Monthly Archives: August 2012

Round 22 AFL Preview: Hawthorn v Sydney

With just two rounds remaining in the home and away season the battle for a top two spot looks to be going down to the wire. The prize of a home qualifying final, possible week off and likely preliminary final on home soil is what Sydney and Hawthorn will be playing for. For the loser slipping to third, fourth or even fifth spot looms as a likely scenario given Hawthorn face top four combatants West Coast in their final fixture and Sydney a road trip south to the Cattery to take on a momentum building Geelong side. Sydney and Hawthorn currently sit first and second on the ladder with far and away the most impressive percentage of all sides this season.

Saturday afternoon will be the battle ground for the age-old tale of elite offense versus defense. Hawthorn rank number one in the AFL for points per game whilst Sydney hold the league’s best record for least points against. In round five earlier this year Sydney came out after half time looking like a completely different side. I’m not sure if John Longmire went all Pacino in Any Given Sunday during the break or Hawthorn just rolled over. Whatever the catalyst was for the second half blitz it announced Sydney’s arrival as serious premiership contenders.

Outside of Buddy’s “injury” shenanigans Hawthorn’s season has travelled as expected. The Hawks have pummeled weaker sides and struggled against Geelong which is now officially in the Madden curse realm of sporting plagues. We’re now entering year three of waiting for Hawthorn to recapture the September heights of 2008. The weekend’s contest should give us a fair indication of exactly where both teams are at. Statistically these two teams are impressive in comparison to the rest of the league, but how do they stack up against one another? Let’s compare…

Stats are based on average per game

Team Kicks Handballs Disposals Contested Possession Uncontested Possession Disposal Efficiency
Hawthorn 221 (1st) 160 (5th) 381 (2nd) 143 (10th) 237 (1st) 76% (1st)
Sydney 205 (13th) 164 (4th) 369 (5th) 151 (2nd) 213 (9th) 73% (4th)
Team Turnovers Marks Inside 50 Hitouts Clearances Inside 50’s Tackles
Hawthorn 43 (17th) 14 (2nd) 40 (11th) 41 (2nd) 60 (1st) 68 (5th)
Sydney 45 (14th) 11 (10th) 42 (7th) 40 (3rd) 57 (4th) 71 (2nd)

Summary: This gives us a pretty basic snapshot of what we already know. One side loves to play high possession based uncontested footy whilst the other is more fond of the old school contested flavor. Both sides use the ball at an elite level ranking inside the top five for disposal efficiency and the bottom five for turnovers. Neither side has any semblance of a dominant ruck setup yet both Sydney and Hawthorn rank inside the competitions top three for clearances. In a shock to nobody these premiership contenders are as impressive with the ball as they are without it, ranking inside the top five (again) for tackles.

Digging Deeper

That mini stats break down might look nice but it tells us pretty much nothing. A lot of people simply take a look at numbers or rankings at face value and go from there. Not to name any names but Robert Walls bases 100% of his analysis on this method; “Blah rank number blah in the competition for blah, so they will dominate blah in this area of blah”. Comparing what a side does in regards to the rest of the league tells you nothing more than a whole lot of blah. It’s worthless.

Call me out of touch with the experts but to me there’s no better way to get a deeper understanding of what makes a side tick than to take a look at what happens when they win and lose and how those indicators compare to the strengths and weaknesses of their direct competition, and that’s exactly what I’ve done.

What follows is a break down of Hawthorns fifteen wins and how those numbers change against their five losses. The same has been done for Sydney’s sixteen wins and four losses. As you’ll see there’s a marked difference in numerous categories, some more so than others. If we can find out exactly what makes Hawthorn or Sydney wet the bed, at least from an on-field standpoint, and then compare it to whether or not that weakness is related to either sides overwhelming strength we might just be able to make an accurate hypothesis as to who will win.

That last paragraph is basically just a fancy way of stating who I am going to tip.

Hawthorn, Wins and Losses

Whilst calculating these numbers a whole stack of impressive figures were thrown up with none more impressive than Hawthorn’s 1118 more disposals than the opposition in wins this year. To put that into perspective Sydney have had one more win than Hawthorn this year yet their total stands at “just” +386. Sure, the Hawks entire style may just be one big elaborate game of keepings off but that number still seems incredible to me. You’re not going to lose too many games if you possess the football a thousand more times than your opponent over the course of the year.

The other numbers which stood out to me were Hawthorn’s contested versus uncontested totals. In wins this year the Hawks have had more 845 more uncontested disposals than their opposition compared to 179 contested disposals, a difference of 666 (creepy). The uncontested style of play is further underlined in the marks column. Hawthorn have had 372 more general marks than their opposition in wins, and 398 more uncontested marks. It’s no surprise that a follow on from so many marks is a domination in the kicking department. Hawthorn rank number one in the competition for total kicks and have amassed 644 more effective kicks than the opposition in wins this year at a kicking efficiency rating of +96% with 52 fewer turnovers.

Just how good is this side? They’re flag favorites for a reason and I’m convinced that they only beat themselves. In wins this year Hawthorn have had only eight more hitouts than the opposition but have produced 117 more clearances. As I mentioned earlier the Hawks have had 1118 more disposals than their opposition in wins but the kicker here is despite dominating so much ball they’ve still out-tackled their opponents by 84 total tackles.

When looking at Hawthorn’s numbers what’s strange is that they actually lose games, sometimes by a lot.

Recapping what we know about Hawthorn: They love uncontested football, they’ve heavily dependent upon locating targets via foot thus produce a high number of marks, they’re the league’s number one side when hitting those targets and therefore rarely turn the ball over.

So what exactly happens when Hawthorn lose? You guessed it; those indicators all simultaneously crap the bed.

In losses this year Hawthorn have had an average of 20 fewer uncontested possessions per game, 12 fewer marks, are -7 in uncontested marks, averaged 22 less disposals, 10 fewer effective kicks and produce on average 3 more turnovers per game.

Those numbers aren’t exactly panic button worthy when standing alone, but when you look at the differentials between wins and losses they’re quite compelling as evidenced in the following table;

Hawthorn in Wins (15 games) v Losses (5 games): Average Per Game

Result Contested Possession Uncontestd Possession Marks Marks Inside 50 Contested Marks Uncontested Marks
Wins +12 +56 +25 +6 -4 +26
Losses -6 -20 -12 -5 -5 -7
Difference 18 76 37 11 9 33
Result Disposals Disposal Efficiency Kicks Handballs Effective Kicks Kicking Efficiency
Wins +75 +5.33% +44 +30 +43 +6.4%
Losses -22 -1% -9 -14 -10 -2%
Difference 97 6.33% 53 44 53 8.4%
Result Hitouts Hitouts to Advantage Clearances Tackles Inside 50’s Turnovers
Wins +1 +1 +8 +6 +20 -3
Losses +3 +1 -2 -4 -3 +3
Difference -2 0 10 10 23 6

Despite 78 fewer hitouts the Swans have still amassed more clearances than their opponents in wins this year which is largely due to Josh Kennedy who leads the league in this category. The Swans are also hell-bent on tackling anything that moves as evidence by 122 more tackles than the opposition in wins this year and number one ranking for team to opponent tackles per game differential.According to the above the Blueprint for beating Hawthorn is limit their amount of disposal, force them to kick to a contest, apply heavy amounts of pressure, or alternatively just lose a premiership to them and essentially set off a nine game winning streak curse where no matter what happens they can’t beat you.

Piece of cake…

Sydney, Wins and Losses

Sydney’s numbers look a little different to Hawthorn’s which is no surprise given the opposite styles of play. Sydney couldn’t give a crap about how much you want to chip the ball around, they will let you out-mark the shit out of them to the tune of -117 total marks in wins this year. The Swans are of the no-nonsense direct avenue to goal mentality and do so via any means possible. Sydney have totalled 236 more handballs than their opposition in wins this year and 178 more effective kicks.

Like Hawthorn, Sydney have experienced a few losses this season and like Hawthorn I think a lot of that has something to do with their mindset and ability to execute on the day. That’s a huge copout and you can make that case for any side in the competition but it’s the only way I can explain the domination of Hawthorn and corresponding smackdown they experienced against Richmond. Given both the Tigers and Hawks emulate each other in terms of a high uncontested game style I think one of three things happened:

  •  Hawthorn went to sleep against Sydney.
  •  Sydney went to sleep against Richmond.
  •  Sydney legitimately suck when playing at the MCG.

I’ll settle on a combination of all three…

Moving on to what indicators point to Sydney struggling and you’ll find that it’s mostly in areas which Hawthorn excels.

In losses this year Sydney have had 42 fewer contested possessions, 89 less marks, -125 kicks (-99 effective) at a total kicking efficiency rating of -11%.

Those last two numbers are the ones that really standout once you dig further. Sydney don’t like sides who kick or play contested football. All of the Swans losses this year are against elite kicking sides who all rank inside the top seven for total kicks: Collingwood (2nd), Adelaide (3rd), St. Kilda (5th) and Richmond (7th). Those same sides all ranked inside the top seven for contested possession per game differential as well: Adelaide (1st), Collingwood (2nd), Richmond (4th) and St. Kilda (7th when they met).

Where does that leave Hawthorn?

For total kicks Hawthorn lead the competition and for contested possession per game differential they rank third overall.

Although it’s only two areas of a game which can throw up a billion different scenarios it’s still a nice little recipe for a Hawthorn victory.

Sydney in Wins (16 games) v Losses (4 games): Average per game

Result Contested Possession Uncontested Possession Marks Marks Inside 50 Contested Marks Uncontested Marks
Wins +4 +15 -7 +3 -3 -5
Losses -11 -29 -22 -3 -33 -20
Difference 15 44 15 6 30 15
Result Disposals Disposal Efficiency Kicks Handballs Effective Kicks Kicking Efficiency
Wins +24 +4% +8 +15 +11 +3%
Losses -16 -1% -31 -9 -25 -3%
Difference 40 5% 39 24 36 6%
Result Hitouts Hitouts to Advantage Clearances Tackles Inside 50’s Turnovers
Wins -5 -1 +1 +8 +10 -4
Losses -9 -3 -5 +4 +4 -1
Difference 4 2 6 4 6 3

Hawthorn Scoring Sources

We’ve now established that to beat Hawthorn you need to limit their use of the football and force them into turnovers. To defeat Sydney it’s all about limiting their ability to win contested football and rip them apart via foot. How does this impact the scoreboard and do the two scenarios fall in line with either sides ability to produce points? The short answer is yes.

In wins this year Hawthorn have sourced 1183 points directly from opposition turnovers, that’s nearly thirteen goals per game. The Hawks average of 52 points per game from stoppages is equally as impressive as their ability to limit opposition production from this area. Hawthorn’s losses this year went hand in hand with a lack of ability to locate targets (specifically via foot). Therefore it’s no surprise that when Hawthorn get turnover happy they get grilled on the scoreboard to the tune of a -15 points per game differential.

Hawthorn in Wins (Average per game)

Origin For Against Difference
Turnovers 79 40 +39
Stoppages 52 25 +27
Kick Ins 8 6 +2

Hawthorn in Losses (Average per game)

Origin For Against Difference
Turnovers 47 62 -15
Stoppages 29 33 -4
Kick Ins 2 5 -3

Sydney Scoring Sources

When looking at Sydney’s scoring origins you’ll notice a heavy advantage in the turnover department. Like Hawthorn, Sydney have produced over 1000 more points (1046) from turnovers than the opposition in their wins this year. As you can see those numbers backflip in losses with the Swans defense significantly worse at stoppages and allowing sides nearly seven goals per game.

Sydney in Wins (Average per game)

Origin For Against Difference
Turnovers 65 34 +31
Stoppages 38 27 +11
Kick Ins 4 3 +1

 Sydney in Losses (Average per game)

Origin For Against Difference
Turnovers 46 53 -7
Stoppages 29 40 -11
Kick Ins 1 2 -1

Who Will Win?

I may be incredibly bias because this Hawthorn side is a statistical wet dream, and completely deluded once you factor in Sydney’s 10-2 record against Hawthorn at the SCG since 1996, but I like the Hawks to steal a victory. We’ve just revealed that Hawthorn’s major areas of weakness are all turnover related and given Sydney rank fourteenth in least opponent turnovers per game and seventeenth in team to opponent turnover differential I think the Hawks can keep their kicking numbers up and find targets via foot without the risk of getting burnt on the scoreboard via turnovers.

Sydney will no doubt look to turn this fixture into a contested game and do all they can to limit space but I believe that Hawthorn are well equipped to handle such a setting. With Hawthorn ranking inside the competitions top three for all clearance indicators on both sides of the ball and likewise inside the top three for all contested possession indicators it’s hard to argue in Sydney’s favor outside of the “last time they met” and “SCG” arguments.

Whoever wins this game will likely secure a top two Finals birth and with it a wealth of confidence heading into September. If It’s Hawthorn the bookies will be able to tell us all “I told you so” and they’ll be Premiership media darlings for the seventy-fourth time this year. If It’s Sydney nobody will care or bother to look at why.

That’s the nature of the beast.

Tip: Hawthorn by 5 points.

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @Scottywashere


Jeremy Lin: Serenity Now

First and foremost I’d like to state that I am not a Jeremy Lin fan. I hated the whole Linsanity era. I hated the attention it received, the fanfare it generated and the “all of a sudden” NBA experts it gave birth to. I don’t hate Jeremy Lin the person or the Jeremy Lin story, despite it being more suited to a Disney movie than a pro basketball arena. What I hated were the Lin memes, the “is this real life?” posts suffocating my Twitter and Facebook feeds and the flood of corny puns which comes with pop culture’s Internet flavour of the month. The NBA was finally back on the world’s radar again, only for all the wrong reasons, for predominantly non-basketball related reasons. With Lin’s free agency looming the same level of attention has come flooding back, only this time it’s stayed within the confines of NBA circles. The conversation switched from “when will the Linsanity run end!” to “can this dude actually play ball?”.

I’m not going to continue to back track on the Jeremy Lin phenomenon, it’s been done to death to the point that even casual fans can recite it back to front. I’m not writing this because I care about Jeremy Lin the basketball player or the future longevity of the “Linsanity” brand. I’m writing this because I’m sick of reading opinions that range from the ill-informed (Lin sucks) to down right backwards (anything ESPN’s Stephen A Smith says).

As far as I can tell there are two opinions regarding the current Lin fiasco: That Knicks owner James Dolan is a selfish egomaniac; and that Jeremy Lin is at fault for scr*wing the Knicks in favour of the almighty dollar. The first opinion is hard to argue against given Dolan’s history, the second opinion is merely a convenient cop-out, and a lazy one at that.

Here are the facts:

Jeremy Lin can play basketball. Sure we only have a 30 game sample size to deal with, but who cares? Well apparently everyone, so I’ll break it down for you.

  • Of Jeremy Lin’s 35 games with the New York Knicks 25 were as a starter.
  • Of those 35 games nearly 60% were on the road (20) and almost half (45%) were against playoff teams.
  • You want the kid to prove himself in a short period of time, that’s as good a baptism of fire as there is.
  • In those 35 games, Jeremy Lin played against teams with a losing record on 18 occasions and against teams with a winning record on 17 occasions. I’ll post his numbers so we can all compare how much Lin sucked when the going got tough.
Category Vs .500+ Teams Vs sub .500 teams As A Starter (25 games)
Points Per Game 15.7 13.9 18.2
Rebounds 3.2 2.9 3.7
Assists 5.5 6.7 7.6
Steals 1.6 1.5 2
Turnovers 3.6 3.6 4.7
FG % 42% 48% 45%
3PT % 34% 29% 34%
FT % 82% 76% 79%

Outside of a drop in field goal percentage and a small decrease in assists, Lin’s production remained consistent (or at least impressive) regardless of the competition. This becomes even more impressive given Lin learnt the Knicks system on the fly and his previous career high in minutes with the Golden State Warriors was 23 (albeit the last game of the 2011 season).

The kid can play…

Does Lin’s defense need work? No question. Lin struggled big time against elite guards. Boston poing guard Rajon Rondo dumped a 18-17-20 smackdown on him, Deron Williams chimed in with a 38-4-6 and Derrick Rose an effortless 32-6-7, but this is against the best of the best. Considering Lin is virtually a rookie, getting beat up against the league’s elite (like everybody else) isn’t as grim in reality as it is on paper.

Statistically, Jeremy Lin was the most improved player in the NBA last year registering an efficiency differential of +10.6. With a humble attitude, positive work ethic and overall smarts I’d have faith in Lin focusing on his lackluster defense and further developing his overall game. He’s been in the league for five minutes, why is everybody so sold on Lin going backwards? I don’t know what’s more concerning, the amount of people stating that Jeremy Lin sucks or that I just spent 500 words defending Jeremy Lin.

Now to the all important contract facts. The ins and outs of the CBA is already confusing enough as it is, so I’m just going to knock these out in point form so they’re easier to digest;

  • The only way the Knicks could offer Lin a contract in the ballpark of his market value was to allow Lin to engage another team in free agency and then match that offer. Lin had no choice in this matter. None. Not without a competitive bid from another team first (unless he wants to keep sleeping on couches).
  • For those who think that Lin owed the Knicks and should have settled for a deal that would have paid him significantly less (we’re talking double-digit millions), please feel free to re-join us from 1978 and leave your agenda at the door next time. We’re talking about a guy who has barely made a million dollars, church change by NBA standards and insulting given his production.
  • Lin wasn’t being greedy for engaging in the free agency process, it’s called “following the rules”. If you want to get mad write a letter to David Stern cr*pping all over the laws of the CBA, or lower Lin’s ratings on 2k12 to zero. Either way I don’t care, the fact remains, this was the only path to take.
  • Lin had to play ball with any team that showed interest. What this means is that Lin couldn’t take a dump all over the negotiating team in order to stay with the Knicks. It’s a little something known as conducting business, and once underway basic protocol assumes that there’s a chance Lin might actually have to play for the interested party in the future.
  • Lin cannot talk with the Knicks at any point about any contract details as there’s a little hurdle involved known as “It’s fucking illegal”.
  • Lin wanted the Knicks to match but those words don’t mean a single thing as Lin doesn’t hold that decision-making power. If you think Lin was playing funny buggers at this point and trying to force the Knicks hand, you aren’t living on Planet reality.
  • The Houston Rockets offered whatever they felt was sufficient in order to gain Lin’s services. If you think the Rockets would go out of their way to “screw the Knicks”, who cares? Good on them. Whether you like it or not it has absolutely nothing to do with Jeremy Lin. The Rockets made a bid based on their perceived worth of Jeremy Lin’s services, ruling out the “rumor” that it was Lin himself who forced the Rockets to up their original offer.
  • Even if the Rockets did increase their original offer on their own accord, there is no law stating that they cannot. If anything, it’s nothing more than a re-evaluated business decision, one that Jeremy Lin or his agent is not responsible for.
  • The Knicks front office and coach Woodson handed Lin a nice shiny bike and told him to head out and find an offer, not the other way around, all the while stating that they would “match any price”. This was one of many stupid moves, which I have no doubt encouraged the Rockets to up their original offer.
  • Under the CBA structure, Lin was forced to sign the Rockets offer. Only one team made Jeremy Lin an offer. He was bound hand and foot, thus leaving it up to the Knicks to respond.

Jeremy Lin didn’t betray anyone in this process. Lin simply followed the same process as a thousand NBA free agents before him.

Only the New York Knicks could turn something so simple into such an unwarranted mess.

In order for Jeremy Lin to stay “loyal” as many claim he should, Lin would have had to forgo signing the Houston Rockets offer sheet and allowed the Knicks to offer whatever contract they wanted. Such a move would not only be foolish, it would make Jeremy Lin the dumbest person in the history of professional sports.

Fortunately for Lin that title will remain with James Dolan and his New York Knicks.

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @Scottywashere

Bombers Crash Land

By Scotty Barby

It’s not often a side peaks too early in sports. In fact, it’s so rare that it only ever happens to multiple teams across every league at every level regardless of the specific sport in question. I guess what I’m saying is that we shouldn’t be surprised by what’s happened to the good folk down at Windy Hill, otherwise known as the latest victim of the premature peak. Essendon flew out of the blocks with an 8-1 start to the season. Everybody was bathing in the “Bombers are the real deal” juice, no more so than former Bulldog and media “expert” Luke Darcy, who at the midway point of the season picked Essendon to win it all. Big “Darce” is of the mindset that all 658 players who have taken the field this season are “stars” and that he just “loves the way they go about it”. To see such a forward thinker like Darcy have his prediction crap the bed leaves little hope for the rest of us.

If it weren’t for a one point loss to Collingwood on Anzac Day the Bombers could have been a perfect 9-0 heading into a guaranteed win against Melbourne. We all know how that played out. Since the shock loss to the Demons the Bombers have had wins over Fremantle, Western Bulldogs and Port Adelaide, with losses against Sydney, St. Kilda, Geelong, Hawthorn, Adelaide and North Melbourne. We’re not panicking about five of Essendon’s six losses across the past nine games coming against teams who will play Finals football. That wouldn’t make any sense. The issue is the average margin of those six losses; a far from ideal 44 points. Coach James Hird has been left with a blank expression on his face after his blank expressions in the coaches box didn’t instantly fix all of his on-field problems. How long until Golden Boy will attempt to salvage his reputation by throwing “assistant” Mark Thompson under the bus and claiming Thompson has been coaching the entire time?

Stop giggling, Matthew Knights…

Injuries? Yeah. Nah.

As far as I can tell the injury excuse doesn’t get the Bombers a free pass this year. I know it’s the flavor of the month and that there’s nothing more fun than bashing a fat fitness instructor with the self-appointed nickname “The Weapon”, but I don’t buy it. Essendon sit equal ninth alongside Fremantle and Brisbane with a total of 37 players used in season 2012. This is only one player more than both Collingwood and Geelong who have used 36. I can feel the neutrals all agreeing to happily move on at this point but the Essendon faithful screaming “It’s the calibre of the players who were injured that matters, you arsehole!” is too deafening to ignore. Fine. To appease the Windy Hill natives here is the list of Essendon’s “arguably best 22” players who have missed at least five games this season;

Patty Ryder (14)

Cale Hooker (14)

Michael Hurley (13)

Sam Lonergan (13)

David Zaharakis (10)

Michael Hibberd (10)

David Myers (8)

Mark McVeigh (3)

Jason Winderlich (2)

For the sake of my sanity, here is Collingwood’s list:

Ben Reid (14)

Sharrod Wellingham (14)

Dale Thomas (14)

Nathan Brown (12)

Lachlan Keefe (9)

Chris Tarrant (6)

Alan Didak (6)

Ben Johnson (3)

Luke Ball (3)

Andrew Krakouer (0)

Brent Macaffer (0)

West Coast have been minus Mark Nicoski, Mark LeCras, Andrew Embley and Josh Kennedy all season. Fremantle have chugged along without Fyfe, Sandilands and Jack Anthony (I couldn’t resist) for the majority of the year. The point is you can make the injury excuse for every team in the AFL. If you can’t compete due to injury than your team or it’s staff just aren’t good enough. Get creative and switch the game plan to favor the squad that you CAN put on the field, or choose the stubborn alternative and pull a Brett Ratten.

Injuries are like weather conditions, they’re a pain in the arse. You can either adjust accordingly or tempt fate. Whatever your choice suck it up and move along. Unless of course you’re the Sydney Swans who don’t even know what injuries are because they source their midfielders from Skynet in the mold of the T-1000.

Battling the Soft Draw

Another fun excuse to sugarcoat a bad run is the old-fashioned “Fixture” finger pointing.



This season Essendon have played top-eight sides on nine occasions from nineteen matches. Six of which were at Etihad Stadium. I don’t want to throw the cat among the pigeons with some logic but that’s a pretty nice draw. Shut the book on that angle.

We’re running out of Vanilla excuses which means we can take this in one of two directions: Either get wild with outlandish excuses such as “Science is to blame because we can’t clone Jobe Watson 22 times”, or we can actually break down some game data to see what exactly changed during the second half of the year. Regardless of how tempting blaming Aliens and the Carbox Tax is I’m opting for the longer and more boring task of analyzing raw data. Don’t worry, I rolled my eyes as well.

A Look Inside the Numbers

What we know about Essendon is that they looked like the Barcelona of the AFL from Rounds 1-through-9, and then morphed into fucking Blackpool for the following ten games. There’s really no in-between for the Bombers, they tend to either dominate the opposition or completely stink. Essendon’s best football can beat any side whilst their worst can produce defeats against the likes of Melbourne (subtle dig #437).

To find out exactly what went wrong I’ve recorded Essendon’s output from those periods of high and low-end football, specifically Rounds 1-9 vs Rounds 10-20 to see if any particular areas standout. The numbers are recorded on an “average” per game basis to better understand the weight of each category.

Essendon Output: Rounds 1-9 (Average per game)

Contested Possession Uncontestd Possession Marks Marks Inside 50 Contested Marks Uncontested Marks
+9 +14 +21 +4 +4 +18
Disposals Disposal Efficiency Kicks Handballs Effective Kicks Kicking Efficiency
+28 +0.4% +34 -10 +30 +4%
Hitouts Hitouts to Advantage Clearances Tackles Inside 50’s Turnovers
+11 +4 +5 +0.2 +7 -8

Summary: Apart from handballs Essendon were (on average) superior to their opponents in all eighteen statistical categories listed for the first nine games of the season. The Bombers would win more ball of both the contested and uncontested variety, use it to their advantage more predominantly via effective disposal (specifically via foot) and low turnovers numbers, and successfully find targets inside 50 at a high rate. What’s really impressive is Essendon’s elite numbers by foot. The Bombers would produce a whopping 274 more effective kicks than their opponents in this period at a total kicking efficiency rate of +32%, with 68 fewer turnovers. This side would simply abuse teams via foot.

The numbers are definitely impressive and it’s no surprise that at this point of the year Essendon were travelling along with an 8-1 record. As we’re all aware the Bombers failed to maintain such a high level of output and everything began to fall apart. Just how bad was their fall off the wagon? The numbers paint a sorry picture.

Essendon Output: Rounds 10-20

Contested Possession Uncontestd Possession Marks Marks Inside 50 Contested Marks Uncontested Marks
+1.1 -21.8 -11.3 +1.1 Even -11.1
Disposals Disposal Efficiency Kicks Handballs Effective Kicks Kicking Efficiency
-22.8 -5.4% -14.2 -8.6 -23.9 -7.2%
Hitouts Hitouts to Advantage Clearances Tackles Inside 50’s Turnovers
+13.6 +5.7 -2.1 -2.2 +1.8 +2.9

Summary: Essendon still managed to maintain a slight advantage over their opponents in contested possession, marks Inside 50 and Inside 50’s, but the amount of ball won and method by which it was used has taken a similar path to Shane Woewodin’s career post Brownlow. The Bombers rank second in the league for hitouts and that advantage remains evident regardless of wins and losses. What is strange is that hitouts to advantage have increased over the course of the year whilst clearance numbers have dropped to a total differential of -68 between Rounds 1-9 and 10-20. The Bombers are either selling cheat sheets of their centre square setup for ten notes a pop or they’re incredibly predictable. Either way there is no excuse for such a large percentage of hitouts to advantage going to waste and resulting in an advantage for the opposition.

In a nutshell all of Essendon’s woes have been triggered by a drop in midfield output; Disposals, disposal efficiency, kicks, effective kicks, kicking efficiency, turnovers and clearances are all predominantly midfield dependent indicators. Outside of the ever consistent Jobe Watson, Essendon’s midfield has cleaned out Dustin Martin’s bathroom cabinet and slept through the second half of the season.

To give a more accurate indication of just how drastically different the first and second halves of the season have been I’ve compiled the total differential figures from Rounds 1-9 compared to Rounds 10-20. This is the part where Bomber supporters proceed to drop a toaster in the bathtub.

Total Differentials: Rounds 1-9 v Rounds 10-20

Contested Possession Uncontestd Possession Marks Marks Inside 50 Contested Marks Uncontested Marks
-70 -340 -304 -25 -31 -271
Disposals Disposal Efficiency Kicks Handballs Effective Kicks Kicking Efficiency
-480 -50% -447 -180 -512 -104%
Hitouts Hitouts to Advantage Clearances Tackles Inside 50’s Turnovers
+33 +20 -68 -24 -46 -97

Just in case you missed it; Yes Essendon fans, that is 500 fewer effective kicks and over 100% worse kicking efficiency.

We’ll give Bombers supporters a couple of minutes to knock out a few Xanax and have a cigarette to take the edge off…

The Importance of Stoppages

In regards to general field play indicators we know that Essendon can be a little bipolar when it comes to consistency. How has their output differed in regards to scoring sources though? Are they leaking more points from turnovers in the second half of the year? Is their press falling apart at opposition kick ins? I’ll let the following graphs tell the story;

Scoring Sources: Rounds 1-9 (Average per game)

Tackles Inside 50: +13

Origin For Against Difference
Turnovers 62 49 +13
Stoppages 42 22 +20
Kick Ins 5 7 -2

Summary: Essendon sources the majority of their scoring punch via turnovers but experienced the more significant advantage over their opposition when it came to stoppages. These numbers fall in line with Essendon’s midfield dominance in general play from the first half of the year. The Bombers forward pressure is also heavily evident given their +13 output for tackles inside 50. Essendon were outscoring their opponents by an average of 31 points per game at this point of the year, James Hird’s hair was looking pretty and Luke Darcy rated them. Everything was perfect.

Scoring Sources: Rounds 10-20 (Average per game)

Tackles Inside 50: +19

Origin For Against Difference
Turnovers 46 55 -9
Stoppages 39 40 -1
Kick Ins 5 6 -1

Summary: The points per game output may have decreased but the tackling numbers inside 50 have increased, so let’s stop blaming the forwards for a lack of endeavor. We already saw how Essendon’s midfield output nose-dived in the second half of the season, therefore seeing their scoring ability from stoppages end up completely backwards shouldn’t surprise anybody. It’s not so much what the Bombers are doing from an offensive standpoint at stoppages, It’s the extra eighteen points they’ve conceded from Round ten onwards which is causing concern. Essendon have the midfield mischiefs. Grab the wheel, David Zaharakis.

Where to From Here?

I guess the positive is that Essendon’s problems are clear as day. Whether or not they’re easily fixed is a whole different basketcase. With Ryder returning the Bombers should be able to reinforce their unique ability to direct hitouts to their opponents advantage. Butchering the footy should be a continued area of focus as well with Stanton’s three turnovers per game another welcomed inclusion.

In all seriousness the return of Zaharakis, Ryder and Stanton should at the very least see the Bombers move back towards those numbers from the first half of the year. Instead of Ben Howlett and Travis Colyer shanking the footy all over the park Jobe Watson will be handballing a nice clearance off to Zaharakis, Stanton and hopefully anybody not named Jake Melksham, who has never seen an opposition three-on-one that he didn’t like.

With games against Carlton, Richmond and Collingwood remaining the chances of playing Finals look slim. I guess the positive is that like Richmond, four of Essendon’s eight losses this season have been by single digits. I am aware that I just used a comparison to Richmond as a shining light but afer playing Finals last year what else is there? You blooded six new players this season and they all suck? Is that better?

In a season labelled as a building block for the future Essendon look to have gone backwards.

Hey! I already warned you once. Stop giggling, Matthew Knights…

You can follow Scotty on Twitter: @Scottywashere