Round 8 Review
We had our tails up after the preview nailed the first three matches with a combined margin of 21 points. But we came crashing down to earth after that - the Hawks couldn't get anything going against a brave Sydney, St Kilda executed brilliantly against Port and the Pies just failed to show up against West Coast.
We managed to give North, Adelaide and Melbourne a fair chance in all of their matches, with each of them failing by less than a goal. It's the Demons loss that hurts the most, as they arguably should've taken home the four points despite being a fair outsider against the Lions.
Overall it was a great round of footy. Plenty of talking points this week!
Gold Coast v Western Bulldogs
It seems so long ago, but the Dogs just fell over the line against the Suns despite having to absorb a 17-6 Inside 50 count in Quarter 2 and a 14-6 count in the last quarter. Yes, it's easier to do it in wet conditions, but the defence held up incredibly well and the Bulldogs somehow still found a way to grind out a late score.
Probably the most interesting part about the numbers was the fact that the Bulldogs managed 2.3 from winning the ball back inside their own forward 50. With ten more inside 50s, the Suns couldn't manage a score. There's the game right there.
In such a tight season, this match could be ultimately be the difference between a finals berth and a missed opportunity this year.
GWS v Richmond
It was probably inevitable, but the gallant, undermanned Tigers (you have to think some of the players who took the field are also playing hurt) went down to a GWS side who just had to win.
As has been the case all year, GWS endured a lot of time in their back half (41% v 59%) and a shortage of Inside 50s (32-46) yet were still absolutely lethal up forward. It's a fascinating scenario where you are usually kicking into a lot less density when you're constantly starting your offence from the back half, but is it sustainable in the long run?
The Tigers would be hoping to get more out of their key forwards themselves. The quality of supply has dropped a little with so many Premiership midfielders and half backs out of the side, but Riewoldt and a one-handed Tom Lynch would be expected to manage more than a goal between them.
North Melbourne v Carlton
There is nothing better than losing a close one the week before and facing nearly the exact same situation late in the game the following week - everything you learned is still fresh in the mind, the players desperately don't want to drop another game in similar fashion, and with good coaching you generally get the job done. Carlton were always going to be troubled by North if they fell into a scrap (every team seems to have success sitting on Docherty and Cripps these days), so they will be happy to emerge with a win in an absolute grind.
From the numbers, this was uncanny from the Roos (courtesy of Champion Data's Daniel Hoyne):
The difference ended up being a couple of crucial kick-in goals by the Blues (coast to coast from their defensive goalsquare, for anyone not familiar), and a goal directly from one of North's own kickins as well. The coaches would be FILTHY.
Sydney v Hawthorn
In a pretty evenly matched game, the very hungry Tom Papley turned out to be the difference. But in a game decided by just over a goal, you hate to see an incident like the one which resulted in another goal to Tom Papley after he'd just soccered one through.
The umpires have an incredibly hard job - is there a better solution than what happened there? Is it even a free kick? Thinking laterally, basically every side should start a bit of niggle when the opposition is lining up from close range in the hope of earning a free kick. In the case of Papley, is it better to award the free kick back at the centre circle?
Port Adelaide v St Kilda
The Saints small brigade absolutely terrorised Port Adelaide, making it impossible for them to contain their run and dare in the forward half. Considering the Saints only took four marks inside their forward 50 for the whole night (kicking a goal from all of them), the game rested on the shoulders of Butler, Gresham, Kent and Sinclair
The Ryder/Marshall combination produced four goals, a 40-16 hitout differential over a gallant but overwhelmed Ladhams, and a critical 17-5 hitout-to-advantage number. In some games the Saints will look a little top heavy with two genuine first-choice ruckmen, but on the night it was the clear difference in the match - the 42-30 clearance count says it all
Adelaide v Essendon
Wow. This was the chance for the Crows to notch up their first win but a few factors conspired against them, not the least of which was losing Crouch and Doedee to hamstrings early on.
The pressure in this game was immense. Over 200 is finals-like, and generally unsustainable for more than a quarter or two outside of September. But the Bombers hit over 210 for three quarters and posted a 203 total. They came to play but just lacked a lot of polish given their makeshift forward line and injury issues elsewhere
Worth noting that the expected score was 78-61, so the Bombers certainly contributed to the Crows having a window of opportunity to pinch it late. Gee I'd love to see that final play from the behind goals footage - was there a better option than a long, wide handball to Smith for a shot at goal?
West Coast v Collingwood
Um, wow. The Eagles are notorious for getting on a roll at home (in front of a crowd) and being impossible to stop. This is a perfect example. They could basically do nothing wrong and obliterated the best defensive side in the competition (in terms of points against) - amazing statement from a team who are clearly enjoying being back home
From the numbers, it confirmed that the Eagles shot the absolute lights out (expected score 93 instead of their actual 111) and that Collingwood just didn't apply any reasonable pressure to West Coast across the ground (a pressure factor against 175 against a decent side will never stand up)
There is no better gauge of Collingwood's fortunes than Brodie Grundy. Kept to 10 touches and 2 marks by the Eagles, Grundy and the entire Pies midfield would be dreading the review today.
Melbourne v Brisbane
Speaking of reviews, the Demons de-brief will be a familiar one this week. Sit down as a group, watch the last quarter, break down decision making and skill execution n the final few minutes, discuss what should have happened and who wasn't playing their role. Similar to Carlton last week, the players would be under no illusions as to how a win slipped through their fingers...
The final kick from Mitch Hannan sums it up. Hopefully one of the footy programs this week breaks down that final play, because the Demons deserved a far better outcome than a wide kick out on the full and a bizarre (but warranted) 50m penalty
Fremantle v Geelong
Hard to really look forward to this one, but it's Monday night footy at least! Interested to see whether Fremantle can conjure up enough of a score to challenge the Cats here. Will update with our thoughts tomorrow.
Reviews! We saw an amazing Tim Membrey goal awarded on Saturday night after the review staffers held up play to check the vision, and we saw a goal umpire hold up play voluntarily by calling for a review of Jake Lever's mark on the behind line in a frantic final few minutes of the Demons game.
Simon Goodwin joined a long line of misinformed ex-players who have taken a swipe at something they don't know much about. Doing a press conference after a loss like that can't be easy, but aiming the frustration at the review setup rather than the decision-making which lead to a review being called in the first place is just bizarre
"Hopefully we’ll get the ARC system better, it’s nice and fancy but it’s not doing much"
Oh yeah, you're right, the ARC isn't doing much, except: - Providing fast, efficient, accurate score reviews for the whole competition in one place
- Streamlining the match review process so clubs know about suspensions or fines usually within 24 hours
- Looking at head knocks to help medical staff in case they've missed something at ground level during a match
- Providing even more analysis of head injuries in general, with a long-term view of protecting players
- Giving the umpires a central location to operate, review and advise the staff at the ground
- Providing remote support for clubs so that the critical vision they receive in-game and post-game is up to standard and complete
But yeah, apart from that, it's not doing much.
The one thing the ARC can't do is call play on...
Round 8 Burning Question:
What is the right strategy for a condensed fixture block?
The right strategy might be just to survive! We got an indication as to how things might change with Collingwood seemingly being cautious with Scott Pendlebury pre-game. Did that save him from injury during the match so he can stay fit for their upcoming fixtures? Could be a great call, and lead to other sides leaving out some players with a few niggles or those that aren't quite fit enough to last the distance.
Losing players in-game is an absolute killer at the moment (like the Crows faced on the weekend), so the risk is high over the next four rounds, that's for sure.
Who Won The Round?
St Kilda - another win at Adelaide Oval against a quality team that certainly didn't give up. The Saints found the balance between attack and defence, and importantly just kept pushing for four quarters. Brett Ratten has given them the belief - and may have been a calm voice in the match reviews after being overrun by North and Freo. Big few weeks coming up for the Saints now...
Honourable mention to the Eagles of course, but I refuse to make them the round winner this week.
Who Lost The Round?
Would be easy to say Collingwood, but that was just too bad to be true. Every team has put in a shocker, and the Pies will point to this one (and conveniently forget when the Bombers beat them up in Round 5).
It has to be Hawthorn - does that loss finally seal their fate for this season and beyond? Is that the tipping point where they concede something needs to change? They have an easier run home than most at least, but it will be interesting to see what they do with team selection and their draft/trade strategy moving forward.
Round 9 starts in two days! Preview will be up on Wednesday, with the content being updated as the week progresses and teams are announced daily.
Victoria might be stuck at home, but at least we've got the footy...