Monthly Archives: September 2012

2012 AFL Grand Final Preview

Hey Folks,

The Grand Final preview can be found here:

http://www.theroar.com.au/2012/09/28/afl-grand-final-preview-full-breakdown-and-stats/

Cheers,

Scotty

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AFL Finals Preview: West Coast v Collingwood

By Scott Barby

The first semi-final between Collingwood and West Coast gets underway tonight at the MCG. We’ve already had one semi-final take place last night which saw Adelaide defeat Fremantle therefore the title of “first semi-final” seems a little backwards. That’s often how things work in the AFL so like Jeff Gieschen trying to defend an incorrect umpiring decision on a Monday morning we’re just going to roll with it.

We’re only a few hours away from the first bounce which is a good enough excuse for me to bypass an introduction centered around everything you already know. The quicker we get this out-of-the-way the quicker I can get to the bar, so lets sink our teeth straight into the guts of tonight’s contest.

Like always we’re going to look at how both squads performed against the competitions elite throughout the year and identify which indicators stand out so we can designate strengths and weaknesses. If you’re one of the six people who follow me on Twitter and are kind enough to click any links I post out of pity then you’re aware of the drill. If you’ve somehow stumbled across this blog after Googling “Fat James Harden” like the majority of readers you’ve probably already moved along.

To the numbers, Batman.

Collingwood: Wins v Finals Teams.

Guess what I’m going to do here? You’re damn right! I’m going to copy and paste all of the data from last week’s preview between Hawthorn and Collingwood because I’m a shameless arsehole who has the “Saturday lazy’s”. The Magpies were belted last week as expected and as foretold on this blog like the Nostradamus AFL result predicting accuracy God that I am not.

Collingwood showed us absolutely nothing new last week so there’s absolutely zero point in me showing you anything new here. I have included the analysis for those who haven’t read it or would like to re-read it again for some reason. Buckle up, or don’t. Whatever…

The Magpies finished with six wins against Finals sides this year, the second most of any club. The following table indicates their performance in WINS against their fellow finals sides this year. Like every other side in the competition the Magpies excelled when running into little resistance from the opposition. The Magpies performed at their best when dominating disposal counts, playing direct via foot, limiting their turnovers and winning the stoppages.

Collingwood are a pretty straight forward side; Win first use of the ball and more of it , use it effectively and match your opponent when it comes to the contest stuff. There’s no bells and whistles here.

(Data is recorded as average per game)

Category For Against Difference
Contested Possession 155.33 152.66 +2.66
Uncontested Possession 214.66 201 +13.66
Marks 80.33 75.5 +4.83
Marks Inside 50 9.5 9.66 -0.16
Contested Marks 11.16 11 +0.16
Uncontested Marks 69.33 64.33 +5
Disposals 374.66 354 +20.66
Disposal Efficiency 70.7% 69.38% +1.31%
Kicks 218.66 200.5 +18.16
Handballs 156 153.5 +2.5
Effective Kicks 140 125.33 +14.66
Kicking Efficiency 63.93% 62.63% +1.3%
Hitouts 38.5 43.83 -5.33
Hitouts to Advantage 8.83 9.66 -0.83
Clearances 40 35.66 +4.33
Tackles 73.5 72.33 +1.16
Inside 50’s 52.83 51 +1.83
Turnovers 43.5 45.5 -2

Collingwood: Losses v Finals Teams

The Magpies finished with five losses against sides in the Finals this year. The following table indicates their performance in LOSSES against their fellow finals sides this year (minus the most recent loss to Hawthorn). The key indicators where Collingwood’s performance dropped drastically in games they won compared to games they lost are listed in Bold font.

The big standout here is the switch from high contested numbers to heavy uncontested numbers. Teams who had success against the Magpies forced the game to be played more tactical and uncontested, with a move away from a contested style. This resulted in Collingwood having some of their output numbers sugar-coated, specifically their ball usage indicators. The increase in effective usage percentages isn’t exactly a welcomed improvement as It’s more likely a product of a highly uncontested game which does not suit Collingwood.

The Magpies poor performance was more about what their opponents were able to do as opposed to what Collingwood failed to do. Opponents playing in the finals who defeated Collingwood (on average per game) were +27 in uncontested possession, +20 in uncontested marks, +5 for marks Inside 50, +20 in disposals, +7% disposal efficiency, +17 in kicks (whilst restricting the Magpies by -16), +29 effective kicks and +8% kicking efficiency compared to their output in losses to Collingwood. Collingwood’s contested game was also limited to eight fewer clearances, eleven fewer tackles and 11 less Inside 50’s per game in their losses compared to wins.

For Collingwood wins and losses depend on their ability to force a game onto contested terms.

Category For Against Difference
Contested Possession 132.5 141 -8.5
Uncontested Possession 202.75 228 -25.25
Marks 86.25 94 -7.75
Marks Inside 50 10.75 14.25 -3.5
Contested Marks 11.5 11.5
Uncontested Marks 74.75 82.5 -7.75
Disposals 338 373.5 -35.5
Disposal Efficiency 73.12% 76.12% -3%
Kicks 202.5 217.25 -14.75
Handballs 135.5 156.25 -20.75
Effective Kicks 134.5 154.25 -19.75
Kicking Efficiency 66.4% 70.8% -4.39%
Hitouts 28.5 47 -18.5
Hitouts to Advantage 8.75 12.5 -3.75
Clearances 32.25 40.75 -8.5
Tackles 62.5 57.5 -5
Inside 50’s 45.25 54.75 -9.5
Turnovers 37.75 40.5 -2.75

Collingwood: Key Indicator Rankings

Now that we’re aware of what makes Collingwood tick in wins and losses let’s see how West Coast performed in those important areas. The key statistical categories which were directly related to Collingwood winning or losing a game of football are listed in the following table.

I have listed Collingwood’s overall ranking for each indicator and provided West Coast’s ranking  in terms of being able to restrict an opponent in that specific area. This should give us an accurate idea of whether or not Collingwood’s strengths and weaknesses play into the hands of West Coast or vice versa. Contested Possession and Clearances are measured using differential metrics to gauge which side has the upper hand when the ball is up for grabs.

Category Collingwood Ranking West Coast Ranking
Contested Possession 4th in team to opponent contested possessions per game differential 8th in team to opponent contested possessions per game differentials
Disposals 3rd in disposals per game 3rd in least opponent disposals per game
Kicks 2nd in kicks per game 5th in least opponent kicks per game
Handballs 7th in handballs per game 3rd in least opponent handballs per game
Hitouts 14th in hitouts per game 1st in least opponent hitouts per game
Clearances 5th in team to opponent clearances per game differential 12th in team to opponent clearances per game differential
Tackles 8th in tackles per game 2nd in least opponent tackles per game
Inside 50’s 11th in Inside 50’s per game 2nd in least opponent Inside 50’s per game

Summary: Judging by Collingwood’s superior ability to win contested ball and clearances I’d expect them to have a marginal advantage in that area come Saturday evening. Disposals, kicks and handballs should all be somewhat even or in the Eagles favor given West Coast’s high-ranking in these categories from a defensive perspective.

The Eagles will have an overwhelming advantage at the ruck duel which is no surprise given their league leading output. This could also impact the Magpies contested ball and clearance prowess if the domination in hitouts can be converted to clearances. The positive for Collingwood fans is that as strange as it sounds this is rarely the case. West Coast should have no trouble limiting the Magpies tackle pressure given their high marking numbers (more on this later). It is imperative that Collingwood are efficient going forward given the Eagles ability to restrict opposition Inside 50’s.

West Coast: Wins v Finals Sides

West Coast finished the 2012 campaign with seven wins against this years top eight, the equal second highest of any club. The following table indicates their performance in WINS against their fellow finals sides this year. To briefly sum up the Eagles at their best is an impossible task. West Coast’s output in wins against the competitions elite this year saw them practically dominate absolutely everywhere.

The Eagles will beat you at the contest and maintain complete control of the pace of the game and do as they please in the uncontested stakes as well. It’s as if they flick a switch which shuts down the flow of the opposition. At risk at stating the obvious they are like a poor mans Hawthorn.

West Coast, like Hawthorn, pride their performance on a supreme ability to use the football preferably via foot which often leads to finding one of their lead up forward targets in Kennedy, Lynch, Darling or Josh Hill. Although the Ruck advantage looks to be overwhelming its level of efficiency when translating to clearances is anything but in both wins and losses. West Coast’s ability to funnel any opposition forward 50 entries to their own defense is superior to that of any other side in the competition outside of Fremantle. The Eagles have held opponents to under seven marks Inside 50 per game in wins against Finals sides this year.

Category For Against Difference
Contested Possession 147.57 132.14 +15.42
Uncontested Possession 210.42 180.14 +39.28
Marks 95.42 78.28 +17.14
Marks Inside 50 13.14 6.57 +6.57
Contested Marks 15.28 10.42 +4.85
Uncontested Marks 80.14 67.85 +12.28
Disposals 357.28 315.14 +42.14
Disposal Efficiency 72.87% 69.94% +2.92%
Kicks 215.71 188.57 +27.14
Handballs 141.57 126.57 +15
Effective Kicks 145.14 120 +25.14
Kicking Efficiency 67.18% 63.52% +3.65%
Hitouts 53.28 27.71 +25.57
Hitouts to Advantage 15.42 8.57 +6.85
Clearances 42.85 35.71 +7.14
Tackles 51 63.28 -12.85
Inside 50’s 57 42.57 +14.42
Turnovers 47.28 49.71 -2.42

West Coast: Losses v Finals Sides

The Eagles finished with five losses against sides in the Finals this year which is the same number as Collingwood. The following table indicates their performance in LOSSES against their fellow finals sides this year. The good news for Magpies fans is that the areas which need to be focused upon in order to defeat West Coast are more obvious than David Cloke’s lack of contract negotiation skills. Smash the Eagles at the contest and win first use of the football and the Eagles are immediately on the back foot.

Sides who focused on winning contested possession had far more success against the Eagles as evidenced by the +23 contested possessions per game output versus -13 contested possession per game differential for West Coast between wins and losses. West Coast were also -37 in total disposals, -29 in kicks, -16 in effective kicks and -8 Inside 50’s on average  per game versus their opponent in losses this year, therefore limiting their total disposal numbers is also of prime importance. This is once again a product of playing contested football. Do not allow the Eagles to settle.

You’ll notice an interesting outlier in regards to turnovers between games the Eagles won and lost. West Coast recorded only 39 turnovers per game in losses this year compared to their opponents who averaged 46. This indicates to me that It’s all about defensive structures when the Eagles have the football. Force them to play on, take a chance or revert to handball and you will have success against them. The negative for Magpie fans is that this means scores via turnovers are extremely limited so It’s imperative that Collingwood focus on generating scores from stoppages as the chosen avenue to goal.

There are minimal free points when West Coast are involved. As cliché as it sounds Collingwood’s chances of playing in a Preliminary final start and end with winning contested football, restricting West Coast’s ball use and dominating at stoppages.

Category For Against Difference
Contested Possession 134.2 155.8 -21.6
Uncontested Possession 203.8 194.6 +9.20
Marks 86 86
Marks Inside 50 7 11 -4
Contested Marks 12.4 14 -1.6
Uncontested Marks 73.6 74 -0.40
Disposals 338.2 375.2 -37
Disposal Efficiency 72.34% 71.28% +1.06%
Kicks 192.8 221.8 -29
Handballs 145.4 153.4 -8
Effective Kicks 129 145 -16
Kicking Efficiency 66.88 65.44 +1.44%
Hitouts 51.2 30.6 +20.6
Hitouts to Advantage 14.2 5.8 +8.4
Clearances 36.6 41.8 -5.2
Tackles 63.6 62 +1.6
Inside 50’s 45.8 54.2 -8.40
Turnovers 39.6 46.4 -6.8

West Coast: Key Indicator Rankings

We’re now aware of West Coast’s strength and weakness areas when trying to pinpoint a win or a loss. Let’s take a look at where Collingwood rank in comparison to West Coast in the previously identified areas of importance to see if either side will have a distinct advantage.

Category West Coast Ranking Collingwood Ranking
Contested Possession 8th in team to opponent average per game differential 4th in team to opponent average per game differential
Marks Inside 50 7th in marks Inside 50 per game 10th in least opponent marks Inside 50
Disposals 7th in disposals per game 14th in least opponent disposals per game
Kicks 9th in kicks per game 11th in least opponent kicks per game
Effective Kicks 7th in most effective disposals per game 13th in least opponent effective disposals per game
Clearances 12th in team to opponent average per game differential 4th in team to opponent average per game differential
Inside 50’s 7th in Inside 50’s per game 10th in least opponent Inside 50’s per game

Summary: As previously mentioned when looking at Collingwood’s key indicator rankings I’d expect the Magpies to have the upper hand when it comes to contested possession and clearances. West Coast should have minimal trouble turning this into a possession heavy game if they so choose given Collingwood’s below average opposition disposal and effective kick rankings.

Despite the entire World believing that the Naitanui/Cox ruck duo is a difference maker their ranking of twelfth in the competition for clearance differential indicates to me that any significant advantage is either few and far between or a complete myth. West Coast’s ruck superiority has failed to translate to an advantage in the form of clearances all season long. I have little reason to believe that won’t be the case again this evening, especially when factoring in Collingwood’s above average clearance numbers.

The Eagles impressive forward line will again experience It’s fair share of football given the Magpies pedestrian back six and lack of Nick Maxwell (I’m serious, stop laughing). I’m more concerned with Collingwood’s defensive structures than their ability to pressure the ball especially if West Coast strangle the game’s open flow with their elite foot skills.

The Loss of Beau Waters

One area I’d like to touch on briefly is the injury to Eagles defensive Quarterback Beau Waters. Rather than dive too deep into why Waters absence is incredibly significant I’ll let the numbers and club rankings do the talking;

  • 1st at the club for Rebound 50’s
  • 1st at the club for Marks
  • 2nd at the club for Kicks
  • 2nd at the club for Disposal Efficiency
  • 3rd at the club for Bounces
  • 4th at the club for One Percenters
  • 6th at the club for Effective Disposals
  • 7th at the club for Disposals
  • 9th at the club for Contested Possession
  • Registered only 43 turnovers for the year

All this and I haven’t even mentioned his leadership influence in which he is Captain material. We often get caught up in the loss of one player being more significant than a team’s ability as a unit, but given Waters supreme output when it comes to maintaining possession, using the ball effectively and limiting turnovers there’s no doubting that Waters absence will be play a major role, especially where the Eagles ability to transition from defense to attack is concerned

For arguments sake here is Beau Waters per game average output against Collingwood in their two meetings this year;

Disposals Effective Disposals Kicks Marks Tackles Inside 50’s Rebound 50’s TOG%
23.5 17 14.5 8.5 2.5 2 5 90%

Previous Meetings

Although a two-game sample size isn’t exactly ideal, and given Collingwood were undermanned and appeared uninterested against West Coast in their second meeting in the West late in the season, here is the average per game output between the two teams this year. The categories of highest importance which points to either a win or loss for either club are listed in Bold;

Category Collingwood West Coast
Contested Possession 125.5 138.5
Uncontested Possession 219 226
Marks 93 77
Marks Inside 50 9 13.5
Hitouts 19 51.5
Disposals 351 363.5
Disposal Efficiency 74.6% 74.7%
Kicks 205.5 199.5
Handballs 145.5 164
Effective Kicks 142 135.5
Clearances 29.5 41.5
Inside 50’s 38 52.5
Tackles 58.5 50
Turnovers 45 39

Summary: West Coast had the upper hand in the majority of categories which mattered whilst the Magpies only experienced an advantage via foot and in tackles. I wouldn’t read too much into this outside of the Magpies below average contested possession output.

Who Will Win?

I expect this result to play out similar to the Round 13 contest at the MCG earlier in the year in which Collingwood managed to sneak home by three points. It’s interesting to note that the loser of the First Qualifying Final has won the first Semi-Final on all twelve occasions and of the five clubs who had to travel Interstate all five were unsuccessful by significant margins. Collingwood also have a 6-0 record against West Coast at the MCG. History tells us that the Magpies will advance.

If Beau Waters is healthy selecting the Eagles becomes a much more straight forward task for me. Given Waters absence and Collingwood’s advantage in contested possession and clearances I expect the Magpies to win first use of the football and squeeze out a marginal victory. The Eagles are yet to taste victory at the MCG this year although their two losses did come against competition heavyweights Collingwood (3 points) and Hawthorn (25 points).

For Collingwood to be successful they need to have a fast start. The Magpies are at their best when they jump out of the blocks as evidenced by their 16-6 win/loss record in first quarters this year compared to 10-and-13 in fourth quarters. West Coast are the complete opposite and finish games much stronger registering a 17-5 record in fourth quarters a 12-11 record in opening quarters.

Like last night I am once again inclined to essentially sit on the fence but where’s the fun in that?

Stick to your defensive structures, Magpies. Be savage at the contest and in the midfield battle. Play direct and at a fast pace. Don’t kick it to Chris Dawes.

Tip: Collingwood by 5 points.

You can Follow Scott on Twitter: @ScottyBarby

AFL Finals Preview: Fremantle v Adelaide

By Scott Barby

I’m running short on time so apologies to my Dad and the three people who read this for not getting too overly in-depth on tonight’s Final between Adelaide and Fremantle.

You’ll have to excuse the constant backtracking to last week’s Fremantle v Geelong result as well. I still need closure.

I’m well aware that I was way off on my prediction of Geelong’s ability to limit Fremantle’s influence last weekend. Like the majority of the Football World I was virtually king hit by the outcome. In my defense all of the indicators I listed as being the driving force behind a win and a loss for the Dockers came to fruition. Sure, that’s a pretty crappy attempt at saving face but hey at least It’s something.

I rested the majority of my opinion on the shoulders of Geelong being the most effective team when it comes to forward 50 entries. That was fact. I also noted that Fremantle were the number one ranked side in the competition for restricting opponent marks Inside 50. That is also fact. I then went on to completely disregard the Dockers superiority in that area due to Luke McPharlin’s absence. I had Tom Hawkins listed as the most important player on the field and bookmarked the Tomahawk for a best on ground performance.

We all know how that played out. I had the numbers right but the interpretation wrong. Again, that is fact.

I should have done what I’m doing now last Sunday after Geelong lost but I was too swollen with bitterness. To show that what I point to when analysing the AFL isn’t “entirely” inaccurate here are the areas I deemed as most important between Geelong and Fremantle and how the numbers played out. Keep in mind my entire thought process was based on Geelong having the superior ability when it came to stopping or overpowering the Dockers at their game.

The bolded categories are the areas where Geelong were severely beaten by their opponents in losses to Finals sides earlier this year, as noted in the original preview;

Category

Geelong Output Fremantle Output

Contested Possession

158

148

Marks Inside 50

10

22

Tackles

86

77

Uncontested Possession

164

173

Marks

52

94

Disposals

321

325

Kicks

182

211

Effective Kicks

97

143

Inside 50’s

54

47

Categories Won 3 6

Summary: That’s what I get for completely disregarding the Dockers number one defensive structure even though I waffled out about it for 500 words. Geelong’s biggest influence over their opponent in win’s against Finals opponents this year were Marks Inside 50 and opponent marks per game differential, two areas which they lead the competition. Fremantle would hold Geelong to a season low in Marks and four marks below their usual Marks Inside 50 per game output, all the while producing a season high of twenty-two for themselves (previous season high of 15). Who saw that coming? The Dockers were deadly by foot with 46 more effective kicks (ranked 11th in effective disposals this year) and held the Cats to 53% kicking efficiency. Again, who saw that coming?

Fremantle won or dominated in all five of the categories which had the biggest influence in Geelong’s losses this year.

Kudos Ross Lyon.

Vindication for me? Hardly.

You Suck! Get to Tonight’s Game, You Moron.

Fine. Now to Adelaide.

The myth surrounding the Crows being top four pretenders is a little backwards in my eyes. The Crows finished with a winning record against Finals sides this year (5-4) compared to the Dockers who are 4-6.

Adelaide are the most cut and dry side in the Finals in that we can pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses with little legwork. The Crows love contested footy (#1 overall), kick at every opportunity and dominate clearances. It’s pretty straight forward. The problem here (as we saw against Sydney) is that Adelaide lack the required skill set to get the most out of these strength areas.

Adelaide rank dead last among Finals sides for uncontested possession, uncontested mark differential, disposal efficiency, handballs, kicking efficiency (by a landslide) and ranked second last for Inside 50’s and tackles.

What exactly does all this mean? One word: Predictability.

The Crows have only one gear and It’s all out all the time.

The Swans were the perfect side to combat this as they ranked right behind Adelaide in their three core strength areas of contested possession, clearances and playing direct (Kicking it forward. To anywhere. Always). Match the Crows at the contest and apply heavy pressure (Sydney +25 in tackles) and you get an Adelaide side who can’t hit a target under pressure to save themselves. The Crows were -17 in effective kicks and -4% in kicking efficiency. When all you do is throw the footy on the boot having 22 more Inside 50’s becomes irrelevant as evidenced by the Crows having just six marks Inside 50. Please stop Tweeting “Adelaide just had a bad day” to me.

There’s no Plan B for the Crows, or at least there wasn’t last Saturday against Sydney (or at any point this season for that matter).

I haven’t broken down what specific indicators make the Crows win or lose against Finals sides this year outside of the above three categories I mentioned (lack of time) but I can tell you how they travel in the areas which are most important to the Dockers winning games of football against the competitions elite.

In short the Crows match up incredibly well and register a top ten ranking league wide in every single category. Can they beat Fremantle? Definitely.

Category Fremantle Ranking Adelaide Ranking
Contested Possession 4th in contested possessions per game 3rd in least opponent contested possessions per game
Marks Inside 50 12th in marks Inside 50 per game 6th in least opponent marks Inside 50 per game
Disposals 8th in disposals per game 5th in least opponent disposals per game
Kicks 7th in kicks per game 4th in least opponent kicks per game
Effective Kicks 11th in effective disposals per game 6th in least opponent effective disposals per game
Clearances 12th in clearances per game 1st in least opponent clearances per game
Inside 50’s 12th in Inside 50’s per game 8th in least opponent Inside 50’s per game
Turnovers 4th in fewest team to opponent turnovers per game differential 7th in fewest team to opponent turnovers per game differential

On face value we know all about the Crows bread and butter contested style. Here is how the Dockers match up in regards to their ability to limit those areas;

Category Adelaide Ranking Fremantle Ranking
Contested Possession 2nd in contested possessions per game 10th in least opponent contested possessions per game
Kicks 3rd in kicks per game 7th in least opponent kicks per game
Effective Kicks 14th in effective disposals per game 9th in least opponent effective disposals per game
Clearances 2nd in clearances per game 11th in least opponent clearances per game
Tackles 13th in least opponent tackles per game 3rd in tackles per game

Who will win:

This is going to be a tough one and I’m predicting it to go down to the wire purely because I haven’t done a lick of Crows research and am doing a whole lot of guesswork. Hopefully this approach lands me a job alongside Tom Harley in the Channel 7 commentary box or at the Herald Sun.

In all seriousness, Adelaide will win first use of the football (they do against everyone) but It’s what they do with it that counts (cliché #347). I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Dockers implement a slow uncontested chip and carry style to force the game into a skill dependent bore-athon (reverse jinx attempt). Strip Adelaide of one-one-one football and they have little else to fall back on. Ross Lyon will no doubt have the brick wall defensive structure aligned and at the ready to pick off the Crows midfielders who love peppering Inside 50’s without looking Inside 50. If Fremantle can nullify Geelong in this area they should have little trouble doing the same against the “Keep your head down and kick it long” rule number one of Adelaide Crows football.

If Fremantle can break even with Adelaide at stoppages, produce high tackle numbers to pressure Adelaide’s disposal and filter any opposition Inside 50 entries to their defense they will win this game of football. In their previous match ups against Adelaide earlier this year the Dockers didn’t come close to doing any of these things or had particularly ordinary disposal themselves. Although the last ten weeks show you that they are more than capable of reversing those results.

For Adelaide the equation is much simpler in theory but harder to produce on the field. If the Crows can obliterate the Dockers at the stoppages, sure up their disposal (that’s asking a lot), show more composure on the ball and have some semblance of an efficient forward structure they will win this game of football. From the previous two meetings between the clubs we know that they are more than capable of doing so.

Looking at both teams strengths and weaknesses I have no side in this one because I would be guessing. How boring of me.

If you want to make a wager I’d suggest the Dockers with the +9.5 start but I see no reason to invest unless you’re a shameful gambling degenerate who can’t say no (Translation: Yes I will invest). If both teams strip it bare and go toe-to-toe we know that Fremantle can match anyone (as evidenced last week) and are deadly on the counter attack, but at the same time that would be playing into the Crows hands. If Fremantle bottle it up we could find ourselves in a 55-48 arm wrestle which means anyone can win and I’ll be in bed by half time.

Tip: The Winner to get smashed by 100 points next week.

You can Follow Scott on Twitter: @ScottyBarby

AFL Finals Week 1 Preview: Geelong v Fremantle

By Scott Barby

With both qualifying Finals in the books we now turn our attention to the win-or-go-home scenario of an elimination final between Geelong and Fremantle. The beauty of an elimination final is that neither side is in a position to leave anything on the table. For Geelong it’s a hurdle in the way of defending their premier status. For the Dockers it’s more of a building block towards capturing that same elusive title further down the track (at least in my view).

The reigning premiers are numerous people’s pick to do the impossible and win the flag from outside the top four whilst Fremantle are the public’s chosen smoky. Who is better equipped to keep their season alive for another week?

The numbers tell quite an interesting story.

Yesterday I used a statistical comparison method to preview the Hawthorn v Collingwood qualifying final which you can find here. The analysis utilized the output of each club against only the competitions elite (finals sides) to identify strengths and weaknesses and then cross-compare those findings against the ability of the opposition. Thankfully it proved to be spot on even despite Hawthorn’s late withdrawals. Considering how accurate that particular method was it seems logical to utilize the same method for Fremantle v Geelong. The findings are as follows;

Geelong: Wins v Finals Teams.

Geelong finished the 2012 season with four wins against the this years top eight, the third fewest of any club. The following table indicates their performance in WINS against their fellow finals sides this year. Geelong were at their best when they dominated their opponents in all facets of marking (both contested, uncontested and Inside 50), had a supreme advantage via foot in terms of total number of kicks, their accuracy and effectiveness, applied extreme pressure through high tackling numbers, and pressured the opposition back six by putting the ball Inside 50 as often as possible.

The Cats don’t rely on the strength indicators that the majority of modern-day sides do. There’s no semblance of a preference for a particular style of play, either contested or uncontested, and clearances numbers prove to be obsolete when pointing to a win or a loss. In a home fixture against Adelaide the Cats were belted in clearances 56-31 yet came away with a comfortable twenty-seven point victory.

Geelong appear to be at their best when they play the role of a counter attacking side who react to the opposition and force mistakes rather than live and die by a specific brand of football.

(Data is recorded as average per game)

Category For Against Difference
Contested Possession 155.33 154.33 +1
Uncontested Possession 193 196 -3
Marks 90.33 61 +29.33
Marks Inside 50 17.66 8 +9.66
Contested Marks 18 7.66 +10.33
Uncontested Marks 72.33 53.33 +19
Disposals 343 351 -8
Disposal Efficiency 71.53% 70.03% +1.50%
Kicks 202.66 190 +12.66
Handballs 140.33 161 -20.66
Effective Kicks 138.66 118.66 +20
Kicking Efficiency 67.12% 62.46% +4.65%
Hitouts 40.75 42.33 -1.58
Hitouts to Advantage 10 15.66 -5.66
Clearances 36.25 44 -7.75
Tackles 78.5 69.33 +9.16
Inside 50’s 59 44.66 +14.33
Turnovers 50.75 46 +4.75

Geelong: Losses v Finals Teams

The Cats finished with seven losses against Finals sides this year, the most of any club that still remains in contention. The following table indicates their performance in LOSSES against their fellow finals sides this year with the key indicators highlighted in Bold. Geelong struggled when teams moved the style of play away from being contested to uncontested. Although the switch in numbers is not overly significant given the Cats virtually break even in these areas during wins, it is enough to warrant concern.

A result of an uncontested style is a high number of marks (opponents had a differential of +23 in Geelong losses compared to wins). Teams had success against the Cats when they would control the pace of a game, often via uncontested marks (opponent win/loss differential of +17). The rise in total disposals and overall kicking numbers (opposition differential in effective kicks +21 per game) is further indication of this.

Stoppages weren’t of any concern as you can see via the hitout and clearance numbers which remain virtually on par regardless of victory or defeat. The Cats would see their tackle numbers drop by double digits which was largely a result of their opponents forcing the game onto uncontested terms.

The key to stopping Geelong looks to be a move away from contested football and do as much as possible to limit their ability to find targets Inside 50.

(Data is recorded as average per game)

Category For Against Difference
Contested Possession 142.28 151.85 -9.57
Uncontested Possession 200.71 213 -12.85
Marks 85.71 84.14 +2.57
Marks Inside 50 12.28 11.85 +0.42
Contested Marks 12.71 12.85 -0.14
Uncontested Marks 73 70.28 +2.71
Disposals 344 366.85 -22.85
Disposal Efficiency 69.9% 72.78% -2.88%
Kicks 201.85 210 -8.14
Handballs 142.14 156.85 -14.71
Effective Kicks 129.42 139.57 -10.14
Kicking Efficiency 64.1% 66.45% -2.35%
Hitouts 36.57 43.57 -7
Hitouts to Advantage 9.42 10.42 -1
Clearances 36.71 40.27 -3.57
Tackles 68.14 62.28 +5.85
Inside 50’s 55.28 50.42 +4.85
Turnovers 48.42 44 +4.42

Geelong: Key Indicator Rankings

Now that we’re aware of what makes Geelong tick in wins and losses let’s see how Fremantle performed in those important areas. The key statistical categories which were directly related to Geelong winning or losing a game of football are listed in the following table. I have listed Geelong’s overall ranking for each indicator and provided Fremantle’s ranking  in terms of being able to restrict an opponent in that specific area. The areas in Blue are the categories which Fremantle need to severely limit Geelong in order to have a better chance at winning. The remaining areas designate each sides output differential compared to their specific opponents. These are areas which don’t necessarily need to be won by the Dockers but they must remain competitive and at least break even. This will give us an accurate idea of whether or not Geelong’s strengths and weaknesses play into the hands of Fremantle.

Category Geelong Ranking Fremantle Ranking
Contested Possession 5th in contested possesions per game 10th in least opponent contested possessions per game
Marks Inside 50 1st in marks Inside 50 per game 1st in least opponent marks Inside 50 per game
Tackles 2nd in tackles per game 18th in least opponent tackles per game
Uncontested Possession 5th in team to opponent uncontested possessions per game differential 10th in team to opponent uncontested possessions per game differential
Marks 1st in team to opponent marks per game differential 6th in team to opponent marks per game differential
Disposals 8th in team to opponent disposals per game differential 9th in team to opponent disposals per game differential
Kicks 5th in team to opponent kicks per game differential 6th in team to opponent kicks per game differential
Effective Kicks 8th in team to opponent effective disposals per game differential 9th in team to opponent effective disposals per game differential
Inside 50’s 3rd in team to opponent Inside 50’s per game differential 10th in team to opponent Inside 50’s per game differential

Summary: Geelong should possess a clear advantage or be able to limit Fremantle’s output in tackles, uncontested possession, marks and Inside 50’s with total disposal and kicking numbers a coin flip. Fremantle are the best equipped side in the competition to deal with Geelong’s league leading output for marks Inside 50. This is where Luke McPharlin’s absence becomes incredibly relevant. More on this later.

Fremantle: Wins v Finals Teams

The Dockers finished with three wins against sides in the Finals this year, the equal lowest of any club along with North Melbourne. The following table indicates their performance in WINS against their fellow finals sides this year. Fremantle were at their best when they would literally obliterate the opposition in contested ball as evidenced by their +31 average output per game. The Dockers would penetrate defenses via foot and would possess a clear-cut advantage at stoppages.

Fremantle’s recipe for success is incredibly straight forward; Win first use of the football, be unrelenting when the ball is in question, play as direct as possible via foot and move the ball Inside 50 as often as possible.

(Data is recorded as average per game)

Category For Against Difference
Contested Possession 164.33 133 +31.33
Uncontested Possession 194 182.33 +11.66
Marks 91 74 +17
Marks Inside 50 11 7.66 +3.33
Contested Marks 13 9.33 +3.66
Uncontested Marks 78 64.66 +13.33
Disposals 359.33 316.66 +42.66
Disposal Efficiency 69.76% 69.73% +0.33%
Kicks 223.66 179.33 +44.33
Handballs 135.66 137.33 -1.66
Effective Kicks 148.33 115.66 +32.66
Kicking Efficiency 66.13% 64.43% +1.7% 
Hitouts 47.66 36 +11.66
Hitouts to Advantage 8 7.33 +0.66
Clearances 43.33 35.66 +7.66
Tackles 69.33 73.66 -4.33
Inside 50’s 52.33 44 +8.33
Turnovers 48.66 50.33 -1.66

Fremantle: Losses v Finals Teams

The Dockers finished with six losses against sides in the Finals this year, the second most of any club. The following table indicates their performance in LOSSES against their fellow finals sides this year with the key indicators highlighted in Bold. When comparing Fremantle’s output in wins and losses what you find is a buffet of bipolar production. Basically everything does a one-eighty.

Contested possession was -26 for the Dockers whilst +20 for the opposition. Formula for defeat doesn’t come any more straight forward; Smash Fremantle at the contest and they appear to have no Plan B.

A result of failing to win first use of the football is a huge drop in overall ball use. The Dockers total disposal numbers in losses drop by thirty compared to wins whilst their opponents numbers increase by more than fifty. Opponents predominately pick apart the Dockers defense via foot (+41 differential in Fremantle wins compared to losses) and turn the game from contested to uncontested as evidenced by the difference disparity for uncontested marks (opponents were +15 in Docker losses compared to wins).

Fremantle’s own kicking ability went out the window in losses as well and they would experience a -30 effective kicks disparity compared to wins whilst their opponents would increase their output by the same number. It gets even more bleak when you look at the Dockers stoppage output. Fremantle were -11 in clearances in games they lost compared to games they won whilst their opponents registered a +9 increase. The same can be said for turnovers. Fremantle’s opponents would register ten fewer turnovers in Docker losses. There’s no sugar-coating when it comes to Fremantle, when they lose they are dominated in virtually every single facet of the game. The Dockers struggle to win back the football once they lose control of it. If you limit your turnovers and protect the football against Fremantle you significantly increase your chances of victory.

(Data is recorded as average per game)

Category For Against Difference
Contested Possession 138 153.66 -15.66
Uncontested Possession 194.66 206 -11.33
Marks 81.33 92.66 -11.33
Marks Inside 50 7.33 11.16 -3.83
Contested Marks 13.5 13.33 +0.16
Uncontested Marks 67.83 79.33 -11.5
Disposals 329.83 368.83 -39
Disposal Efficiency 70.48% 72.08% -1.59%
Kicks 183.5 220.5 -37
Handballs 146.33 148.33 -2
Effective Kicks 118.5 144.33 -25.83
Kicking Efficiency 64.46% 65.31% -0.85%
Hitouts 46.83 37.66 +9.16
Hitouts to Advantage 9.33 10 -0.66
Clearances 32 44 -12
Tackles 68.66 68.16 +0.5
Inside 50’s 43.16 58.33 -15.16
Turnovers 47 39.33 +7.66

Fremantle: Key Indicator Rankings

We’re now aware that there’s numerous ways to bring about a Fremantle loss so let’s looks at how Geelong measure up in those important areas. The key statistical categories which were directly related to Fremantle winning or losing a game of football are listed in the following table. Again, I have listed the Dockers overall ranking for each indicator and provided Geelong’s ranking  in terms of being able to restrict an opponent in that specific area. The areas in Blue are the categories which Geelong need to limit Fremantle in order to have a better chance at winning. The remaining areas designate each sides output differential compared to their specific opponents. These are areas which don’t necessarily need to be won by Geelong but they must remain competitive and at least break even. This will give us an accurate idea of whether or not Fremantle’s strengths and weaknesses play into the hands of the Cats.

Category Fremantle Ranking Geelong Ranking
Contested Possession 4th in contested possessions per game 15th in least opponent contested possessions per game
Marks Inside 50 12th in marks Inside 50 per game 4th in least opponent marks Inside 50 per game
Disposals 8th in disposals per game 7th in least opponent disposals per game
Kicks 7th in kicks per game 5th in least opponent kicks per game
Effective Kicks 11th in effective disposals per game 8th in least opponent effective disposals per game
Clearances 12th in clearances per game 15th in least opponent clearances per game
Inside 50’s 12th in Inside 50’s per game 5th in least opponent Inside 50’s per game
Turnovers 4th in fewest team to opponent turnovers per game differential 12th in fewest team to opponent turnovers per game differential

Summary: Both teams excel at contested possession and rank inside the top five but both clubs were outside the top ten when it comes to restricting their opponents. To designate who has the advantage in this key area I’ve taken a look at the per game differentials which should give us a better indication of how each side compares directly to their opponent. Fremantle come out on top ranking fourth overall in the competition for contested possession per game differential with the Cats in thirteenth place. This indicates to me that Fremantle should possess a very marginal advantage in contested possession.

Outside of contested possession and turnovers it’s hard to find an obvious advantage for the Dockers. Apart from clearances Geelong rank highly when it comes to limiting their opponent in all of the areas which point to a Fremantle win. Given the Dockers ranked twelth overall for clearances the Cats low restriction ability in this area (fifteenth overall) becomes a moot point.

Who Will Win?

I see Geelong being more successful in their key indicators of victory than Fremantle especially with the absence of Luke McPharlin. The Cats ability to win games of football rests primarily on a high numbers of Inside 50’s and marks Inside 50. With no McPharlin I can’t see Fremantle being able to squash the impact of Tom Hawkins and to a lesser extent James Podsiadly. McPharlin leads the league in total marks, ranks second at the Dockers for rebound 50’s, third for contested marks and one percenters, and has a time on ground percentage of 92% which is second most at the club. I’m a firm believer in the “one player doesn’t make a team” mantra (as evidenced by completely ignoring Steve Johnson’s absence in this analysis) but I think key position players are the exception to the rule and for Fremantle’s backline no cog is more important than Luke McPharlin.

The Dockers are more than capable of causing an upset but I see Geelong being able to nullify the Dockers impressive ability at the contest through their proven high levels of pressure and elite tackle output. The Cats have been here before and according to this analysis Fremantle lack the specific qualities required to really push this game in a direction that would make Geelong uncomfortable.

I expect the Dockers to be competitive and assuming Ross Lyon doesn’t flood the back-line fifteen deep (knowing Ross it could happen) I also expect Geelong to continually pepper the forward fifty and have too much firepower, especially without McPharlin down back to help steady the ship. When you factor in the Dockers lack of finals experience and their poor record against Geelong outside of Perth (12-1) everything points to a Cats victory.

Tip: Geelong by 24 points.

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @ScottyBarby

AFL Finals Week 1 Preview: Collingwood v Hawthorn

By Scott Barby

Tonight signals the beginning of the 2012 AFL Finals campaign with Collingwood facing Hawthorn in the first Qualifying Final. We’ve seen both sides play all year so I’m going to hurdle the vanilla details and cut right to the chase and tell you who will win and why.

I’ve broken down both Collingwood and Hawthorn’s data against the Finals sides this year. You can find the aggregate data of every side here. To get a better understanding of how these two particular sides perform against the top eight I decided it would be best to separate their win/loss data against the competitions elite. What you’ll find are the raw output numbers of when a team wins pegged against the raw output numbers of when a team loses. Pretty straight forward stuff.  The goal is to identify any significant outliers between the data so that we can pinpoint exactly what a sides strengths/weaknesses are and what results in a win or a loss for a particular team.

Hawthorn: Wins v Finals Teams

Hawthorn finished the 2012 campaign with seven wins against this years top eight, the highest of any club. The following table indicates their performance in WINS against their fellow finals sides this year. Hawthorn were most dominant in uncontested possession, marks, marks inside 50, uncontested marks, disposals, effective kicks, kicking efficiency, clearances and Inside 50’s. They basically dominated everywhere. Those who know the Hawks game style wouldn’t be shocked by this at all given the dependency upon high disposal numbers. Hawthorn dominate possession and play through the safest (uncontested) avenue possible. The Hawks do so via elite accuracy (specifically via foot) and have a supreme advantage when moving forward.

(Data is recorded as average per game)

Category For Against Difference
Contested Possession 146.57 144.42 +2.14
Uncontested Possession 229.85 192.42 +37.42
Marks 96.14 72.85 +23.28
Marks Inside 50 13.28 10 +3.28
Contested Marks 10.28 11.57 -1.28
Uncontested Marks 85.85 61.28 +24.57
Disposals 376.71 338.14 +38.57
Disposal Efficiency 74.41% 71.27% +3.14%
Kicks 222.14 206.85 +15.28
Handballs 153 147.14 +5.85
Effective Kicks 157.14 122.42 +34.71
Kicking Efficiency 70.12% 63.95% +6.17%
Hitouts 39.85 43.14 -3.28
Hitouts to Advantage 9.14 12.14 -3
Clearances 43 36 +7
Tackles 64.85 65.85 -1
Inside 50’s 55.57 44.57 +11
Turnovers 40.42 40.85 -0.42

Hawthorn: Losses v Finals Teams

The Hawks finished with four losses against sides in the Finals this year, the equal lowest of any club. The following table indicates their performance in LOSSES against their fellow finals sides this year. Although Hawthorn maintained an advantage in total disposals their effectiveness when using the football was worse than their opponent across every category. The key indicators where Hawthorn’s performance dropped drastically in games they won compared to games they lost are listed in Blue Bold font.

Opponents who had success against Hawthorn were able to locate key targets Inside 50 and were most focused on playing direct football via foot. Hawthorn were -45 in uncontested possessions, -29 marks,  -5 marks inside 50 (opponents were +4), -26 uncontested marks, -34 total disposals, -6% kicking efficiency, -32 effective kicks, -6 clearances and +7 in turnovers on average per game in games they lost compared to games they won against sides inside the top eight. This indicates to me that the most effective way to nullify Hawthorn is to play high pressure contested football and not allow them to control the game on their own terms, similar to how Sydney did against the Hawks recently at the SCG, only it has to be sustained for four quarters.

Category For Against Difference
Contested Possession 148 146.25 +1.75
Uncontested Possession 181 191.25 -10.25
Marks 67.5 79.75 -12.25
Marks Inside 50 8.25 13.5 -5.25
Contested Marks 8.25 14 -5.75
Uncontested Marks 59.25 65.75 -6.5
Disposals 342.75 325.25 +17.5
Disposal Efficiency 70.4 72.1 -1.69%
Kicks 200.5 193.75 +6.75
Handballs 134.75 139 -4.25
Effective Kicks 126.5 130.75 -4.25
Kicking Efficiency 64.67% 65.92% -1.24%
Hitouts 43.5 39.25 +4.25
Hitouts to Advantage 11.75 9.75 +2
Clearances 37.5 39.25 -1.75
Tackles 79 68.25 +10.75
Inside 50’s 50.75 50.75
Turnovers 47.25 47.5 -0.25

Hawthorn: Key Indicator Rankings

Now that we’re aware of what makes Hawthorn tick in wins and losses let’s see how Collingwood performed in those important areas. The key statistical categories which were directly related to Hawthorn winning or losing a game of football are listed in the following table. I have listed Hawthorn’s overall ranking for each indicator and provided Collingwood’s ranking  in terms of being able to restrict an opponent in that specific area. This should give us an accurate idea of whether or not Hawthorn’s strengths and weaknesses play into the hands of Collingwood.

Category Collingwood Ranking Hawthorn Ranking
Uncontested Possession 14th in least opponent uncontested possessions per game 1st in uncontested possessions per game
Marks 13th in least opponent marks per game 5th in marks per game
Marks Inside 50 7th in least opponent marks inside 50 per game 3rd marks inside 50 per game
Disposals 14th in least opponent disposals per game 2nd in disposal per game
Disposal Efficiency 12th in lowest opponent disposal efficiency per game 1st in disposal efficiency
Kicks 11th in least opponent kicks per game 1st in kicks per game
Handballs 4th in least opponent handballs per game 5th in handballs per game
Effective Kicks 14th in least opponent effective disposals per game 1st in effective disposals
Clearances 2nd in least opponent clearances per game 2nd in clearances per game
Turnovers 15th in opponent turnovers per game 15th in turnovers per game

Summary: There isn’t much too like here if you’re a Pies fan. In all the areas where Hawthorn need to be limited the Magpies struggle to restrict their opponent. There were only two areas specific to Hawthorn’s game style which could cause concern. Those areas were clearances and turnovers.

Collingwood: Wins v Finals Teams.

The Magpies finished with six wins against Finals sides this year, the second most of any club. The following table indicates their performance in WINS against their fellow finals sides this year. Like Hawthorn the Magpies excelled when running into little resistance from the opposition. The Magpies performed at their best when dominating possessions, playing direct via foot, limiting their turnovers and winning the stoppages.

Collingwood are a pretty straight forward side; Win first use of the ball and more of it , use it effectively and match your opponent when it comes to the contest stuff. There’s no bells and whistles here.

(Data is recorded as average per game)

Category For Against Difference
Contested Possession 155.33 152.66 +2.66
Uncontested Possession 214.66 201 +13.66
Marks 80.33 75.5 +4.83
Marks Inside 50 9.5 9.66 -0.16
Contested Marks 11.16 11 +0.16
Uncontested Marks 69.33 64.33 +5
Disposals 374.66 354 +20.66
Disposal Efficiency 70.7% 69.38% +1.31%
Kicks 218.66 200.5 +18.16
Handballs 156 153.5 +2.5
Effective Kicks 140 125.33 +14.66
Kicking Efficiency 63.93% 62.63% +1.3%
Hitouts 38.5 43.83 -5.33
Hitouts to Advantage 8.83 9.66 -0.83
Clearances 40 35.66 +4.33
Tackles 73.5 72.33 +1.16
Inside 50’s 52.83 51 +1.83
Turnovers 43.5 45.5 -2

Collingwood: Losses v Finals Teams

The Magpies finished with four losses against sides in the Finals this year, the equal lowest of any club (with Hawthorn). The following table indicates their performance in LOSSES against their fellow finals sides this year. The key indicators where Collingwood’s performance dropped drastically in games they won compared to games they lost are once again listed in Blue Bold font.

The big standout here is the switch from high contested numbers to heavy uncontested numbers. Teams who had success against the Magpies forced the game to be played more tactical and uncontested, with a move away from a contested style. This resulted in Collingwood having some of their output numbers sugar-coated, specifically their ball usage indicators. The increase in effective usage percentages isn’t exactly a welcomed improvement. It’s more likely a product of a highly uncontested game.

The Magpies poor performance was more about what their opponents were able to do as opposed to what Collingwood failed to do. Opponents playing in the finals who defeated Collingwood (on average per game) were +27 in uncontested possession, +20 in uncontested marks, +5 for marks Inside 50, +18 in uncontested marks, +20 in disposals, +7% disposal efficiency, +17 in kicks (whilst restricting the Magpies by -16), +29 effective kicks and +8% kicking efficiency compared to their output in losses to Collingwood. Collingwood’s contested game was also limited to eight fewer clearances, eleven fewer tackles and 11 less Inside 50’s per game in their losses compared to wins.

Each of these indicators play into Hawthorn’s hands. Collingwood hate everything about the way Hawthorn play.

Category For Against Difference
Contested Possession 132.5 141 -8.5
Uncontested Possession 202.75 228 -25.25
Marks 86.25 94 -7.75
Marks Inside 50 10.75 14.25 -3.5
Contested Marks 11.5 11.5
Uncontested Marks 74.75 82.5 -7.75
Disposals 338 373.5 -35.5
Disposal Efficiency 73.12% 76.12% -3%
Kicks 202.5 217.25 -14.75
Handballs 135.5 156.25 -20.75
Effective Kicks 134.5 154.25 -19.75
Kicking Efficiency 66.4% 70.8% -4.39%
Hitouts 28.5 47 -18.5
Hitouts to Advantage 8.75 12.5 -3.75
Clearances 32.25 40.75 -8.5
Tackles 62.5 57.5 -5
Inside 50’s 45.25 54.75 -9.5
Turnovers 37.75 40.5 -2.75

Collingwood: Key Indicator Rankings

When we looked at Hawthorn’s key indicators we covered numerous areas which impacted Collingwood as well. Rather than rehash over those same areas I’ve limited the following Collingwood key indicator areas to categories which were not previous discussed.

Category Collingwood Ranking Hawthorn Ranking
Contested Possession 3rd in contested possessions per game 1st in least opponent contested possessions per game
Disposals 3rd in disposals per game 1st in least opponent disposals per game
Kicks 2nd in kicks per game 1st in least opponent kicks per game
Handballs 7th in handballs per game 4th in least opponent handballs per game
Hitouts 14th in hitouts per game 10th in least opponent hitouts per game
Clearances 7th in clearances per game 4th in least opponent clearances per game
Tackles 8th in tackles per game 9th in least opponent tackles per game
Inside 50’s 11th in Inside 50’s per game 1st in least opponent Inside 50’s per game

Summary: Apart from hitouts and tackles Hawthorn ranked Inside the top five in regards to restricting opponent output for all of the areas which point to a Collingwood victory. Those two areas (hitouts and tackles) where Collingwood may have an advantage are basically nullified once you factor in both their and Hawthorn’s pedestrian rankings.

Previous Meetings

To further punch home just how dominant Hawthorn are against the Pies I’ve compiled an aggregate table of data from their two games this year. The numbers fall in line with the indicators which were identified above. Considering the above numbers were dealing with an eleven and ten game sample size I’d suggest that there’s more than enough data to make an accurate hypothesis on who will win.

Given Hawthorn are 7-3 in their last ten games against Collingwood and the evaluations I’ve found in this analysis I see no reason why Hawthorn won’t win this game of football, and quite comfortably at that.

Category Collingwood Hawthorn
Contested Possession 145 145
Uncontested Possession 211.5 229
Marks 83.5 88
Marks Inside 50 12.5 14
Hitouts 37.5 41.5
Disposals 353.5 376.5
Disposal Efficiency 75% 77.55%
Kicks 204.5 214.5
Handballs 149 162
Effective Kicks 138 155
Clearances 37 42
Inside 50’s 52.5 56
Tackles 66.5 65.5
Turnovers 38 39.5

Tip: Hawthorn by 25 points

You can follow Scotty on Twitter: @ScottyBarby

Inside the Numbers: A Snapshot of the AFL Finals

By Scotty Barby

September is my favorite month of the year. It signals the beginning of Spring which means it’s the end of Winter. I actually don’t mind the cold and I’m quite fond of coats but after three months of twelve degree maximums it was time to do away with the arctic wind chill and replace it with Melbourne’s bipolar four seasons in one day.

The dawn of spring also marks the beginning of T-shirt season which has a level of importance that is self-explanatory. If it weren’t for T-shirts my reasons to live would be halved. I love them so.

More importantly (marginally) Spring brings forth the greatest month of sports for the calendar year. The English Premier League season is only a few weeks young. College Football and NFL kick off. The US Open Tennis takes place. NRL Finals begin and several Union International fixtures are on deck. If we weren’t already spoiled for choice the granddaddy of them all joins the party this weekend in the form of the AFL Finals series.

For me the month of September turns into Bachelor self-actualisation; There’s little sleep to be had due to 24/7 sports, no socializing to experience due to 24/7 sports, plenty of gambling on hand due to 24/7 sports and of course, T-shirts.

I fucking love September.

Another reason why I love September is because it brings forth twenty-two weeks of AFL data to break down.

No, this is not the reason why I am still living alone, at least not entirely.

For the average person analyzing data from 396 AFL games seems like a waste of time and to be honest I completely agree. Considering half the league are a no show in September the numbers derived from games against sides who finished ninth-to-sixteenth holds little to no value. Unless the league brings about a Wildcard format or just kicks North Melbourne out because nobody would give a shit what’s the point of even looking at any game data against teams who won’t be playing until next March?

Sorry sugar-coated fixture buddies North Melbourne and Adelaide, but there is no point.

So that’s exactly what you’ll find in this blog post. A flood of numbers which involve nothing more than the teams who are playing this weekend. This is the organic elite going against one another with no “two games against GWS” artificial sweetener blended in.

Each team has been broken down across nineteen statistical categories ranging from how they fared against every team playing Finals from a win/loss perspective to basically everything-fucking-else. Some numbers have been omitted due to a lack of public availability or permission to publish but I have included their raw values where possible.

Make of it what you will, use the data as you please or hit the “X” in the top right hand corner if statistical porn isn’t your thing.

This is all simply for my well-being so I can sleep at night. If you get something out of it or learn something new, that’s cool too.

To the numbers…

The Finals Ladder

Team

Wins

Losses

Percentage

Hawthorn

7

4

129.87

Sydney

5

4

111.82

Adelaide

5

4

102.34

Collingwood

6

4

95.73

Geelong

4

7

94.57

West Coast

6

5

93.71

Fremantle

3

6

90.60

North Melbourne

3

5

78.62

Summary: Pretty self-explanatory. This represents how each team performed against Finals sides during the home and away season. I posted this bad boy on Twitter a few nights ago because I think it confirms what we already knew. Hawthorn are elite and then it’s a crapshoot to figure out the rest, and then there’s North Melbourne. All in all It’s a lot more even than I expected and at face value doesn’t really tell us anything outside of “anyone can win”, which is a good thing.

*FYI I’m a Kangaroos member, so I can take as many cheap shots as I like.

The Top 8 v The Top 8: Raw Numbers (Per game average)

Now we dive into the valuable stuff. If you’re expecting to find a golden ticket into who should win the Premiership this year I’ll save you some time and you can go and play Madden like I want to. It’s Hawthorn. The following won’t tell you who will win the Flag though because this is sports and the Melbourne weather of results (anything) can happen.

The Hawks were far and away the most consistent side through all nineteen categories and experienced the highest level of average output and fewest weaknesses. I am convinced that the only team who can beat Hawthorn is themselves, or Geelong of course who have activated Mike Tyson’s Punch Out boss mode against the Hawks over the last four years. No matter what Hawthorn do (and they did everything right in Round 2) they can’t win against Geelong. It creeps me out, in a good way.

The Following tables are pretty straight forward. You have your team ranking, their output against the top eight sides this season, their opponents output in those games, the difference between the two levels of output and how that compared to their home and away production.

Rather than cover 40,000 words (don’t dare me, because I will) I’ll leave the majority of interpretations up to you and only jump in for a couple of lines when an indicator either stands out or looks a little backwards.

Enjoy.

Team

Contested Possession For

Contested Possession Against

Difference

Home & Away Ranking

Adelaide

150.77

140.44

+10.33

2nd

Sydney

161.11

159.88

+1.23

1st

Fremantle

146.77

146

+0.77

3rd

Collingwood

147

147.2

-0.19

4th

West Coast

142

142.27

-0.27

11th

Hawthorn

147.09

149.09

-2

7th

Geelong

148.27

151.63

-3.36

9th

North Melbourne

138.5

143.37

-4.87

8th

Summary:  Only three teams (coincidentally the home and away top 3) had a positive output against Finals sides when it came to contested possession this year. Of the top eight sides West Coast showed the biggest jump in contested possession output when the competition improved, jumping from a ranking of eleventh on the year to fifth against the top eight sides. They can mix it up if they have to.

Team

Uncontested Possession For

Uncontested Possession Against

Difference

Home & Away Ranking

Hawthorn

212.09

192

+20.09

2nd

North Melbourne

206.62

194.37

+12.25

1st

West Coast

206.72

198.81

+7.90

6th

Sydney

194.22

193.77

+0.44

10th

Collingwood

209.9

211.8

-1.90

5th

Geelong

195.63

204.63

-9

9th

Fremantle

193.77

207.44

-13.66

8th

Adelaide

187.88

209.11

-21.22

17th

Summary: No surprises here with Hawthorn’s disposal heavy game plan seeing them top the rankings. Handball happy North Melbourne rank in second with Sydney moving away from a contested heavy style against the competitions elite. Adelaide’s desire for the contest is proven once again given their opponents heavy advantage in uncontested ball. The Crows couldn’t care about patience, they love it tough and direct.

Team

Marks For

Marks Against

Difference

Home &Away Ranking

Hawthorn

98.63

84.81

+13.81

5th

Geelong

85.90

74.45

+11.45

4th

West Coast

89.63

83.72

+5.90

3rd

Collingwood

82.7

82.9

-0.20

6th

Fremantle

84.55

86.44

-1.88

1st

North Melbourne

86

88.5

-2.5

8th

Adelaide

79.22

92.66

-13.44

9th

Sydney

65.44

79.33

-13.88

18th

Summary: Hawthorn’s large number of marks is again a product of their disposal heavy game style. Every team outside of Sydney (due to handball, you’ll see this later) ranked highly (top 10) throughout the year but only three would experience a positive advantage against Finals sides. Outside of Sydney this to me gives a good indication of how well teams can force a game to be played on their terms, specifically those who prefer to move the ball via foot.

Team

Marks Inside 50 For

Marks Inside 50 Against

Difference

Home & Away Ranking

Geelong

14.18

10.45

+3.72

1st

West Coast

10

8.45

+1.54

9th

Hawthorn

11.45

11.27

+0.18

3rd

Collingwood

10.2

11.3

-1.1

7th

Sydney

8.66

9.55

-0.88

11th

Fremantle

8.55

10

-1.44

12th

Adelaide

11.44

13

-1.55

2nd

North Melbourne

11.25

13.5

-2.25

6th

Summary: Geelong. Geelong. Geelong. It’s no fluke that Tom Hawkins leads the league for Marks Inside 50 per game. This is why the Cats are so dangerous, their ability to find targets inside 50. Geelong have done it against every team in the competition and more importantly they’ve done it better than anyone else when it comes to teams playing Finals. In September finding targets Inside 50 has supreme value. If you want to beat Geelong the easy way tell whoever is on Tom Hawkins to go all Mark Yeates on Dermott Brereton at the opening bounce.

Team

Contested Marks For

Contested Marks Against

Difference

Home & Away Ranking

Geelong

13.90

10.90

+3

3rd

West Coast

13.81

11.45

+2.36

1st

Fremantle

12.77

12.22

+0.55

5th

North Melbourne

13.12

12.75

+0.37

11th

Collingwood

10.6

11.9

-1.3

6th

Hawthorn

9.72

12.27

-2.54

18th

Adelaide

12.11

13.33

-1.22

4th

Sydney

12.22

15.44

-3.22

12th

Summary: This particular statistic can mean one of two things; You’re well equipped to deal with 50/50 contests or you’re being forced to kick to a contest on a number of occasions, thus a high output of contested marks is a direct result of the opposition restricting your ability to find the open man. It can be good and bad.

Team

Uncontested Marks For

Uncontested Marks Against

Difference

Home & Away Ranking

Hawthorn

76.18

62.90

+13.27

NA

Geelong

71.09

64.45

+6.63

NA

West Coast

75.81

72.27

+3.54

NA

Fremantle

73.22

72.44

+0.77

NA

Collingwood

71.5

71.6

-0.09

NA

North Melbourne

72.87

75.75

-2.87

NA

Sydney

53.22

63.88

-10.66

NA

Adelaide

67.22

79.33

-12.11

NA

Summary: Uncontested Marks is a valuable indicator when it comes to grouping teams into style of play (we can see clearly that Adelaide and Sydney are much more contested ball focused) and rating their ability to keep the pace of the game on their terms. Hawthorn are all about keeping offs and dominating possession, specifically via foot, so it’s no surprise to see them leading the way here.

Team

Disposals For

Disposals Against

Difference

Home & Away Ranking

Hawthorn

359.81

338

+21.81

3rd

North Melbourne

346.25

340.87

+5.37

1st

West Coast

348.54

344.81

+3.72

8th

Sydney

361.33

353.11

+8.22

6th

Collingwood

360

361.8

-1.80

5th

Adelaide

340.44

348.44

-8

13th

Fremantle

339.77

351.44

-11.66

7th

Geelong

341.81

360.18

-18.36

10th

Summary: With six of the top eight disposal sides for the season ranking inside the top eight It’s only natural that the majority of sides see their output level off slightly. If we ranked each side on the above output Hawthorn’s 359 disposal per game would rank ninth in the competition during the home and away season. Disposal is more evenly spread when the elite teams face off against each other with Hawthorn far and away the most impressive.

Team

Disposal Efficiency For

Disposal Efficiency Against

Difference

Home & Away Ranking

Sydney

71.17%

68.86%

+2.32%

6th

West Coast

72.44%

70.68%

+1.76%

3rd

Hawthorn

73.11%

71.57%

+1.54%

1st

North Melbourne

72.02%

72.47%

-0.45%

2nd

Collingwood

71.61%

72.14%

-0.53%

7th

Fremantle

70.24%

71.3%

-1.05%

11th

Adelaide

69.71

71.18

-1.47

18th

Geelong

70.26%

71.84%

-1.58%

10th

Summary: When playing against one another every team inside the top eight saw their total disposal numbers drop and it’s no different when comparing their ability to use the football. Sydney’s ability to limit their opposition’s effectiveness via a contested defensive style and desire to tackle (number one in the competition) isn’t impacted by who they play. The Swans always come to fight.

Team

Kicks For

Kicks Against

Difference

Home & Away Ranking

Hawthorn

213.45

193.81

+19.63

1st

Collingwood

212.2

207.2

+5

2nd

Adelaide

204.33

203.33

-1

3rd

West Coast

203.90

205.36

-1.45

9th

Geelong

201.63

205.09

-3.45

11th

Sydney

200.22

206.88

-6.66

13th

Fremantle

196.88

206.77

-9.88

4th

North Melbourne

197.62

211.87

-14.25

8th

Summary: Huge uncontested marks output means huge kicking numbers so don’t wet the bed at this total domination by Hawthorn. There’s a more telling kick related indicator coming up, so stay tuned.

Team

Handballs For

Handballs Against

Difference

Home & Away Ranking

North Melbourne

148.62

129

+19.62

1st

Sydney

161.11

146.22

+14.88

4th

West Coast

144.63

139.45

+5.18

8th

Hawthorn

146.36

144.18

+2.18

5th

Fremantle

142.77

144.66

-1.88

12th

Collingwood

147.8

154.6

-6.79

7th

Adelaide

137.33

145.55

-8.22

18th

Geelong

140.09

155.18

-15.09

13th

Summary: The Kangaroos bread and butter handball through the corridor is clearly evident as is Sydney’s in and under quick fire movement by hand. The Swans had far and away the fewest number of uncontested marks. Against quality opposition Sydney like to move the ball as fast as possible.

Team

Effective Kicks For

Effective Kicks Against

Difference

Home & Away Ranking

Hawthorn

146

125.45

+20.54

NA

West Coast

135.90

133.09

+2.81

NA

Collingwood

137.8

138.9

-0.90

NA

Sydney

129.88

132.66

-2.77

NA

Geelong

131.45

134.27

-2.81

NA

Adelaide

129.77

134.33

-4.55

NA

Fremantle

128.44

134.77

-6.33

NA

North Melbourne

128.62

142.62

-14

NA

Summary: I believe effective kicks to be one of the most valuable indicators when it comes to finals football. How you use the ball is paramount to success and nobody doesn’t it better than Hawthorn regardless of the opposition. Funnily enough the above rankings fall in line with how I rate each sides premiership chances. Yes, I have ruled out an Adelaide, Fremantle or North Melbourne flag. Make of that what you will.

Team

Kicking Efficiency For

Kicking Efficiency Against

Difference

Home & Away Ranking

Hawthorn

68.14%

64.67%

+3.47%

NA

West Coast

66.61%

64.77%

+1.84%

NA

Sydney

64.88%

64.01%

+0.87%

NA

Fremantle

65.02%

65.02%

NA

Geelong

65.2%

65.39%

-0.19%

NA

Collingwood

64.92%

65.9%

-0.97%

NA

North Melbourne

64.77%

67.21%

-2.43%

NA

Adelaide

62.7%

66.58%

-3.88%

NA

Summary: Proving that the previous indicator was no fluke Hawthorn again prove their advantage when travelling via foot. A 3.47% advantage per game may look like a relatively small number at face value but over the course of a game it works out to be around twenty more accurate kicks per game.

Team

Hitouts For

Hitouts Against

Difference

Home & Away Ranking

West Coast

51.54

28.90

+22.63

1st

Fremantle

47.11

37.11

+10

3rd

Adelaide

41.44

41.44

4th

Hawthorn

41.18

41.72

-0.54

10th

Geelong

37.81

42.63

-4.81

12th

North Melbourne

36.37

44.24

-7.87

2nd

Collingwood

34.5

45.1

-10.6

14th

Sydney

41.44

53.11

-11.66

8th

Summary: Largely irrelevant. You’d rank them Cox/Naitanui, Sandilands, Jacobs, right? Good. So do the numbers. Let’s move on.

Team

Hitouts to Advantage For

Hitouts to Advantage Against

Difference

Home & Away Ranking

West Coast

14.18

6.72

+7.45

NA

Adelaide

10.44

10

+0.44

NA

Fremantle

8.88

9.11

-0.22

NA

Hawthorn

10.09

11.27

-1.18

NA

North Melbourne

9.12

10.75

-1.62

NA

Sydney

10.33

12

-1.66

NA

Collingwood

8.8

10.8

-2

NA

Geelong

9.63

11.72

-2.09

NA

Summary: The West Coast duo clearly dominate the competition when it comes the Hitouts and they dominate their fellow Finals buddies as well. It also looks like Trent West struggles against the league’s elite, color me shocked.

Team

Clearances For

Clearances Against

Difference

Home & Away Ranking

Adelaide

42.44

33.55

+8.88

1st

Hawthorn

41

37.18

+3.81

2nd

West Coast

40

37.90

+2.09

6th

Collingwood

36.9

37.7

-0.80

7th

North Melbourne

37.62

39.75

-2.12

8th

Sydney

41.11

43.33

-2.22

3rd

Geelong

36.54

41.18

-4.63

15th

Fremantle

35.77

41.22

-5.44

12th

Summary: I was a little worried to see that West Coast weren’t in the top two on this list. Considering the amount of Hitouts the Eagles win their clearance output is incredibly inefficient. Adelaide being number one is no surprise given they finished the year as the number one clearance side. The Crows being able to hold up in this area against the league’s best makes this their strongest point. Fremantle experienced the biggest drop when comparing output against the entire competition and the top eight. Every other side was relatively on par.

Team

Tackles For

Tackles Against

Difference

Home & Away Ranking

Geelong

71.90

66.09

+5.81

3rd

Sydney

75.66

70.77

+4.88

1st

Hawthorn

70

66.72

+3.27

6th

Collingwood

69.1

66.4

+2.69

8th

North Melbourne

60.12

59.62

+0.5

10th

Fremantle

68.88

70

-1.11

2nd

West Coast

57.90

65.18

-7.27

14th

Adelaide

58.33

67.77

-9.44

16th

Summary: Geelong, Sydney and Fremantle were the top three tackling sides on raw numbers this season. To say that Fremantle has a significant advantage in this area looks to be fools gold.

Team

Inside 50’s For

Inside 50’s Against

Difference

Home & Away Ranking

Geelong

56.81

49.09

+7.72

5th

Hawthorn

55.72

49.18

+6.54

1st

West Coast

50.63

47.81

+2.81

7th

Sydney

55.22

54.77

+0.44

4th

Collingwood

49.7

52.6

-3.9

11th

North Melbourne

49.62

54.87

-5.25

2nd

Adelaide

47.44

53.11

-5.66

9th

Fremantle

46.22

53.55

-7.33

12th

Summary: Number one for Inside 50’s and number one for Marks Inside 50. They go hand in hand with winning games of football and It’s where Geelong are most impressive. This is where the Podsiadly/Hawkins combination is so vital. There’s nothing worse for a defense than a high ball consistently being pumped Inside 50 and the Cats do so more than any other side.

Team

Turnovers For

Turnovers Against

Difference

Home & Away Ranking

West Coast

43.63

48.90

-5.27

1st

Sydney

43.44

47.33

-3.88

6th

Collingwood

41.2

43.5

-2.3

2nd

Hawthorn

43.18

43.27

-0.09

4th

Adelaide

40.55

40.77

-0.22

3rd

Geelong

49.27

46.27

+3

13th

North Melbourne

45

41.25

+3.75

16th

Fremantle

47.55

43

+4.55

10th

Summary: Roughly 65% of scores are generated via turnovers so it’s imperative that you protect the ball and use it wisely. The Cats don’t give a single fuck about this rule though and they will shank through the corridor whenever they damn well feel like it. I was surprised to see that Adelaide protected the football better than any other side.

Team

Points For

Points Against

Difference

Home & Away Ranking

Hawthorn

99

75.36

+23.63

1st

Sydney

94.55

76.1

+18.45

2nd

Adelaide

97

85.2

+11.8

3rd

Fremantle

86.77

85.3

+1.47

8th

Geelong

87.18

89.63

-2.45

6th

Collingwood

87.6

91.5

-3.90

7th

West Coast

77

82.27

-5.27

4th

North Melbourne

92.12

111.12

-19

9th

Summary: It’s been a fun year and I couldn’t be more proud that North Melbourne are playing Finals but that defense just won’t hold up at this time of the year. Even shitty teams could score 100+ against the Roos at will and as you can see the Finals sides had no trouble either. Hawthorn had the number one offense and on average restricted their top eight opponents to the lowest score.

Final Rankings

Just to take things a little further I decided to rank each side in each above category by allocating points depending upon performance. Eight points were award to the best side in a given category and one point to the worst performing side, and so on.

It counts for zero but I thought it might be an interesting exercise to gauge team performance against the Finals sides as a whole.

The results are as follows;

Team

Category Points

Hawthorn

122

West Coast

114

Sydney

87

Collingwood

81

Geelong

80

Adelaide

67

Fremantle

66

North Melbourne

65

What Did We Learn?

This isn’t a be all and end all representation of how each side will performance in the coming weeks. It just indicates a teams output against the top eight sides compared to the rest of the league. For better or worse the true value of numerous indicators were cloaked throughout the season. Now the ability to designate a teams strength/weakness against their Finals competition is much easier to identify.

In the coming days I will be breaking down each Finals match up based on what happens when each team wins and when they lose. This should give even more of an accurate representation of what strength/weakness indicators to look for and how they can be impacted or restricted by that teams opponent.

Until then,

Keep your shirt on.

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @ScottyBarby