Three rounds are in the book and what better way to celebrate that to get hysterical. The 2016 grand final preview was played yesterday.
Hawthorn are still the benchmark, and have remained a constant through five years as many pretenders have tried to match them and failed dismally. In the Western Bulldogs, they may have found this year’s challenger.
The Dogs play Etihad Stadium brilliantly and while finals are not played at that venue, their mix of speed and skill will translate anywhere and their list profile seems set to make a mark in September.
The loss of Bob Murphy will be a brutal blow, but one easier absorbed early in the season as they can restructure the backline to cover his loss and hopefully reverse the result of the 1961 VFL grand final between these two teams.
If you can’t score, you can’t win
It doesn’t seem that long ago that dour, defensive football was the order of the day and teams did everything possible to stop the opposition at any cost.
However 2016 represents a return to pure, attacking football as four losing teams scored 90 points or more and the lowest winner score was 92 points.
An interchange cap and the change in deliberate out-of-bounds interpretation will only help those teams willing to take the game on.
The standard of attacking football is getting people through the gates as crowds through Round 3 are at a record high.
Effective disposal percentage is an ineffective statistical measure
Four of the top six teams in effective disposal percentage are Richmond, Essendon, Carlton and St.Kilda. The Tigers rated at 79 per cent disposal efficiency against Adelaide but were comprehensively beaten as their affinity for uncontested possessions and marks was overtaken by their inability to stop the Crows moving the ball.
The definitions for different types of effective kicks are in some ways quite contradictory – effective long kicks are ones that go more than 40 metres to a 50/50 or better for the team.
Effective short kicks are one that results in a teammate’s possession who was the intended target of the kicker. Effective handballs are handballs to a teammate that hits the intended target to the team’s advantage.
While some teams master a game style based on one or two of these area, the data tells us that the statistic is in many ways meaningless.
The Saints are marching in
St.Kilda have gone all-in on the youth movement. Despite having five regulars aged 30 or more, Saturday’s side featured ten players aged 23 or younger and the future looks very bright.
Using a high-possession, largely uncontested brand allows the Saints to make the most of the likes of Jack Steven, Jack Billings, Shane Savage and Luke Dunstan.
Perhaps most impressive is the goal-kicking options running through the midfield. Steven, Maverick Weller, Jack Newnes and David Armitage have hit the scoreboard on multiple occasions.
They would hope the forward line will become more consistent, having passed 100 points on two occasions but being held to just four goals against the Western Bulldogs.
The next month against Hawthorn, GWS, Melbourne and North should provide a good indication of where the Saints forward line is at with most of those defences rated as middle-of-the-road.
Coach Alan Richardson seems to be implementing a game plan that combines attacking flair and controlling the ball; if the Saints have got most of their high draft picks right, they are set for successful times in the next two to five years.
There is a fine line between toughness and thuggery
Grizzled fans pine for ‘bringing back the biff’, and Fremantle coach Ross Lyon even asked for this at his media conference leading into the Western Derby.
Truth be told, this was probably a master deflection tactic for a side struggling to stay relevant, but I digress.
Toughness is getting a contested possession. Take a look at the players on the leaderboard for this statistic and the likes of Matt Priddis, Nat Fyfe, Luke Parker and Patrick Dangerfield are household names and players we associate with toughness.
Another name on that list is Mitch Robinson, who toes the line between hardman and thug perfectly most weeks. He is what he is as a player, and isn’t interested in making friends (a fact for which the Lions are thankful).
Robinson went toe to toe with Joel Selwood and wasn’t the one to blink over the weekend. Granted, the Lions were smashed on field but Robinson was one of the few players who could hold his head high, getting inside Selwood’s head more than once.
He committed one poor act, hitting Selwood late and high but he impacted the match and is in the main effective player.
Compare that to Docker Nic Suban, a fringe player at best and one who relies on playing a role to stay relevant.
Suban came into this Derby after a heated exchange with Eagle Chris Masten last season, and his clumsy attempt to clean Brad Sheppard with his knees and legs was an example of intended thuggery gone wrong.
The next time Suban provides his team with anything positive in the way that Robinson does will be the first time.