Round 11 Review
A pretty forgiving round for tipsters, with only two upsets and a lot of comfortable wins. Our best underdog saluted when the Dees knocked off the Dogs on Friday night, the Blues probably should have made it a lot closer, and the Hawks were just...the Hawks.
We know footy isn't the same without crowds, or even with small crowds as a result of two sides playing in a neutral venue. Grateful for the game continuing, but desperate for it to rebound and thrive. Canned crowd noise just can't cover the absence of fans, unfortunately.
That Riewoldt mark. Wow. Hopefully it doesn't bring up more conversations about players putting themselves in danger (like the Lachie Hunter/Jason Johanissen mark a week earlier). Worth remembering the context of the game at that stage too - only 9 points up, the Crows kicking the first four goals of the final quarter. Importantly, he dusted himself off after the absolute screamer and split the middle.
Champion Data's Daniel Hoyne referenced the expected score in the Eagles v Bombers game. Have to agree with him on reassessing West Coast, even given their injury list. Got them wrong earlier this season, for sure.
We also mentioned the top eight looked reasonably set - now that the Bombers have pinched one and the ladder has tightened up, there could be a few more twists and turns to come. Hopefully it comes down to three or four games in the final round, something which hasn't happened in a while
Really wish players weren't called to play on so quickly despite having not moved off their mark. It actually contributes to congestion - because inevitably the player just rushes a kick forward to the most predictable spot.
Let's take a quick look at the games from the weekend just gone...
Who Won The Round?
Melbourne - demolished another challenger with one of the better defensive displays you will see. Strangely their pressure figures were particularly low, so it was more a result of their organisation behind the ball and ability to strangle the Bulldogs with their defensive structure. Keeping the highest scoring offence in the league to under 60 points is an enormous effort.
Who Lost The Round?
West Coast - as above, we got them wrong. Thought they had turned the corner with their contest work and ability to win the ground ball, but that is not the case at the moment. Even allowing for the absence of Shuey and Yeo for most of the season, the Eagles just don't seem to play a style that works in anything other than a nice, uncontested kicking game.
Funnily enough they might still win plenty of matches and make the finals - can this game style win a scrappy grind in a final, though? Something would have to change. And quickly.
Melbourne 87 def Western Bulldogs 59
Expected score: 77 v 59
Amazing performance from Melbourne. Deservedly flag favourites, and probably beat the one team that was likely to challenge them the most. Doesn't mean the Dogs can't turn the tables when they meet again (Round 20), or in a final. A lot can change in that time of course.
With a relatively clean injury list and a 10-1 record, the only concern for the Dees might be peaking at the wrong time. Clearly they will say there's plenty of improvement to come, particularly on offence.
For the Dogs, it just seemed like Melbourne took away their natural flair and ability to take the ball forward. Their first instinct was to go backwards, which usually just invites more pressure against the good sides. The match review will give them some valuable learnings on how to deal with that kind of defence, so they *should* be better prepared next time around.
Geelong 61 def Collingwood 51
Expected score: 79 v 70
A pretty dour contest, deliberately set up that way by the Pies. Bucks certainly did the right thing for his side in making this one a low-scoring grind, but clearly people won't be happy about it. They could've pinched it towards the end, too.
One of the slowest games we have ever seen, the Cats were just better equipped to pick their way through a mass of players flooding back and find a score. As we've said many times before, the Pies were just an in-form key forward away from winning.
Geelong head into the bye at 8-3 having played probably three good games. Such an odd kind of side at the moment with a heap of improvement to come. Not to mention settling on a team mix that works - what do they do with Stanley, Ratugolea, Blicavs, Fort...
Brisbane 126 def GWS 66
Expected score: 119 v 60
In hindsight, we probably should have seen this coming. The Giants had been "up" for so long and were entitled to put in a flat one with such an inexperienced team. They had 17 players with fewer than 100 games, and an average of 72 across their whole side. Only the Suns were less experienced on the weekend.
The Lions put the foot down early and the game was over after the first quarter. Only 4 marks inside 50 for GWS for the whole game says it all...
St Kilda 88 def North Melbourne 68
Expected score: 108 v 72
What should've been a 40+ point win for St Kilda (as we predicted) ended up a rather average 20-point margin. Inaccuracy (again) and some questionable decision making cost the Saints plenty of goals. 17 marks inside 50 should result in a far bigger score than 88 points but that's all they could manage. Expected score of 108 even seems a little low compared to what could've been.
It really was the perfect bounce back spot for St Kilda to build some confidence. Given the way they finished, could it have done more harm than good?
Gold Coast 113 def Hawthorn 76
Expected score: 121 v 74
Genuinely gave Hawthorn a chance in this one. They faced the most inexperienced team of the round at a neutral venue and never really looked like winning.
The positive for the Suns was Rankine hitting the scoreboard alongside Ben King. Nine individual goalkickers was a nice result, albeit against a terrible defence.
Through the middle, a lot has been said about Touk Miller and Hugh Greenwood, but not much about David Swallow. Just quietly putting together a super consistent season. 25 disposals and 7 clearances on the weekend.
Where to for the Hawks? They face the Swans after the bye, and you couldn't really mount a case for them to even make it close.
Essendon 87 def West Coast 71
Expected score: 105 v 48
Was it a win for the ages, or a victory aided by in-game injuries and an already depleted midfield?
A bit of both, really. Certainly one for the expected score record books - 105 to 48 in favour of the Bombers!
Don't be fooled by the break-even at contested possession between these two. The Bombers absolutely dominated the loose ball in the second half, which then lead to the +33 uncontested possession count.
Again, it was another failed test for the Eagles in wet conditions. Only 7 marks inside 50 which derailed their main method of scoring. Continually having to win the ball at the contest just isn't in their DNA, so the Bombers thrived when they found a bit of confidence in the second half.
Missing Tim Kelly (they player they could least afford to lose) for the entire second half made things even tougher. The same with Oscar Allen. So there are excuses you'd think. Managed minutes for Yeo and Naitanui (still, after all this time) made it no surprise the Eagles had to defend 22 inside 50s in the final term.
Full credit to the Bombers - they are playing a great brand of footy and holding up down back despite their challenges with personnel. Excited to see what they can do in the second half of the year.
Richmond 111 def Adelaide 83
Expected score: 95 v 84
Out goes Tom Lynch, in comes Mabior Chol and Callum Coleman-Jones. It was a great setup for those two against a questionable Crows defence - they took 7 marks and kicked 6 goals between them, meaning Jack Riewoldt didn't have to do all the work.
Ultimately the Tigers offence was just too much for the Crows. They conceded 20 marks inside 50 and didn't apply anywhere near the pressure on the Tigers compared to the previous week when they beat an undefeated Melbourne. A pressure rating of 168 this week, a fair drop from the 192 against the Dees.
With a game under the belt for the returning Richmond midfielders and a new-look forward setup with three genuine talls, the Tigers will go into the Dreamtime game next week in reasonable shape. Given the Bombers' form it should be a great contest despite the switch to Optus Stadium.
The Crows find a great bounce back spot in Round 12, facing the Pies at home. If they bring the kind of form they've displayed over the past two weeks then it's hard to see them dropping that one.
Sydney 100 def Carlton 78
Expected score: 89 v 73
We gave the Blues a super chance in this one, and they arguably could have won. Lapses late in each quarter were super costly for Carlton - is it fitness, concentration levels, pure variance? Not sure.
Pre-game, the theory was that the Swans would just have too many options up forward for the Blues to contain. Conceding 58 inside 50s to a forward line with Franklin, Heeney and Papley in form was always going to prove a little too much, allowing the Swans to post their first 100+ scoreline since Round 3.
Carlton have been great at being competitive but not winning. Fascinated to see how they go against a wounded Eagles on the back of an unexpected loss. The switch to the SCG might actually suit the Blues, so this will be a super test to see whether they can finally cause the upset we've been waiting for...
Port Adelaide 115 def Fremantle 69
Expected score: 98 v 72
Early on this game had the feeling of a real 80+ kind of margin. Then the Dockers finally switched on and made this an actual contest.
Clearly the turning point was the free kick to Fyfe in the final quarter, where David Mundy (probably knowing Fyfe had the yips) decided to take advantage from 35m out and snapped a point. Not surprisingly, instead of the margin being 16 points, Port Adelaide piled on the last four goals of the game to make it 46 in the end. What could've been.
Ultimately the Dockers just didn't have enough weapons up forward again. They were brave without Taberner, with Lobb and Treacy at least providing enough of a contest, but just lacked the class compared to the other end.
If Fremantle can somehow find another solid key forward and address the injury curse on their defenders then they are definitely a team on the rise. For now they just don't have the personnel at either end to really challenge the contenders.
The bye weeks are upon us, so a smaller six-game preview this Thursday. Looks like most of the venues are being locked in shortly, so hopefully there are no curveballs. The headline game is obviously Dreamtime at the...Optus Stadium. Can't wait to watch that one, hopefully not in lockdown.