The 1-4 Bulldogs hosting the 0-5 Blues is probably not what the AFL expected when they locked in this fixture late last year – though exactly what they were anticipating, I’m not quite sure.
For the Blues, their start to the season has been disappointing, though not altogether surprising. The Dogs’ season has been surprising so far, though perhaps it shouldn’t be.
These are two very, very young teams and historically, young teams stink.
The Bulldogs team, as named, will be an average age of 23 and have played an average of 60.8 games. That’s clearly the youngest team named this round – as they were for the first five rounds of the season.
Carlton will be fielding a team with an average age of 24 years and six months with an average games played of 75. That’s the third-youngest team, tied with Brisbane, though with slightly more experience on average.
Both teams will field 10 players with fewer than 50 games. The Blues have two players with at least 150 games experience (Kade Simpson and Dale Thomas), the Dogs none.
These are bad football teams and their struggles to score are a big reason for that.
When it comes to converting inside-50s to goals, the Blues are ranked 16th at 19 percent, and the Dogs 17th at 18.6 percent – league average this season is 23.1 percent.
The Bulldogs are slightly better when it comes to creating a score of any kind, ranking 14th for scoring shots per inside-50 (38.4 percent), compared with the Blues’ 31 percent, which is ranked dead last.
Unfortunately that higher score rate for the Dogs is undone by their woeful conversion. Only 48.5 percent of their scoring shots have been goals – again ranked 17th – while for Carlton that’s a very respectable 61.3 percent – ranked third.
It all boils down to the 15th- and 16th-ranked scoring teams for the season, with the former Footscray having scored 21 more points than Carlton though five games (358-337). As I said, these are bad teams.
Does that mean we’ll get a bad game of football? Not necessarily. There’s a chance for this game to be entertaining, and not just in a “two rubbish teams evening each other out” kind of way.
Though they might be equally poor, these sides have somewhat contrasting styles.
The majority of scoring in today’s footy comes off turnovers. The league average is just under 61 percent of scores coming from takeaways and the Bulldogs are right around that mark at 62.8 percent.
The Dogs, though, would prefer to play the territory battle. A touch over 40 per cent of their scores come from forward-half turnovers, which is the highest rate in the league.
That sounds good, and it is when it works, but unfortunately for Luke Beveridge’s pups, their inability to convert their entries into scores and their emphasis on forward pressure means that when teams escape the Dogs’ press, they hit the scoreboard – heavily.
That’s to be expected when your two key defenders have played 34 and five games, respectively – Zaine Cordy and Aaron Naughton.
The Bulldogs have conceded 196 points a game from turnovers starting in their forward half, which is the most of any team.
Carlton have been more of a stoppage-scoring team this season getting 39.2 percent of their scores from ball-ups or throw-ins (the fifth-highest rate) and just 53.1 percent of their scores from takeaways (17th) – the other 7.7 percent, or 26 points, have come from kick-in chains.
Our best hope for this game to be a good one is for the Blues to get away from that stoppage reliability a little – not entirely – and embrace the attacking aggression they showed in Round 1 against the Tigers.
While they’d like to defend a lot better than they did on that Thursday night, the Blues managed 43 points from defensive-half takeaways.
If they can penetrate the Bulldogs’ press on the counter-attack, they could put up similar numbers tonight, which would go a long way towards winning.
That’s enough of the numbers.
If the game turns to sludge, here’s hoping we can at least enjoy the majesty of Marcus Bontempelli, the brute force of Patrick Cripps, the dynamism of Charlie Curnow and a few sweet sidesteps from Jack Macrae and Sam Petrevski-Seton.
Maybe big men Harry McKay and Tom Boyd will even bag a few and Levi Casboult will take some big grabs in his 100th game.
Zac Fisher, Paddy Dow, Matt Kennedy, Lochie O’Brien, Caleb Daniel, Ed Richards, Aaron Naughton and Tim English are all exciting young players worth watching.
With so many young guys out there, I’m tipping the oldest and most experienced man on the ground, Kade Simpson, to play a big role in kickstarting Carlton’s transition game and lead his side to a 10-point win – their first of the season.
That’s my Friday night forecast. What’s yours?