearance count in three of their four defeats in Season 2012, yet had fewer clearances in two of their five wins. Inside 50’s again tell a similar story with the honors being split in St. Kilda’s four losses this year. The inconsistency again stood out against Carlton and the Bulldogs as the Saints had less inside 50’s and still won comfortably. So what exactly frustrated the Saints? According to the numbers below, it’s limiting their efficiency and overall ball use. In three of four losses this year, St. Kilda were out pointed with possession. In games where they turned the ball over more than their opponent, they lost. In games where the opposition has more turnovers, the Saints are undefeated. If Richmond can restrict St. Kilda’s freedom and force them to make indecisive turnovers, the Tigers are likely to come away with a victory.

St. Kilda in Losses

Team Contested Possession Marks Effective Kicks Clearances Inside 50’s Clangers Disposals
Port Adelaide Lost Won Lost Lost Lost Lost +6
Fremantle Won Lost Lost Won Won Lost -22
Hawthorn Won Lost Lost Won Lost Lost -65
West Coast Even Lost Lost Won Won Lost -38

St. Kilda in Wins

Team Contested Possession Marks Effective Kicks Clearances Inside 50’s Clangers Disposals
Gold Coast Won Won Won Won Won Won +75
Bulldogs Won Won Won Lost Lost Won +40
Melbourne Lost Won Won Lost Won Won -13
Carlton Lost Won Won Won Lost Won +25
Sydney Won Won Won Won Won Won +9

As for Richmond, if you read last weeks preview you’ll be very much aware of Richmond’s achilees heel, possession. The Tigers are #1 in the AFL for disposal differential with an advantage of +58.3 over their opponents. Below you can find the breakdown of how each side’s per game average compares to their direct opponent;

Team Kicks Handballs Disposals Marks Tackles
Richmond +16.2 +42.1 +58.3 +9.1 -1.9
St. Kilda +20 -18 +1.9 +9.9 +3.8

What this tells us is that Richmond prefer to handball and break the lines with quick ball movement where appropriate, as opposed to the Saints who rely on finding a teammate via foot. Further to this, St. Kilda aren’t known for restricting opposition handball, ranking 12th for least opponent handballs per game. This plays into the hands of the Tigers, who should be free to impose their prefered run and carry style through the middle. The Saints are all about territory whereas Richmond are more focused on forcing the opposition to react. Most would believe that the pro-handball mantra of the Tigers would play into the hands of the fierce tackling Saints (4th overall), although this doesn’t seem to deter the Tigers who appear to make the tackle count irrelevant.

Team Tackles Richmond Result
Carlton 65 64 Lost
Collingwood 51 47 Lost
Geelong 94 73 Lost
West Coast 61 58 Lost
Essendon 54 64 Lost
Melbourne 57 71 Won
Port Adelaide 66 60 Won
Sydney 71 66 Won
Hawthorn 80 77 Won

In three of their four wins, Richmond have lost the tackle count. This tells me that as long as they continually move the ball, they’re undetered by anything the opposition does. For wins in Season 2012, the Tigers have broken even in the tackle count 284-284 and are -19 in losses. They possess the ball so often that it nullifies any advantage the Saints possess, just like it did against two of the competitions other top 4 tackling sides in Sydney (1st overall) and Hawthorn (4th overall).

Re-attaching the Lid

So the lid has blown off down at Punt road, and fair enough. I was convinced that high pressure football was the way to defeat Richmond, and despite Hawthorn putting in one of the most lacklustre efforts of the season, I am still happy to say that I was wrong. Looking for another avenue to foil the Richmond hype, I decided to look at both Richmond and St. Kilda’s scoring sources for Season 2012. What I discovered was a trend indicating a method for defeating the Tigers. Don’t turn the ball over, and smash them at the stoppages. What follows is a points differential based on goal source between Richmond wins and losses;

Richmond Wins Losses
Centre Clearance Scores +57 -71
Turnovers +164 -10
St. Kilda Wins Losses
Stoppages +90 -6
Turnovers +134 -70

These numbers are truly remarkable in terms of showing just how deadly Richmond are on the counter attack. In simple terms, if you win the centre clearances battle significantly, you’ll defeat Richmond. On the other hand if you consistently force the Saints into turning the ball over, you’re likely to win. I guess the question is, how does this play into either teams hands? Do the Saints have the cattle to exert their superior scoring power from the centre square, whilst limiting their number of turnovers? The raw numbers indicate that it doesn’t bode well, as the Saints rank 3rd in the league for most turnovers (Richmond’s counter attack bread and butter) and are a middle of the road clearance side. To get a more accurate view, let’s break down the key individuals in the midfield to see who the Tigers need to out-point Friday night in order to limit the St. Kilda’s reliance on scoring power via the centre square.

The Clearance Battle

There’s no doubting that St. Kilda possess one of the league’s most effective clearance weapons in Lenny Hayes. Hayes ranks 9th overall in the league and will be the catalyst for determining how far St. Kilda go in regards to offensive output via this source. We recognised earlier that St. Kilda aren’t reliant upon consistently winning the overall clearance battle, the focus is on being efficient and effective when they do. Richmond have the personnel advantage in this area, with 5 of the top 9 clearance players who will be taking the ground tonight, although St. Kilda have the better clearance output overall 344-327 on the year. If the Tigers can limit Hayes, they should be able to squash the stoppage battle and at least break even. In terms of contested possession, both teams are well represented splitting top 10 honors at five apiece with Shane Tuck leading the way.

Player Clearance Average Matchup Ranking
Lenny Hayes 6.8 1
Shane Tuck 5.7 2
Nick Dal Santo 5.2 3
Trent Cotchin 4.7 4
Nathan Foley 4.7 5
Jack Steven 4 6
Brett Deledio 3 7
Shaun Grigg 3 8
Leigh Montagna 2.9 9
Player Contested Possession Average Matchup Ranking
Shane Tuck 12.8 1
Nick Dal Santo 12.2 2
Lenny Hayes 11.9 3
Nathan Foley 11.3 4
Trent Cotchin 10.7 5
Jack Steven 9.8 6
Brett Deledio 9.2 7
Brendon Goddard 8.6 8
Leigh Montagna 8.2 9
Dustin Martin 8.1 10

Who Will Win?

This matchup has been one way traffic in recent years. In fact, it’s the most lopsided in the competition with St. Kilda winning 13 of the last 14 games against the Tigers. Only 8 of the previous 72 matches spanning the last 40 years have been decided by single-figure margins. By all accounts, I would expect that number to change tonight. Last year was saw this fixture end in a draw. Since then the Tigers have grown and have turned a corner. In the corresponding fixture last year, the Saints had an average games played per player advantage of 117 to 52. That evening St. Kilda sent out only two players with 50 games or less experience, tonight they will send out seven.

When you mix the Tigers heavy disciplined and possession focused style with St. Kilda’s liklihood of turning the ball over, you wind up with a recipe for a Richmond victory. I believe that this game could go either way depending on who can force the other into low percentage play. If St. Kilda turn the ball over at a consistent rate, Richmond will win. If the Tigers are unaccountable at stoppages, St. Kilda will win. We witnessed a draw between these two teams last time they met, why can’t that happen again? For the sake of avoiding sitting on the fence, I’m going to put my faith in the Tigers again. They will nullify the St. Kilda clearance advantage via their giant Mullet in the middle. They will restrict the St. Kilda tackling prowess via their quick and effective ability to handball through traffic. They will be damaging against the Saints likeness for turning the ball over. If you hated the Richmond circus which insinuated after last week’s win over Hawthorn, you’ll love burying your head in the sand this weekend.

There’s been a drought of success down at Tigerland, may the rivers again run yellow and black.

Dive in and embrace the change.

Tip: Tigers by 3 points.

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @Scottywashere