Round 17 Review
Seventeen rounds down, one to go. While the general sentiment is that a 23-round season (with one bye) will return next year, the upside to a shortened fixture is that we will be treated to an epic regular season finale next weekend. Nearly every game can shape the eight. And some of the matches from this week were just as important...
St Kilda v West Coast
The Eagles missing most of their midfield, away from home, the potential for a slippery deck, and the loss of McGovern prior to half time. The perfect recipe for a St Kilda win. But...
Prior to this game, the Eagles were 11th for contested possession differential. St Kilda were 7th. Not a massive difference yet it was absolutely the key for the Saints - but a poor second quarter (-12) from St Kilda gave the Eagles a half time lead and some confidence that they could hang in there
St Kilda had come off a bye, while the Eagles faced a four-day break after losing to the Bulldogs in a tough one. It was no surprise that the Saints managed to slowly reel them in through the final quarter to lead by 8 points. They were winning crucial contests, finding avenues to score and the Eagles looked out on their feet
From this position, somehow St Kilda couldn't get it done. Importantly though, expected score was 87-59 in the Eagles' favour. 6.14 makes it look like the Saints were terribly inaccurate, but it is made up of three rushed behinds (which are not always preceded by a miss) and only two missed shots, plus a few from tough positions. West Coast missed 8 (yep, eight) shots altogether, so they really should have hit the scoreboard more overall.
Ultimately, it does show us that the Eagles have the ability to switch gears a little and win the disputed ball, even though it has really been their achilles heel at times. They will obviously need to do it against better teams and for longer periods in the finals series, but the way they dug in and found a way shows they are more than just a flat track (or dry track) bully
Geelong v Richmond
Two very different game styles, one prevailed. You get the feeling that the Cats and Tigers didn't want to show all their cards in this one, but it was an important win for Richmond for a number of reasons
Do the Cats need the ability to switch gears a little earlier when Plan A isn't working? We saw how they were able to grind their way back into the match with a bit more run and dare, so they will learn a fair bit from being dismantled by Richmond in this one
Richmond managed 14 forward 50 marks against the second best defence in the league (from a points against perspective). It was their equal highest tally for the year and was ultimately the difference in the game. Their marking power and decision making going forward will be a headache for whoever they face in the finals series
North Melbourne v Fremantle
Not really much to say about this one. North are terrible, and Fremantle are super honest with a lot of upside.
The Kangaroos leaked 99 points (easily Freo's highest score this year), conceded 13 forward 50 marks, and found only 5 goals up the other end. The end of the season can't come quick enough for them.
Port Adelaide v Essendon
Port were gifted a perfect fixture against another opponent on the ropes, but still had to get the job done. Their second quarter was a brilliant display of what they are capable of before the rain came down and slowed their dominance a little
The 205 pressure factor from Port shows that they are playing with a final-like intensity already (granted, pressure numbers are generally higher in the wet) and can still score under those circumstances.
Will Port be the most underrated minor Premier in recent memory once the finals begin?
GWS v Melbourne
Critical game, as we knew. One team played like a team, the other played like individuals...
The Giants would have set the world record for absolutely burning their teammates. Incredible to see how many times they failed to share the ball and choose the right option
They were only kept in the game by Melbourne's uncanny knack of giving away free kicks at the worst possible time and easing the pressure. If they make the finals, this is something that definitely needs addressing, particularly if they are faced with less supply than their opponent like this game (Inside 50s 52-39 in favour of the Giants)
Worth noting expected score - 82-74. The Giants would be forgiven for shaking their heads at some of the shots from the Dees that found their way through the big sticks, but it was also on the back of turning the ball over with front-half pressure, so in some ways they made their own luck
Defensively, the Demons are still conceding some easy goals, so if they sneak into a finals series they will be vulnerable against the better offences. It could all come down to their ability to convert in a bit more of a high-scoring affair, otherwise they may struggle
Adelaide v Carlton
This kind of loss from Carlton would bring on the classic case of "slow start analysis" - no doubt the coaching staff and conditioning staff will sit down in a room, pick apart everything about their preparation/warm up/meetings, probably point the finger at each other (or just blame the players) and come up with some drastic ideas for how to stop the all-too-common first quarter ambush. Problem is, they only have next week to change something...
Credit to the Crows - their highest score for the year, the youngsters up forward all seized their opportunity, and their pressure for three quarters was enough to put a big gap on the scoreboard that Carlton couldn't reel in
Another one for expected score - 87-75 in favour of Adelaide. But crucially it was an inability to hit the scoreboard in the first half which haunted Carlton. 5 shots for only 1 goal just zaps all the confidence from a young (ish) side who just needs a quick energy boost from a goal or two early to feel good about themselves
Hawthorn v Western Bulldogs
The Dogs seemed to thrive on the high-pressure game they found themselves in - a good sign if they can sneak into the finals. Plenty of sides would rather not face their running game, even though they might be a little undermanned up either end
Hard to win any game with a -30 contested possession count, and that lies squarely on the Hawks midfielders. You can't let the likes of Bontempelli, Liberatore, Daniel, Macrae, Dunkley and Smith just do what they like. It really just show how deep the Dogs midfield runs
Sydney v Brisbane
An absolute pest of a game from Brisbane's perspective - a plucky Swans outfit, wet conditions, a real test of willpower only a few weeks out from finals for the Lions. Just get the feeling they won't analyse this match too much at Brisbane headquarters, just bank the win and move on
Not much to read into from the numbers. Brisbane just did what they had to do and secured a top-two finish.
Collingwood v Gold Coast
Review of this one to come tomorrow. As admirable as the Suns have been this season, here's hoping that Collingwood get the four points to set up a very intriguing last round of the regular season.
Who Won The Round?
Richmond - they may have lost Soldo but have some logical replacement options, they dismantled Geelong and probably should have won by more, and their better players look like they are ready for the finals to start so they can really explode.
The potential loss of Tom Lynch for a little while might hurt their structure a little, but they are easily good enough to cover him for a week or so come finals time.
Who Lost The Round?
Honourable mention to the Giants, but the Saints lost nearly the un-loseable after being up by 8 points in the final quarter with West Coast on the ropes. Their percentage helps, but it makes for a nervous last match needing to win to ensure they make finals, and zaps them of some crucial confidence heading into their first appearance in years...
Round 17 Burning Question:
Can you win the flag from outside the Top 4 this year?
Obviously it's too early to tell, but with the likes of West Coast, Western Bulldogs and Collingwood likely to fill some of the bottom four spots in the finals, it's certainly a possibility. In this unusual season, it wouldn't surprise if one team gets on a serious roll and catches one of the top four napping...then anything can happen.