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

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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

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.

“THAT PRICK DEMETRIOU HAD IT IN FOR US SINCE DAY ONE!”

“CONSPIRACY THEORY!!!111”

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

Round 13 AFL Preview – Melbourne v GWS

You can read today’s preview here:

http://thearmchairselector.com/2012/06/scottys-say-round-13-afl-preview-melbourne-v-gws/

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @Scottywashere

This weeks Round 12 AFL preview can be found here:

http://thearmchairselector.com/2012/06/scottys-say-afl-preview-round-12-port-adelaide-v-western-bulldogs/

Follow Scott on Twitter:@Scottywashere