Round 7 Review
After seven rounds, we are starting to get a handle on most teams - the Preview went 8/9 this week, just missing out on the disappointing Giants.
Importantly, this is roughly the point of the season where the clubs themselves have enough data to really act on their deficiencies, as well as pick some holes in the opposition.
A lot of the work at the moment will be sorting out the signal from the noise, as they say.
Take West Coast, for example - they've played three of the four bottom teams in the last few weeks. While you get to see how they want to play, some of the figures they've produced (+57 inside 50s) can be misleading if you don't take into account the strength of their fixture.
There are plenty of examples like this one, and the sharp minds at club-land (or what is left of them) will finally be able to find some angles worth implementing in their training and strategy.
Let's take a look back at Round 7, where a few things weren't as they seemed...
Geelong v Collingwood
Champion Data's Pressure Factor is widely misunderstood (and poorly explained by anyone other than David King, perhaps). The number itself - published in the Herald Sun after every game - is worth a look to get a gauge on the level of pressure applied by both teams. Anything above 180 in a quarter or a match is generally pretty competitive, while anything over 200 is considered roughly finals-like. The Pies posted a pressure-factor of 210, their highest of the season. Combined with their superior ball-handling and ability to convert midfield turnovers into scores (3.4 to 1.1), Collingwood put the Cats to the sword.
The De Goey injury hurts their balance and removes an X-factor from their side, but look out when he comes back fresh just before the finals series. At least with a busted finger you can keep running...
Collingwood behind Brisbane and Richmond in Premiership favouritism is just silly
Essendon v Western Bulldogs
We mentioned in the preview that the Bombers were pretty ripe for the picking against a seething Bulldogs, a team who were embarrassed only five days earlier by Carlton. But we didn't see the margin blowing out as much as it did, that's for sure.
The stoppage battle ended up being the key to this one - 4.3 to 2.0 from Centre Bounces in favour of the Bulldogs.
In such a close competition, we might find a few more examples where the cumulative effect of an undermanned side having to back up week after week starts to take it's toll
GWS v Brisbane
Perhaps a slight overreaction to the Giants loss given they were in the hunt at 3/4 time and only ended up with a 20-point margin in the end.
A lot has been made of the Giants failing to have won an inside 50 count all year. The focus has strangely been on their offence rather than their ability to defend through the middle of the ground and give their back six a rest from being under siege all the time.
With the 5th most points against, the Giants need to find a way to stop teams from scoring and wrestle back a bit of time in their own forward half. The Giants are only in front of Adelaide in terms of the percentage of time in the offensive half of the ground, which makes it very hard for their very talented front six to work their magic.
Sydney v Gold Coast
Good to see the Gold Coast win as favourites away from home. They were able to capitalise on their midfield turnovers far better than the Swans - 6.5 to 3.1 plus a couple of goals from their forward pressure was basically the difference in the end.
Richmond v North Melbourne
Amazing to see what happens when you throw a few keen youngsters into the team (albeit out of neccessity) - watching the likes of Chol, Eggmolesse-Smith and Jake Aarts made the game a little more bearable
Where to now for North Melbourne? They were absolutely torched by the Tigers from midfield turnover (6.3 to 1.3 - such a big theme this weekend) and need to find a way to move the ball a lot faster to give their forwards a chance
Carlton v Port Adelaide
Regular readers would know I'm a big fan of expected score - the scoreline if all the shots taken by a team were converted at the league average for shot type and position on the ground.
This game is a perfect example: Carlton's expected score was 53, while Port Adelaide's was 77, even with the very low-percentage goal from Robbie Gray to pinch it after the siren.
It's a good indication that Port Adelaide should have had the game sewn up long before Robbie slotted one from the boundary, while Carlton were perhaps flattered by their above-average conversion rate themselves.
Expected score is a critical tool for anyone looking to delve a little deeper into results, because some wins just aren't as they seem (which we will see further down when looking at Adelaide v St Kilda)
Hawthorn v Melbourne
We thought it was going to be Hawthorn's dour stoppage game vs Melbourne's exciting turnover game. Ultimately, it was just Melbourne obliterating Hawthorn in every aspect, so we never really got to see the two sides battle it out.
The best part was the second half from the Demons, who had been criticised in previous matches for playing with run and dare early but going back into their shells to protect a lead. We saw none of that on the weekend (their ability to run and spread from their defensive half and score in the final two quarters was outstanding), so perhaps they have turned the corner and can play with confidence
Round 8 will be a big test for both teams - Melbourne facing a confident Lions outfit in Queensland to really show us if they've improved, and Hawthorn facing a Swans side they simply must beat.
Fremantle v West Coast
Nothing really remarkable about this game, which went basically to script. Even the expected score had practically the same margin.
West Coast to face Collingwood this weekend full of confidence - this will show us whether they've just been beating up on poor opposition or if they may have turned the corner.
Adelaide v St Kilda
We thought this might have been a good chance for Adelaide to nab their first win: a home crowd cheering them on, a St Kilda side who could've been a little vulnerable off the back of a fadeout against Fremantle the previous week, and having travelled from Maroochydore to Adelaide (including a 2-hour bus ride) on the day of the match
Ultimately, the Crows shot themselves in the foot with their poor conversion. Expected score was 65-64 yet they lost 55-78!
The Saints looked the better side for most of the night, with their small forwards just proving too much for the Crows defence. But does it flatter St Kilda a little? They face a far greater test against Port Adelaide at home (who had their own expected score surprises this week), so we will see how they measure up...
Last week we poked fun at those diving into Champion Data's Twitter mentions regarding SuperCoach scores. Well, we look like absolute visionaries because now the multi punters are outraged over missed kicks and handballs. In racing circles, it's known as "talking through your wallet" - and it applies very well here. Some have suggested the stats guys are conspiring with the betting agencies to help punters lose (something along the lines of "everyone has a price!"), which is so wildly wrong it's not funny. Memo to those out there betting on disposal markets: sometimes you'll be on the right side of things, sometimes you won't. And smothered kicks and handballs aren't counted, nor is a ball accidentally bouncing off someone's shin. Get over it.
Some of the media hot-takes this week have been embarrassing. Do we need to continually stack up players against each other, or re-rank entire National Drafts five years down the track? Sometimes it's hard to differentiate between what is parody (like the brilliant Fake Footy Twitter account) and reality...
Round 7 Burning Question:
Can the broadcasters really help with the way the game is perceived?
Did we see a slight adjustment to wider shots this weekend? Some were convinced there had been a change, but it may have had something to do with a lot of games now boasting an actual crowd, so the reluctance to show empty stands wasn't as evident. There is still more to do around creating perceived congestion by staying too close to the action (and the over-use of close ups shots). Judging by the groundswell of public opinion regarding the quality of football coverage lately, it's not a problem that is going away any time soon.
Who Won The Round?
Honourable mention to Melbourne, but the Lions played a team that might not be travelling superbly yet still poses a real competitive threat every time they take the field. Lachie Neale didn't have as much of the footy as he usually does (the only Lions player to break 20 disposals, strangely) yet Brisbane still managed to dominate the Inside 50 count (56-34) and win away from home.
They will be formidable given they won't have to leave their home state for most of the remaining games...
Who Lost The Round?
Hawthorn. Easily. The Demons match up really well against the Hawks due to their speed and unpredictability, and the Hawks just didn't have any answers. They look slow and far too methodical with ball in hand, and get carved up by any team determined to run and carry with speed. The saving grace for the Hawks is that they face some of the weaker sides soon, so there is still time to turn it around, but you wouldn't expect them to threaten many sides toward the top of the ladder any time soon.
Round 8 starts with the Suns in Prime Time! We might do a mini preview of that game before waiting on teams for the other matches this weekend. Some great matchups which should lead to some more exciting footy. Fingers crossed.