Round 2 Review
Loving the footy so far. The product is great (if a little long) and the crowds back in venues complete it. A mixed bag of good and not-so-good games again last weekend, so let's cover them all!
We've said it before, but On The Couch is easily the best 1-hour summary of the round of football going around. Sharp analysis, great use of figures (they make it as simple as possible for viewers so it's not incredibly in-depth, but it works) and really astute vision to back up their arguments. No other show, article or podcast comes close.
The Spud's Game tribute at the start of the Saints v Demons game was absolutely incredible. Footy is outstanding at moments like those. Spine-chilling stuff.
It took a while, but we now have an unintended side effect of the man on the mark rule: players are now being called to play on super early, and often when they haven't played on at all. Tom McDonald went to check his line on the mark with the umpire and wasn't even looking the right way before the umpire forced him to get going. Interested to see how it evolves and whether it's the players or the umpires who have to correct a little.
Annual call to let viewers at home watch the footy exclusively from the wide angle with no cutaways or replays (maybe with the broadcast in a small square in the bottom right corner). Definitely the best way to watch footy.
Who Won The Round?
The Western Bulldogs. Headed by West Coast late in the third quarter, trailed by 14 points in the final term and found a way to win. They showed they can get the job done under pressure and actually ended up with more marks inside 50 than the best tall forward combination in the game.
Their tall defenders might still worry the coaching group at times but you can't fault their competitiveness. Can they hang in there enough over the course of a season and a tense finals series?
Ironically, the Eagles were the only top 8 team they beat on their way to a first week finals loss to St Kilda last season. If they can knock off another quality team then we will really start to believe in their flag credentials - big test against Brisbane in Round 4.
Who Lost The Round?
The Giants. Easily. Failed to score 60 points against a severely undermanned Fremantle outfit, and leaked 87 points (expected score 122!) against a team that posted 70 points just twice last season in the shorter format. Terrible.
Are their previously good players still good players? Green and Haynes aside, who is really a top-liner anymore? Kelly? Coniglio? Davis? Taranto is still only 23 so he is probably an exception. Perhaps it has just taken too long to stop thinking of the Giants as a side with a heap of class like they were a couple of years ago. They are a shadow of that team right now.
Collingwood 106 def Carlton 85
Expected score: 96 v 78
Enormous result for the Pies. Even though the league is shifting slowly towards more of an open, offensive game, the backbone of any side has to be their defence. It's the reason we trusted Collingwood over Carlton in this matchup. Defensively, the Blues just have too many question marks to be considered a genuine finals threat at the moment. Can it be fixed this season before it's too late?
The Blues still managed 60 inside 50s, but how many of them were quality and not just a bomb to an outnumbered situation? There are some other metrics used internally by clubs that would drill down even further on that number - wish we could get our hands on them!
This game also highlights the downward trend of the pressure figures early this season. Carlton posted only a 155 Pressure Factor in this game (for context 180 was competitive last season, anything 200+ considered outstanding and hard to sustain for a full game). A mix of the Pressure figures coming down across the competition, as well as Carlton's inability to apply enough pressure. 155 is super low no matter which way you look at it.
The blowtorch moves to Carlton for a little while.
Geelong 81 def Brisbane 80
Expected score: 89 v 86
Whoa. What a finish.
A lot of talk about the non-decision at the end of the game - Lions a little stiff, that's for sure.
This one ended up a genuine stoppage grind. Which means the game is a little slower than some. Great for Geelong.
The Cats held their own against the Lions midfield - +13 clearance, 7.7 to 8.5 from stoppages. They managed to take out Lachie Neale with a hard Mark O'Connor tag - that decision alone might be the reason they snuck over the line.
The Lions' accuracy (or lack thereof) was overplayed a little. A few shots at critical times failed to land, sure, but expected score was only a 6-point difference in the end. Brisbane fans will be nervous the yips of previous seasons might be slowly returning - can Daniher 1.2 and Hipwood 4.3 go better than 50% accuracy between them?
With Brisbane 0-2, their rescheduled game at Marvel Stadium against Collingwood becomes a crucial test this Thursday. Add in the challenge of having to remain in Victoria at the last-minute due to Covid issues and this could make or break them.
Sydney 121 def Adelaide 88
Expected score: 107 v 105
Another Swans masterclass in goalkicking - they posted the highest score of the round for the second week running. What would've been the odds of that before the start of the season?
So exciting to see an unexpected team come flying out of the blocks at the start of a season. We can't get too excited just yet on the Swans though - how will they go against a polished defensive side like Richmond this week?
This game threw up some strange numbers - the Swans were smashed at stoppages: -13 clearance, 2.6 to 6.9 stoppage scoring, but turned the tables in the midfield turnover game: 8.2 to 2.4 proved the difference in the end.
Adding to that, Sydney launched three goals from their defensive 50 turnovers and 4.1 from kick-in. Wow. The Swans have turned into a ball movement side all of a sudden. It was always going to be their speed, precision kicking and ball movement that took hold of Adelaide, but those sort of figures are elite.
Again, can they do it against a serious defensive side who can shut them down more regularly? Time will tell.
Port Adelaide 119 def Essendon 65
Expected score: 102 v 77
Expected result, Port gifted a dream start to the season to put their confidence levels through the roof. Will it make them complacent when they finally come up against a good team away from home this weekend? Beware the overhyped side early in the season.
Have to feel for the Bombers. Already undermanned, they lost their starting ruckman, starting midfielder and young gun recruit in the same game. All three of them will be missing for quite some time. Not sure how much more they can take.
Melbourne 91 def St Kilda 73
Expected score: 116 v 73
We predicted the Saints were overvalued in this one off the back of a win in the wet against the Giants, but didn't quite have the confidence to pick the Demons. The Saints were meant to be just that little bit slicker with their ball movement and skill execution than Melbourne. How wrong we were...
St Kilda struggled to hit targets, missed tackles and made terrible decisions with the ball. The Dees weren't perfect by any stretch but just did all of it better. Ultimately, Melbourne won more critical contests (+44 contested possession - enormous figure) and found a way to be efficient enough up forward to put a winning total on the board.
The Melbourne playing group is a fascinating one. Is there too much focus on the usual suspects like Gawn, Oliver, Petracca, May, etc? They will generally always play well. The improvement will come from the likes of Rivers (already looks like a 200-game player), young mids like Sparrow & Jordon (who won some great contested ball last weekend) and forwards like Kozi Pickett, who is already doing the near-impossible.
Convinced Pickett will kick six at some point soon. He already has about eight shots at goal a game, but only a few are finding their way to actually score at the moment.
If there wasn't a critical mass of questionable kicks/ball handlers, Melbourne would be shooting up the power rankings as a side that could really do some damage this season. They are still just incredibly hard to trust at the moment and tend to match up well against St Kilda. Can't get too carried away just yet.
The Saints need a ruckman - Hunter was brave but clearly outmatched against Gawn and it played a huge role in how the game played out. At least they face another side without a genuine top-line ruckman in Essendon this weekend. Couldn't come at a better time...
Gold Coast 98 def North Melbourne 39
Expected score: 116 v 44
As expected, the Suns knew they had this one covered a long way from home. So the inevitable happened and anyone within 60m from goal wanted to hit the scoreboard themselves. Some dubious shots at goal lead to an expected score of three goals better than what they produced.
North are in for a long year unfortunately. Can they pinch a win at some point? Who will they beat?
The Suns match against Adelaide will be a fascinating one. Looking forward to previewing how those two might match up.
Richmond 78 def Hawthorn 49
Expected score: 89 v 51
A typical Richmond win - grind away to put a big enough gap on the opposition, never blow them out of the park and just keep the lead until the final siren. The Tigers aren't playing their best footy just yet. They know they don't need to. No point peaking in March!
The Hawks just lacked a little potency up forward to really trouble the Tigers. Richmond are just so good at taking care of the predictable and then punishing you the other way - 6.3 to 1.1 from midfield turnovers says it all.
Western Bulldogs 100 def West Coast 93
Expected score: 99 v 84
So close, yet so far. We picked the Eagles to cause the upset (they started ridiculous underdogs) and we had a bit of head wobble going half way through the last quarter, then...
Jamie Cripps has a set shot from 20m out and kicks into the man on the mark. Nearly the only player to hit the man on the mark with any set shot in the first two rounds, and it proved to be a pivotal turning point in the game.
The inevitable air vs ground battle played out as predicted - the Eagles dominated the contested marking game and generated enough inside 50s to really challenge the Dogs' tall defenders. Then the Dogs started to come forward to defend a lot more, piled on the pressure and came out +11 in contested possession, +96 in uncontested possession.
Perhaps the most important part was the Dogs' ability to find a mark inside 50. 17 to 13 forward 50 marks was the most surprising part, proving that the Western Bulldogs have enough marking power up forward to compete, and the ability to lower the eyes and find a target in there without having to just bomb it in.
Need to see the Dogs knock off another potential finalist at some point before we are completely convinced, but they are certainly on the way. The Eagles will be fine but should have taken the four points in this one for sure.
Fremantle 87 def GWS 56
Expected score: 122 v 80
Quite possibly the worst game of football in dry conditions ever played. We were keen on the Giants. They didn't turn up.
How GWS conceded 32 scoring shots against a side clearly devoid of any real class up forward is absolutely unbelievable. And to only find 7 goals up the other end (Freo missing two of their best key defenders and lost Brennan Cox in the third quarter) was diabolical.
If the blowtorch was on Carlton after Thursday night, it definitely moved to the Giants after this one. That is if anyone was really watching.
Round 3 Preview to land Thursday. Now that we have a couple of games under the belt, this is the real pivot point where we have learned some valuable information on the teams and the game style of the entire competition following some rule changes. Instead of gut feel and small sample sizes we can start identifying trends to really find some winners. Can't wait.
Keep checking out the team at Champion Bets who are picking up our Previews each week. They have a lot of content on a range of sports and some real insights into AFL and Horse Racing in particular, two of our greatest passions.
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