Round 12 Review
Only six games to cover for Round 12, but a fair bit happening! Two great games between top eight contenders, a couple of upsets and absolute carnage at Optus Stadium in the space of a minute.
Thursday night footy returns finally, so a quick review before we get stuck into the Round 13 Preview.
In-game injuries continue to influence results. Often the forgotten aspect of game analysis, it can definitely lead to some overreactions to certain scorelines. Fremantle on the weekend the perfect example. And how would Carlton have fared with the then Coleman Medal leader on the field for the entire game?
All of this talk of the Grand Final at Optus Stadium is nonsense. Only a six weeks ago we had 80,000 at the MCG. Things can change pretty quickly. Staying on positive street for this one. Grand Final isn't going anywhere.
Credit to the league for finding a way to get all games in front of at least a small crowd last weekend. It will only get trickier if Victoria can't get under control, but there are a lot of moving parts to staging a match that go unnoticed. Huge effort to keep things as close to normal as possible. Hopefully hubs and extended stays away are rare - feel for the players and staff with their lives on hold a fair bit in all this.
Who Won The Round?
Melbourne - on the ropes in the first half, completely turned things around in the second. The way they are winning shows incredible belief and maturity in the group. And dare we say it, there are a lot of similarities to Richmond's flag years in the numbers. More on that below.
Who Lost The Round?
Carlton - the blowtorch was going to follow whoever lost out of the Blues v Eagles matchup, and unfortunately there might be a camera crew or three parked outside of Princes Park this morning. Eight losses between 10 and 30 points suggests something has to change...
Melbourne 97 def Brisbane 75
Expected score: 94 v 68
A tale of two halves, this one. The Lions arguably didn't make the most of their dominance in the first two quarters, with Melbourne not defending as well as usual. The Lions were +14 in Inside 50s, +8 clearance and had much more time with the ball than expected. And then...
Things completely changed. Melbourne ramped up their pressure (192 for Q3, easily their best for the game) and wrestled back control. Some might be seduced by a +17 contested possession count in the second half for the Dees, but it was made up of some of the peripheral contested numbers rather than your usual hard ball/loose ball figures.
Instead, Melbourne just owned the territory battle. 36 inside 50s to 18 says it all. The time in forward half percentages flipped completely - Brisbane dominated field position for the first two quarters then hardly saw it in their half for the rest of the game. Melbourne's ability to restrict that forward line to only 2 marks inside 50 in the final two terms was extraordinary.
Brisbane will have learned a lot from this game, and any doubts about Melbourne's credential have surely been put to bed over the last two weeks beating arguably the two best offences in the competition.
The numbers on Melbourne this year show some genuine similarities with the way Richmond have gone about it over the past few seasons - they don't blow you away on the scoreboard (average winning margin of 27, currently 9th), basically only break even at stoppage (+8 for the season, 8th) and have a front six that doesn't rely on anyone kicking a bag every week. This sets up perfectly for a tough finals series.
A rematch between these two in September would be a great proposition. Despite the loss, the Lions have what it takes to turn the tables next time they meet.
Sydney 92 def St Kilda 83
Expected score: 103 v 85
Have to feel for Saints supporters. They found another way to drop four points, this time through execution going forward combined with their usual struggles to split the middle. No other way to look at this one other than a missed opportunity for St Kilda to win on the road.
A lot of talk about Higgins and his 1.6, which is fair enough. The Swans were good enough to capitalise on their poor conversion by streaming up the other end to score. Excruciating for Saints fans, another pinched win for Sydney.
Collingwood 78 def Adelaide 73
Expected score: 60 v 74
Our preview of this one makes for interesting post-match reading...
If Collingwood can keep them from scoring, it becomes a matter of who stands up in their own forward line. De Goey? Cameron? Mihocek? Anyone?
Enter Jamie Elliott. Six goals straight in his first game back from injury. Absolutely the difference between the two sides. Sometimes it's just that simple. The Pies defence stood up quite well, even though Tex Walker had a rare off day in terms of accuracy.
The Pies' 202 pressure figure was probably aided by a pretty slow Crows side that regularly turns the ball over, but it's a good sign they still have the desire. Maybe there is something in the introduction of youth - they don't care about boardroom battles or coaching speculation, they just want to play footy.
Richmond 123 def Essendon 84
Expected score: 106 v 101
One of the more bizarre games in recent memory, with the Tigers 29-point winners despite falling behind in the final term. An expected score of 106 to 101 further highlights that this game was just plain weird.
The first quarter was a game of keepings-off with one of the lowest pressure counts you'll see (149-164). Clearly that didn't work for the Bombers as they fell behind by 19 at quarter time, so something had to change. The second quarter was a complete contrast - pressure 186 to 192 and a hell of a lot more intensity making for a pretty entertaining contest.
The final quarter was just plain odd. Out of nowhere the Bombers piled on the first four goals to hit the front, only for Richmond to kick the next seven. Defensively Essendon just couldn't lock things down. This will be where their improvement comes from over the back end of the year and into next season, most definitely.
Another reminder that the Tigers aren't done with yet. They just have the ability to put the foot down when challenged, and have far too much class to be discounted in any tight contest. They might still have a few injury issues but with their depth players getting plenty of exposure early in the season, it's actually a positive. How good did Mabior Chol look in the ruck?!
West Coast 95 def Carlton 73
Expected score: 80 v 82
The Eagles found some rare grit and determination out of nowhere in this one. Makes you wonder why they can't seem to do it often enough when challenged in games - they have it in them!
An interesting expected score - will it be an important number to remember when assessing the chances of these two over the next few weeks? Carlton will rightly come under scrutiny following the loss, but losing McKay obviously made a huge difference. West Coast have made a habit of surviving on their forward 50 conversion, so the result could flatter them a little.
The Blues basically had no answer for Liam Ryan. Four goals in such a tight contest (where you need your small forward in-form at the cramped SCG) was clearly the difference. He's exactly the sort of player Carlton need...
Western Bulldogs 93 def Fremantle 65
Expected score: 114 v 63
A game where the Bulldogs were comfortable, then challenged, then comfortable again. And clearly that expected score suggests they should have won by plenty - Aaron Naughton's 1.5 far from ideal.
The Dogs had Fremantle covered for most of this game, but you have to feel for the Dockers. More in-game injuries, their defence severely undermanned already, and Matthew Taberner not able to take his place in the starting side. They are probably over-performing given their injury list. Might be a long second half of the year with a few others likely to miss extended periods.
The Dogs head into their bye with a 10-2 record and plenty of time to figure out how they deal with the Melbourne/Richmond sort of game style. Given they seem destined for the top four, devising a method to cut through those two teams in particular will be the number one priority.
Thursday night footy returns! Will aim for a midday Thursday Round 13 Preview this week. Looks like Port Adelaide v Geelong is the headline act, so can't wait to get stuck into that one.