Round 3 Review
Thrillers, blowouts, and everything in between. A quick review of the round before we tackle Round 4 on Thursday.
There is something strangely fascinating about seeing a 100-point blowout. Does the game become more of a must-watch as a team sails over the ton and potentially further? Like the game between the Dogs and the Roos on Good Friday, you just couldn't tear yourself away from the final quarter as the goals were being absolutely piled on.
Footy's version of the "chicken or the egg" is most definitely tackling. The Saints laid only 32 tackles against the Bombers, with the commentators sticking the boots in even more because Essendon had over 100 more disposals, as if every disposal is an opportunity to tackle someone. In reality, the disposal differential was a direct result of St Kilda failing to stick their tackles - 1 missed tackle can result in a chain of 10+ disposals easily. It's why a lot of clubs do their own tackling numbers internally - fair to say the St Kilda missed tackle count would've been very high. And the failure to even get to the ball carrier was even worse.
Hopefully with the return of more 1 v 1 contests we can see a little bit of a relaxation in free kicks for minor infringements. The game needs to view free kicks under a "did it really influence the contest" lens, and it will be far better off.
Think we have a new flag favourite at Behind The Footy. And it's not Richmond.
Who Won The Round?
Sydney - say hello to the highest scoring side in the competition. They posted 117 points against a fully fit Richmond defence on their home deck, controlled the match in the first half and never looked back. Clearly we can't get too carried away after only three rounds given the side is still super young and the long season may take it's toll physically at some point, but you have to be excited by the prospect of this team being the big improver this year.
Who Lost The Round?
St Kilda - failed to turn up, basically. They won't be the last team to do it this season. It does show us that the even competition means you can get jumped by an unlikely outsider if you're not switched on. The Saints could easily be winless - if they hadn't won a coin-flip in the wet against a very average Giants team in Round 1, "Oh when the Saints" would've turned into "Oh and three"....
Brisbane 73 def Collingwood 72
Expected score: 83 v 71
What a game. The Pies again failed to keep the scoreboard ticking over despite their dominance, and allowed Brisbane to stay in touch at half time knowing they could pinch it.
A lot of talk about Grundy's dominance in the ruck - Collingwood didn't get the full benefit of the ruck mismatch even though Grundy was still very influential. Not a lot of talk about Grundy not appearing on the goalkickers list, though. In the absence of a genuine tall forward outside of Mason Cox it would've been good to see Grundy spend some time there to try and stretch the Lions defence.
Very hard to tell from the broadcast at home, but it looked like Marcus Adams was finally switched onto Cox at some point in the second or third quarter (not sure what he was doing before that) and had a big influence on the match with 8 intercepts and 3 intercept marks. If he stays fit, the Adams/Andrews combination will be a weapon for the Lions against any tall forward line.
In close contests like this one, it always comes down to a few small moments that change the game. Callum Brown's miss late in the fourth quarter was critical. Should Cox have been awarded the kick? I know which one the Pies would've preferred to have it directly in front...
Western Bulldogs 167 def North Melbourne 39
Expected score: 162 v 49
We said in the preview that the margin for this one could've been anything between 20 and 100 depending on the Dogs' application and North Melbourne's ability to lock things down for a while. Well, we were way off...
The Dogs did play like millionaires in the first quarter and North came out firing (202 pressure factor in Q1 is super high), but clearly that wasn't sustainable. The Roos conceded 17 scoring shots in the final quarter, which is absolutely enormous.
Some of the other figures are extraordinary - 64 inside 50s to the Dogs for 42 scores, 24 marks inside 50, thirteen goals from turnovers through the middle, North failing to kick a goal from stoppage, the list goes on...
The most interesting angle is how this prepares the Dogs for the next couple of weeks - is it beneficial for their confidence, or does it soften them up when coming up against a much better side in Brisbane this weekend? We saw how slowly Port came out of the blocks against West Coast after two easy wins. The Bulldogs will be keen to avoid that situation in Ballarat.
Adelaide 95 def Gold Coast 85
Expected score: 95 v 80
Well done to Tex Walker for defeating the Gold Coast Suns. In all seriousness, this should've been a win to the Suns but Tex had other ideas. Defensively the Crows are still way off, the Suns just couldn't capitalise. Fun to see Gold Coast had 23 inside 50s in the final term for only 3.2 - kicking into density is bloody tough sometimes, and even worse when you're behind on the scoreboard.
The very-high pressure rating in the last quarter was a good test to see how the Suns could cope. They broke even at contested possession and won the clearance count but just couldn't hit the scoreboard - the absence of Witts may well have been the difference.
Do they win if Witts doesn't go down at a crucial point, leaving them severely undermanned in a highly contested game? Most likely.
Nice to see our underdog pick salute, nonetheless, even if the Suns weren't heavy favourites at all.
Sydney 117 def Richmond 72
Expected score: 117 v 80
The Swans! We did say we were surprised at the Swans being such long outsiders in this one, yet still picked the Tigers to win the war of attrition over four quarters.
The key to a lot of these upsets so far has been a fast start - building belief early is critical. Not many of the underdog wins this year have been come-from-behind victories. Something to monitor over the next few weeks.
In our preview, it was billed as a champ v challenger title fight in the forward half turnover game. The Tigers have been so good for so long at forcing the opposition to cough the ball up before they reach the centre circle. This time it was the Swans who stuck it to them - 31 to 19 forward half turnovers. Outstanding.
Currently the best kicking side in the comp, the Swans are doing it all, including being able to move the ball from defence to attack if they need to (clearly you don't win it back in your front half all game so you need another string to your bow, so to speak). Five coast-to-coast goals from turnovers says it all. Against the reigning Premiers.
Richmond will be fine, and they know they don't need to peak in April. It does set up a fascinating contest on Friday night against Port Adelaide, though...
Essendon 143 def St Kilda 68
Expected score: 118 v 79
One for the expected score watchers - the Bombers shot the lights out and the Saints failed to meet expected score, so beware the overreaction either way.
Still, if you don't turn up you get pumped. The competition is pretty bloody even at the moment so the art of coaching your team to apply themselves mentally as well as physically has never been more important.
We have always said that the challenge for St Kilda is their defence - they conceded 17 marks inside 50 against a fairly makeshift Bombers forward line. How will they go against some of the more established key forwards in the next few rounds?
The Bombers did benefit from facing a side also without a ruckman, so it was a nil-all draw in that respect before the ball was even bounced. Another upset where the underdog jumped the favourite early - 6.4 to 3.3 had the alarm bells ringing at quarter time.
A super surprising result - how much of it was just St Kilda's lack of effort, and how much of it was Essendon not being as bad as we may have thought (a lot of it had to do with their deep injury list rather than a distinct lack of talent)? Time will tell.
West Coast 108 def Port Adelaide 71
Expected score: 91 v 68
Don't think we will see Port playing four talls up forward for much longer. They tried to match the West Coast land of the giants up the other end with four big men of their own, and it backfired.
Of course it wasn't all their fault - Port were beaten convincingly through the middle and found themselves chasing Eagles all over the park for the whole first quarter. They managed to bring back the margin over the second half, which might prove to be a valuable lesson in what works against West Coast for both Port Adelaide and other teams studying the footage.
But equally it was a good test to see where West Coast stand against one of the better sides in the competition - still early days, but surprised the Eagles aren't current Premiership favourites. They are potent on offence, their defence is rock solid and only susceptible to low, precise kicks to lead up forwards, and their midfield looks to have a bit more of a contested ball edge than we are used to.
If they can stay injury free for a while and nurse Yeo and Shuey back to full fitness, they are the team to beat in our book.
Carlton 109 def Fremantle 64
Expected score: 119 v 66
This game confirms how badly GWS played last week by allowing this Fremantle offence to kick 87 points with an expected score of 122. They came crashing down to earth by managing only 43 inside 50s and 9 goals against the Blues.
With Freo undermanned up the other end, it wasn't a big surprise to see Harry McKay kick a bag of seven. Importantly, they found goals from their midfielders finally. Very hard for the likes of Cox and...Luke Ryan (?)....do defend 20 marks inside 50. The ball was coming in so easily from the midfield they didn't really stand a chance.
Jury still out on Carlton but they would've at least gained a little bit of confidence heading into another winnable game against Gold Coast. Fremantle look like they are travelling worse than last season somehow. Huge game against Hawthorn for them next Saturday.
Melbourne 102 def GWS 68
Expected score: 100 v 65
The unanswerable question is whether the Giants might have pinched it had they not suffered injuries to Coniglio, Davis and De Boer? Their application improved dramatically from the previous week, and the pressure factor between the two sides was quite high by the current season standards.
In those high-pressure, contested scenarios, the Demons do tend to thrive. They might still be sloppy at times and really need Ben Brown to get fit and plonk himself at full forward, but they are getting the job done.
Given the teams they beat currently all sit in the bottom four on the ladder we clearly can't get too carried away. Big test against Geelong this weekend in a clash of two very different game styles. Looking forward to our preview of that one.
Geelong 69 def Hawthorn 64
Expected score: Not published
The preview said a margin under two-goals was unlikely to happen in this one, so it was the perfect jinx to find these two in another absolute thriller.
Heaps of talk about Geelong's method of play: slow ball movement, precise short kicking, gradual gaining of territory. Just wish those who were observing understood that not every side will want to play the same way. The Cats will live and die by their game plan and they probably won't look the same come the end of the season, or even next week. The assumption is that the coaching staff were happy with how they moved the ball - not so sure that's the case in this one.
The Hawks were pretty brave but let down by a few unlucky decisions not falling their way (that crowd sounded like they were going off their heads), and perhaps the absence of some real potency up forward. They took only 5 marks inside 50 for the match - two of them in the final term to nearly snatch the four points.
Such a strange game to assess. There have been a few of these over the years where both teams don't show a lot of urgency until the final quarter. A couple of critical turnovers from missed kicks through the middle of the ground hurt the Hawks badly and saved the Cats from another upset loss.
Are the Cats going that well? Probably not but they know they don't have to be right now. The Hawks are in danger of being competitive without winning much over the course of the season. Beware the team that thinks they are easybeats, though...
Round 4 Preview to drop Thursday. As always, check out our previews on ChampionBets and take a look around at all their other content while you're there.
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