Category - 2013 – Pre-Season
Most people enjoy winning tipping competitions. It gives you bragging rights amongst family, friends & work colleagues as well as that unique blend of smugness and condescension usually associated with people who have just bowled a strike in ten pin bowling. However, for every competitive flog who is willing to take the kind of measures that would only receive the ethical stamp of approval from Essendon’s sport science department to win the tipping comp, there are those who ritually bring up the rear. Whether it’s because they forgot they’ve signed up for the tipping comp, are more interested in posting pictures of their cat on facebook, have no idea about football or all of the above – these people are an essential part of any tipping competition. If you want to be the dunce of your office tipping comp in 2013, follow these 5 simple steps:
1. Back the expansion sides
Since their inception into the competition GWS & Gold Coast have won a combined 8 of 66 games. The AFL has funnelled enough cash and draft picks into these sides to all but ensure they are curb stomping opposition teams – in a manner usually reserved for Geelong v Melbourne at Kardinia Park encounters – in 5 years time. However, it doesn’t look like the fledgling sides ‘W’ column will be filling up significantly anytime soon. By tipping the expansion sides to win every game, you should be able to cost yourself 35-40 tips this year.
2. Away ground disadvantage
Expansion teams aside, the non Victorian teams were able to win an aggregate 67% of their home games last season. This figure was dragged down by Brisbane & Port Adelaide who are more than likely going to improve this season. Geelong was also able to win all 7 games at Kardinia Park last season and have an imposing record at that ground. So for an excellent way to commit tipping hari-kari in 2013 back against the non-vic sides at home, as well as Geelong down at Sleepy Hollow. For good measure back Essendon & St Kilda in every game not played at Docklands as well as Melbourne winning anywhere but the MCG.
3. Copy the person that’s winning
It’s a well known fact that most tipping competition cheats peep at the tips of others. If you want to make the gap between the footy knowledge rich and poor even wider, have a squiz at the tipping comp leader’s tips and pick the opposite teams. This is also known as the Kiss of Death/Village Idiot/Caroline Wilson method.
4. Let your bias hang out
If you follow Melbourne, Port Adelaide, Western Bulldogs or are paid by the AFL to nominally support GWS or Gold Coast – pick your team to win every week. If your team is better than completely awful – tip against them in spite of your better judgement. The key to totally eliminating your objectivity as a football expert is letting your emotions (positive or negative) for your club of choice get the better of you. See: Blight, Malcolm.
5. Don’t enter your tips
Depending on the competition you enter there will always be some kind of punishment or handicap for this (in)action. Whether it’s scoring zero, being given the least tips or all of the away teams; this is a sure fire way to underline your tipping dunce status. So if you can’t be bothered following the above instructions this is your get out. You can lose by default “the two sweetest words in the English language” according to the greatest philosopher of our time; Homer Simpson. Or to paraphrase Homer again; ‘you tried and you failed, the lesson is never try’.
Let’s face it, it’s just as difficult to score zero as it is to score 9. Doing the opposite of the above instructions should ensure you are not the complete idiot of your tipping competition in 2013.
Note: GWS, Richmond, St Kilda & Western Bulldogs summaries will be posted shortly.
It’s time. Vader time.
(For those of you who don’t get that reference, it probably means you’re not a massive nerd.)
Well, it’s not time…but it almost is, Season 2013 is about to get underway, with the mighty Adelaide Crows taking on the…er…Bombers this Friday night.
However, before the season proper started, there was the small issue of the NAB Cup to settle. Additionally, with the prestige of the NAB Cup on the line, you may or may not have been aware that there were also several other clubs in faux action this weekend. Here is what happened at your club:
Bye – Players in the SANFL included Richard Tambling, Sam Shaw, Tom Lynch, Shaun McKernan and Lewis Johnston
Daniel Rich – The winner of the Michael Tuck medal was in outstanding form. Whilst he copped a tag from Andrew Carazzo, he managed to both tear the Blues a new one and simultaneously find himself recruited in a number of different fantasy midfields. He looked like a proper leader on the field (despite his Shaggy-from-Scooby-Doo haircut), particularly around the clearances. Not sure I’d be picking him in my AFL Fantasy side, but gee he’s fun to watch.
Josh Green – In another pleasing (for me) case of ‘I told you so,’ the young man I highlighted early in the season looked to have all the spark of a high-class small forward. The coaches must be happy that he kept presenting himself to provide a compliment to the raw power of Jonothan Brown, bagging 3 goals as a reward.
Dayne Zorko – Can’t write this report without giving a mention to Dayne Zorko, who was everywhere, and will look to pick up where he left off this season. I was impressed by his propensity to run, and he managed to drive the Lions into attack on occasion after occasion. Must consider.
Pat Karnezis – Another ‘told you so’ moment, Toby must have been grinning like a Cheshire cat after extolling the virtues of Karnezis in the backline. Now, watch every man and his dog jump on. I blame you Toby. Nonetheless, Karnezis looms as a stellar bargain buy in all fantasy games.
Jonathan Brown – The Big Dog looked to turn back the clock, loving the silver platter supply he got from his midfield, and it was something to behold. He played the sort of match that gives all the old timers love – providing a strong contest at the ball, and if he didn’t mark it he brought it to ground etc etc. Whilst he isn’t getting any younger, he will have the odd blinder of a game, and will be important when it counts.
Billy Longer – I’m not going to be responsible for killing too many people’s buzz at Brisbane – except poor old Billy Longer, who despite playing a reasonable game, he suffered a momentary lapse of concentration when he got a little confused as to which direction they were kicking. Very embarrassing, but if that’s the worst moment he has all season, he’ll be doing OK.
Sam Docherty – Was one of the 3 subs, and did not come on until the last quarter. Given his preseason, we collectively had high hopes for this kid, but his lack of playing time should scare some people off. From a Fantasy point of view, approach with caution.
Bryce Gibbs – Not much I can add here. If you haven’t locked him in your team, you’re insane (insanity that was probably caused by the trauma you experienced in owning him last year.) Plenty of outside ball, plenty of run and plenty of tackles, and will continue to rack up points in the midfield, despite his ridiculous haircut.
Mitch Robinson – Provided some spark, particularly early in the game when it was all still up for grabs. I’m not sure that Robinson is the first guy you think of when you’re picking your forward line, but he’s definitely worthy of consideration in all formats
Matt Kreuzer – Showed himself again to be a crucial part of Carlton’s plans. Looked to be moving well, and Blues’ fans will be hoping his body stays sound across the year. Fantasy-wise, negates the effectiveness of the likes of Hampson, Warnock and perhaps even Sam Rowe.
Chris Judd – The former Skipper, looked every bit like a guy playing his first match for the year and struggled a little to pick up the pace of the game. Of course, this is only a short term issue for Judd, and Supercoach coaches especially will again be looking to the great man for consistent scores across the year.
Collingwood (defeated by Geelong)
Quentin Lynch – Lynch showed why there was such a buzz around him early on in the preseason, as he imposed himself on the Cats’ backline with 4 goals. He will be an integral part of the Pies’ forward line as the season drags on and the chemistry with his compatriots grows.
Dayne Beams – Has been very strong the whole way through the NAB Cup, and continued his good form down at Geelong. Given the high price of the likes of Dane Swan and Gary Ablett Jr, there must be a train of thought floating around that Beams could be a solid gold premium at this point? At the very least, I know a number of coaches who are going in without Swan or Ablett, and so for those foolhardy folks, Beams must be right on the short list.
Ben Kennedy – He didn’t play in this practice match, and one can only assume that this discounts him from a gig early on in the season. Also missing out were the likes of Josh Thomas, Marley Williams and Ben Hudson (the latter two played in the VFL the next day)
Bye – Although it’s perhaps worth noting that Scott Gumbleton kicked 5 goals in the VFL.
Bye – Players playing in the WAFL included Lachie Neale, Viv Michie, Jauden Pitt, Josh Mellington and Garrick Ibbotson
Geelong (defeated Collingwood)
Jimmy Bartel – Was everywhere, picking up 51 FPs in the first quarter alone. He tailed off after that, not reaching three figures, but given the nature of the game, high scoring early counts for something. I’m really excited about this year for Jimmy, and his dual position status will be invaluable to many fantasy sides.
Josh Caddy – Many have been waiting for this kid to show something at his new club, and he’s starting to work into his role nicely, providing the Cats with extra grunt in and around their midfield. Will take more time to develop, and is still overpriced in fantasy games, but he could be one to keep a close eye on.
The Ruckmen – Injured ruckmen Trent West, Hamish McIntosh and Nathan Vardy are all doubtful or ruled out of round 1, and whilst this opens up the opportunity for the likes of young Mark Bilicavs, it does raise some serious concerns around the long term impact missed pre-seasons will have on their midfield.
Gold Coast (defeated Melbourne)
Aaron Hall – Played his usual role as a small forward, but looked to reap the results of an improved defensive game and work rate, scoring 3 goals and racking up 19 possessions. Named in the best for the Suns in their win over Melbourne, it is pleasing to see Hall make some headway after an inconsistent first year (which saw him feature in many DT rants!)
Charlie Dixon – Took a couple of really good contested grabs, and provided the spark that saw the Suns kick away. He will be inconsistent again this year, but showed flashes of brilliance, and will be hoping that he can establish himself in that inexperienced Suns forward line.
Dion Prestia – is aggressive & smart. With all the midfield hype revolving around Ablett, Swallow, Bennell & O’Meara; this could be one young Sun who flies nicely under the radar as a fantasy selection.
Greg Broughton –Beware the ‘never again’ list. Broughton continued to play off half back, scoring 43 FPs, and (from a Fantasy perspective) has not done enough to secure a place in either Fantasy or SuperCoach. Look for a value buy elsewhere.
Jesse Lonergan – looked the most AFL ready of latest batch of Suns’ recruits, unfortunately he hurt his wrist & looks an uncertain starter for round 1.
Steve May - was quiet all game. With the way Aaron Hall, Charlie Dixon & Sam Day played on Saturday he could have some real competition for a forward spot.
Greater Western Sydney (defeated by St Kilda)
Hawthorn (defeated North Melbourne)
Lance Franklin – I don’t feel like I’m telling you anything new here, but Lance Franklin is a pretty good player. He was everywhere in the first half of their demolition of the Kangaroos and is a delight to watch when on song.
Sam Mitchell – A perennial favourite of mine, Mitchell keeps coming and coming at the ball. He outguns midfields on sheer will alone and is a valuable addition in both forms of fantasy, although I’d favour him in SuperCoach.
Max Bailey – was superb in the ruck for the Hawks, and deserves some good luck after the well-documented problems he has had with his body. Look for him to establish himself in the side this year.
Xavier Ellis – rested in the second half due to an undisclosed leg injury. He should, however be right in the frame for Round 1.
Josh Gibson –Copped a heavy knock in the first half from a marking contest, and limped off the field. Clarkson has indicated that he will be OK, but it’s definitely something to monitor, given the not insignificant depletion of the Hawks backline with the loss of Matt Suckling last week.
James Sellar – was the main threat again for the Dees up forward for the third successive match.
Mark Jamar - had the better of the ruck duel on Saturday & looms as one of the key Dees in 2013.
Jack Watts – did some nice stat padding in the back half which should peak the interest of fantasy coaches this year.
Cam Pederson – turned in another underwhelming performance on the weekend. With the rise of Sellar as well as the imminent return of Clark & Dawes he could fall way back in the selection pecking order.
Jeremy Howe – struggled all day & was rarely sighted. Let’s hope the human highlight reel is saving it for the real stuff!
North Melbourne (defeated by Hawthorn)
Nathan Grima – Although his man, Lance Franklin, kicked 3 goals on him, Grima looked calm and composed in defence playing in his first game at senior level since returning from injury. Brad Scott said that Grima had “done enough” to prove himself fit for Round 1, in what should be a boost to the North faithful. (Beware that the amount of ball he won may have simply been a function of the fact that it was in defence so much)
Brent Harvey – The second oldest player showed that there was life in the old dog yet. Harvey did what Harvey does, and chipped in with 2 goals on a day that, quite frankly, suited him. Fantasy coaches could do a lot worse than put their faith in the old man.
Daniel Currie – I was mildly scolded in the comments for cautioning against too much excitement around Currie. Whilst it’s too early to say I’ve been vindicated, Todd Goldstein played this scratch match, with Brad Scott suggesting that it was Goldstein’s ‘best quarter of football for two years,’ in the opening term of the match. Purchase Currie with caution.
Port Adelaide (defeated Sydney)
Travis Boak – The Captain continues to shine in a revitalised Port Adelaide outfit. He was named Best on Ground, and had both his inside and outside game working beautifully, with 29 touches (14 contested) and 3 goals. I say again, he is a tremendous point of difference in your midfield, and seems to be thriving with added responsibility.
Lewis Stevenson – Stevenson has slotted right into life at Alberton, and I’d suggest that he will be a nice value buy. His outside game was working beautifully, and he managed to propel the Power into attack on a number of occasions.
Angus Monfries – Monfries only played the second half, and looked a touch listless. There was a great expectation on him when he moved from Essendon, with the hope that he would turn over a new leaf, and whilst he has time to work into his new home, at this stage those expectations look to be a little lofty.
John Butcher – Made his long awaited comeback, but picked up a hand injury and was subbed off. He should not miss Round 1, but if you’re considering him for any sort of role in your side, watch closely (and get your head read.)
Ivan Maric – Big Ivan went forward and snagged three goals while also doing very well around the ground against Will Minson. He looks one of the safest ruck options this season.
Bachar Houli – Looks to have taken his game to a new level off the half-back flank. He’s a definite point of different for defenders but he’s getting lots of ball up the ground so should improve his numbers.
Shane Edwards – Another player who looks to have taken his game to a new level. Improve in 2012, but watch out for him to be a big contributor in 2013.
Trent Cotchin – Got tagged out of it by Nick Lower and wasn’t himself. Still found the ball but didn’t get any space.
Dustin Martin – Was pretty quiet most of the day after a big first quarter.
Sydney (defeated by Port Adelaide)
Josh Kennedy – I’ve tried to start this sentence three times now, but I’m completely lost for words when describing Josh Kennedy. He racked up 34 possessions, a massive 10 tackles and 11 clearances (which the AFL website insisted on calling a ‘triple-double.’ Cringe), which should see him come well into contention for your midfield.
Luke Parker – Another contender for a breakout year, Parker accumulated 91 FPs at AAMI Stadium. Perhaps Juzz will look at him again, after being sorely disappointed with his year last year.
Tony Armstrong – After a good early showing in the NAB Cup, Armstrong continues to display inconsistency. Whilst his talent is undoubted, in order to force his way into a consistent place in the Swans’ midfield, he will have to display a higher level of play on a more consistent basis.
Bye – Unfortunately, it has emerged the Mark Nicoski has been returned to the Long Term Injury list as he recovers from his major hamstring injury. We wish him all the best – because, we’re sure he reads this blog.
Adam Cooney – Looked in great shape and most importantly played good footy. Was easily the Dogs’ best player.
Robert Murphy - He’ll flourish up the ground and he looked dangerous every time he got it.
Brett Goodes – Looked composed down back and has locked himself in for round one. Will get a lot of cheap possessions.
There was really no one killing the buzz. There isn’t much to expect from the Dogs from a fantasy point of view so I left feeling disappointed by no one.
A common phrase amongst football followers is that “the big guys take longer than midfielders.” Whilst Chris Judd dominated in his first year at the Eagles, Tom Hawkins finally arrived toward the end of his fifth season, Toby Greene averaged near enough to 30 disposals per game in his debut year & Taylor Walker put down the frothies and picked up his game in 2012 – these are exceptions rather than the rule.
The great modern day key position players have generally achieved a lot at a tender age whilst a lot of excellent midfielders took their time to get going.
Wayne Carey – finished top 5 in the Brownlow at 21 on his way to the Syd Barker Medal at North Melbourne.
Tony Lockett – won the Brownlow/Coleman double at 21 years of age.
Jason Dunstall – won the goalkicking for Hawthorn as a 22 year old in their 1986 premiership year.
Gary Ablett Sr – won the best & fairest for Geelong at the age of 22 as well as kicking 8 goals from the wing for Victoria in 1984.
Nick Riewoldt – won the Rising Star in 2002, at 20 years old in his first full season.
Lance Franklin – kicking 100 goals at 21 years of age.
Stephen Silvagni & Dustin Fletcher – being premiership full backs at 18 & 20 years old respectively.
You can add to that elite group Nick Holland winning the rising star award at 21 in 1995, Adam Goodes winning as a ruckman in 1999 at 19, Justin Koschitzke in 2001 at 19, Jared Rivers at 19 in 2004 & Daniel Talia at 20 last year. As well as Jonathan Brown being a premiership CHF at 19, Travis Cloke winning a B&F at 20, David Neitz making the All Australian team at 20, Matthew Pavlich making the All Australian team at 20, Corey McKernan polling the most votes in the Rising Star at 20 & then the most votes in the Brownlow at 22.
So that is a fair slew of KPP’s who were closing the gap between potential and actual output at a very young age. Contrastingly some of the game’s best midfielders/smalls took a fair while to find their feet.
Gary Ablett Jr – didn’t realise his potential or even move into the midfield until his breakout year in 2007, his sixth season.
Jimmy Bartel – was dropped from Geelong’s team in 2004, in his 3rd year & was the subject of trade speculation at the end of his 5th season.
Brendon Goddard – was the subject of intense scrutiny in his early career, only really establishing himself in St Kilda’s best side toward the end of 2006, his fourth season.
Dane Swan – similarly didn’t start having an impact on the competition until 2006, his fifth season.
Jobe Watson – was still on the fringes of Essendon’s team in 2007, his fifth year.
Josh Kennedy (Sydney) – played just 13 games in his first 3 seasons at Hawthorn.
There are also plenty of other midfielders whose careers didn’t reach great heights until they were in their mid 20’s. Obviously all players take some time to reach their peak (particularly ruckmen), but nearly all of the league’s great forwards/defenders had achieved a lot by the age of 21.
The old “big guys take longer” line is a very tall story, if not a complete myth.
It’s early March, and whilst some might question the notion of AFL Football being played in early March as the nation swelters in uncomfortable Autumnal heat, we all know the truth – the truth that sets us free from the conformist thinking of the masses. The Truth being that these games are highly important, and are highly indicative of this season’s form.
If you’re anything like us, you will be hastily updating your spreadsheets, and you’ll have some idea of how your structure is looking. You will be on version 58.5 of your team, and will have settled…almost nothing.
So what happened this week? I’m glad you asked:
Adelaide (defeated Carlton)
Brent Reilly – Just as last week I refused to jump on Taylor Walker’s back, this week I refuse to jump on his bandwagon. Instead, I choose to highlight the efforts of Brent Reilly, who was named Best on Ground against the dynamic Carlton forward line. 15 of his 19 disposals were uncontested, as he operated at a classy 84.2% disposal efficiency. Also pleasing the coaches box would have been Reilly’s contribution to the “one-percenter” count, leading the way with 6. You could do worse for a lower premium-priced defender at $407,900 in AFLF (My new acronym for ‘AFL Fantasy.’ You call it laziness, I call it ‘efficiency.’)
The Contenders for the Empty Spots – All Summer, we’ve heard about the need to fill the empty spots of both the retired Michael Doughty, and the traitor Kurt Tippett (yes, still bitter.) The race for those two spots appear to have been won by promising ex-Bomber Josh Jenkins and the tough Luke Brown. Both players offer plenty of upside, but it would be a brave Fantasy coach that chooses either.
Ian Callinan – The crucial small-forward found himself at the bottom of the stats sheet against the Blues. However, this was simply because he sustained a ‘knock’ to his left knee in the first quarter, and given the importance of the game the coaching staff saw fit to sub him off. No need for concern, and you’d back him in to get himself right.
Jason Porplyzia – Worth a mention here that although Porplyzia’s game was just fine, he spent Friday night in hospital with a stomach ulcer. Crows medical staff say he should be fine for Round 1, but you should monitor with caution.
PS: Beware Scott Thompson. 26 possessions at 69.2% efficiency and 5 Clangers are not elite numbers.
Brisbane (defeated Collingwood)
Daniel Rich – The man they would call Captain (if it wasn’t for all those others) continued his great pre-season form through the midfield. For those who haven’t realised yet, he is going to be one of the breakout players of 2013 now that he has been freed of his half-back duties. He had 25 disposals and kicked 2.1 and was the best Brisbane midfielder on the ground in a team only really missing Simon Black.
Billy Longer – Showed some fantastic signs as the Lions’ key ruckman. He frequently gets himself in great positions and took some great marks. Whilst 2013 won’t be his year (unless Leuenberger goes down again), they have certainly found a great ruckman for the future!
Matthew Leuenberger – The popular Ruck did not play as he was a late withdrawal. Surely the lack of game time he has played this pre-season is starting to concern those of us who have picked him? (Versions 21, 23 and 34 – 51). Yes, he comes at a decent price, but can we really trust him and his body if he has only managed half a game of NAB footy?
Jonathan Brown – The big man played his first game of the year and looked pretty rusty. He was dropping marks and just not quite positioning himself well. He’ll be fine after a few more games, but his time as a fantasy option has now been and gone – I can’t see him pumping out too many big scores this year.
Carlton (defeated by Adelaide)
Brock McLean – I must put my personal feelings aside here to mention the game of Brock McLean. His efforts in the second and fourth quarters in particular kept Carlton in the game, and you would imagine that it would lock him into the Blues’ Round 1 side, even with Chris Judd still to return.
Andrew Carrazzo – Was indefatigable around the clearances and running through the midfield. He was everywhere for the Blues as his inside and outside game was working beautifully, and you’d imagine that his game will only improve with the burden of captaincy. Must be on your radar.
Matthew Kreuzer – The injury-prone big man was crucial for Carlton, and was especially strong through the first half. He played most of the game, which must be a big plus for Blues’ supporters (and perhaps not so great for coaches considering the likes of Robbie Warnock and Shaun Hampson)
Chris Yarran – I don’t quite know how to say this, because I really like Chris Yarran as a spark off the half backline, but I thought he was a touch sloppy with his possession in this match, and the stats seem to back it up. Operating at 50% efficiency with his disposal with 5 clangers – not clean enough for the guy providing run off of half back.
Collingwood (defeated by Brisbane)
Dayne Beams – Beams was again the standout performer for the Pies, picking up 23 disposals and kicking 2.1. Disappointingly, he only had one tackle and one mark for the game, so hopefully these numbers can improve. He also received a game-high 6 frees-for in what was a game full over overly-officious umpiring. He’s midfield only in 2013, so will need to pump out some good scores to stay relevant, although games like this show he is still more than capable.
Paul Seedsman – Another one we’ve mentioned here on Footy Tragic’s pre-season coverage, Paul Seedsman looks like he’s played his way into the Pies’ Round 1 side – he has great outside pace and can also use the ball well. He should be more than capable of playing most games this season across a wing. He’s an awkward price, but perhaps worth a punt.
Brent Macaffer – Didn’t do too much to impress. He played the full game up forward and really didn’t get amongst the action. He wasn’t getting fed much ball either, with Lynch being the main target up forward. Structurally, he could play round one, but it doesn’t look like his scores are going to be high enough for us to stick him on our grounds for round one.
The number of senior players out for Collingwood was also a disappointment – this seemed to be the week where teams were playing with what would be close to their round one teams, but Collingwood was far from that with at least half a dozen key players missing. Therefore it’s hard to get a gauge on where a lot of the junior players are in the pecking order.
Essendon (defeated Greater Western Sydney)
Jobe Watson – The Captain Jobe Watson led the way with another best on performance totalling thirty-one disposals at 93% efficiency with seven clearances, seven tackles, a pair of goals and this party trick. With GWS assuming the role as witches’ hats, it was a walk in the park for an Essendon side looking to prove their worth after a sub-standard effort against a second rate Richmond outfit a week earlier.
Of note? 265 of the Bombers 404 disposals were uncontested with Watson, Michael Hibberd, Brendon Goddard and Brent Stanton combining for a ridiculous 84 uncontested possessions.
The Inside Brigade – David Myers and Patrick Ryder were the best of the Bombers inside brigade. Fourteen of Myers twenty-two disposals were contested with the youngster adding four inside fifties and four clearances. Ryder was the dominant big man on the ground splitting time between ruck and forward duties. Ryder plucked three contested marks and three goals to go with 15 contested possessions, thirteen hitouts and five clearances.
A lack of opposition, really. Let’s face it this was a tough game to sit through for neutrals with the Giants putting up little resistance and letting Essendon run rampant. However, we don’t pull punches here at Footy Tragic, so…
Elliott Kavanagh - It’s most definitely fishing for an irrelevant negative considering all contributors in the red sash were largely impressive but Elliott Kavanagh was arguably the only Bomber who was somewhat wasteful via foot. Kavanagh won plenty of ball totalling 20 disposals but only five of his thirteen kicks found the target.
Fremantle (defeated Western Bulldogs)
Nathan Fyfe – Well, I suppose he was buzz and buzzkill all in one. His performance was fantastic against an inexperienced Bulldogs side, but he came off clutching his left shoulder to send a big scare through the Freo camp. In such a one sided game it was good to see him come back on, so you can assume it’s not too serious. He finished with 30 touches in a shortened game (heat policy) despite missing a bit of time to get his shoulder re-strapped
David Mundy – Mundy received plenty of close attention from Nick Lower all day. After a slow start Mundy worked his way into the game beautifully and ended up with 24 touches through the midfield.
Matthew Pavlich – It was a great first up performance from Pav, finishing with 3.3 and 8 marks. While it was a very raw defence he was up against it’s good to see him looking at peak fitness on the verge of the season opener.
Kepler Bradley – It’s hard to pick holes in such a comprehensive performance, but big Kep looked awkward and cumbersome (perhaps even more so than usual). He finished with 2 handballs in a little over 50% TOG
Lachie Neale – Neale was very lively in limited time on ground, but only 28% might indicate he is just outside of their Round 1 team. Hayden Crozier and Lee Spurr both saw less than 50% TOG too.
Geelong (defeated North Melbourne)
Paul Chapman – The old man Chappy put his quad complaint from last week behind him, proving to be absolutely sublime against the exciting Kangaroos. His last quarter was fearsome, and showed that neither his minor complaint from last week, nor his age has dulled his endurance.
Jordan Murdoch – Was the best of the Cats’ young brigade this week, playing a nice role as a forward inside 50 against Michael Firrito (despite being listed as a Defender) providing another option to Tom Hawkins. Awkwardly priced, but one to keep an eye on.
Travis Varcoe – Much vaunted in Fantasy circles this Summer, most Coaches would have preferred to have seen more from Travis Varcoe running off half back. Don’t write him off just yet, but this performance was a touch disappointing.
Gold Coast (defeated by Sydney)
Jaeger O’Meara – A shining light for the Suns. O’Meara really is proving to be one of the Suns’ classiest players, probably only behind Ablett and Bennell in the pecking order. Continually drove the ball inside 50, won his fair share of stoppages and looks every bit the AFL player (particularly when cuts down the ‘unforced error’ count.) Should already be locked into your side.
Zac Smith – We all know young Ruckmen take time to develop. Unfortunately, this is not a luxury young Smith has, as he shoulders the bulk of the work in this Suns squad. While he was subbed off at half-time, he and his rucking mates were absolutely schooled by the Canadian. They will need to improve.
Gary Ablett – Appears on this list only because he didn’t play. It’s the only way he will ever be a Buzzkill. Ever.
Greater Western Sydney (defeated by Essendon)
Toby Greene – Gets another yet another mention in this report, and should well and truly be on your radar by now. Greene was the only Giant to show some toughness and the only Giant to amass double digit contested possessions and have at least twenty disposals. He is arguably the premier ball winner for players of his age, but disposal has been an issue and it was again the case on Friday night with only 52% of Greene’s touches deemed effective to go with four turnovers.
Tim Mohr – An inclusion that’s sure to please Dan, given his love affair for the big man last year. Mohr took another step towards consistency and was solid in defence totalling fourteen disposals, eight marks, five rebound fifties and seven one percenters.
Turnovers - GWS crashed their way through the fifty turnover threshold and had five players with at least four turnovers headlined by twenty year old defender Mark Whiley who somehow found his way to six turnovers from seven disposals, impressive in a backwards kind of way.
The Giants younger bodies were bullied in the clearances as well registering a -20 differential on the night. There wasn’t a lot to like about the Giants lacklustre performance and little to take away from a supporter or fantasy perspective.
Hawthorn (defeated by Richmond)
Sam Mitchell - Sam Mitchell took off from where he left on Saturday. He was enormous for the Hawks, winning clearances and laying some big tackles. At times during 2012 he looked to be playing injured, but he looks extremely fit and ready to go for a big 2013.
Bradley Hill – Hill had the wing to himself on Saturday and showed what he is capable of with his enormous athletic ability. He’s really come on with his skills and looks to have sewn up a position for round one.
Matthew Suckling – It is suspected that Matthew Suckling has done his ACL which is terrible news for the Hawks. He would’ve been a major point of difference in the fantasy game. Best of luck to his recovery.
Jonathan Simpkin – Whilst he looked like he was poised to have a position in the Hawks line up, I feel his disposal is a major worry for the Hawks. He can find the ball quite easily, but he didn’t impact the game all that much.
Melbourne (defeated by St Kilda)
James Sellar – The ex-Crow had another good game up forward, following his 5 goal haul against Port last week. He’s playing with a lot of confidence given the amount of one grab marks he was taking. He looked very hungry around the goals. With injury clouds over Clark & Dawes, Sellar is firming as the Dees’ main man up forward for round 1.
David Rodan – A bit like Sellar, he is on the fringes of the team but his desire to be an AFL footballer cannot be doubted. Imposed and willed himself on to a number of contests on Saturday, mainly through the midfield and up forward. Looks a certain starter for Round 1.
Aaron Davey – Had a real stinker of a game. Of the few times he did touch the ball he would follow up the sublime (weaving through three opposition players) with the ridiculous (a 3m turnover kick). Looks to be finished as an AFL player.
Luke Tapscott – Unfortunately, just doesn’t find enough of the footy. A brief last quarter cameo aside, he really had a dirty day. He seems to be another ‘Melbourne footy factory’ product that just can’t nail down a position. Given he was selected two draft positions ahead of Nat Fyfe in 2009, he really needs to lift.
North Melbourne (defeated by Geelong)
Andrew Swallow – Was predictably outstanding for the Kangaroos, providing real grunt in the midfield. 7 Clearances, 6 Tackles, 12 Contested Possessions and a Goal saw Swallow lead a gallant Kangaroos effort from the front. Whilst he appear to roll his ankle in the 3rd quarter, he came back on and finished the game out strong.
Daniel Wells –This will surprise absolutely no-one, but Wells is a quality player. Whilst his stats were down versus the Cats, it is worth noting that he only played half the game in trying conditions, and still racked up 54FPs. Unpopular due to his perceived inconsistency, I think you could do a lot worse – a potential Point of Difference.
Daniel Currie – This is not so much a Buzzkill call, as it is a cautionary tale. Currie was outstanding in the Ruck for North, no doubt. Also, he appears to be the first in line, due to Hamish McIntosh’s inexplicable demotion in the pre-season pecking order. However, don’t pick young Currie on this performance alone – he was against a Geelong side which has first Ruck issues all of its own. Their first Ruck on this day was young Mark Bilcavs, with support of sorts from Josh Walker – hardly household names themselves.
Port Adelaide (defeated West Coast)
Travis Boak – The newly appointed Captain of Port Adelaide made his season debut, playing with a new zeal and fire (no, not a blaze started in the Land of the Long White Cloud – give me a break. It’s late), and was named best on ground for the Power in a gritty win against the team many are touting as premiership favourites. A tremendous Point of Difference if you’ve got the cojones.
Hamish Hartlett – Speaking of blokes you’ll need cojones to pick, this kid has been threatening to rip a season apart for a couple of years now. If you listen to him, this will be the year. It’s only ever been his body that’s let him down, and this year he’s had a full pre-season. Played really well on a tough night in Darwin, and will only improve in terms of his disposal efficiency – his skills are too good for it to stay that low.
The Kids – No, not Oli Wines. He was tremendous, as usual. However, Sam Colquhoun looked out of his depth with for the first time in the NAB Cup, whilst Kane Mitchell’s disposal seems to be of some concern. Jake Neade is a popular pick also, but I have some serious concerns about his body shape for AFL football at the moment – a factor that surely effects his longevity as a Fantasy-relevant player.
Richmond (defeated Hawthorn)
Brett Deledio – Trent Cotchin is often talked about as the ‘must-have’ Richmond player in the midfield, but Brett Deledio should not be forgotten as a point of difference. He collected 24 disposals and booted 2 majors in the same role he played in 2012. He’ll escape the tag more often than not and there is little to suggest he has reached his peak.
Brandon Ellis – Ellis continues to shine in his more responsible role off the half-back flank, registering only one ineffective disposal for the match. Richmond love to get the ball in his hands, and he has really stepped up his attacking game due to his elite endurance and ability to read the play and get off his man.
Dustin Martin - Dustin Martin was much quieter in NAB 3, which may scare off some people after they were scarred by his inconsistent 2012 season. Until he proves he has the consistency to be an elite midfielder, a lot of people will stay away.
St Kilda (defeated Melbourne)
Jack Newnes – To say that St Kilda haven’t had much success at drafting and developing youth in recent years would be one of the colossal understatements of the century along with “Gary Ablett Jr has turned into an ok player” and “Richmond may have made a mistake when they recruited Richard Tambling over Lance Franklin” or “Gee weren’t Melbourne disappointing today (vs Geelong R19 2011).” However, the Saints look to have found a ripper in Newnes. He was close to BOG on Saturday and looks a monty to be in the Saints best 22 come round one. He is quick, strong over the ball, makes smart decisions and is a good finisher. He could be a real fantasy smoky.
Beau Maister (Wilkes) –The Beaumeister had another day out against the Dees. Took a number of good grabs, and looked dangerous for the Saints up forward. Looks a million times a better option than that Gumby Koschitzke up forward and should get a real crack at nailing down a Key Position Forward spot come the season proper.
Dylan Roberton – The ex Freo boy looked good as a key defender, although he wasn’t up against much. Nonetheless should be in line for a starting position in the Saints best 22 as Scott Waters tries to renew this ageing team.
Arryn Siposs – “Goddard Mark II” had an ordinary day, and struggled to have any impact whatsoever on the game. Basic skill errors were a lowlight on the rare occasion he got the ball.
Tom Lee – Lee did some really nice things, but let himself down with woeful kicking at goal to finish the game with 0.4. The miss from the top of the goalsquare was as embarrassing as they come! Looked like he was wearing a cast on his right arm – could have affected his ball drop.
Sydney (defeated Gold Coast)
Jarrad McVeigh – Was simply breathtaking against the hapless Suns. He won plenty of his own ball, and continued to drive the play through the centre square. His mammoth 131 FPs would have been even better had he converted a couple of his 4 behinds.
Josh Kennedy – Playing his first game of the pre-season, this guy is one of my favourites – I try to find a place for him in every team I play, as I love the way he plays his footy. He won 12 clearances and chipped in with a couple of goals, and I think he is a potentially unpopular premium priced player (PUPPP?) that will provide you with a nice point of difference.
Adam Goodes – After some discussion in this space last week, the jury is still out on Goodes as he works his way back into the year. He played just fine, but it’ll concern prospective coaches, given his age, his recent history and his reputation for starting slowly. Monitor carefully.
Alex Johnson- This handy backline player(particularly in SuperCoach) was stretchered off in the opening Quarter, having suffered is thought to be an injury to his Anterior Cruciate Ligament. We wish him well in his recovery.
West Coast (defeated by Port Adelaide)
Dean Cox – Rucked the entire game, and showed no sign of slowing, even in the heat. Whilst Scott Lycett did play, he was hardly anywhere to be seen, as Cox did his usual thing. Whilst Nic Natinui is out, Cox continues to be a good play in Ruck.
Beau Waters – As always, Waters was a dependable route out of defence, with the Eagles channelling a fair amount of the play through the veteran. Watch his health, but otherwise a safe play in a depleted pool of premium backline players.
Chris Masten – Did not even get a chance to get on the ground as he experienced some tightness in his quad during the warm up. He should be fine, but you should monitor closely before picking him.
Mark LeCras – Probably just working his way back into the game, but LeCras was missing for a fair bit of the night. For such a quality player, this was a quiet night and highlights the concerns I have around his consistency (even when fit).
Western Bulldogs (defeated by Fremantle)
Koby Stevens – Not a lot to smile about from the inexperienced Dogs, but Stevens was the most prominent ball winner for them, and would’ve done his chances of Round 1 selection no harm. He had 25 disposals and was the only Dog to get more than 20.
Jackson Macrae – He’s played each week of the NAB Cup for the Bulldogs, so must be doing something right. He showed a lot of poise for a player so young playing predominantly on the wing.
The Western Bulldogs - As a whole, the Bulldogs had 11 players get less than ten touches, so it would be rude to single anyone out! With so many experienced players kept at home it will be telling to see who actually stays in the team next week.
Nick Lower – Not so much a criticism of his performance, but he played a tight tagging role on David Mundy. While he can still find the ball, it throws out the question if this role will hurt his fantasy output long term.
It’s said that success has many fathers but failure is an orphan. Given the sheer number of key decision makers at AFL clubs the latter is more of an unwanted bastard.
In the past few years we have seen a juggernaut Geelong side which won 3 out 5 flags, Collingwood being a top 4 fixture & the Sydney Swans have been one of the hardest teams to play in the competition. Well lead from the top down, these clubs have recruited & developed players as well as managed injuries brilliantly. The structures instilled on and off field have also resulted in a successful culture in all three of these clubs.
However, for every road map to success there has been one to disaster. Some clubs have engaged in acts of self sabotage that would make the ALP & Victorian Liberals blush. They have put their fans through so much horror that a common phrase heard in North Korean prison camps is: “at least I don’t follow (insert crap club here)”.
Two such clubs are Melbourne & Richmond. Though, the Tigers have slowly got their act together in the past 3 years. Strong clubs are well lead and to put it mildly Melbourne & Richmond have been the epitome of dysfunction.
Melbourne have essentially sacked their past two captains, Jim Stynes’ tragic illness left a leadership vacuum & inadvertently lead to dysfunction whilst he was at the helm, the Gardner board hired the world’s most expensive part time CEO in Paul McNamee, the Szondy board laid waste to the club’s finances & Joe Gutnick’s ego/wallet loomed large over the club post the merger vote in 1996.
Whilst Richmond had a revolving door of coaches in the 80’s & 90’s, Clinton Casey’s board was a disaster & left a real mess for Gary March (who had a shaky start to his tenure to begin with) to clean up. The club’s finances were lacking for two decades, Danny Frawley & Terry Wallace backfired as coaches & couldn’t turn around the culture of the club. Thankfully the appointment of Damien Hardwick at the end of 2009 is proving to be a game changer but there has been a hell of a lot of pain for Tigers fans.
Recruitment is as much a key part of terrible teams as it is for champion ones. The 1999 & 2001 drafts were pivotal in forming Geelong’s premierships in 2007, 2009 & 2011. In 1999 the Cats snared Joel Corey (selection 8), Paul Chapman (31), Cameron Ling (38) & Corey Enright (47) as well as Cam Mooney via a trade. Whilst in 2001 they arguably scooped the pool of the Superdraft with Jimmy Bartel (8), James Kelly (17), Steve Johnson (24) & Gary Ablett (40 F/S). That’s 9 core premiership players, 2 Brownlow Medallists & a captain in 2 drafts. When Richmond rolled up to the 2004 draft with selections 1, 4, 12, 16, 20, 36 & 52 as well as picks 8, 24, 40 in 2005 they would’ve been hoping for at least a ‘net gain’. These drafts could/would have netted players the ilk of Franklin, Lewis, Van Berlo, Rosa, LeCras, Clark & Swallow who would’ve certainly served any Tiger premiership tilt better than the likes of Tambling, Meyer, Pattison, Polo, Oakley-Nicholls, Hughes & Casserly.
Similarly, Melbourne were draft pick champions from 2007-09. In 07 they had picks 4,14 & 21. In 2008 they were gifted 1,17,19,35 & 51. In 2009: 1, 2, 11, 18, 34 & 50. That’s 10 top 21 picks in 3 drafting periods & just about enough draft picks to fill a starting 18. It was unthinkable that the Dees could come out of this draft dip without at least one bonafide star.
They ended up with Cale Morton, Jack Grimes, Addam Maric, Jack Watts, Sam Blease, James Strauss, Jamie Bennell, Neville Jetta, Tom Scully, Jack Trengove, Jordan Gysberts, Luke Tapscott, Max Gawn & Jack Fitzpatrick.
It is a bitter pill to swallow for Melbourne fans when some of the likes of Rioli, Dangerfield, Ward, Scott Selwood, Nic Naitanui Daniel Rich, Stephen Hill, Steele Sidebottom, Luke Shuey, Dayne Beams, Rory Sloane, Shane Savage, Dustin Martin, Lewis Jetta, Nathan Fyfe and Sam Reid could have been donning the red & blue as well as Lucas Cook (12) over Jack Darling (27) in 2010.
While it is unfeasible to expect any club to nail all of their draft picks, no club had a better hand than Melbourne; their recruiting was an unmitigated disaster. This was underlined by the mass exodus at the end of 2012.
Greg Miller & Terry Wallace failed to implement genuine cultural reform at Richmond. Expensive recruits such as Kane Johnson & Nathan Brown didn’t really provide the Tigers with bang for their buck nor were they natural on-field leaders that could set the cultural standard at the Tigers. Now with strong leadership from the top down & some shrewd selections at the trade/draft period the Tigers look to have the on & off field elements in place for their first real crack at success in a generation.
As for Melbourne, there is still some work to do before they are back in the game. They are still culturally dealing with the fallout of the tanking saga which has divided the club. Much of their efforts to climb the ladder will hinge upon the likes of Mitch Clark, Jimmy Toumpas, Jack Viney & Jesse Hogan as well as Don McLardy & Mark Neeld’s abilities as leaders of men.
While all clubs dream of and plan for success – plans that backfire can lead to a nightmarish dynasty of bottom feeding.
West Coast Eagles
For a season riddled with injury to key personnel the Eagles could have been excused for falling off the map in 2012 but to their credit they rallied thanks to the fast tracked development of Jack Darling, veteran leadership and the coming out party of a slew of youngsters.
This offseason saw the Eagles add more talent to an already deep list with Collingwood’s Sharrod Wellingham the headline addition among recycled personnel in Jamie Cripps, Jamie Bennell and Cale Morton.
Veteran lead-up forward Quinten Lynch departed with the breakout exploits of Darling creating a surplus of key position options up forward, whilst discarded youngsters Koby Stevens and Lewis Stevenson seeked more opportunities for senior football with the Bulldogs and Port Adelaide.
West Coast started with a bang last year facing just three finals sides in the first ten weeks, all of which were at home. As the season wore on the younger bodies started to slow down and depth became an issue with their three mid-season losses to Sydney, Adelaide and Fremantle all by over 45 points. The Eagles would finish the year with a 6-5 record against finals sides which suggests there’s definitely a vast scope for improvement heading into 2013.
A fast start could be replicated and serve as the catalyst for a successful season with six of the Eagles first ten games at home (including a round one derby) with the remaining road trips to bottom feeders Melbourne, Port Adelaide and GWS sandwiched between a flight to Brisbane to take on the Lions.
Club and supporters alike have been ambitions for this current group and from a statistical and list analysis perspective they have every reason to aim high.
During the 2012 home and away season the West Coast defence gave up an average of 82.13 points per game, the fourth fewest in the AFL. The positive for the Eagles is that this was consistent throughout the year regardless of the competition. In their eleven games against finals sides West Coast allowed a virtually identical 82.27 points per game which behind grand finalists Hawthorn and Sydney was the third best defensive output when finals sides faced off against one another.
From a statistical standpoint the Eagles weren’t overly impressive at face value in a few areas ranking fifteenth for rebound fifties and fourteenth in one percenters. This was largely irrelevant though as four finals sides ranked in the worst eight teams for both categories essentially meaning that West Coast’s pedestrian output was largely a product of opposition sides experiencing a drought of opportunities going forward.
In the defensive indicators that really mattered the Eagles were superb. West Coast’s opponents ranked;
- Last in goals from marks
- Last in time in forward half percentage
- Seventeenth for marks inside fifty (behind only Fremantle)
- Fourteenth in scores generated from forward fifty
- Fourteenth in goals converted when inside fifty percentage
- Tenth in scores generated from half forward
This impressive negating output was one again mirrored when the Eagles faced finals sides where they allowed opponents to average a league low 8.45 marks inside fifty per game.
If there was one area of concern for the Eagles it was the amount of goals they relinquished from free kicks. West Coast allowed the eighth most goals from free kicks in the competition which left them as the only finals side among the worst nine teams in that category, but on the whole it’s essentially nit-picking and a minor issue.
Offensively the Eagles were below average in comparison to the rest of the competition when generating scoring punch from their backline ranking eleventh in scores generated from half-back and fifteenth in scores generated from kick-ins. This could be brushed aside though given how impressive the Eagles were at limiting opposition output in the same areas. West Coast finished 2012 ranked second behind only Sydney for fewest opponent scores allowed via half-back and third for fewest opponent scores allowed from kick-ins.
Individually the Eagles defensive back-six is very experienced, quite settled and well balanced. There’s penetrating run off half-back from Shannon Hurn and Beau Waters mixed with key position defensive posts Eric Mackenzie, Will Schofield and Captain Darren Glass. Hurn and Waters led the club in rebound fifties with three per game with Waters (5.4), Glass (4.5), Hurn (4) and Mackenzie (4) all averaging at least four interceptions per game.
When it came to man on man defending 23 year old Eric Mackenzie was able to solidify himself as one of the competitions most consistent key position defenders playing all twenty-two games and ranking third in the AFL for one percenters with 8.1 per game. Even at age 32 veteran full-back Darren Glass was just as impressive notching up his sixth season of more than 100 one percenters.
Making up the Eagles back six is reliable user Sam Butler. Butler averaged 2.5 rebound fifties per game in 2012 but his value stems from his disposal, specifically his kicking skills. Of Butler’s 245 disposals last season 191 were effective with 72% coming via foot and just 33 resulting in turnovers. It highlights a West Coast side whose usage is arguably the best in the AFL. Chris Masten (55th overall) was the lone Eagle inside the competitions top 100 for turnovers. To get a better grasp on the Eagles elite usage you can find their overall kicking efficiency, their output in wins/losses and a final ladder here which I compiled and released last week.
The core defensive unit of Hurn, Waters, Mackenzie, Butler, Schofield and Glass represents an average age of 27 and 121 experience. Each of Hurn, Waters and Glass has over 100 games with Glass the only member over thirty years of age. The remaining members are all in their prime and likely to anchor the Eagles defence for years to come.
In reserve Jacob Brennan, Ash Smith and Mitch Brown are quality depth options who have all experienced AFL football and could step right in and produce if injury should strike. The experienced Adam Selwood is another name who can play a role down back if required.
The West Coast defence is among the best in the AFL and impresses at every turn. It’s a unit that has finals experience, depth and evidence of consistent production against all levels of competition. There’s no reason why that status can’t continue for the next three years at a minimum.
The Eagles midfield is the one area of the park where they will be looking to find improvements in 2013. Last year West Coast finished the season ranked seventh in disposals with a specific focus on the uncontested variety where they ranked seventh overall compared to eleventh for contested possessions. It’s no surprise that their preference for uncontested football led to an elite level of output which saw the Eagles ranking third for effective disposals and last in turnovers.
No matter where you looked the majority of West Coast’s midfield indicators were average to above average at best, at least from an offensive perspective. They finished 2012 ranked eighths for inside fifties, seventh for clearances, sixth for scores from stoppages which was admirable but eleventh for scores from turnovers (along with Fremantle they were the only finals side outside the top ten), twelfth for goals from general play and tenth for goals from centre bounces.
Defensively the Eagles appear to have all the makings of a premiership midfield. In 2012 they held their opponents outside the top ten for virtually every midfield indicator outside of clearances where their opponents ranked fourth. West Coast’s opponents would finish their year ranked;
- Fifteenth for disposals
- Thirteenth in contested possession
- Sixteenth in effective disposals
- Fourth in turnovers
- Fifteenth for Inside fifties
- Last in scores from turnovers (West Coast had the fewest turnovers of any club)
- Fourteenth in goals from general play
- Thirteenth in goals from centre bounces
- Thirteenth in scores from stoppages
- Sixteenth in tackles
As great as the Eagles midfield was defensively the deeper you dig into their 2012 output the more their lack of toughness at stoppages stands out, specifically against finals sides. Considering they possess the most dominant ruck duo in the competition you’d expect West Coast to have a significant advantage when it comes to clearances but that failed to be the case last year. The following tables represent each finals sides output when facing one another throughout the home and away season;
2012 Finals Sides v Finals Sides: Hitouts
|Team||Hitouts For||Hitouts Against||Difference||Home & Away Ranking|
Summary: There’s no doubt about it, the Dean Cox/Nic Naitanui combination was head and shoulders above their finals counterparts, and this translated to hitouts to advantage as well as represented below.
2012 Finals Sides v Finals Sides: Hitouts to Advantage
|Team||Hitouts to Advantage For||Hitouts to Advantage Against||Difference|
2012 Finals Sides v Finals Sides: Clearances
|Team||Clearances For||Clearances Against||Difference||Home & Away Ranking|
Summary: Unfortunately full reward wasn’t achieved despite the number of hitouts won with West Coast dropping to third in clearances differentials when facing finals sides. This meant one of two things was occurring; either West Coast’s stoppage setup was out of sync or their midfield as a unit wasn’t ripe enough to handle their tougher, more mature opponents. Considering the amount of delivery the midfield was receiving via Cox/Naitanui there’s no excuse not to be leading the competition in clearances year to year.
This apparent lack of midfield toughness was also evident when it came to opponent scoring sources. Five of the Eagles seven losses in 2012 came against top eight sides with a last minute two point loss to Brisbane and belting at the hands of Essendon the other blemishes on West Coast’s win/loss record. When analysing what happened in the Eagles losses it became incredibly black and white that a breakdown at the stoppages was the catalyst for any negative results. The easiest way to point out what went wrong is to simply look at the following graph of scoring sources for both West Coast and their opposition in wins and losses;
|Wins||Turnovers (Average)||Stoppages (Average)||Kick-Ins (Average)||Centre Clearances (Total)|
As you can see in the Eagles wins they experienced just as bigger differential scoring advantage from stoppages as they did turnovers with a distinct ability to outscore their opponents when it came to generating scoring punch from centre clearances.
In losses, the results flip flopped;
|Losses||Turnovers (Average)||Stoppages (Average)||Kick-Ins (Average)||Centre Clearances (Total)|
West Coast was completely torn apart at stoppages with their opponents seemingly able to score at will whilst severely restricting the Eagles. If there was a blueprint for defeating West Coast in 2012 it was to bully them at the coalface, and teams with heavily contested midfields in Sydney and Adelaide did so with relative ease. Implementing a new found midfield toughness needs to be the focus for this West Coast outfit if they’re to succeed in their quest for a premiership in 2013.
In regards to individual talent the Eagles midfield is quite similar to the rest of their squad makeup with a complimentary mix of experience and youth blended with a plethora of inside/outside class. Long time stalwarts of the club Matthew Priddis, Daniel Kerr, Matt Rosa and Andrew Embley have over 100 games experience with Embley the only member who is over thirty years of age and likely on the decline. With Chris Masten, Luke Shuey, Andrew Gaff, Scott Selwood and former Magpie Sharrod Wellingham all under 25 and still to hit their prime the Eagles have more than enough talent to organically develop into a hard bodied entity and make the jump to a consistent A-grade midfield as early as this season.
Matt Priddis, Scott Selwood and Andrew Gaff all ranked inside the top forty in the competition for disposals with Priddis (13.7) and Kerr (11.8) leading the inside charge ranking inside the top twenty for contested possessions. 2013 could very well see the older bodies pass the baton to the up and coming mix given both Scott Selwood and Luke Shuey are more than capable having averaged double digit contested possessions per game in 2012. Shuey and Selwood will both turn 23 this year and with their bodies set to ripen should be able to assume a more prominent role when it comes to clearance work. Priddis led the way last year with 6.7 clearances per game whilst Shuey (5.5) Kerr (5.4) and Selwood (5.2) added great support and were all inside the AFL’s top thirty. The inside production is evident; it’s just the consistency factor that now needs to be achieved.
With Andrew Gaff, Sharrod Wellingham, Matt Rosa and inside/outside threat Chris Masten adding run and carry there should be continuous polished delivery entering fifty for primary targets Josh Kennedy, Josh Hill and Jack Darling. Masten led the Eagles last season with 4.5 inside fifties per game with Gaff, Shuey and Rosa all inside the competitions top fifty. Priddis, Rosa, Shuey, Dean Cox, Scott Selwood and Masten all averaged at least five score involvements per game with Masten and Selwood combining for 55 score assists. It really is a heavily productive and evenly spread midfield when switched on, and in 2013 one that you would think will no longer be relying on the likes of Priddis and Kerr to shoulder a heavy workload against more mature sides.
As far as depth options go the Eagles have a buffet of talent with Patrick McGinnity, Brad Sheppard, Brad Dalziell and former Demon castaways Jamie Bennell and Cale Morton all capable of filling in, with Mark LeCras and Adam Selwood likely to filter through the midfield as well, especially LeCras who when fully fit possesses all the traits required to play a permanent role in the midfield.
Little needs to be said about West Coast’s ruck prospects with All-Australian duo Nic Naitanui and Dean Cox a two-headed monster which is the envy of the competition. The tandem works to perfection with either player capable of causing matchup problems and all sorts of havoc up forward. Last year the two combined for a whopping 1171 hitouts, 65 marks inside fifty, and 52 goals. With Naitanui clouded in doubt with a troublesome groin injury 20 year old reserve ruckman Scott Lycett showed a similar ability to rotate forward is on deck and ready to step in where required.
The Eagles midfield core of Masten, Shuey, Priddis, Kerr, Rosa, Embley, Gaff, Wellingham, Cox, Naitanui and Scott Selwood has an average age of 26 with 126 games experience. It’s every bit of a perfect mix.
With West Coast’s youth brigade now maturing and entering their prime their lack of consistency and absence of week-to-week competitiveness at the stoppages should be a thing of the past. It may be a midfield that is still one more year from hitting its absolute peak but it’s definitely one which is capable of delivering a premiership in season 2013.
West Coast averaged 102 points per game in 2012, the sixth most of any club. What stood out most about this output was the lack of offensive firepower the Eagles experienced against finals calibre opposition. In eleven games against finals sides West Coast averaged just 77 points per game, the fewest of any finals side;
Finals Sides v Finals Sides: Points For and against
|Team||Points For||Points Against||Difference||Home & Away Ranking|
On the whole the Eagles forward line output in 2012 was serviceable but far from spectacular. This isn’t exactly a surprise given three of their most potent attacking options in Josh Kennedy, Mark LeCras and Mark Nicoski missed the majority of the season through injury. Thankfully 20 year old key forward Jack Darling (53 goals) was able to fast track his progress and shoulder the goal kicking load with the now departed Quinton Lynch (33 goals), and rejuvenated small forward and former Bulldog Josh Hill (36 goals) chipping in.
With the luxury of a Cox or Naitanui constantly floating throughout the forward fifty the Eagles were able to patch over an otherwise depleted forward line setup which saw them finished the season ranked seventh for marks inside fifty (Only Darling ranked inside the AFL’s top thirty), seventh for scores from forward fifty and ninth for goal conversion when inside fifty. It was no surprise to opposition supporters that West Coast wound up kicking the most goals in the competition from free kicks but outside of those gifts easy scores were relatively hard to come by with the Eagles fifteenth in goals sourced from 0-15 meters which left them among the bottom five teams along with Brisbane, GWS, Gold Coast and the Bulldogs.
The return in 2013 of Josh Kennedy hasn’t had anywhere near the hype it deserves. Coming off a serious injury but still only 25 with 99 games experience the stutter stepping Kennedy is just on the cusp of his prime as far as key forwards go. Only a year prior Kennedy kicked 59 goals and delivered consistently impressive splits against all competition as evidenced below;
Josh Kennedy: Finals V Non-Finals Sides 2011
|Category||Top 8 (9 Games)||Bottom 8 (11 Games)||Differential|
|Marks Inside 50||2.66||3.27||+0.61|
With Kennedy largely a stay at home forward Jack Darling will have free reign of the forward fifty ark and when rolling deeper should be able to feed off of the primary attention Kennedy receives to maximize his impact. Darling struggled against the elite defences of the AFL last year as evidenced below, but at 20 years of age with fewer than fifty games of experience that is expected. Make no mistake though Darling has definitely exceeded expectation and is ahead of the curve if not well on the way to superstar status;
Jack Darling Finals V Non-Finals Sides 2012
|Category||Top 8 (11 Games)||Bottom 8 (11 Games)||Differential|
|Marks Inside 50||1.45||2.36||+0.91|
Along with Kennedy the Eagles will welcome back former All-Australian small forward Mark LeCras who missed all of 2012 through injury. In 2009, 2010 and 2011 LeCras kicked a combined 167 goals whilst registering 171 inside fifties and 95 score assists. Still only 26 years of age with 100 games experience LeCras, like Kennedy, is more than capable of a return to All-Australian form and if his NAB Cup exploits were anything to go by this is a given.
With Mark Nicoski also returning to the fold the West Coast forward line should have enough depth and variety to overcome the lack of scoring production they experienced against finals sides in 2012. Although 29 years of age Nicoski reinvited himself in 2011 as a pinch-hitting small forward totalling 41 goals and 43 score assists whilst playing every game. After Josh Hill’s impressive debut season in Eagles colours it’s likely that Nicoski will be little more than depth fodder in 2013 but that experience and versatility will come in handy nonetheless.
LeCras, Darling, Hill, Kennedy and Nicoski have an average age of 25 and 89 games experience. Key members LeCras, Darling, Hill and Kennedy are all under 27 years of age and form a quality foundation that is set in stone with their best football still to come.
Former Saints Jamie Cripps and Pie Brad Dick are ok pinch hitting forward line options in reserve with point to prove youngster Murray Newman and mature age small Ashton Hams other possibilities.
With Cox and Naitanui offsetting the need for a third permanent key forward, a fully fit Kennedy and LeCras back in the fold, combined with the exploits of Jack Darling and x-factor from Josh Hill, the Eagles forward line will force opposition defences to remain accountable and under heavy pressure throughout the 2013 campaign.
What to Expect in 2013
From a list profile perspective the Eagles are in the mix to deliver a flag and from what we saw last year, combined with the additions of Wellingham, LeCras and Kennedy, anything else should be considered a disappointment.
Of the Eagles (in my opinion) top 25 players only Gaff (41) and Darling (47) have fewer than 50 games experience.
Twelve players on the list have at least 100 games experience with eight of those twelve between the ages of 24-28, thus essentially in the prime. It may be the oldest list in the competition but their veteran personnel are still All-Australian talent or, outside of Kerr, play roles which can be easily managed such as Embley frequently featuring in the sub role, Cox playing forward and Glass permanently at full back.
West Coast’s primary problem last year stemmed from a lack of production at stoppages, specifically against more mature sides which comes with the territory of being a young and developing midfield. It was a midfield more than capable of dominating inferior sides based on pure talent alone but when it came to the best of the best it was a midfield that appeared to be another pre-season away from achieving the growth and consistency required. That hurdle could most definitely be cleared this year with that group now entering their mature phase.
A second issue for the Eagles in 2012 was the disconnect between the ruckman and clearance group. Averaging 22 more hitouts per game than your opponent but experiencing a -2.3 clearances differential is as inefficient as it gets. Looking deeper Dean Cox had just 18% of his hitouts deemed as effective. This needs to be addressed as the Eagles ruck dominance is such a supreme advantage that was largely wasted last season.
There isn’t much evidence suggesting how exactly it’s impacted the playing group but it is interesting to note that the Eagles were last in Interchanges per match in 2012 and were the only side registering fewer than 100 per game. For a predominantly developing midfield group this could have had a negative effect on their ability to run out games or constantly compete at stoppages given their fresher opponents.
This West Coast outfit has all the talent imaginable and the right balance of leadership, youth and class to finish top four at the very least. With some minor tweaking, a little bit of luck from the injury gods and a manic toughness to match their youthful midfield’s supreme skill, the 2013 West Coast Eagles could very well find themselves dancing on the podium in September.
My Best 22
FB. Butler, Glass, Schofield
HB. Hurn, Mackenzie, Waters
C. Gaff, Kerr, Wellingham
HF. Shuey, Darling, Hill
FF. LeCras, Kennedy, Cox
R. Naitanui, S.Selwood, Priddis
Bench: Masten, Rosa, A. Selwood
You can follow Scotty on Twitter: @ScottyBarby
Round 2 marks the first week where all teams are in non-serious/serious action. As always, your team will have a Buzz of some description around it – where there is no buzz, it’ll be created by media hysteria. Where there is no media hysteria, I’ll just have to make some up.
I hasten to add that this is not a comprehensive wrap-up. I have tried hard not to go over the same ground I did last week, and to try and provoke some discussion – please feel free to blast me in the comments, or point out something I’ve missed!
Here’s what happened at your club this weekend:
Adelaide (vs Geelong)
Patrick Dangerfield – On a day where there wasn’t much to cheer for as an Adelaide fan, there was Dangerfield and daylight. As advertised ad nauseum (particularly in my hometown), this kid could be anything. He was tough around the contests, and showed pace and endurance throughout. Whilst there are still questions around whether he can perform week in and week out, he’s well on his way to being a genuine fantasy upper mid/premium spot.
Scott Thompson – I wanted with every fibre of my being to jump on the bandwagon that’s steadily weighing down Tex Walker’s back. Here, however, is a controversial one for you. Yes, Thompson had 25 disposals and 75 Fantasy Points (FP). Yes, he laid 5 tackles and had 5 Inside 50s, and yes, he had 6 Clearances. Thompson’s disposal, however, leaves a little to be desired for mine, and it’s the reason why serious football commentators don’t rate him in the top echelon midfield bracket. 64% disposal efficiency, means he burned the ball 9 times on Saturday. That, together with his 8 clangers, means Thompson simply has to lift.
Brisbane (vs Greater Western Sydney)
Patrick Karnezis – If you didn’t read Toby’s wrap on Karnezis, you probably should. He looks ready to make the AFL world sit up and take notice, and it will be interesting to see how adjusts when the likes of Simon Black return to the side.
Marco Paparone – I doubt whether Paparone will see much gametime in the season proper, but Paparone has all the makings of a great key forward prospect. Creates a contest, attacks the ball hard and has a big fuel tank. Good times!
Stefan Martin – I’m sure Martin was just doing his job, but I know that there is a school of thought that if an experienced player moves club, that he should come under consideration. This is not the case with Stef Martin, who struggled for supply and committed 6 clangers and gave away 5 Free Kicks.
Carlton (vs Fremantle)
Bryce Gibbs – I sincerely hope that many DT coaches have put Gibbs on their ‘Never Again’ lists, because he looks like he means business this year.
Eddie Betts – I know he’s inconsistent, and I know that there were plenty of goals to be had, but when Betts goes, he really goes. Four goals and plenty of run through the forward line makes sure that the Carlton forward line is fun to watch.
Robbie Warnock – Played well when he came on as a substitute after half-time, but I fear that the time-sharing arrangement with Matthew Kreuzer (the clear first choice ruck) will have too big an effect on his playing time and scores. One to watch if misfortune should strike Kreuzer.
Collingwood (vs West Coast)
Scott Pendlebury looked very good through the midfield, racking up 27 disposals and 5 tackles. His footskills were a highlight of the game and he is looking in great pre-season form. Should be one of the first selected in SuperCoach and not far behind in DT.
Paul Seedsman continued to show why so many Collingwood people are singing his praises. He played mainly across half-back and through the midfield and played quite a major part in the game, dominating the second quarter. He is quite expensive in both games, but could be a good point of difference.
Travis Cloke was poor, showing off some of the horrid form that had him hated by so many fantasy coaches in 2012. He managed just 6 disposals, 2 marks and 1 goal. Despite his cheap starting price, there is no way you should even consider starting him in 2013.
Essendon (vs Richmond)
Brent Stanton – Cops a lot of stick from Bombers fans, and no-one outside the club really seems to know why. My personal hypothesis is that it’s because he wears No. 5, and no-one in their eyes matches up to James Hird. However, his game is perfect for AFL Fantasy, as he racks up uncontested possession after uncontested possession
Jake Carlisle – Was outstanding in shutting down Jack Riewoldt, using superb anticipation to chop off a lot of Richmond’s forward entries, and setting up a lot of play from half-back. It remains to be seen if this higher possession game will be a trend for him, but it’ll be interesting to watch.
Tom Bellchambers – A lot of talk in the preseason centred around Bellchambers’ ability to take the number one ruck mantle – we saw nothing here to suggest that was a reality. Although he only played half the game, Hird has a number of options to try if/when Bellchambers doesn’t come up to standard.
Michael Hurley – Played well, but came off the ground late with a corky. Monitor his status carefully if you think he’s an option.
Fremantle (vs Carlton)
Paul Duffield – The Footy Tragic boys will be thrilled to see Duffield top the Fantasy Points count for Freo, but he was a shining light on a very tough evening.
Jon Griffin – Griffin remains a hugely viable option for as long as Aaron Sandilands remains injured., as he moved well around the ground, did well in the centre square and has the ability to sneak forward for the odd-goal or two.
Nat Fyfe – Had a dog of a night. Even good players have them sometimes, and this was definitely the night for Fyfe. I wouldn’t be too concerned, as the kid is clearly a baller.
Geelong (vs Adelaide)
Jimmy Bartel – He’s long been one of my favourites for the way he goes about his football, and he was everywhere against the Crows. His death as a premium fantasy option has been greatly exaggerated.
Harry Taylor – Was allowed to run loose all game, and will destroy opposition clubs all season long if allowed to remain unaccountable, as he also wins his fair share of contested marks and 50-50 contests. Perhaps a sneaky, left field gamble?
Paul Chapman – Did nothing wrong, but did come-off as a precautionary measure with a quad injury at quarter time, which makes it difficult to assess where he’s at.
Gold Coast (vs North Melbourne)
David Swallow – I’m not sure if anyone has really talked about David Swallow as a contender to have a breakout year, and he’s probably a little to pricey (I seem to say that a lot – perhaps it’s just that I’m a tightar*e?) but David Swallow should have some significant scope for improvement. It was pleasing to see him get plenty of contested ball,
Sam Day – Looks to really still be struggling adjusting to the intensity of AFL football, but will improve given his boundless potential. Occasionally doing some relief rucking duties might help to get him into the game a little more.
Greater Western Sydney (vs Brisbane)
Lachie Whitfield – The hype. It’s real. Lachie Whitfield looked every bit the seasoned AFL player, driving the Giants into attack on numerous occasions. Whether his worth the premium on first year players in AFL Fantasy is a judgement call you will have to make, but he did lay 4 tackles, showing that he is not scared of giving it a good crack.
Toby Greene – Showed a fair bit of promise last year, and looks to deliver this year. Although he came on as a substitute in the second quarter, he still managed to rack up 88 FPs. I think he’s another prime candidate to build very strongly on his last year.
Dylan Shiel – Very, very quiet in this match, despite playing most of the match. He was a popular selection last year, but based on this showing will not enjoy the same popularity this year.
Jon Patton – After pumping him up last week, he promptly goes and suffers a corky and is subbed off. Just to spite me. Poor kid seems to be injury prone, so I’m hoping that this is just a case of the Giants medical staff taking every precaution.
Hawthorn (vs Western Bulldogs)
Lance Franklin – Life at Hawthorn is all about Buddy. He looked like he was back to his menacing best (did he ever skip a beat?) kicking a SuperGoal, 4 goals, taking 7 marks and racking up 99FPs and 134 SCPs. Sure, he’s a pretty good key forward, but he’s no Kurt Tippett. Pick him with no worries about his performance (with a small concern about his discipline – a ‘slap’ on Koby Stevens may come under some scrutiny).
Isaac Smith – is probably too expensive to truly consider as a ‘point of difference,’ but I like his game. He had 4 inside 50s on Friday night, with the only Hawk to surpass him being Brad Sewell. You could do a lot worse in terms of upper mid-pricers.
Jack Gunston – If you’ve read any of my endless verbosity thus far, you’ll know that I can hold a grudge. Gunston was hardly sighted on the night, despite playing almost the whole game. He did not take a contest mark and had 1 contested possession – pretty much invisible. You’d have to think had he waited a year, he would have had much more opportunity with the Crows…
Also worth a mention is the fact that David Hale and Luke Breust were both subbed off with leg injuries. Many coaches will be watching for Hale’s status in particular.
Melbourne (vs Port Adelaide)
James Sellar was the star of this game, booting 5 goals from 15 disposals and seven marks. Whilst some may get a little excited by this sort of news (though my guess is that most of you have just shrugged with a lack of care), it must be remembered that both Dawes and Clark didn’t play this game, so chances are this will be the biggest haul of goals Sellar manages this year.
Colin Sylvia had a pretty disappointing game, managing just 14 touches despite playing the whole game. I think we have all come to a point in our DT-coaching lives where we know not to be picking Sylvia anyway.
North Melbourne (vs Gold Coast)
Ryan Bastinac – Was peppy, and even warmed the cockles of ol’ mate Scotty’s hard, cynical heart:
Says it all really – he’s definitely one you might like to watch out for, along with a number North’s exciting young midfield brigade.
Keiran Harper – Here’s a guy who I had half an eye on for this season, but have yet to be convinced that he can take that elusive ‘next step.’ Whilst he picked up a bit of the ball, he did seem to lack a bit of composure under pressure.
Port Adelaide (vs Melbourne)
Kane Mitchell is the really interesting one from this game. His fantasy numbers are great – he racked up 100 FP from 26 touches and 7 marks. The issue is, over half of these didn’t make their way to their targets. Yes he can find the ball, but he has a knack of butchering it. Port have said this pre-season they will be focussing on ball-skills in 2013, so it puts plenty of question marks on Mitchell getting a game. Could he be the James Magner of this year? Starts strong before finding himself in roles which encourage low disposal numbers. The selection (or non-selection) of Mitchell is one which will give coaches significant sleep issues this pre-season.
Mason Shaw managed to play 2 ½ quarters of footy without registering a stat. Now THAT’s impressive!
Richmond (vs Essendon)
Alex Rance – Apparently he’s another player who’s much maligned, but I thought he was outstanding running off Ryder and Hurley. Might be a nice point of difference in your defence, especially in SuperCoach.
Orren Stephenson – I thought that Stephenson battled manfully in the ruck, and will be an able back-up to Ivan Maric when he comes back into the lineup. It remains to be seen if they will ever appear in the same side, however.
Ricky Petterd – You would think the last thing that a player coming from another club trying to win their place would do is endanger his position by an act of ill-discipline. Yet that is what Petterd has done by punching Nick Kommer in the throat. Not clever, and will be assessed by the Match Review Panel
St Kilda (vs Sydney)
Leigh Montagna looked free from the tagging burdens he was given last year and was definitely the Saints’ best in their win over the Swans. He’s been one of fantasy football’s elite’s in previous years, so it makes us question whether he can get there again. Even if you are not sold on him for your fantasy team, it may be worth taking a punt on him a bit earlier than expected in one of your draft leagues.
Nathan Wright is a first-year Saint taken at the start of the second round in last year’s draft. He showed good poise and skills as a half-back, finishing with 17 disposals and four marks. He’s exactly the sort of player the coach seems to like, so I reckon we are a chance to see him play at least a few games in 2013.
Arryn Siposs was not as dominant as hoped, although he did still do enough to catch the eye when he did have the ball. His skills are exquisite, so hopefully we can see him win a bit more of it – he finished with just 12 touches in this game. Interestingly, in the presser after the game, Scott Watters said he was more likely to play Siposs across a wing in 2013, but he also wants him to learn to play half-back. All good news really.
Sydney (vs St Kilda)
Jed Lamb showed some good signs for the Swans early in the match, although really went quiet in the second half. He is a base-priced forward who has had a fantastic pre-season and should get his chances this year, likely as a half-forward.
Daniel Hannebury showed the benefits of his dominant pre-season by winning 30 touches and laying 5 tackles. We already know the talent he possesses, but I don’t think it’s out of the question to expect to see him reach a new level in 2013. He could be a great pick in both fantasy games, although perhaps a bit moreso in SuperCoach.
Dean Towers wasn’t poor, but didn’t do enough to suggest he will play many games in 2013. The Swans have some good kids, but with their senior list in a good shape, it’s going to be a tough team to break into.
West Coast (vs Collingwood)
Mark LeCras played the game all fantasy coaches wanted to see from him before the start of the season – he kicked 4 goals from 12 posessions and showed plenty of class throughout. Whilst he is quite tempting, it must be remembered that despite busting out some very big fantasy scores, consistency in this form of the game has never been his strength.
Scott Selwood put his hand up for a spot in everyone’s midfield with a fantastic game against the Pies. He picks up disposals at will, finishing this game with 29, as well as 8 marks and 6 tackles.
Andrew Embley was the biggest Buzzkill of the weekend, going down with a hamstring injury in the first quarter, subsequently having himself traded out of over 200,000 teams. It’s put significant doubt on his round one (in fact, it’s safe to say he won’t play), so this should rule a line through him in anyone’s books.
Western Bulldogs (vs Hawthorn)
Will Minson – We love bringing you the contrarian view at Footy Tragic, and this may be a great discussion point. Minson dominated the middle, and gave the Bulldogs that all-important first use of the ball (36 hitouts).
Ryan Griffen – I know this is stating the obvious a little, but Griffen was outstanding. I have always thought of him traditionally as a supercoach pick, but could this be the year he finds his way into AFL Fantasy Teams en masse? His disposal is still something to behold.
Jake Stringer – Talk about the agony and the ecstasy! Stringer was subbed on in the 3rd quarter, kicked a goal, and then had to be subbed off with what was reported as an ankle issue – tough break for the impressive youngster.
Daniel Cross – This is super harsh, and I know his role has evolved from what it was, but if you’re thinking about picking Cross for your AFL Fantasy Squad of any variety, you should seriously re-consider. There are just too many other options in the MIDs that will score with a higher ceiling.
That’s it for another week – what did you think? What struck you, and who struck out? Has your team changed, and what version of it are you up to?
There are a few questions that every normal person will ask themselves on a frequent, if not daily basis: Where are my keys? When will I be famous? What’s for tea? What’s on telly? What is the point of the NAB Cup?
Clearly one of the major functions the NAB Cup serves is to demonstrate to the wider football public the latest proposed war crimes against football from KB & the Gang.
In recent years it has also given rise to the illusion that Bryce Gibbs could play contested football.
With the 2011 addition of a triple header lightening round at the beginning of the competition it has also gone a step closer to fulfilling my childhood dream of a footballing menage a trois where 3 teams slug it out in one game (my adulthood dreams of a ménage a trois are quite different).
The NAB Cup raises public awareness. Who knew until 2012 that Wangaratta had an airport? Who knew that anybody in their totally non-drug affected mind would think it was a good idea to fly there?
It’s a chance for Richmond to get back into the routine of losing & disappointing their fans before premiership points are at stake.
For those of us who attend summer music festivals, the cricket or tennis & feel like we just can’t get to the end of February without being fleeced a little bit more, it presents the opportunity to pay $20+ to watch some more overhyped A grade slop.
The NAB Cup has also been marketed as a showcase tournament for young talent such as Fergus Watts, Kane Tenace, Isaac Weetra, Adam Pattison, Ashley Sampi & Tim Walsh.
It also serves the all important purpose of determining what coloured clothes the AFL’s umpires look best in. What will be the new white this season?
On a more serious note despite the Mickey Mouse nature of the tournament the pre season competition has served as a decent barometer for the season proper (save for Carlton winning in the mid 2000s & Paul Roos’ obvious tanking):
- In 2003 – Adelaide & Collingwood played off in the Wizard Home Loans Cup Final, both sides made the finals in the 2003 AFL Season.
- In 2004 – The top 4 pre season teams (St Kilda, Geelong, Melbourne & Essendon) all finished in the AFL finals.
- In 2005 – West Coast finished runners up in both the pre season & AFL Grand Finals.
- In 2006 – Pre season runners up Adelaide finished 2nd on the AFL ladder, while semi finalists Melbourne & Freo finished in the top 6 at the end of September.
- In 2007 – Geelong & North make the semi finals of the pre season cup. Geelong goes on to win the premiership, whilst North makes the top 4 for the first time in 7 years.
- In 2008 – Semi finalist Hawthorn famously wins the 2008 Grand Final
- In 2009 – Geelong did the pre-season premiership/AFL double
- In 2010 – Western Bulldogs win the NAB Cup & make the top 4.
- In 2011 – Collingwood wins the NAB Cup & loses just 3 games for the season.
- In 2012 – Adelaide wins the NAB Cup & narrowly loses the preliminary final against Hawthorn.
Let’s face it, despite the cynicism of the critics the NAB Cup has a million and one uses, to scrap it and extend the AFL season proper just wouldn’t be cricket.
St Kilda Saints
Well, it’s about damn time St. Kilda started culling some veterans and injecting a youth policy, only it’s unfortunate that the two main players to be moved on were core members of the squad still in their prime in Jason Gram and Brendon Goddard. With free agency in full swing Goddard held no punches crowning himself as the first player to fuel the angst of the one-club loyalists who believe that player flexibility is the Devil. In exchange the Saints wound up with WAFL forward Tom Lee, former Suns ruckman Tom Hickey and hours of PED related forum LOL-memes to help smooth over Goddard’s deflection to Essendon.
Jason Gram ran into an off-field spot of bother with an ex which laid the foundation for a thousand one-liners, none of which will be mentioned here as that would be inappropriate and I can’t afford a lawyer.
Dylan Roberton switched states with Jamie Cripps in an unaffiliated move, with the latter moving to West Coast and Roberton embarking on new surroundings with the Saints. Trent Dennis-Lane was traded in from Sydney, adding to Coach Scott Watters apparent fetish for an army of small forwards, and a slew of draft pick acquisitions saw the club receive a much needed youth injection.
Entering his second year as Coach Scott Watters faces the tough scenario of delivering results whilst blooding youngsters, a challenge which can often go pear shaped. With so few prospects under the age of 25 the Saints need to have one eye focused on the future if they wish to remain competitive in years to come. It’s an unfortunate crossroads for a club that recently came close to premiership glory, but it’s a league which takes no prisoners. See: Bulldogs, Western.
Regardless, the primary goal for St. Kilda in 2013 will be finals football and although over the hill these old Saints still have a little ways to go before they completely bottom out.
The St. Kilda defence gave up an average of 86.5 points per game last season, the eighth fewest in the AFL. Although it may appear above average at face value the Saints output was at polar opposites when it came to restricting the elite teams of the competition. In thirteen meetings against non-finals teams the Saints restricted their opposition to just 70.3 points per game finishing with an 11-2 record. Richmond was the only non-finals side to break through the 100 point threshold when facing the Saints with five teams being held to fewer than fifty points. It counted for little though as once the standard stepped up the Saints defensive capabilities went the way of the Titanic.
In nine meetings against top eight sides the Saints allowed an average of 109.88 points per game, finishing with a 1-8 win/loss record. Six of the nine finals teams they faced would eclipse the 100 point mark whilst Hawthorn, West Coast, North Melbourne and Geelong exceeded 120 points. When it comes to defensive output every side looks to the security blanket of consistency. Unfortunately for Saints fans there was very little on offer in 2012. Given similar personnel (minus Brendon Goddard) is backing up again in 2013, those expecting St. Kilda’s leaky back-six to rectify the issue have got little more than a prayer to fall back on.
One of the key problems for the Saints in 2012 was the ease at which quality teams located a target inside fifty. With a clear lack of key position stocks in the St. Kilda defence opposition forwards took full advantage. Against weaker teams it’s much easier for the Saints to remain unaccountable given most power forwards are either inexperienced or delivery isn’t crisp and anywhere near as often. Sam Fisher, Sean Dempster, Jason Blake and Sam Gilbert all averaged at least four interceptions per game last season, zoning off any entries inside fifty with ease. When manning the likes of a Franklin, Hawkins, Walker or Pavlich this essentially goes out the window and the Saints are exposed. The following opposition “Marks from Goals” graph sums it up best;
St. Kilda opposition Marks from Goals 2012
|St. Kilda Opponents||Non-Finals sides (13 games)||Losses to Finals sides (8 games)|
|Average||3.6 per game||7.5 per game|
The Saints relinquished more than five marks from goals in just four of thirteen games against non-finals competition, with Gold Coast, Melbourne, Brisbane, GWS and the Western Bulldogs (twice) all failing to register more than three goals from marks.
Every finals side that St. Kilda lost to (eight games) had at least five marks from goals with West Coast and North Melbourne accumulating a whopping eleven each. Considering on the season GWS had the worst league output for opposition marks from goals with 7.7 per game the Saints output of 7.5, finals opposition or not, isn’t ideal.
It’s arguably a boom period for power forwards in the AFL with Travis Cloke, Lance Franklin, Taylor Walker, Tom Hawkins, Josh Kennedy, Jack Riewoldt, Jack Darling and Mitch Clark among numerous others all at or under the age of 25 with plenty of quality veterans still hovering around. The question for the Saints coaching staff is how do they go about plugging that gaping hole in their key defensive post? Jason Blake led the squad in one percenters at 5.4 per game (39th overall), with Sean Dempster (55th) and Sam Fisher (79th) the only other candidates who featured in the top 100.
Blake will be 32 years old in three weeks, and along with defensive stocks Dempster, Fisher, Jarryn Geary, James Gwilt, Arryn Siposs, Tom Simpkin and Sam Gilbert stands 6’3” or shorter. Size isn’t the only issue with a lack of capability or possessing more value in a different position further hampering St. Kilda’s key defensive options. Rhys Stanley has been the name receiving the strongest whispers for a switch to defence and at 200 centimetres it’s an obvious move to trial. Whether or not it will pay off is highly fragile given Stanley’s already raw standing in the game and the decomposing body of Zombie Koschitzke leaving a gaping need up forward.
As a restrictive unit on the whole last year’s St. Kilda defence was above average and a huge reason behind the Saints never losing by more than 42 points. The Ross Lyon game plan may have been disposed of but the discipline was still evident in parts but unfortunately not on the whole, with teams appearing to convert up forward a little too easily;
- St. Kilda were twelfth in goals against (Only non-finals side among the best eight ranked teams)
- Thirteenth in free kicks against inside defensive fifty (Ranked ahead only Fremantle, Hawthorn, Sydney, Collingwood and Adelaide)
- Tenth for opposition time in forward half percentage (No finals side ranked lower than ninth)
- Eighth for opposition goals converted when inside fifty (North Melbourne the only finals side in the top nine ranked teams)
- Seventh for opposition scores from half forward (No finals side ranked in the first nine teams)
From an offensive perspective there was plenty to like about the Saints defence last season. St. Kilda ranked second in scores generated from half back behind only eventual premier Sydney, fourth in scores sourced from kick-ins behind only Geelong, Hawthorn and Carlton, and were eighth in scores generated from defensive fifty. With Brendon Goddard and Jason Gram vacating the unit its fair game to suggest that the above output may dwindle given the impressive penetration and run the two generated out of defence. In turn it gives an aging Saints list an opportunity to inject some much needed youth into the side with Arryn Siposs and Jack Newnes generating the most pre-season hype as possible replacements.
Defensively season 2013 will likely resemble 2012 from an output perspective given the traction this unit has. Sam Fisher, Sean Dempster, Jason Gwilt and Jarryn Geary will no doubt continue as the cornerstones in defence but any significant improvement is unlikely considering the failure to fill the key position void during the off-season.
The Saints midfield is much more settled and balanced with a nice inside/outside mix. Lenny Hayes is arguably the most important piece of the puzzle and although being 33 years of age and coming off heart surgery should be a concern his name is Lenny Hayes which instantly makes age and pain irrelevant. In all seriousness Hayes did lead the Saints in disposals (24.4), contested possession (10.8) and clearances (5.4) in 2012 which left St. Kilda as one of three clubs along with Melbourne and Port Adelaide to have zero players inside the competitions top thirty for contested possession and one of seven clubs with one or fewer players inside the top thirty for clearances. Considering the Saints midfield core of Hayes, Nick Dal Santo, Leigh Montagna, David Armitage and Jack Steven is all over 23 and has at least 51 games experience the lack of stoppage prowess minus Hayes is a concern and this shortcoming was most evident against more mature midfields, particularly from a scoring perspective.
St. Kilda Scoring Sources 2012
|Wins||Turnovers (Per game)||Stoppages (Per game)||Kick-Ins (Per game)||Centre Clearances (Total)|
|Losses||Turnovers (Per game)||Stoppages (Per game)||Kick-Ins (Per game)||Centre Clearances (Total)|
In wins St. Kilda outscored their opponents at centre clearances in 10-of-12 games. In the Saints losses they were outscored at the stoppages in 8-of-10 games and outscored at centre clearances in 7-of-10 games. We know that the majority of the Saints losses last season came against finals sides and we know that most finals sides have elite hard bodied midfields. St. Kilda has the second oldest and fourth most experienced list in the competition, how exactly do you overcome those shortfalls when you’ll be reliant upon the same core this season only it’s just another year older? Defensively the Saints midfield was superb on the whole ranking inside the top ten for the majority of categories but again the bulk of these indicators dwindled when facing finals sides. There just wasn’t enough consistency.
We’ve reached the point where St. Kilda’s midfield is still very good but it isn’t good enough to contend for a premiership or make any noise if they were fortunate enough to play finals. The Saints have started to wilt against elite pressure and have lost their advantage at the stoppages not only with scoring punch but as a whole, ranking thirteenth in the competition for clearance differential and in the bottom five teams for contested possession along with Port Adelaide, Melbourne, GWS and Gold Coast. The gap between St. Kilda and the AFL’s best finally started to open up last season and it would take a borderline miracle to have it come to a halt. It’s the nature of the beast and goes hand in hand with a veteran squad and list rejuvenation.
Dal Santo and Montagna have reached their ceiling at 29 years of age and aren’t getting any younger. Despite bright lights David Armitage and Jack Steven finding consistency and ball both averaging over twenty disposals per game in 2012, they appear to be great support players but not great game breakers, and not of the premium A-grade cut that the Saints would be hoping for going forward. Waiting in reserve as depth options is more personnel in its prime but personnel which is limited with both Farren Ray and Clint Jones having over 100 games experience but essentially playing niche roles, one as an outside runner and one as a tagger but both with limited tricks to their arsenal.
Thomas Curren, Brodie Murdoch, Nathan Wright and Josh Saunders have yet to take to an AFL field and are unlikely to jump any of the mature bodies at least this season, whilst Jack Newnes, Tom Ledger and Sebastian Ross were given a limited taste of senior footy last season. At this stage Newnes who we mentioned earlier appears to be the one with clear cut ability to make the jump either off half-back or as an outside midfielder but until we see more the jury is still out on whether or not this young group is capable of taking the Saints midfield into the next era.
As far as ruck stocks are concerned the options start and end with Ben McEvoy. McEvoy managed sixteen games in 2012 and led a Saints ruck division which ranked seventeenth for hitouts and tenth in effective hitout percentage. When McEvoy was absent the Saints struggled with Jason Blake assuming the bulk of the load. This left St. Kilda dead last in the AFL for hitout differential and fourteenth for effective hitout percentage differential in 2012 which was ahead of only Essendon, GWS, Gold Coast and Melbourne. If injuries occur it’s unlikely that Jason Blake will be available to pinch hit given the Saints size woes in defence and with Justin Koschitzke’s vertical leap now failing to clear most blades of grass the onus will likely fall on 21 year old Gold Coast recruit Tom Hickey.
For season 2013 Dal Santo, Montagna, Hayes, Armitage, Steven and McEvoy is still a better mix than or at least equal to 80% of the competition. At an average age of 27 with 147 games experience they will again overpower younger midfielders with relative ease and will remain competitive against all comers. This midfield group has a window of two years tops before the backbone breaks and pressure falls solely on Armitage and his 3.2 turnovers per game, Jack Steven, Ben McEvoy and numerous other names which are yet to be determined.
Up forward is where the Saints really shined statistically in 2012 but it was again a case of sugar coating. St. Kilda averaged 106.68 points per game last season, the fourth most in the AFL. Against bottom eight sides they produced a whopping 117.07 points per game, topping the 100 mark in 11-of-13 games including each of their final nine games. That output proved to be hollow against quality defences though with the Saints averaging 91.66 points per game against finals sides, breaking through the 100 mark just three times.
You can essentially list any forward line related indicator and the Saints will spit out a ludicrous number that ranked them inside the top five. Here are the key standouts;
- First for time in forward half percentage
- First for goals converted when Inside fifty percentage
- First for scores generated from half-forward
- Second in goals from 0-to-15 meters
- Second in goals from 15-30 meters
- Third in goals per game
- Fifth for marks inside fifty
- Fifth for goals from marks
A few of those make sense given Nick Riewoldt exists and the Saints mosquito crew is highly effective, but the goals converted when inside fifty percentage and time in forward half percentage were the kickers that caught my eye considering the Saints still failed to play finals. I’ll let the following table sum up the findings;
Goal Conversion Percentage 2012 against Bottom Eight Sides
|Team||Inside 50’s (per game)||Goal Conversion %|
Goal Conversion Percentage 2012 against Top Eight Sides
|Team||Inside 50’s (per game)||Goal Conversion %|
It doesn’t get much clearer than that, with the output of finals opponents the more alarming statistic clearly highlighting the Saints lack of key defensive stocks.
As for the individuals in the Saints forward fifty there are many pundits starting to doubt the effectiveness of Nick Riewoldt but at thirty years of age the captains output is still stellar enough to continue to warrant the tag of a premium forward.
Nick Riewoldt Finals V Non-Finals Sides
|Category||Top 8 (8 Games)||Bottom 8 (10 Games)||Differential|
|Marks Inside 50||2.4||3.4||+1|
Last year Riewoldt joined Lance Franklin, Jack Riewoldt, Jay Schulz, Tom Hawkins, Matthew Pavlich, Drew Petrie and Taylor Walker as one of only seven forwards to average at least three marks inside fifty and three goals in their sides wins.
Unfortunately we couldn’t say the same for poor old Justin Koschitzke who looks all but cooked heading into 2013. Koschitzke put together one of the most inconsistent season’s ever witnessed in 2012, highlighted by a three disposal and one tackle outing against North Melbourne despite spending 83% of the match on the field.
Justin Koschitzke Finals V Non-Finals Sides
|Category||Top 8 (9 Games)||Bottom 8 (10 Games)||Differential|
|Marks Inside 50||1.4||2||+0.6|
There’s a significant chance we finally see Koschitzke replaced up forward with a suitable candidate likely to be anything with a pulse. The man formerly known as Wilkes, Beau Maister has been one option that has had some success. The artist formerly known as was productive as a stop gap forward last season and ranked eighteenth in the competition for marks inside fifty with 2.2 per game on his way to fifteen goals although not a single one of those goals came against finals sides, which means he should fit right in as Kosi 2.0. Another potential option here is Rhys Stanley. Stanley averaged 1.2 marks inside fifty last season kicking eleven goals from twelves games including a streak of at least one in seven straight games, but with the aching need for size in defence bookmarking where Stanley lines up is largely a lucky dip.
Making up the rest of the forward line is an assortment of midgets, pests and rapi—get out of here, Mick Malthouse, who had varying degrees of success last year but added an extra element of excitement to the Saints forward line. Stephen Milne led the way in 2012 with 55 goals and will produce again in 2013. Milne plays a role that is more reliant upon being savvy and smart which comes with experience, as opposed to athleticism or durability and has plenty of mileage left in the tank. Joining Milne is veteran Adam Schneider who managed just eight games last season due to injury, and mature aged x-factors Terry Milera and Ahmed Saad who will be looking to build on their combined output of 47 goals, 78 inside fifties, 23 score assists, 136 score involvements and 5.8 tackles per game a year ago.
Together Riewoldt, Milne, Saad, Milera, Schneider and Maister have an average age of 28 with 126 games experience. It’s a forward line heavy on experience and one which will no doubt shine against the lesser likes of the competition. In reserve or as preferred options the Saints will still have the aforementioned Koschitzke and Stanley, along with 22 year old prospect Thomas Lee, former Sydney small forward Trent Dennis-Lane and Sam Dunell who featured sporadically late last season.
No matter which way you cut it this is a St. Kilda forward line, much like the rest of the squad, which is built for the now. The new additions are of a mature standing with Saad the only real key member under the age of 24. With a buffet of unproven and mostly hit or miss talent waiting in the wings the Saints future forward line prospects are largely dressed in mystery.
What to Expect in 2013?
A repeat of 2012.
The Saints will contend for a finals berth this year but they’ve essentially missed the boat for a premiership and are now a good two years behind where they should be when it comes to developing young talent.
Sam Gilbert and Farren Ray are the only players with 100+ games experience between the ages of 24-28. The remaining eleven players on the list with 100+ games experience are over 29.
St. Kilda has the fewest number of players under the age of 25 (29 in total) whilst the next nearest club (Sydney) has 31. The Saints have the highest number of players over 26 years of age and are the only non-finals side with more than four players over 30.
Only Collingwood and Hawthorn have more players with over 150 games experience, except these teams are contending for a premiership and St. Kilda are not. The Western Bulldogs were the nearest non-finals side with seven players having over 150 games experience. St. Kilda has 10.
Five players have over 200 games experience which leaves St. Kilda tied with Geelong for most in the AFL.
The only significant difference between the Bulldogs and Saints list profile (disregarding talent of course) is that the Saints have three fewer members on their list under the age of 25. No Saints fan wants to read any of this but in order to justify the current lists standing they would have to compete for top six accolades at the very least.
A decline is on the way, it’s inevitable, and this could be the last shot this group has of playing in September.
The average age of 24.1 makes this the second oldest list in the competition behind only West Coast. An average games played of 69.2 makes this the fourth most experienced list in the competition.
The 1-8 record last season against top eight sides with their only win against Sydney at Etihad makes the current Saints standing as finals fodder at best black and white.
In the Saints defence for missing finals football in 2012 they were on the wrong end of numerous close encounters. Two of their losses against non-finals sides were by 4 and 8 points to Port Adelaide and Richmond, with three of their losses to finals sides by 13 (Fremantle at Etihad), 4 (Adelaide at AAMI) and 6 points (Collingwood). This is relevant but virtually every team has grounds for using the close loss argument.
The Saints remaining five losses to finals sides were by an average of 34 points indicating that their standing of ninth was largely on point. To say St. Kilda could or should have made the eight last season is plausible; to suggest they deserved to or were hard done by is short-sighted. It’s a harsh standing but along with Richmond they just didn’t do enough and it’s alarming given a team like North Melbourne faced the same number of non-finals sides (13) and finals sides (9).
With a favourable start to the season it isn’t out of the question for the aging Saints to build some momentum early and March into an elimination final in season 2013. Four of their first five games are against non-finals sides from last season and the majority of their games (12) are against non-finals opposition from 2012.
Right now St. Kilda are safe and capable of winning 10-14 games, it’s the next three years ahead that are fraught with danger.
My Best 22:
FB: Geary, Blake, Gwilt
HB: Dempster, Fisher, Siposs
C: Montagna, Dal Santo, Steven
HF: Milera, Riewoldt, Schneider
FF: Saad, Maister, Milne
R: McEvoy, Hayes, Armitage
INT: Stanley, Gilbert, Ray
You can follow Scotty on Twitter: @ScottyBarby
HAWTHORN VS. WESTERN BULLDOGS (Fri night, 7:40pm, Etihad Stadium)
2. Jarryd Roughead, 3. Jordan Lewis, 4. Matthew Suckling, 5. Sam Mitchell, 6. Josh Gibson, 10. Bradley Hill, 12. Brad Sewell, 13. Kyle Cheney, 16. Isaac Smith, 18. Brent Guerra, 19. Jack Gunston, 20. David Hale, 21. Shane Savage, 22. Luke Breust, 23. Lance Franklin, 24. Ben Stratton, 25. Ryan Schoenmakers, 27. Matt Spangher, 32. Jonathan Simpkin, 35. Sam Grimley, 37. Jed Anderson, 41. Taylor Duryea, 43. Amos Frank, 46. Derick Wanganeen
Emergencies: 29. Will Langford, 38. Mitch Hallahan, 47. Jonathon Ceglar
The Hawks welcome back a few big guns with Lewis, Mitchell and Sewell all named for their first game of 2013. Paul Puopolo (knee), Brian Lake (calf) and Cyril Rioli (ankle) are the major outs from last week, but impressive youngster Jed Anderson keeps his place. Grant Birchall, Luke Hodge, Liam Shiels and Shaun Burgoyne are still yet to play in the NAB Cup.
2. Robert Murphy, 3. Mitch Wallis, 4. Daniel Cross, 5. Matthew Boyd, 6. Luke Dahlhaus, 9. Jake Stringer, 10. Easton Wood, 11. Jack Macrae, 13. Daniel Giansiracusa, 14. Clay Smith, 15. Jason Tutt, 16. Ryan Griffen, 19. Liam Jones, 21. Tom Liberatore, 23. Jordan Roughead, 25. Koby Stevens 27. Will Minson, 29. Tory Dickson, 31. Tom Young, 33. Nick Lower, 37. Lukas Markovic, 38. Dale Morris, 39. Jason Johannisen, 42. Liam Picken, 44. Brett Goodes, 45. Tom Campbell, 49. Ayce Cordy
First round pick Jack Macrae and rookie listed Brett Goodes keep their spots from their Round 1 NAB Cup team. In a late update Jake Stringer was added to the squad to replace Dylan Addison. Koby Stevens and Jordan Roughead are the only two ins for the Bulldogs, who have a pretty clean bill of health at the moment. Shaun Higgins and Adam Cooney are the two notable outs from last rounds squad, while Tom Williams is still yet to play in the NAB Cup. It should be noted that there’s still three names from this list that will be emergencies.