Random thoughts for the run home
Those pesky bye rounds are finally behind us and just eight weeks of home-and-away games remain. Unfortunately, the teams that will make up the final eight are all but decided. So instead of any in-depth analysis for the home stretch, here’s a random thought on every club.
Adelaide are headed to the finals, which is kind of amazing when you look at some of the names who have moved on to other clubs in the past six seasons – particularly considering they also lost their first two draft picks in 2012 and 2013 as a result of paying Kurt Tippett outside of the salary cap.
2015: Patrick Dangerfield, Sam Kerridge, Matthew Wright
2013: Bernie Vince
2012: Chris Knights, Tippett
2011: Phil Davis, Jack Gunston, Ivan Maric
2010: Nathan Bock, Jonathon Griffin
Unlike Adelaide, the Brisbane Lions aren’t exactly gearing up for September – and don’t look like doing so anytime soon. But speaking of teams that have seen plenty of talented players head to other clubs in recent years, this is a pretty diabolical list. (And we might be able to add Lewis Taylor to the list after this season.)
2015: James Aish, Jack Crisp, Matthew Leuenberger, Jack Redden
2014: Joel Patfull
2013: Sam Docherty, Billy Longer, Jared Polec, Elliot Yeo
2011: Jared Brennan, Michael Rischitelli
2010: Daniel Bradshaw, Lachie Henderson
Carlton coach Brendon Bolton has led the Blues to six wins in 14 games. Caretaker coach John Barker won three of 14 in 2015, after Mick Malthouse had won only two of his last 14 before being sacked. Meanwhile, how many guesses would it take the average footy fan to correctly identify the Blues' leading goalkicker this season? The answer: Andrejs Everitt (15).
I wrote about Collingwood under Nathan Buckley here, but they need to win at least five of their last eight to take Bucks’ winning percentage above 55 – which is not so impressive when you consider he took over a team that had gone 42-2-7 in the previous two seasons. Will he lead them to a fifth straight year of decline? Buckley’s record at Collingwood:
2012: 16-6 (fourth), lost preliminary final
2013: 14-8 (sixth), lost elimination final
2014: 11-11 (11th), missed finals
2015: 10-12 (12th), missed finals
2016: 6-8 (11th)*
Can Essendon win another one? They won’t trouble the Crows, Cats or Dogs, but would anyone really be that shocked if they managed to knock off St Kilda (Etihad), Richmond (MCG), Brisbane (Etihad), Gold Coast (Etihad) or Carlton (MCG)? If they can snare another victory, they’ll have won two more games than many pundits thought they would. If I had to pick their best chance, I’d say that round-18 clash with the Lions, who have an average losing margin of almost 10 goals away from the Gabba. Surely that’d be the end of Justin Leppitsch – assuming he’s still around by then.
Fremantle may have fallen off a cliff this year, but Lachie Neale is a star on the rise. The ultra-consistent midfielder doesn't turn 24 until May but after 15 rounds he’s leading the league in disposals and contested possessions, having only once this season failed to notch at least 26 touches. His disposal averages have risen every year since his 2012 rookie campaign – 11.27, 19.75, 23.48, 27.42 and now 32.79 – and the Dockers have wisely locked him up until the end of 2019.
Geelong remain premiership favourites despite having given away the most free kicks this season, averaging 22.6 a game. The Western Bulldogs, by comparison, are conceding only 15.6 a game.
Gold Coast have gone 12-1-37 in their past 50 games. These guys have missed at least 30 per cent of those games: O’Meara (36 games missed), Swallow (30), Ablett (19), Hall (15), Martin (15) and Prestia (15).
Greater Western Sydney’s team in round 14 featured three former No.1 picks and two No.2s, as well as seven other first-round selections and three underage recruits – Jeremy Cameron, Dylan Shiel and Nathan Wilson. Joining those 13 players were Heath Shaw, Callan Ward, Steve Johnson, Shane Mumford and Joel Patfull. Oh, and they also have another 10 first-rounders on their list who didn't play that day. Terrifying.
Hawthorn are on top of the table after 15 rounds in their quest for a fourth straight flag. Surprisingly, Jonathon Ceglar (22.7) and Ben McEvoy (18.5) are helping the Hawks average the third-most hitouts a game – behind only Nic Naitanui’s Eagles and Max Gawn’s Dees.
Melbourne are 10th in total scores (goals + behinds), but are best at converting those scores into goals (60.47 per cent). The Dees have kicked the second-fewest behinds in the league (133), behind only Carlton’s 132, with four fewer than Essendon despite 82 more total scores. To put that in context, West Coast (57.14) are the only other team converting scores into goals at better than 56 per cent. All bar Essendon (46.06 per cent) and the Brisbane Lions (47.48 per cent) are doing so at least half the time.
North Melbourne would have been pleased with the contributions of recent additions Nick Dal Santo, Jarrad Waite and Shaun Higgins in the past couple of years, but the return of a relatively healthy Daniel Wells has been like bringing in a new recruit. Entering the season with just seven games under his belt since round five, 2014, Wells is leading the club in clearances (5.5) and goal assists (1.3) per game, as well as ranking third for average disposals (22.4) and tackles (5.6), and fifth for contested possessions (10.5). Let’s hope his body holds up down the stretch.
Port Adelaide ruckman Matthew Lobbe hasn’t played since round five but he still leads the team in hitouts with 157 – or 30 more than Jackson Trengove (127). Justin Westhoff ranks a distant third with 40, as the Power have recorded fewer than any other. Next best? It’s not Dougal Howard (27) or Charlie Dixon (21) but Ollie Wines, who is snapping at Westhoff’s heels with 37. For the record, Wines also leads the team in disposals, contested possessions and clearances. The kid is a gun, and he doesn’t turn 22 until after the season.
Richmond have three forwards – Jack Riewoldt (43), Ty Vickery (31) and Sam Lloyd (27) – in the top 17 players for marks inside 50, ranking third in the league as a team. The problem is getting it in there, as they rank 14th for penetrating the forward 50m arc. Oh, and they’re last in tackles. At least they have Alex Rance signed until 2019.
St Kilda’s top two for contested possessions come as no surprise, with Jack Steven (162) and David Armitage (144) leading the way. But how about their next three? Tom Hickey (121), Seb Ross (118) and Luke Dunstan (102) are the only others to have topped the ton, while Mav Weller (89) and Jack Newnes (88) are sixth and seventh, respectively, meaning five of the Saints’ top seven contested-ball winners are 25 or younger.
Sydney, meanwhile, are averaging 164.8 contested possessions and 84.9 tackles a game, best in the league in both categories. They have three of the top seven players for total contested possessions in Josh Kennedy (T-3rd), Dan Hannebery (5th) and Luke Parker (7th) – and that’s with Kennedy missing the Swans’ one-point loss to Richmond in round eight.
West Coast have are 0-5 against teams currently in the eight and have lost those games by an average of more than 33 points. Conversely, they are 9-0 against teams outside the eight, with an average winning margin of more than 10 goals. The flat-track bullies tag is holding up.
The Western Bulldogs are the only team in the top eight without at least two players who have kicked 17 goals this season – Jake Stringer has booted 29 and Jack Redpath has slotted 16. However, they have more individual goalkickers (26) than any other top-eight side and are tied with GWS for the most players with multiple majors (21).