Is there such thing as a good loss in AFL?

Ben Waterworth Roar Guru

By Ben Waterworth, Ben Waterworth is a Roar Guru

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23 Have your say

    Geelong's loss a wake-up?To some, a loss is a loss. No matter how well a certain player or team has performed during a game, there is no such thing as an honourable defeat. Professional athletes are paid to win – nothing else.

    To others, a loss is just as valuable as a win. Sometimes you learn more about yourself and your team by losing.

    Often when analysing your individual or team’s effort after going down, the regret or disappointment you feel can motivate you to improve in a certain area and come back stronger next time. Don’t get bitter, get better.

    So is there such a thing as an honourable defeat? Does a loss have its positives? Or is it purely a negative connotation?

    If you do believe in a good loss, then there was a match this past weekend that epitomised it.

    The AFL had its own David and Goliath storyline on Saturday night, when a confidence-sapped Essendon shocked the footy community and knocked over the undefeated Geelong by four points.

    Undoubtedly, it was the biggest upset of the season to date, particularly after the pasting the Bombers had received for their on-field performances over the past month.

    What was most interesting to observe though was the body language of both sides after the game.

    Understandably, Essendon players were ecstatic with their performance. Fans lifted their arms into the air in unison as the final siren went and players ran to their teammates to congratulate each other on a gutsy victory.

    In the Geelong camp it was a different, yet strange, story. Players didn’t collapse to the ground in sheer frustration, which is what you’d normally see after a team’s suffered a narrow loss.

    Instead, the Cats were calm – almost emotionless. They were in shock, as if they’d forgotten how to lose. They just stood there.

    Sure, they would’ve been disappointed with the loss. After all, the Cats were soundly beaten statistically, accumulating less than 300 disposals for the first time since Round 20, 2006.

    But was this the loss the Cats needed to have? After 13 consecutive victories, was it the wake-up call they needed? Will the loss benefit them in the long-term?

    If it’s timely and done in the right spirit, there are certainly benefits to having a loss.

    Geelong didn’t go into the game or play the game with an arrogant mindset, but Saturday night’s loss was a reminder that Geelong players are human after all.

    It was a reminder that they’re not an invincible team. It was a reminder to them to never be complacent and to never take any team lightly, no matter how bad its recent form is or how low it is on the ladder.

    Perhaps the occasional loss re-energises and motivates players and coaches.

    When Port Adelaide defeated Geelong at Skilled Stadium in Round 21, 2007, it ended the home team’s 15-match winning streak. Four weeks later, the same teams met in the grand final, with the Cats producing a perfect premiership victory to the tune of 119 points.

    In 2000, Western Bulldogs famously defeated Essendon in Round 21, cutting the Bombers’ undefeated run short at 20 games. However the Bombers went on to win the premiership a month later – convincingly too.

    Were these losses perfectly timed? Did the two teams need to have them?

    There are some who believe a loss has no benefits at all. In the end, a loss doesn’t get you anywhere. You don’t move any higher up the ladder or improve your percentage.

    After a long run of wins, does one loss, or more likely a string of shock defeats, put doubt into the minds of players, coaches and supporters?

    If so, plenty of nagging questions start to linger. Has the coach’s game plan gone stale? Have opposition teams finally figured it out? Are the players executing the game plan well enough?

    Maybe Geelong’s recent loss has motivated other AFL clubs too and given them fresh hope of beating them.

    Teams such as the in-form West Coast, who play the Cats at home this Friday night, will now go into games against the Cats with a little extra confidence.

    It’ll be fascinating to see how the Cats respond on Friday night. The Eagles will certainly have some extra confidence, but they’ll also know their opposition is a class act and will be motivated to bounce back strongly.

    So where do you stand?

    Is there such a thing as a good loss? Or is a loss just that?

    Have Your Say

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    The Crowd Says (23)

    • Roar Guru

      July 6th 2011 @ 8:18am
      Redb said | July 6th 2011 @ 8:18am | ! Report

      no, there is however such a thing as a good win. Go Bombers. 🙂

    • July 6th 2011 @ 8:39am
      BigAl said | July 6th 2011 @ 8:39am | ! Report

      Well of course there is !

      eg. if the Suns went down by 4 points to Collingwood that would be a sensational result – and a good loss.

      • July 6th 2011 @ 9:10am
        amazonfan said | July 6th 2011 @ 9:10am | ! Report

        I agree. It depends on where you are at in your development of course, but a noble loss against a side you would not expect to defeat would be good. On the flip side, it could be argued that defeating the Suns by four points is a bad win.

        The other thing about losses is that they can be a great teacher. No side is perfect, and a loss, moreso than a win, can show a side what its weaknesses are and what it should improve.

        BTW, I don’t think any team needs to lose, but considering that teams will lose, the top teams (Geelong, Collingwood) should treat the losses as lessons.

    • July 6th 2011 @ 8:54am
      Football Fan said | July 6th 2011 @ 8:54am | ! Report

      It depends on the team and their situation – Geelong are only 3 or 4 wins away from securing top 4/top 2 so I doubt they’ll be gutted at losing by 4 points in a game they were dominated in yet still nearly won. They’ll be annoyed at knowing they were off their game, but that will pretty much be that.

      But as BigAl says – if it were the Gold Coast getting within 4 points of Collingwood – they’d be raving about development and it would be grabbed as a positive!

      I don’t subscribe to teams having ‘the loss they needed to have’… I reckon that’s rubbish. If a team is good enough to keep winning then they will do that. I’ve never played in a team that was grateful to be beaten because it sharpened up our focus…

    • July 6th 2011 @ 9:00am
      ManInBlack said | July 6th 2011 @ 9:00am | ! Report


      a good loss scenario,

      let’s say West Coast look like finishing 2nd. And you lose a game to drop from 3rd to 4th – that’s a good loss, not having to travel to Perth for an away final at Subi.

      That could be deemed a ‘good loss’.

      however, yes, this article is more about the ‘loss that we had to have’ scenario for a team that’s been winning almost unnaturally. As compared to the teams who win everything, get to the GF and get rolled for the only time for the year. It happens often at local level.

      • July 6th 2011 @ 9:08am
        Football Fan said | July 6th 2011 @ 9:08am | ! Report

        Melbourne/St Kilda/Carlton/ Richmond/West Coast had many consecutive losses they had to have in order to get some quality draft picks…

      • July 6th 2011 @ 9:12am
        amazonfan said | July 6th 2011 @ 9:12am | ! Report


        a good loss scenario….”

        It is a good loss, unless they do it deliberately. Then it’s cheating.

        • July 6th 2011 @ 12:29pm
          Kasey said | July 6th 2011 @ 12:29pm | ! Report

          And when its done for draft picks at the bottom of the table it gets its own name “tanking” which never happens if you believe the official word from AFLHQ, but the speculaion that it does ocur could be immediately stopped and the possibility of tanking could be prevented from ever happenning by the introduction of an NBAstyle lottery for first pick, based/weighted towards the wooden spooner, but not guaranteeing them 1st pick.

    • July 6th 2011 @ 9:11am
      brendan said | July 6th 2011 @ 9:11am | ! Report

      Geelong would have learnt more fom the loss than a two point win.Firstly (injury aside)Brown needs more game time in the vfl because he gets lost at afl level,Motlop needs to develop more before he plays at afl level and if a runner drops out (Corey) you dont replace him with a tall (Gillies) particularly at night.I look at footy betting closely and find when team makes five or more changes an upset result is more likely.I had expected Adelaide to roll Geelong the week before but kicking with the wind in the first quarter enabled Geelong to set up a lead they could defend.Geelong are still a work in progress with the Magpies the team to beat.Go Cats.

      • Roar Guru

        July 6th 2011 @ 9:53am
        Redb said | July 6th 2011 @ 9:53am | ! Report

        Collingwood v Geelong GF for mine. Pies to win they are the benchmark.

        • July 6th 2011 @ 10:01am
          BigAl said | July 6th 2011 @ 10:01am | ! Report

          I would agree, these are the only contenders – even the best of the rest are just pretenders !

          • July 6th 2011 @ 10:47am
            brendan said | July 6th 2011 @ 10:47am | ! Report

            Remember one thing ,and this is why i have them in gf quinellas with collingwood /geelong,west coast if they win there first final are almost guaranteed a gf berth by virtue of the best home ground advantage in the afl in finals a home preliminary final.(assuming they finish top four).

            • July 6th 2011 @ 12:52pm
              ManInBlack said | July 6th 2011 @ 12:52pm | ! Report

              big game on Friday night, although Geelong minus Selwood still and Eagles losing Lynch. It’ll give a good idea as to how the sides are ‘matching up’.

              One thing we know is that the call made around Rnd 14 as to the likely GF contestants, is usually at least 50% wrong.

    • July 6th 2011 @ 10:39am
      Matt F said | July 6th 2011 @ 10:39am | ! Report

      I don’t know if a loss is ever a good thing but if a team on a winning streak trips up once (especially if it’s just before finals) they probably don’t consider it a bad one either. Though that’s assuming they react well and it refocusses them. If it was the first of a streak of losses it wouldn’t be a good thing. What defines a good loss isn’t the game itself but how a team reacts to it.

      Geelongs loss is a bit different from Essendon in 2000, Geelong in 2007 and i’d also throw in Collingwood in Rd22 last year, in that it’s a lot further out from the finals. The losses from the other teams would have given the coach a much welcomed opportunity to hit the “don’t get complacent” point home, as well as providing a good reality check for the players going into the finals. If Geelong were to hypothetically go undeferated into the finals from now that loss would long be forgotten. Less so a loss a few weeks out from finals. Though given their tricky match away to the Eagles this Friday it may work out well as they will almost certainly come out breathing fire. They’d also probably rather lose to a team like Essendon which is at best a 7-8 team who won’t trouble Geelong come finals unlike West Coast who potentially could.

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