Round 20 Review
We cursed Round 20 in the preview, saying the fixture looked relatively stable. Next minute, three last-minute venue changes and two games moved to a different day with only a few hours notice. Crazy! So good that the round remained intact though. Can't imaging the volume of work behind the scenes to make it happen.
The interchange cap still makes zero sense. Why do we want to fatigue players again?
We still aren't seeing equal effort from sides, making picking winners fairly difficult. Certainly learned to trust our gut with a few matchups. Fremantle and the Giants were our best underdogs, with Collingwood not far behind. Should have picked all three in hindsight, even though the Giants lost.
Hoping all of this Covid chaos is short term pain for long-term gain. The contrast between games with crowds (albeit small ones) versus the emptiness in the stadiums in Victoria was stark. If we can get back to at least 50% for a bumper finals series that will feel like a win. Fingers crossed.
Who Won The Round?
Tricky one - let's go with Sydney. Easily a game they could have dropped after being in-form for so long. They've now won their last five games and have a soft run home. Saints, Kangaroos and Suns should equal at least two wins there.
Who Lost The Round?
West Coast - have to go back and see whether the Eagles have been in this spot the most. Unbelievable lack of effort and intent. Can't wait to see some On The Couch unpack this one...
Carlton 112 def St Kilda 81
Expected score: 82 v 89
Tipped St Kilda in the preview, but we were very nervous about their ability to beat themselves. That's nearly what happened here.
Credit to Carlton, though. Their first half pressure of 211 was lengths better than anything they're produced this year. Not sure where that came from. Part of that would have been St Kilda's tendency to put the ball back into a contest so much. That also led to the Blues posting a +38 scoring differential from turnover, their third best figure for the year.
Once again, the Saints failed to convert at anywhere near competition average. Check out that expected score - worth keeping in mind for future weeks involving both of these two sides. Beware the overreaction.
Western Bulldogs 105 def Adelaide 56
Expected score: 110 v 67
Nothing to see here. Dogs predictably smashed the Crows. It was always a matter of how far. At Marvel Stadium the margin would have been larger, that's for sure. The gulf in class was easy to see...
Geelong 62 def North Melbourne 42
Expected score: 81 v 45
We thought this could have been another big margin but the plucky Roos parked the bus and kept Geelong to their lowest score since Round 15. Clearly the Cats knew they had North Melbourne covered, but it wasn't easy for them.
Collingwood 90 def West Coast 45
Expected score: 83 v 44
It's hard to know which performance is West Coast's worst for the season - the 97-point loss to Geelong? The 92-point hammering by Sydney at the same venue over two months later? Or this one - a 45-point smashing against the 16th placed side? There is an argument to say it's the latter.
We keep talking about the Eagles offence and scoring power. They kicked 1.5 in the first half. The inside 50 count was 25-22 in their favour. We will have to reassess whether they are being rated on reputation rather than output.
The preview hinted that the Eagles were vulnerable, but we weren't convinced Collingwood had enough gas left in the tank to get it done. West Coast handed them the game on a platter in the first quarter (a 143 pressure rating from the worst pressure team in the competition) and they never looked back.
West Coast are firmly on the podium for most disappointing side this year. With only three games left it's hard to see them displaced from the gold medal position, even if they somehow still sneak into the finals.
Collingwood have a bit of spirit and offensive flair all of a sudden. The Eagles' ability to defend was non-existent so we can't overrate their performance, but it's good to see the youngsters contributing just as much as the likes of De Goey, Adams, Sidebottom and Crisp. Positive signs for their bounce back chances next year, with a new coach at the helm...
Melbourne 128 def Gold Coast 30
Expected score: 135 v 38
Speaking of disappointing teams, the Suns are in medal contention as well. We had a hunch the Dees were OK offensively, and they finally found themselves back on dry ground in a turnover game where they thrive.
Hard to tell how much of the lopsided scoreline was due to the Suns' inability to turn the ball over themselves, or win their fair share of stoppages (8.6 to 1.3 from stoppage and +17 clearance to the Dees). On the surface it doesn't look like the effort of Gold Coast was all that bad - a high first half pressure rating was reasonable starting point, but they just couldn't get their hands on the ball.
Melbourne look like securing a top four spot now, provided they don't fall in a heap. Interesting game against a bleeding West Coast next Monday night.
The Suns won't worry many teams in the run home, unfortunately.
Hawthorn 92 def Brisbane 80
Expected score: 78 v 84
There is something amiss with the Brisbane defence. And not just the back six, their ability to defend when they don't have the ball. Leaking 92 points against Hawthorn when you are in the mix for a top four position suggests something isn't quite right. Surely it's not just Marcus Adams' absence?
The Lions were well on top at stoppage scoring - seven goals to two - but gave up five goals in their D50 from turnovers. Some teams would be lucky to post that figure across five games. Extraordinary.
Brisbane might not re-enter their home state for a little while yet, so their top four spot might have slipped away following this loss. Relying on other results for the final three rounds, it's hard to see them popping back in there. Although the consolation prize could be finishing 5th or 6th and facing one of the Perth teams in the first week of finals.
Sydney 109 def Essendon 102
Expected score: 88 v 82
The Bombers have the unenviable record of being involved in the only three games where both sides have scored 100 points. They have lost all of them.
This was a real test for the Swans. The kind of game setup where a Bombers win was definitely on the cards, particularly once the venue changed to a more stoppage-friendly MCG. Essendon won the stoppage scoring battle but just couldn't defend well enough for four quarters to stop the Swans. Allowing two goals directly from kick-ins was an absolute killer - those 11-point turnarounds seriously hurt.
Swans dangerously poised to pinch a top four spot if any of the others falter. Bombers still in the finals hunt thanks to their percentage. What a thrilling final three weeks for both these teams. A stint back in Melbourne might be just the ticket for Essendon, even though they crash into the Bulldogs at a neutral venue in Round 21.
Fremantle 55 def Richmond 51
Expected score: 64 v 73
This was an unbelievable effort from Fremantle. Decimated defensively, incredibly tested on their depth, yet they still kept Richmond to 51 points. Expected score suggests they dodged a bullet and luck may have played a fair role (how did Richmond not score in those final few minutes??), but to be headed and then lift again when a lot of your stars are on the sidelines is the sign of a good team.
We've said it before - there is a lot of Sydney 2020 about this Fremantle team. Perhaps not blessed with the same skill level, yet with the kind of foundation that should see them well placed next year to really challenge.
Richmond are far better off missing the finals this season, taking a long break, hitting the draft and trade period and coming back with a fairly new side next season. Making the eight is probably counter-productive to their chances in 2022, as strange as it sounds.
Port Adelaide 100 def GWS 73
Expected score: 87 v 66
This was a genuine coin flip. Port just too strong offensively when it mattered.
The real disappointment was the stoppage battle - it looked like that was where the Giants had the edge, but they were taught a lesson by Port. 14 scoring shots from stoppage compared to only 5 from the Giants. Didn't see that happening.
Real danger of GWS dropping off now. They find themselves in a tough ladder position as well as facing a road trip down to Geelong next week. Unless they could pull off the upset they will be another team relying on others to fail in order to make finals.
An important Round 21, which looks like a festival of footy in Victoria and the other states lucky to be part of the "sterile corridor" this weekend. Hopefully no curve balls this time around.