From The Notebook: Round 9

We’re at roughly the halfway mark of this topsy-turvy season and the ladder is starting to take shape.

Costly losses for Carlton and Collingwood prevented those two sides from moving into the top eight.

Meanwhile Geelong, after its loss to West Coast, suddenly has a must-win game against North Melbourne on Wednesday before coming up against St Kilda in Round 11 and Port Adelaide in Round 12.

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The last month on the Notebook: Round 5 | Round 6 | Round 7 | Round 8

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Richmond’s possession game

Those aren’t words which normally go together. Before beating the Bulldogs, the Tigers averaged 72 marks per game.

Yet in Wednesday night’s victory they had 33 in the first quarter alone, shifting the Bulldogs defence from side to side and exploiting their vulnerabilities without the ball.

From Richmond’s very first goal of the night, the ball movement was notable. Patient, probing, from side to side and finishing with a get a two-on-two at the top of the square*

This type of play won’t become Richmond’s norm, because it’d be foolish to move away from what the team is so good at.

But if it becomes a reliable alternative against teams who take the pace out of the game, then look out. It’s a scary thought.

How Hawthorn turned it around

Even allowing for the standard weekly Carlton rollercoaster, surely next to no-one thought Hawthorn had a chance of winning when staring at a 31-point first quarter deficit.

And somehow from there the Hawks kicked 11 of the next 13 goals and eventually cruised to a 31-point win. To put that into context, they’d only kicked 11+ goals in two of the first eight matches and here they did it in two and a half quarters.

It was the second quarter where the Hawthorn train started rolling downhill, with the feature being the speed of ball movement and the lack of hesitation when going forward – two areas of its game which had been non-existent over the last month.

Although these two examples don’t end in goals, they’re the best way to show just how Hawthorn put the foot down.

One game doesn’t solve Hawthorn’s medium to long term list worries, but from a pure style perspective, this is much closer to what Alastair Clarkson has been trying to introduce since the latter stages of 2019.

Quarter by quarter comparisons

Having moved past halfway of 2020, it’s a good chance to look into trends and particular how teams perform in each quarter.

It’s a handy way to quickly look at some underlying numbers behind teams’ performances and see if anything stands out.

For example, Richmond and Geelong – fifth and sixth on the ladder respectively – have lost more quarters than it has won while GWS in seventh is the best second half side in the competition.

Collingwood is 8-0 in first quarters, yet merely 11-16 afterwards. Meanwhile, Adelaide, matching the eye test, is often out of games by half time after only winning two quarters before the main break in nine matches.

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Team stats comparison

It’s been a few weeks since we looked at these stats. For those who missed the initial explanation, this is an overly simple way of looking at a few key areas using the basic, publicly available stats.

Contested possession differential = Inside game
Uncontested possession differential = Outside game
Inside 50 differential = Territory game
Scoring shots per inside 50 percentage = Offensive efficiency
Scoring shots conceded per inside 50 percentage = Defensive efficiency

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If ever there needed to be any further confirmation of how far Adelaide is off the pace, this will do it.

In the previous section the Cats’ quarter by quarter record was highlighted. But if you look at this, it shows their territory game plus their offensive and defensive efficiency is quite solid.

Combine the two and it suggests that moments in games – quick West Coast goals in each of the third and fourth quarters, Carlton’s first quarter burst, GWS kicking goals from ten rows back – are what’s costing Geelong rather than any structural red flags.

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