Round 13 Review
Well, this round had it all - except maybe some quality football. Has the cumulative effect of a condensed fixture and significant training restrictions really started to effect the teams? Some sides look like they are just clinging on for dear life at the end of matches, while the skill level across the board has definitely taken a hit. Let's look at all things Round 13...
Gold Coast v Carlton
The preview predicted just how hard it would be for the Suns playing their 5th game in 19 days in the top end. Out of all the fixture challenges handed to teams, this was by far the most brutal, and it showed.
Funny how so many were pointing to the Suns being fatigued AFTER the match had ended - how about making those predictions and observations prior to the start of the game? Far too many post-match experts around lately. Even the betting line was only -9.5 in Carlton's favour, so most expected it to be within two goals at the end.
The game itself was a slog, as players tried to adapt to a slippery ball (as we mentioned in the preview, it's the sweat on the ball, not the ground moisture). Marc Murphy looked like he was playing with a dry footy, while everyone else (particularly Eddie Betts) looked like they were handed a cake of soap.
The Blues were pretty lethal at creating midfield turnovers (51-26) and getting it inside 50 quickly, but just failed to make the most of it. If the 2.8 becomes 8.2 then the margin balloons to an important percentage-booster for Carlton.
Western Bulldogs v Melbourne
Such a critical game, and such a disappointment from Melbourne. Having said that, the carry-on when they have a poor quarter compared to some other sides is extraordinary. They went into half-time with a 7 point lead, were destroyed in the third term thanks to some diabolical defending, and couldn't get any momentum in the final term to try and pinch it. Disappointing, but hardly a disgrace from an overall perspective
The preview had the Demons with the edge in a midfield turnover battle - they broke even on the volume of turnovers but 5.2 to 2.2 in the Bulldogs' favour sealed the deal. When you add the 3 goals they scored from D50 turnovers (all of them in that terrible third term), you've basically got the final margin. The Dogs beat Melbourne at their strength. Credit to them.
Probably doesn't help that the expected score was 78-77 (to the Bulldogs) either. Some butchered shots at goal perhaps add a little perspective to the loss, and suggest the Demons might be underrated in the next game off the back of it
Port Adelaide v Hawthorn
We probably missed an opportunity to suggest Hawthorn had a bit of fight left in them after the "social Hawks" criticism during the week. The team changes suggested Hawthorn would find it tough against Port Adelaide at home, but they did find a way to give the Power a bit of grief thanks to a fast start
Another game where the expected score tells a bit of a tale - 94-60 suggests it should have been far more comfortable for Port Adelaide than it was. Credit to Hawthorn though, who conceded only 4 marks inside 50 for the whole day with an undermanned defence
I wouldn't be writing off Port Adelaide as a genuine threat like some, because their game style could really be suited to a final-like intensity. Watch this space.
Essendon v Richmond
Well, didn't this game create some headlines. No comment on the tribunal or staging situation, other than to say it's good to see the public largely hates players diving, which can only be a good thing.
From the numbers, it's hard to see how the Bombers got so close - the Tigers had the ball in their front half 72% of the time, beat Essendon by 33 at contested possession, and launched it inside 50 66 times to 24. A lot of those would've been repeat entries too, with the Tigers defenders setting up behind the ball to just grab it and send it back in. Very hard for a battling Essendon defence to sustain their energy in the Darwin heat over four quarters if the ball was just living in there for most of the game.
Expected score - 88 to 48. Well worth noting, paticularly when rating the Bombers moving forward if they can't get some personnel back...
Fremantle v Sydney
Both sides tried to out-bore each other, and the Dockers just did it better. There weren't a lot of risks being taken by either side, and with a half time lead of 18 points that felt more like 38, the Dockers were in no rush to give the ball back to the Swans after half time.
Fair to say we haven't rated Fremantle very highly, but they are slowly building into a really disciplined side who just need a few more weapons to really start becoming a challenge for any team. Although 50 points is their second-highest score in the past six weeks, so we can't get too carried away just yet
Adelaide v Geelong
Another missed opportunity to highlight that the Crows might fare a little better against a team without a heap of pace. Geelong beat you very differently than some of the other sides, so with the Crows lacking leg speed basically everywhere, they at least had a shot at containing the Cats if they could crack in and pile on some pressure
No better indicator than the Pressure Factor in this one - yes, the "Pressure Gauge" on the TV coverage cops a lot of flak from ignorant armchair experts who have no idea what they're talking about, but it's a great measurement for intensity over a short period of time. Anything over 200 is finals-like, and hard to sustain over four quarters. Well, both sides did it, resulting in a high-pressure tackling game where Geelong simply out-classed the Crows in the end.
Both sides posted their highest tackle total for the season, which points to how physical the game ended up being. The Crows might be lucky they have a bye this week, as they would've been softened right up for their next opponent while chasing their first win of the season. The Cats have a five-day break into a match against the zippy Western Bulldogs. Interesting...
Brisbane v St Kilda
Goalkicking! The theme of this one became the Lions' inability to put it through the big sticks, and rightly so. In earlier matches, Brisbane had struggled to generate shots from the right areas (in direct contrast to St Kilda this season), but this week they had no excuses. Eight shots from the 30-40m "sweet spot" in the corridor, for 3.5. They kicked 2.8 from set shots, and couldn't land one from the corridor for the whole day aside from a Jarrod Berry shot from 50+. Extraordinary.
Funnily enough, the expected score was only 67-52, so not quite Port v Carlton sort of areas but still the type of goalkicking that can zap a team's confidence and leave the door open for a good team like the Saints to pinch it. And they nearly did.
It probably does mask the defensive issues for St Kilda at the moment a little - can they be considered a real threat when they are so shaky down back?
West Coast v GWS
The Eagles may have been very lucky in this one. Had they come up against a team in better form they may well have dropped the four points. It just goes to show how critical a fast start can be in the shorter quarters. 4.3 to 0.1 in the first term, then the Giants outscored them for the rest of the game (7.6 to 5.4)
Contested possession is the real issue for West Coast. Another big query on a premiership contender when the heat is dialled up in a finals series. And look out if it's wet, because the likes of McGovern, Sheppard, etc aren't nearly as effective when the ball is on the deck more often than in the air...
Collingwood v North Melbourne
So the Pies win by 30 points with a dysfunctional forward line, managing just two marks inside 50 in dry conditions. That's really hard to do. And how bad does that make North Melbourne?
It highlights just how underrated Brodie Mihocek might be. He's the real focal point for them, even with Mason Cox in the side
Ultimately it was pretty obvious the Pies midfield had way too much class to let this one slip against the Kangaroos. Adams (easily the Pies' best player), Pendlebury and Sidebottom did what they liked, and Collingwood's defence rebounded from a shocker the previous week to get things back under control eventually.
Hard to really be confident in the Pies for the rest of the season after that, given how much North Melbourne are battling. But if they sneak into the eight and somehow find their mojo, they could at least pose a challenge to most sides. Huge game against Carlton this week. Can't wait.
Round 13 Burning Question:
Is there a better solution than including fines in a Club's soft cap?
Well, it turns out the burning question should be expanded far beyond just Club fines...we've seen the Suns dismiss a number of staff, and the league itself go through a restructure. Tough times for so many, and a lot of those people are unheralded workers who love their job.
We've already covered this way back in April, and the same thoughts still apply. Don't feel sorry for a contracted assistant coach who has been paid handsomely to leave and find another job elsewhere. Feel sorry for the flow-on effect of these decisions on other people in the organisation, who might lose their job entirely because the pie has just become smaller, or have their pay cut significantly (and disproportionately to the job they do, or the contribution they make) to the point where it might no longer be viable to continue.
There just has to be a smarter way of restructuring the businesses in these tough times that doesn't result in the soldiers of each organisation being the ones most effected. Again - have fewer staff, no problem, but the ones that do remain need to be the best performers who are paid fairly right across the business. Don't make it a race to the bottom to find the highest skilled workers willing to work for the least amount of money.
Who Won The Round?
Probably the hardest round to find an answer to this question... We will go with the Bulldogs - behind at half time in a must-win game against another team desperately fighting for their finals chances, they found a way to pile on the goals and get the game on their terms. It wasn't pretty at times (apart from that third term), but for an inconsistent side like the Bulldogs it could give them confidence to go on with it from here.
Who Lost The Round?
North Melbourne - not trying to kick a side when they're down, but it was hard to see how they were trying to play last night. The Pies had been terrible and their first half was pretty competitive, yet their game style is incredibly hard to read and the skill level has dropped away significantly.
Probably a tricky week to pick a loser and the loss last night is obviously fresh in the mind, but the Roos it is...
Round 14 begins in a couple of days! We will do a rolling preview this week, starting with a fascinating Hawthorn v Essendon grudge match, and the awesome Richmond v West Coast clash in a Thursday night double header. Friday will feature the rest of the round previews, so keep checking back for more content as we try and find some more winners this weekend.