Round 17 Review
What just happened? In our preview we had Melbourne and Sydney as the two best underdogs of the round, and both duly saluted. We also gave the Saints a fair chance, expecting Brisbane to put in a bit of a flat one. They won, of course.
Did we pick any of them? Nope.
What could have been our best week from a picks perspective, turns out to be one of the worst. Feel like the analysis was spot on but a great learning that you do have to go out on a limb at times. We didn't do it, and paid the price.
It's also probably a good lesson for those just looking at the selections without considering the detail behind each matchup. Some games are much more predictable than others (Essendon v Adelaide, Geelong v Carlton great examples), while others you have to ignore the "better" team and try to figure out whether there are other angles worth considering.
Have to cut those doing the fixture some slack in regards to prime time games - Covid chaos certainly hasn't helped with making sure all the good teams get the quality timeslots. The real test will be next year when capacity crowds are allowed back and we can work with four to six week rolling fixtures.
A lot of talk about the potential for shorter quarters. Again. Most fans don't want that change. They want shorter *games*, not shorter quarters. Can't confuse the two.
Also a lot of talk about a further reduction in rotations. What? At the same time as trying to introduce another 5-day break into the fixture for sides to play Thursday nights? Careful what you wish for...
Who Won The Round?
Melbourne - the doomsdayers were predicting Melbourne to drop as low as fifth before their win against Port Adelaide. Too many people who should know better add far too much weight to recent form as opposed to overall form. Melbourne had the better form going in, just had to prove it against a reasonably tough side away from home with the crowd against them. Mission accomplished.
Who Lost The Round?
GWS - dare we say it. Has hub life cruelled their finals hopes? We get a great experiment to see which Sydney-based side handles it better. The Swans seem to be thriving, while the Giants somehow failed to capitalise on a late fourth quarter lead against the Suns.
A few others could've easily slotted into the loser spot this week - Richmond, Port Adelaide, Adelaide...but GWS really should have got the job done under those conditions, particularly when Greenwood went down early on.
Melbourne 86 def Port Adelaide 55
Expected score: 96 v 56
Disappointed at not siding with the Demons in a coin flip. They had the certain grinding style which matches up well with Port Adelaide, and early on you could see they were up for the fight.
The surprisingly low pressure count in the first half worked in Melbourne's favour. They could find a rhythm through the middle (they broke even at clearance after being beaten in four of their past five matches) and get their forward half turnover game going.
We mentioned that whoever won the turnover game would win, particularly in the front half. Melbourne were just far more efficient at turning their opportunities into scores. 3.1 from their forward 50 (Port Adelaide 1 goal), and 4.6 to 2.4 through the middle. Game over.
Essendon 84 def Adelaide 21
Expected score: 102 v 36
What a snooze fest. Even the commentators seemed particularly flat in the second half. This could have easily been a 100-point victory - strangely the triple figure matches are far more intriguing to watch than a meandering ten-goal win - but the Bombers couldn't capitalise on so many opportunities, failing to generate a shot on goal with so many forward entries. 61 v 31 inside 50s says it all.
Wouldn't want to be a team playing Essendon at Marvel Stadium in the next five weeks. They could shape the eight without actually making it themselves.
Fremantle 108 def Hawthorn 46
Expected score: 108 v 56
The win Fremantle had to have, even though we definitely didn't see them putting up 100+ against a side that hadn't conceded a score above 87 in the previous four weeks.
In terms of expected score, this is a rare occasion where the scores match - and that's super important in this instance. Freo didn't shoot the lights out, they converted at only the league average for those shot types and positions. Given that, their form might look even better moving forward.
Although on the flip side, a lot of teams would score that heavily given the lack of pressure for most of the game - 159 (Fremantle) vs 171 (Hawthorn) is nearly as low as it gets over four quarters.
Does it make them a sneaky chance at home against Geelong next week? Perhaps.
Geelong 70 def Carlton 44
Expected score: 73 v 68
An utterly predictable contest, and another expected score horror story for Carlton. Even with three rushed behinds (always good to see how many they were before you conclude that Carlton had 14 "misses"), the Blues just couldn't convert well enough to put some scoreboard pressure on, and feel good about their chances at the same time.
The Cats looked like they missed Jeremy Cameron more than we thought they would. Hawkins also goalless, which is rare. The fact they still won is probably a positive for Geelong - plenty of upside heading into a finals series, where anything could happen.
Can't remember a season where the team "tiers" are so clear. Carlton belong in the bracket outside the eight, well behind any of the genuine contenders.
St Kilda 95 def Brisbane 63
Expected score: 95 v 80
We thought the Lions might put in a flat one. And they did. Clearly the Saints are hard to trust so we didn't predict the upset, but they preview did state that a win wouldn't shock.
The worrying sign for Brisbane was their defence - King and Membrey took five marks each inside 50. Kent, Long and Billings took a couple each as well. Only Daniel McStay managed multiple marks for the Lions. 20 marks inside 50 was the Saints' highest total for the season.
Eric Hipwood's injury is a cruel blow to the Lions' flag chances. He's far from a superstar but the balance of that forward line might suffer in his absence. Luckily for them, they haven't relied on too few across the season to score their goals. A big test for them to show their maturity and take care of a vulnerable Tigers side next week at the MCG.
The next two weeks will tell us whether the Saints are legitimate finals chance or if the poor start to the season will prove costly. Their low percentage after some huge losses could be the difference...
Gold Coast 65 def GWS 64
Expected score: Not published
A game affected by a four-goal wind to one end of the ground, which usually brings the teams a little closer together. The Suns enjoyed more supply over four quarters - 59 inside 50s to 53, and somehow pinched it.
These games usually throw up some odd figures - the Suns had 26 inside 50s in the second term kicking with the wind. The Giants had two. TWO!
With Greenwood injured early, it was no surprise the Giants had the better of the Suns at stoppage - a +15 clearance differential turned into 4.5 to 1.1 from stoppages. How did the Giants not win?
GWS would love their time again, especially that final term. When Ben King failed to spot a teammate in the goalsquare and the Giants scored up the other end shortly afterwards, the game looked gone. The Giants had some gilt-edged chances to put the game away against the wind - they still managed 12 inside 50s but kept giving it back to the Suns.
Huge game for the Giants to drop in the context of the finals series. And another gutsy win from the Suns, who have turned their form around since we sunk the boots in a few weeks ago.
Sydney 79 def Western Bulldogs 60
Expected score: Not published
We gave the Swans a good chance, given they have the discipline to shut down the Dogs offensively. The Bulldogs mids still enjoyed plenty of footy and posted their biggest clearance differential for the season (+20), yet they were kept to their lowest score since the Demons took care of them in much the same way in Round 11.
Is that a concern for the Dogs? Have the Swans and Demons given teams a blueprint in how to contain them? The mids will still get plenty of footy, but the Swans found a way to curb their efficiency.
With that win, Sydney look to have cemented a finals spot. Wouldn't surprise to see them play the role of giant-killer in September...
Collingwood 87 def Richmond 71
Expected score: 82 v 50
No doubt the Pies have changed under Robert Harvey. Their recent scoring profile is a fair indication. Under Buckley, their tendency was to burst out of the blocks (+75 in first quarters) and then fail to score anywhere near at that level for the rest of the game.
In three matches - small sample size, of course - they haven't won a first term (-35 on the scoreboard) but have played with a lot more freedom. They are 3-0 in final quarters with a +76 differential. They have kept their opposition to 1.4 (TOTAL) in their past two final terms.
For Richmond to allow a pretty mediocre offence to score so freely late in the game confirms they just aren't defending like they used to. The end of an era. A few sides might still like to avoid playing the Tigers in a final, but they are now looking like a much easier proposition than some of the other contenders.
North Melbourne 70 def West Coast 60
Expected score: Not published
In the preview we did say it would be a genuine shock to see North Melbourne win. Easy to say in hindsight, but it all changed when the rain came down. Has there been anything more predictable than West Coast struggling in the wet?
The Roos have obviously improved. More confidence with the ball, persistence in the contest (+10 contested possession is about par when you face the Eagles), and the ability to put in at least a couple of quarters of genuine pressure. Their ability to come back when headed in the final quarter was due largely to their 195 pressure rating.
As the last game of a Thursday-to-Monday round, the Eagles will face the blowtorch. Rightly so. We might have cursed them by declaring them equal premiership favourites early on this season. Has there been a bigger fall from grace? Are they the most disappointing team of the season?
A big Round 18 preview on Thursday. Let's hope we pair our analysis with our selections a bit better this week. Time to bounce back!