Round 9 Review
A pretty straight forward round of football, but we did miss an opportunity to put some faith in the Bulldogs and North. Had the Dogs as our best underdogs but still went with Port Adelaide as our selection. GWS were the next best upset chance and nearly pinched it.
A quick review below before we get stuck into the Round 10 matchups.
Injuries are a massive issue at the moment. The narrative doing the rounds at the moment makes a lot of sense: budget cutbacks (fewer physios and contact hours for 40+ players than previous years), interchange caps (still don't know why the cap exists) and a return to full-length games after a year of reduced minutes are all potential factors. Or natural variance, of course.
The Saints proved that you can beat any side if you can sustain a high level of pressure for long periods. But clearly it has to coincide with being able to score. No point defending for your life when you can't kick goals to give the side a bit of belief and energy (plus a 40 second rest!)
Had a few inquiries about expected score: the Expected Score number is published by Champion Data in the Herald Sun after each game. It is an indication as to how the sides would have scored if they converted at the league average for the shot type (Set Shot, General Play, Snap etc) and position (angle + distance), based on historical data of every shot taken across the league over the past decade or so. Certainly not a "prediction" but a good guide on the *true* score which definitely helps when assessing a team's performance or their chances for future weeks
Who Won The Round?
Western Bulldogs - won a finals-like game and posted 97 points. Proof they can get the job done under that sort of intensity, and importantly find ways to score.
The best result was the way they were able to defend the marking targets of Port Adelaide. It will continue to test them, but the fear was Port's talls could give them serious grief. Keeping Port to 11 marks inside 50 was a reasonable effort given their personnel (and Easton Wood missing with injury very early on).
Super effort by the Dogs. Genuine chance to inflict Melbourne's first loss in a couple of weeks time.
Who Lost The Round?
Hawthorn - 27 points up against the lowest scoring team in the league, with the highest points against total by nearly 100 points. Just can't lose from there.
More in the review below, but the Hawks were their own worst enemy. Their midfield let them down badly. Lost clearances by 20 - Cunnington and Simpkin had 26 clearances between them. Two blokes willing to roll up their sleeves and play some serious contested footy, and the Hawks had no answers. Their highest clearance players were Worpel and McEvoy with four each. Ouch.
Geelong 68 def St Kilda 47
Expected score: 68 v 75
An expected score horror story for the Saints, as they missed a golden chance to knock off Geelong thanks to their wayward kicking for goal. But there was a lot to like about their game regardless...
A 195 & 210 pressure rating in the first two quarters would trouble basically any side. If the Saints had taken their chances they could have been four goals ahead by quarter time, which gives them the energy to keep going and the confidence to put Geelong to the sword.
So they are capable. We knew that. But the big test is to back it up this week, and not run out of steam towards the end.
The best part about their pressure was it allowed the Saints to win the ball back and head into an open forward line - 14 marks inside 50 against the Cats defence is a good result. Had Marshall not gone down with injury, would the result have been different?
Hard not to think the Saints biggest weapon - the Ryder/Marshall combination - was their potential ticket to a finals series. Without Marshall and with Ryder a query on how well he can shoulder the load given his age, they might now struggle to get there.
The Cats dodged a bullet. Again. Surely they don't go with that ruck combination again. Expect Rhys Stanley to return, unless they finally want to give Darcy Fort a chance.
Sydney 72 def Collingwood 42
Expected score: 88 v 58
Modern footy is very hard to win when you can't score. Even harder when you kick four goals in the first quarter and manage only one for the rest of the game.
We said in the preview that it was just a matter of whether the Swans could keep the scoreboard ticking over. After a slow start, they kicked 9 goals to 1 after quarter time and were super defensively.
Again, we have to let go of the notion the Swans had suddenly become a high-scoring, super quick, skillful side. There are elements of that style in their game, but it is still underpinned by their ability to grind it out. This should hold them in good stead against the better teams - they might be outclassed a little but they can definitely cause an upset with their competitiveness.
The Pies are just held back by their skill level and lack of offence. Still maintain their defence is OK but they are constantly under attack (58 inside 50s against this week), so they can't hold up forever.
North Melbourne 87 def Hawthorn 80
Expected score: 83 v 69
Well, they did it. A massive effort from North to get over the line, particularly when they fell behind Hawthorn by 27 points early in the third quarter.
Not usually one to bring up free kicks as any sort of measurement, but it is certainly relevant here. The Hawks have had a tendency to give away crucial free kicks at the worst possible time, often in their defensive 50.
On the weekend they conceded 10 free kicks in their defensive half. Not an extreme figure, but six of those were in the final quarter when the game was on the line. Three of them were in their defensive 50 and resulted in shots at goal for North.
In a scrappy game where territory is at a premium, the Hawks just couldn't avoid conceding unnecessary free kicks to release the pressure valve time and again for North. Convinced it was actually the reason they lost (the free kicks were warranted, so definitely not anything to do with the umpiring). Six free kicks between Frost and Hartigan, the Hawks' two key defenders, will generally end badly.
Great to see North get the win. Another team who has broken a winless streak by beating Hawthorn, after Adelaide did the same last year. Only five marks inside 50 for the Hawks against the most leaky defence in the competition says it all...
Brisbane 124 def Gold Coast 51
Expected score: 108 v 49
The game played out as predicted in the preview - the Lions untroubled by Gold Coast's offence, while doing pretty much as they liked up the other end.
One interesting angle, though. Is the way the Lions finished the final quarter - the Suns doubled their score, Brisbane posted a pressure rating of 162 - the right platform for a much more difficult matchup against Richmond this weekend? It's always something to have in the back of the mind. Soft games aren't always the best setup for a potential finals-like contest the week after.
Don't know what to do with the Suns. Hard to see them knocking off a decent team for a while.
Richmond 87 def GWS 83
Expected score: 90 v 91
The unanswerable question about this game - if Jeremy Finlayson isn't suspended, do the Giants win? GWS just seemed a dangerous forward short against the Tigers, but certainly did a lot of things right.
Richmond have now conceded 37 forward 50 marks over the past two matches. It is probably the angle we missed - even though the defence is still largely intact, when the midfield is so depleted it does affect the quality of entries for the opposition. The Giants could move the ball pretty easily, so it came down to their ability to hit targets.
Ultimately Richmond had their fair share of luck (some incredible bounces of the ball falling their way in the final term) but also showed plenty of their usual character. Dustin Martin was immense, as was Liam Baker, who was thrown into the middle. 33 touches, 529m gained and 8 clearances later he was probably the difference in the end.
Season defining game for the Giants at home next week against West Coast. Toby Greene out with injury, massive blow.
The Tigers head to the Gabba to take on a Lions side absolutely flying. Match of the round, that one.
Western Bulldogs 96 def Port Adelaide 77
Expected score: 81 v 65
What a game. If there were any queries over the Bulldogs' ability to absorb a finals-like pressure and post a reasonable score, they were well and truly answered here. The key was finding goals from sources other than Bruce and Naughton - Weightman (four), Bontempelli (two) and Johannisen (two) were able to contribute, which is so crucial in games against quality opposition.
Port just couldn't win the critical midfield turnover battle - only two goals from turnovers through the middle. The Bulldogs managed seven. They were lethal when they won the ball back.
Port Adelaide actually won the forward half turnover battle, so it really just came down to execution. Credit to the Dogs for the way they were able to defend. Port will go to work on their method on offence and be fine. Are they a rung below the top teams at the moment, though?
Essendon 68 def Fremantle 61
Expected score: 75 v 82
A low-scoring affair was the Dockers' best chance at a win. They succeeded in avoiding a shootout, but only have themselves to blame for not hitting the scoreboard enough in the end. A "win" on expected score will hurt - this should have been a good victory away from home.
Again, it was Taberner or bust for Fremantle. He kicked 4.3 (and missed two altogether), and was the only multiple goalkicker for the Dockers. Only four others managed a goal. Not sustainable if you want to beat the decent sides.
Defensively the Dockers were super brave. Missing so many key players they just hung in there. Griffin Logue was enormous, Sean Darcy outstanding through the middle and their midfielders probably had the edge over Essendon overall. They just couldn't find enough ways to score.
The Bombers were carried a little by Parish, Heppell and Hind. Without Cale Hooker kicking a bag they were held to their first sub-100 score since Round 5. They do get a perfect bounce-back spot against the Kangaroos next week but might be looking to bring in some help up forward - is Patrick Ambrose the answer?
Huge game for Freo against Sydney next weekend. Intriguing matchup, that one.
Melbourne 94 def Carlton 68
Expected score: 87 v 59
The Dees keep marching on. Another reasonable test for Melbourne, under a finals-like pressure rating helped a little by the wet weather.
Can they address their issues at stoppage? They've lost the clearance battle for the third week in a row, and the -15 differential against the Blues was their worst result for the year. No doubt it will be reviewed heavily this week with one eye on their clash with the Bulldogs in a couple of weeks time (the kind of side who will destroy you at clearance if you let them).
The Blues are just...the Blues. Falling to genuine top eight teams by between two and five goals has become their brand. Their greatest losing margin is only 28 points, and they've played five of the top eight sides in only nine rounds of footy.
The next two weeks will be the real test for Carlton - games against Hawthorn and Sydney that should really turn into wins.
West Coast 106 def Adelaide 76
Expected score: 91 v 83
The Eagles are one of the more unconvincing 6-3 sides for a while, after cruising to a pretty soft victory against a brave Crows outfit. West Coast have played only three current top eight sides, losing two of them. And given their injury list it's hard to tell where they really sit in the pecking order of legitimate contenders at the moment.
Above average conversion probably flattered the Eagles, who conceded 13 marks inside 50 to the Crows without Tex Walker even playing. After taking only 2 marks inside 50 last week against Port Adelaide, it was hard to see them reaching double figures in this one but they managed it. How well are the Eagles really defending?
The Eagles had the game just how they like it - low pressure (only 171 to 160 overall), super uncontested (uncontested possessions +27) and with plenty of chipping the ball around (marks +45). Not a great test for the type of scrap they might face next week, but the Eagles do have the benefit of tackling GWS without Toby Greene.
Adelaide in for a tough couple of weeks - Melbourne and Richmond to come. Brutal.
Looks like Thursday night teams will return, so we will post our previews once selection has landed. Check back Thursday evening for the full preview of every game as we try and find some more winners in Round 10.