Round 4 Review
A lot of talking points to cover in a fascinating round of football, largely for all the wrong reasons.
We have been critical of those who questioned the state of the game after a dour draw between Collingwood and Richmond (two very good defensive teams) to kick off Round 2. Now we have another 26 games under the belt, the sample size is big enough to suggest footy has lost a lot of its excitement and flair.
It's hard to pin it on one particular factor - so many things can influence the general state of the game. Add in the element of this extraordinary season and you've probably got a negative "perfect storm" that has significantly impacted the product.
Coaching: Of course the coaches are drilling defence into players as much as offence. Ultimately, it's easier to stop a team scoring (just punch the ball away, get it out of the scoring zone, etc) than to devise ways to score yourself. The added element seems to be the "keepings off" mode of defence - this is where things can get super boring. By denying the opposition the ball they can't score, yet by going backwards and sideways you'll struggle to score yourself. The ultimate footy stalemate.
Lockdown Issues: Teams not being able to train together, midfielders and forwards getting very little time on the track to hone their connection, no significant second-tier competition for player development, no crowds to provide some atmosphere, a clear drop-off in kicking and marking skill execution, the list goes on...
Rule Changes: Aside from something drastic like 16 per-side or fixed zones for players at all times (yuck), it's hard to see where we go to open the game up. As we've said before, fatiguing the players is not the answer - no one wants to see athletes so tired they can't execute their skills properly. So what is it? A few rule changes have tried to help (6-6-6 and the kick-in change) but nothing seems to have helped. Do we need to go to 6-6-6 at all stoppages? Or pay more free kicks? There really isn't an obvious solution.
Apparently Gil has mentioned the umpires need to get tougher on holding the ball. Get ready for an AVALANCHE of holding the ball free kicks this week!
No doubt so many football shows this week will focus on the state of the game: get ready for some ridiculous hot-takes, but we could also get a few ideas worth some thought. Check back next week for our summary on what has been suggested...
The Round 4 Burning Question was a good one given the events of the weekend:
Is the weekly knee-jerk reaction to a team that loses the most predictable part of an unpredictable season?
We saw the Giants written off and respond in a cracking match against the deserved flag favourites, while the Tigers were under the pump and seemingly failed to respond. This week some of the teams under the pump are deservedly in there: West Coast, Richmond (again) and Adelaide are the obvious ones, with Melbourne probably earning a little blast of the blowtorch given their offensive troubles. So most of the reactions to the losses are probably justified, for once.
The best part is we might be talking more about the teams that won: can Port now be considered a genuine contender after beating a team (albeit playing poorly) that is highly rated overall? Can the Suns make the finals (travel will test them)? Are the Saints going to be the real surprise packet of the year?
One comment on the Merrett/Silvagni incident: as viewers, we have perhaps become de-sensitised to the pace of the game and the amount of force in the collisions (or gut punches in this example). Having spent so long at AFL training sessions up close, these guys are powerful athletes moving at significant speeds playing a ballistic game. The TV product just seems to dull it down a little so we think a bit of a "tap" wouldn't break someone's ribs.
The SuperCoach players who have suddenly become Ranking Point experts on Twitter can get in the bin (I won't single any of them out, but there are plenty). The Champion Ranking points system isn't perfect but is generally a very good guide on a player's impact on the game. Trying to micro-investigate why one player scored better than another despite a very similar stat-line is futile, given a lot of the elements that go into the points formula aren't publicly available (for obvious reasons). Don't pretend you know better than the guys who have done this for 25 years just because your rookie half back didn't get enough points for you to knock off your workmate.
We proposed last week that the best teams at Inside 50 efficiency could be the ones to really succeed this season. No better example than the Demons in Round 4 - the Inside 50 count was 46-38 in their favour, yet they could only score at 30% efficiency. Geelong wasn't much better, hence the close scoreline, but the achilles heel of Melbourne has been their ability to convert entries into scores for a couple of years. Looks like nothing has changed...
Is Lachie Neale a near certainty for the Brownlow? Fyfe injured and a few others not necessarily dominating, so Neale could already be a few votes ahead. Taylor Adams might be the one flying under the radar, but in such a star-studded Collingwood midfield and forward line he might struggle to have enough flair to land the big votes along the journey.
Still hearing stories of some experienced staff in the technology and analysis space losing their jobs at Club-land. Disappointing to see some highly intelligent and successful analysts carve out a niche for themselves, only to have it ripped out from underneath them. They all have transferrable skill sets but the current climate is hellishly tough - hoping they can all land on their feet.
We are loving the work of Stats Insider at the moment, particularly in the expected score space. For those not familiar, the expected score is a great measurement of what the score would be if the team converted at the league average from the shots they generated. It factors in shot type (set shot, general play) and the location on the field. Generally it's a great indication of whether the scoreline was an accurate reflection of the game, or whether one team was flattered a little. It can be great to find a few angles for the following week's tipping (or betting) as well...
Who Won The Round?
Pretty easy one this week. The Giants.
In a shortened season, if the Giants ended up 1-3 it would've been a long road back to finals contention. In what amounted to an absolute coin-flip of a game they held strong over a very good Collingwood side but have plenty of improvement to come.
With a fit Toby Greene and a midfield that can give them enough supply, the win over the Pies will hopefully give them the confidence to get on a roll over the next few unpredictable weeks.
What a game the Round 7 matchup with Port Adelaide promises to be.
Who Lost The Round?
Melbourne? Richmond? West Coast?
Let's go with Richmond, who we predicted to bounce back in a big way and take care of St Kilda at Marvel Stadium. That certainly didn't happen, so they've got some work to do to get their mojo back.
Definitely not writing them off but they were probably the biggest surprise of the round.
Who knows? The fixture looks like changing daily, Victoria is a Covid shambles and we just can't get a read on some teams at the moment (the Suns and the Roos will be tricky for the next few weeks). Check back Thursday for the Round 5 Preview, whatever it looks like...